Human consumption patterns have put enormous pressure on the planet. With the continuous growth in the global population and if people don’t change their current lifestyle, our environment, as a consequence, would suffer irreversible damage. Therefore, in recent years, local governments and different organizations have vigorously promoted the concept of "Sustainable Consumption".
“Sustainable Consumption” refers to “the use of services and related products, which respond to basic needs and bring a better quality of life while minimizing the use of natural resources and toxic materials as well as the emissions of waste and pollutants over the life cycle of the service or product so as not to jeopardize the needs of further generations.”
The United Nations has defined “Sustainable Development” as a long-term target that involves the participation of every nation and every human being in a global partnership. There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and “Responsible Consumption and Production” is one of them. Targets under this goal include the reduction of the per capita global food waste by half by 2030 (at the retail and consumer level); and ensuring that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness to live sustainably.
To achieve sustainable consumption would require every one of us to take solid effort by integrating the concept of "sustainability" into different aspects in our daily life. To have a sustainable lifestyle doesn’t necessarily means a prescribed way of living, instead “sustainability” is reflected in many aspects, such as i) recycling, thereby giving new life to old goods; ii) energy conservation; and iii) getting rid of belongings to minimize attachment to material possessions. If one would consciously remind himself of the need, and add a little bit of creativity, and putting the thinking into action, then everyone would be able to develop his / her own unique “sustainable living model” and become a guru in this domain and contribute to both the global environment and oneself!
If you think you are doing pretty good already in terms of “sustainable consumption”, we’d like to invite you to take the following quiz to find out if you are indeed an “Eco Guru”. The quiz examines your consumption behaviour with respect to the 4 main aspects of life: clothing, dining, living and commuting.
This self-challenge quiz on eco-friendly consumption is divided into 2 levels: “Basic” and “Advanced”.
Let’s start with the Basic Level. The following is a list of 20 questions / considerations on sustainable consumption behaviour. To qualify as an Eco Guru, you must have 15 or more “affirmative” responses.
1. When buying new clothes or furniture, first consider the possibility of getting a second-hand products from different platforms.
2. Before buying new clothes, try "mix and match" your existing clothings to create new looks.
3. When buying new clothes, study the care labels carefully to choose materials that have lower energy consumption during the cleaning / caring process.
4. When using washing machines, make good use of different washing cycles and try to use the least possible energy and laundry detergent.
5. When going out to buy food or drinks, bring these 3 items with you: water bottles, reusable tableware/cutlery and food containers.
6. Maintain a balanced diet and eat less meat. Avoid the consumption of endangered species, such as shark fins.
7. When dining out, don’t overorder! You could reduce food waste by asking for a “smaller” portion and have the leftovers boxed up to take home in reusable containers.
8. Choose cooking utensils made from bamboo as bamboo exhibits these unique qualities: i) faster-growing (than most trees); ii) bio-degradable; and iii) low carbon emission level.
9. When buying cleaning products and other household supplies, choose family packs or refill packs which are cheaper and produce less packaging wastes.
10. When purchasing an electrical appliance, choose one with a Grade 1 Energy Label and use energy-saving light bulbs.
11. Before buying refrigerator deodorant, consider substitutes such as brewed teabags, coffee grounds and lemons.
12. Before buying a cleaning cloth, consider the use of rags from old garments/face towels.
13. When decorating a new home, choose furniture items that are made from recycled materials and use paint with low volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions.
14. Use public transport whenever possible. Walk if the distance is short.
15. When buying a car, pay attention on its fuel consumption level or simply choose an electric car to reduce carbon emissions.
16. Use handkerchiefs instead of tissue paper.
17. Bring your own reusable shopping bag(s) when you go out and try to avoid the use of non-woven bags.
18. Think before you buy! Don’t buy unless you really need them!
19. Before buying electronic products and accessories, understand the product features and your actual needs. Don’t make impulsive purchases just to follow trends.
20. Use rechargeable batteries instead of disposable ones.
If you have scored enough to pass the threshold of the Basic Level, you might want to take the Advanced Level quiz to see if you could call yourself a “Super Eco Guru” with 12 or more affirmative responses.
1. Before buying new clothes, consider repairing old pieces or a make-over, or making use of the garment to garment recycling system to turn old into new, thus extending the life of a garment!
2. When buying new clothes, avoid pieces that can only be dry-cleaned in order to reduce associated pollution.
3. When shopping for new clothes, opt for durable materials and classic looks instead of following fashion trends blindly.
4. When buying food and household goods, go to package-free supermarkets or shops to avoid unnecessary packaging.
5. When purchasing cookware, consider thermal / pressure cooker to shorten cooking time and save energy.
6. Purchase seafood certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) to support sustainable fishing.
7. Reduce the consumption of frozen food or items that are air transported. Instead, consume local and seasonal produce in order to avoid extra resources and costs associated with transportation and cultivation.
