How to Live Sustainably in 2020

By Rebecca Walker Chan and Pat Dwyer

What does sustainability mean in our day-to-day lives?

It goes beyond the environment. Sustainability is also about our health as a society, and ensuring that future generations can live a life without a lack of resources. It takes into account how we might live in harmony with the natural world around us, protecting it from the damage and destruction of which we humans are so devastatingly capable.

Now what does that mean to you? How can you make some changes in your home, your work, and your broader community to help make the world a better place to live? After all, every single move counts.

While there are many ways to learn to live more sustainably, and since many of us truly want to make changes to our consumptive habits, we’ve curated the following suggestions with the hope of inspiring and motivating you to take control and make a real impact in ways big and small.

According to a study by Global Web Index, consumers say recyclability is the most important feature of packaging. But wouldn’t it be great if unnecessary packaging could be sidestepped altogether?

Learn more about the waste you create and how you can cut back.

  • Refuse extra packaging – for food, or any type of shopping. If you don’t need that extra paper or plastic bag to carry your new purchase, just say no.
  • Cook more! Ordering less takeaway and delivery food will go a long way in avoiding extra packaging that often ends up in the garbage.
  • Buy in bulk and use refillable containers. If you must buy something pre-packaged, avoid items wrapped in plastic – or bring your own containers. One easy approach is to shop at a local bulk and refill store, wet market, bakery, or grocery and hand them your own container, bypassing single-use packaging altogether. Great examples of sustainable stores in Hong Kong are Live Zero, Edgar, and Slowood.
  • Reach out to your local district councillors about the availability of recycling bins in your neighbourhood, and their recycling treatment post-collection. It’s their job to listen to their constituents and create meaningful action. As a responsible citizen, endeavour to find out if the waste is indeed properly recycled.
  • Use your voice. Email, post on social media, share your feedback, write a letter, or send a tweet to companies and brands that you want to hold accountable. (Don’t forget your hashtags! #producerresponsibility, #responsibleconsumption)
  • There are many ways to reuse clothing. Instead of buying new clothes, reorganize your closet and rediscover items you already own. Get creative with outfit ensembles. If something no longer fits, visit a tailor, repurpose it around the house, or give it to a friend who would appreciate it.
Often, we don’t see or feel how our daily habits can make an impact on the environment. Awareness is the first step, and action is the next.

Learn more about your energy usage and how you can live a more energy-efficient lifestyle.

  • Minimise purchases of new products, especially resource-intensive and heavily-packaged products. Remember that everything requires energy and resources to make – and by not buying unnecessarily, you can reduce demand too.
  • Unplug unused electronics to minimize standby power consumption.
  • Wash clothes in cold water and ideally by hand. Washing machines and hot water are energy-intensive, and if you can spare the extra time and effort, avoid using the washer – but if you cannot, then do bulk, full-cycle laundry whenever possible.
  • It’s best to hang clothes to dry rather than tumble-dry. This can avoid releasing microplastics from synthetic garments, which can eventually end up in public water streams and ultimately, the ocean. This is because washing clothes in cold water and hanging them to dry will release fewer microplastics in comparison.
  • Choose low energy-intensive activities (i.e., hiking nature trails, walking or taking the tram vs. taking a cab, taking the stairs vs. the elevator – especially if you happen to live on the second or third floor).
  • Your food choices also make an impact on the environment. Harvard University’s School of Public Health suggests minimising consumption of meat, as meat production is cited as a substantial contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and requires more water, land and energy than plants.
  • Pay attention to equipment maintenance, such as cleaning air-conditioning filters regularly. Ultimately this allows your appliances to work as efficiently as possible.
  • Set your air conditioning to a warmer temperature. Fans use even less energy.
  • Engage with the new Electrical Equipment Upgrade Scheme, which provides subsidies to commercial and industrial customers to replace or upgrade their electrical equipment to more energy efficient models, for both retrofit and new installations. 

Rebecca Walker Chan is a Sustainability Advisor at The Purpose Business, specialising in assisting clients with ESG reporting, the development and implementation of sustainability strategies, and impact-driven research. Pat Dwyer is the Founder and Director of The Purpose Business.