PENCINTA ALAM JUNE 2017GREEN LIVING COLUMN
THE HIVE BULK FOODS SHOP VISIT AND OTHER ZERO-WASTE TIPS
By Wong Ee Lynn
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Hidden away in a tidy and welcoming house in Jalan Telawi 9, Bangsar, is The Hive Bulk Foods, a cooperative that works with local organic farmers and the Orang Asli community. It offers organic groceries, packaging-free grains, cereals and seeds in bulk (customers bring their own jars and containers) and sustainable, low-waste products including personal care products and household cleaning products.
Set up by zero-waste blogger and activist Claire Sancelot, The Hive Bulk Foods carries items that are not easily available in Malaysia such as shampoo bars (do away with the plastic pump bottles and extra fuel miles needed to transport them!), compostable bamboo toothbrushes (since conventional plastic toothbrushes are NOT recyclable and should not be put into the recycling bins!), washable and reusable sanitary pads, reusable stainless steel straws and travel-sized cutleries to replace disposable utensils.
From the food section, customers are able to purchase packaging-free spices, dehydrated fruits, nuts, cereal, granola, rice, cacao nibs, coffee grounds, rolled oats, grains, herbal teas, Himalayan salt, and many varieties of organic flour, among others.
Shops such as The Hive Bulk Foods offer consumers more sustainable options to conventional groceries and goods. From a social justice point of view, The Hive empowers local organic farmers and producers, including the Orang Asli communities, and contributes to the local economy while cutting down on the fuel miles of transporting organic products from distant places.
Some of the products may appear expensive. However, one must take into account the fact that conventional goods and industries are often heavily subsidized and therefore cheaper, and consumers do not have to bear the cradle-to-grave costs of producing, using and disposing of conventional products such as plastic bags and disposable diapers.
If the public had to pay for the cost of cleaning up waterways, reforesting degraded land, rehabilitating wildlife and building and maintaining landfills, people would change their minds very quickly about going for the more convenient but more damaging options! Also, in the long run, reusable items such as tiffin carriers, handkerchiefs, cloth kitchen towels, cloth diapers and reusable cloth sanitary pads will serve you better than single-use products and save you money.
The Hive Bulk Foods’ official website is www.thehivebulkfoods.com and their Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/thehivebulkfoods/.
The shop is located at 16, Telawi 9, Bangsar and is open from 9.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. from Mondays to Saturdays. They are closed on Sundays.
Here are ways we can all make zero-waste adjustments to our lives whether or not we live near a cool cooperative like The Hive Bulk Foods:
1. Determine what it is that you are disposing the most of. Those items should be your priority. Therefore, you should be more concerned over the plastic-and-foil coffee pods and disposable diapers that you discard daily, than about purchasing a bamboo bicycle, organic cotton bedsheets, or item of furniture that is used for decades.
2. Replace these items that you most frequently dispose of with the washable and reusable alternatives. To make the habit of using washable and reusable items work for you, you may find that you will need to purchase or make enough of the reusable item, and keep enough of it in places where they are most needed. Therefore, keep plenty of kitchen rags and towels in the kitchen, and have enough handkerchiefs, cloth sanitary pads and cloth diapers to last you at least a week. These items do not take up much space in the washing machine or washbasin and soon become just as convenient as using disposables, once you get in the habit of using them daily. Besides, tissue paper, wet wipes, paper towels, disposable diapers and disposable sanitary pads all require a lot of water, resources and fuel to produce, package and transport to you and deal with once they are disposed of. Having to wash reusable items is therefore still less wasteful and damaging to the environment than using disposable items.
3. Replace 3-in-1 beverage mixes (generally, coffee, tea and breakfast beverages) with loose tea leaves, herbal tea mixes or coffee grounds, preferably organic and fairtrade / UTZ-certified. Those plastic-and-foil sachets that beverage mixes come in cannot be recycled and very soon adds up. Get in the habit of making and mixing your own drinks instead of relying on the convenient but unhealthy, wasteful and environmentally-damaging habit of buying pre-mixed drinks in plastic sachets.
4. If you are using contact lenses, consider switching to glasses or opting for corrective eye surgery. Using contact lenses requires you to purchase lenses, cleaning solutions and disinfectants that come in a lot of packaging.
5. If there are no packaging-free shopping options where you live, buy items that you use the most of in bulk and in the largest size packaging available. Opt for packaging that is recyclable or reusable, for example, pet food in large lidded pails that can be used for other purposes, or laundry detergent powder in large buckets that can be refilled with loose soap powder in refill packs.
6. Bring your reusable shopping bags, handkerchief, beverage bottle and food container with you whenever you leave the house. Keep a few extras in your bag or car just in case.
7. If you are in the habit of using disposable wet wipes, consider making your own reusable ones here: http://mnsgreenliving.blogspot.my/2015/06/greener-alternatives-to-wet-wipes.html
8. Opt to dine in rather than take away your food to reduce packaging. When purchasing drinks in paper or plastic cups, request for ‘no lid and no straw’ to cut down on plastic waste.
9. Store food in lidded jars and containers, rather than use clingfilm and kitchen foil. Some websites recommend beeswax cloth reusable ‘clingwrap’ and cloth snack bags. Do go with the option that is the most convenient and practical for you. It would also make sense for you to use the containers and empty jars that you already have, rather than buy something new.
10. In the bathroom, use a face flannel rather than makeup remover wipes and cotton balls, and exfoliate yourself with a pumice stone or salt or sugar scrub instead of commercial cleansers containing microbeads.