8. Use personal care products made from natural ingredients instead of chemical substances.
9. Before buying cleaning products, consider using peels and raw vegetable wastes to make eco-friendly enzyme cleansers.
10. Install low-flow water taps when you renovate your home and regularly check and repair water pipes.
11. Take cold showers (!) during summer time to reduce energy consumption.
12. In making your travel plan, take into consideration the airline’s carbon footprint.
13. Research the brand and purchase only sustainable products.
14. Pay attention to the product information on the package and try to choose products made from recyclable or bio-degradable materials.
15. When buying books and printed materials, opt for those using soy-ink printing and FSC- (Forest Stewardship Council) certified papers.
16. Devise a shopping list and avoid buying unnecessary items.
17. Plan and spend wisely, e.g., consider spending money on intangibles such as education and healthcare, etc.
Children can be Eco Guru too!
Good living habits should be cultivated from an early age.
To children and students: Are you making an effort in reducing waste at school and at home?
21. Avoid buying art and craft materials if possible. Use your creativity and work with old/recycled materials.
22. Senior students can share their old school uniforms and textbooks with fellow junior students.
23. Avoid buying new books or toys and try to exchange with friends.
24. You don’t need a new school bag each year! Before buying any stationery, check to see if you already have enough in possession.
25. During recess, avoid buying drinks and snacks in disposable packaging. Fresh fruits and homemade dried fruits are better options in terms of healthiness and environment-friendliness.
Latest development in Hong Kong on “Sustainable Consumption”
The first zero-waste store opened in Hong Kong in 2018!
Packaging materials constitute a major part of municipal solid waste despite having a short shelf life (of a few minutes to a few days). In view of this, Hong Kong's first zero-waste store was launched in Sai Ying Pun in 2018. Since then, a number of household goods stores and supermarkets have also launched similar services to help in reducing waste from packaging materials.
The world's first garment to garment recycling system (G2G)
The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA), in cooperation with garment manufacturers and international apparel brands, developed and launched the world’s first garment to garment recycling system (G2G) in Hong Kong in December 2018. The G2G system can perform a series of processes including: cutting fabric into smaller pieces, opening and mixing fibre, carding, spinning and garment knitting. It takes as little as 4 hours to turn a customer’s old garment into a new piece and has showcased the textile and garment industry’s innovative approach to achieving sustainable development.
Drink cartons can now be recycled!
The main recyclable materials in Hong Kong include paper, metal, plastic and glass. As most compound materials are difficult to recycle, drink cartons (which are typically made from layers of paper, polyethylene and aluminum) have a recycling rate close to zero and generate a large amount of waste. To promote sustainable development, one of Hong Kong’s beverage manufacturers has finally launched a new recycling scheme and a Tetra Pak recycling facility in 2019 with dozens of smart recycling systems installed in various locations throughout the territory.
More ecolabelling initiatives in Hong Kong
Ecolabelling and certification services rendered by various NGOs provide consumers a reliable system to make eco-friendly choices. There are corresponding environmental standards across a wide range of categories, from household cleaning products to building materials. Consumers can study the ecolabels on the products and select those with less adverse environmental impact.
1. The “ Hong Kong Green Label Scheme" is an independent scheme launched by the Green Council for the certification of eco-friendly products. It is an ISO 14024 Type 1 label, which involves a third-party certification requiring considerations of life cycle impacts. The products that can be certified under this scheme include packaging materials, recycled paper products, stationery and cleaning products.
2. The "CIC Green Product Certification – HK G-Pass” is a certification program for building materials and furniture, and is jointly managed by the Construction Industry Council (CIC) and the Hong Kong Green Building Council Limited (HKGBC). The certification criteria include but not limited to carbon footprint, environmental management system, energy efficiency, materials performance, ecosystem impact and resource consumption. The scheme helps the industry and consumers to differentiate building materials and products that cause less adverse environmental impact.
3. The "HKQAA Hong Kong Registration-Eco-Friendly Series" launched by the Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency (HKQAA) aims to encourage organizations to integrate environmental aspects into the design, production, delivery, use and disposal of their products and services, so as to improve environmental performance. The initiative recognizes organizations’ contribution to promoting environmental protection based on the traceable evidence. The initiative is intended for manufacturers, importers, traders, retailers and service providers of eco-friendly products. It encourages organizations to support environmental protection at different stages of the product life cycle.
The above are just some suggestions on sustainable consumption. Consumers can use their own imagination to create their unique sustainable consumption model. As long as consumers start paying more attention, and understanding the environmental impact of different products, and putting sustainable consumption into action, we believe that the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals can ultimately be achieved in the near future. The Consumer Council is committed to promoting the sustainable development of Hong Kong. Consumers are welcome to share their sustainable consumption experience with us via emails, so that more people can support and participate in building a sustainable Hong Kong.