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13 Sep 2021

Living More Sustainably In Hong Kong

Chatteris’ own Holly Bishop shares her tips for building a sustainable lifestyle in Hong Kong.

In the year 2021, one thing that is certain is that we need to take action in order to protect our environment. With global warming on the rise and public awareness of it gaining so much in recent years, it is an unavoidable topic that no one can deny. However in Hong Kong, this need for change doesn’t always feel too prevalent. The region is known for having quite a disposable lifestyle, with a whopping 5.2 million plastic bottles being thrown away every single day. More so, with Hong Kong’s landfills quickly filling up, it is more necessary than ever to try and make a change, no matter how big or how small, in order to combat this growing issue. 

Plastic waste is prevalent in many of Hong Kong's natural areas | Image by Jake Morton
Plastic waste is prevalent in many of Hong Kong’s natural areas | Image by Jake Morton

I’ve gathered some tips for living more sustainably in Hong Kong, a place where sustainability sadly isn’t always at the forefront of our minds. 

Water

Plastic consumption in Hong Kong is a massive issue. Limitations on access to drinking water seems to be a driving cause behind the high volume of plastic bottles that are purchased then being disposed of just as quickly. While Hong Kong’s tap water is drinkable, the poor quality pipes found in many old buildings mean we are often discouraged from drinking from taps. This naturally leads to an influx of people buying bottled water instead, something of which I am guilty of. More so, the sheer heat of Hong Kong means that as quickly as you down your bottle of water, you could be making a stop to 7/11 to purchase another. 

Naturally, the first step to combatting this is to buy a reusable water bottle! “But how can I keep it filled constantly with avoiding filling it up with tap water?” you ask. Well I’ve got a few tips for you to keep you hydrated! 

First of all, try and buy a water filter. You can either get a jug water filter or you can get one that you attach directly to your tap, like this. Have a look in your local JHC to get your hands on one (or both!). There’s also a really useful app called Water For Free which shows you all the public water fountains and dispensers all around Hong Kong, using GPS to show you the ones nearest you. The app also shows you the opening hours of any shop that has a dispenser, as well as if there is a cost involved (don’t worry, they’re usually free as the app name suggests!).

Alongside the mention of a reusable water bottle comes the mention of reusable tupperware. Ask restaurants to put your take out directly in your box so there’s no need for unnecessary plastic usage.

Print off this list of Cantonese phrases to help you reduce your plastic consumption | Guide by Plastic Free Seas
Print off this list of Cantonese phrases to help you reduce your plastic consumption | Guide by Plastic Free Seas

Food

Immersing yourself in the local culture could also be a great way to make more sustainable choices. By this, I mean shopping in the wet market to get your fruit and veg, saving yourself from the supermarket’s plastic wrapping and saving money in the process: a win-win situation! Across Hong Kong there is an abundance of local markets which you can buy your groceries from – there’s probably one around the corner from you! 

Recycling

Having the intention to recycle in Hong Kong is one thing but actually doing it is another. While there are in fact places to recycle in Hong Kong they are unfortunately few and far between. You’ll find bins for paper, plastic and metals in MTR stations and along the pavement in some areas. Incorporating dropping off your recycling into your daily commute would be a great way to ensure you’re doing your part to help the environment in Hong Kong. Do be careful to make sure that you have accurately separated your recycling into their correct categories; if a non-recyclable plastic is found (even a lollipop stick) the entirety of the bag’s contents will be rendered non-recyclable and sent straight to the landfill! 

In addition to these bins, you’ll find government-run ‘Green’ recycling stores and pop-ups at locations across Hong Kong. You can take along pretty much any household recyclable waste and they will help you sort it. These can be a preferable alternative to the smaller bins if you are recycling larger quantities of items. Find your closest location here.

If you have larger electrical items that you wish to recycle but are unsure how to, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Program is a new project in Hong Kong which aims to eliminate wasteful disposal of electrical equipment by collecting unwanted electrical items and recycling them. They have various collection points throughout the city, which makes it easy to drop off any unwanted items and give them a new life as they are recycled, instead of them becoming waste products, which emit harmful chemicals into the environment. Check out their website to find out more information.

As part of our efforts to treat Hong Kong's landscape with compassion, Chatteris runs regular beach cleans | Image by Jake Morton
As part of our efforts to treat Hong Kong’s landscape with compassion, Chatteris runs regular beach cleans | Image by Jake Morton

You can find a comprehensive list of government recycling locations here.

Get Involved

There are a multitude of ways that you can get involved in making environmental change in HK! Chatteris organises regular beach cleans to help clear the coastline of any litter that day. Having helped out with many myself, it really is eye-opening to see how much rubbish washes up or is left on the shores.

Outside of Chatteris, there are numerous other ways you can take action and get involved. Reduce food waste and help out those in need by donating to food banks. Feeding Hong Kong does just this, as well as organising bread runs where volunteers pick up unsold bread from various bakeries around Hong Kong. 

Looking to explore green living while teaching English in Hong Kong like Holly? Join us as a Chatteris tutor.

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