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LiveZero is Hong Kong’s first zero-waste bulk store in Sai Ying Pun and Sai Kung, providing a wide range of package-free, natural and organic brands, founded in 2017 by Hong Konger Tamsin Soolin.
From pantry staples, household goods, and personal hygiene products to drug- and chemical-free liquids and fairtrade foodstuff, LiveZero is driving a local storm and revolution to push Hong Kong to waste less!
The Beat Asia sat down with Tamsin Soolin, to hear her story about why she founded the zero-waste market chain, what it means to be an eco-warrior, and how to live a more sustainable life in Hong Kong.
Tell me about yourself and your career. What inspired you to delve into this industry?
Growing up in Sai Kung and always being surrounded by nature and the sea really made me more aware of our environment and animals—this played a huge part in what I do today. It simply started with me asking myself why I was purchasing single-use plastic water bottles back in 2014, so we started selling them at my first store, Thorn and Burrow, and from there it was a natural snowball effect.
Thinking about how we can do better—what can I do better— the idea of opening the bulk store was just the next big step. Nothing was planned, it was more like I asked myself why isn't there a place to purchase package-free products? Which there wasn't at the time, so I might as well try and see if I can open up a store like that! Rather than complaining about not having the option, I just built it!
How did your zero-waste journey begin, Tamsin?
I have always been a huge believer in buying second hand, I bought absolutely everything on forums for my first apartment mainly because that was the cheaper option, and I knew I didn't want to purchase fast-homewares like Ikea or PriceRite, I wanted to purchase items that would last. I buy everything from clothes to household appliances second hand, almost nothing I own is new.
And then from there you are just more aware of your surroundings - I started using reusable water bottles, bringing my own food to work, purchasing a water filter, also as at that time I was starting my own business so every little dollar I could save really counted!! Then one day as I was taking my trash out, I investigated it and saw that most of my waste was food packaging, which then started the conversation about why we don't have a store that's package- free!
Being sustainable means making more conscious purchases, rethinking how you purchase and thinking about the lifespan of the items you buy. It’s all about making sustainable choices that last, buying products that are not just on trend but ones you can see yourself keeping generations that you can pass onto your kids.
What does “packaging-free grocery shopping” mean?
It's a space where customers can come and do their full grocery shop, from toilet paper to grains to frozen berries, and leave with no unnecessary packaging, with no waste at all! Completely plastic- and package- free shopping, the way it should be!
Why did you begin Live Zero? Was this a concept/store missing in Hong Kong?
Because no one had opened a store like it, it was missing in my life, and I personally really wanted to shop at a package-free store! It didn’t seem like it would happen anytime soon, so I just went ahead! We started with a small pop-up store in PMQ just selling zero- waste lifestyle items in 2017 and then in 2018 we opened our first and tiny store on High Street, Sai Ying Pun!
How do you source your products?
For me, the most important thing is if we can get that product in bulk, and then from their local - organic is the other important factors. Sadly, Hong Kong isn't self-sufficient, meaning there aren't that many producers here in Hong Kong so most of the products need to be imported.
What is the challenge in ditching packaging in Hong Kong?
The biggest challenge is ourselves, we are so spoiled living in Hong Kong! Everything is so convenient, and we expect things yesterday! We don't think about our purchases, we don't think about the afterlife. We just throw it away into the trash bin and someone collects it and dumps it. The public beaches are cleaned each morning, trashing all the waste that comes in with the tide and from the beach goers. We aren't aware of our surroundings, which makes us think it's not our issue, not our part to change.
We are led to believe that things are only clean when they have a film of plastic on top of it! However, that's the complete opposite. Plastic is a horrible use for wrapping up our vegetables and meat that we consume, we are continuously consuming microplastics.
It is simple - we need to start being more conscious of our choices and think about our future grandchildren!
How can one commit to living a zero-waste lifestyle in the city?
Shop at the WET MARKETS! They are the most amazing things we have in the city, one in each neighbourhood, you can shop without the use of plastic and there are some stalls that sell locally grown vegetables as well!
Shop at package- free shops - there are many around Hong Kong now!
Bring your own bottles and lunch boxes - takeaway boxes are a huge single-use waste in this city especially due to COVID-19.
Purchase second hand: Green Ladies, Carousell, Facebook marketplace, and more.
Composting at home or at one of the composting bins in Hong Kong (for a fee)!
What is the future for the Live Zero brand?
We would love to open more stores in smaller neighbourhoods and start offering workshops to our customers! I really think of our stores as a community store, we strive to help our community to be able to adopt more sustainable ways of living.
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