Live Zero, Hong Kong’s first zero waste bulk store, provides a plethora of package-free, natural and organic brands perfect for consumers who want to reduce daily waste. Meant to meet you where you are in your zero waste journey, Live Zero aims to educate you about living a sustainable life.
You can find anything from baking supplies, like flour and herbs, to household and hygiene products, like shampoo and multipurpose cleaners. If you don’t have your own reusable containers, Live Zero provides reusable food wraps, lunch boxes, straws, produce bags, coffee cups, filters and water bottles. With two locations, one on 33 High Street, Sai Ying Pun and the other on 22 Yi Chun Street, Sai Kung, Live Zero makes shopping easy and green.
For those unfamiliar with the zero waste movement, it’s a lifestyle geared toward eliminating waste, usually starting with our consumption habits. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but it can be challenging. In our busy lives, convenience often tends to outweigh sustainability. And consumer habits centered around convenience are ingrained in our busy, modern lives.
Live Zero knows how frustrating it can be to want to live more sustainably but not know where to start or how to make long-lasting changes. So TMS sat down to speak with self-proclaimed eco-warrior, the founder of Live Zero, Tamsin Thornburrow, to learn more about how her company is helping Hong Kongers make the switch to more sustainable choices.
Transitioning to zero waste
We all have bursts of productivity or periods of time when we’re excited about change. And then life gets a little busy, and you’re tired again. When it comes to embarking on your zero waste journey, Thornburrow recommends taking it one step at a time.
“You don’t want to force yourself to do things that are too out of your comfort zone," advises Thornburrow. “What happens with that is you just shut down and just stop, and then it’s kind of like a snowball effect.
“For me, zero waste is more about finding a sustainable approach to become sustainable. You don’t want to make changes everyone else is making if they aren’t sustainable for your lifestyle. Not everyone can be vegan or vegetarian. It’s a process."
Hong Kong and zero waste
More stores advocating the zero waste lifestyle are emerging as the world catches on to the impacts of single-use products. Hong Kong is no exception to the trend.
“There’s been a lot more changes [in Hong Kong], like those go-green shops," says Thornburrow. “Local buses, everyone is advertising. And it’s really good. So you go [to the go-green shop], and there’s lots of people to help you and educate you on what sort of plastic can be recycled and what can’t be recycled. And they really do take it to the proper people, the correct places.
“Everyone knows that if you throw those items into the standard government bins, usually they all get combined and just go to the landfill," says Thornburrow. “I can’t fault them because I think the collectors … look into the plastic recycling box and go, ‘OK, there’s glass, and there’s some food waste.’
“It’s hard for them to pick up everything and sort it out, so we have to, as the people who throw it away, do the right thing and sort it out. It’s not just as easy as throwing away a plastic bottle; you have to rinse it, you have to wash it out. There can’t be liquid inside. So there is a process. I think it’s a learning curve."
Sometimes we need a bit more motivation to make a change. Thornburrow thinks taxing packaged products just might be the incentive Hong Kongers need to move away from excessive packaging – especially if there is an alternative available.
“I think if we would charge more for our waste or have a tax for packaged products at the supermarket, people would avoid it," says Thornburrow. “You can also get points from the go-green shop, and people love that. You see the old grannies now getting and collecting the plastic bottles and everything because they get a sudden rebate back from that."
Live Zero’s customer base
Zero waste is for everyone, whether you’re a Boomer or Gen Z. It isn’t just a trend for younger generations.
“Customers in our shops are from everywhere, you know, all sorts of places, from young couples to little kids to older generations. We get a lot of students because we’re close to the university," says Thornburrow. “And for them, it’s, you know, just being able to purchase or try something new without having to purchase a big volume.
“Growing up in Hong Kong you have very small kitchens, very small storage," Thornburrow points out. “So actually, it’s very Hong Kong [to] just buy what you need for the month or half the year, rather than buying like 500 grams of chia seeds that will last a couple of years."
Many of Live Zero’s customers also want to experiment with zero waste before committing to it long-term. Whether they’re looking to reduce food waste or avoid single-use plastic, customers like the convenience of choosing how much and what they buy.
“Our customers shop with us because they can buy a little bit, or they shop with us because they want to try it out," says Thornburrow. “And then all of a sudden, the next thing is they shop with us because we’re the closest supermarket on the street. It’s great. We have a whole different range of customers.
“Food waste plays a big part in [the zero waste movement], especially with spices and herbs," she says. “Before COVID, we had a lot of customers who were travelers, so they would stay in an Airbnb. And they needed just enough for the week – instead of buying a bag of rice, they could just buy 200 grams. Just [we’re] giving people an opportunity to buy what they need and not be constrained by the packaging."