A sustainable Christmas doesn’t have to be a boring one. Sonalie Figueiras tells us how

It’s been a year of shocking discoveries about our global plastic consumption (plastic in our poop, no joke) and that’s going to come to a head at Christmas. The impact of wrapping paper alone – which is largely unrecyclable – is scary. No one likes to feel guilty over the holidays , but you can turn that guilt into a more proactive force for good.

We called on the Green Queen herself, Sonalie Figueiras to share with us how she plans to go zero waste this Christmas, and why it’s not as scary as you think. Sonalie is the founder and editor-in-chief of Green Queen, Hong Kong’s largest eco-wellness media platform, as well as the founder and CEO of Ekowarehouse, a global sourcing platform for certified organic products.

Read also: Five ways to be a low-impact traveller

A lot of people may think that taking a sustainable approach to Christmas is a bit of a killjoy. How do you reframe the conversation to help people get into a more positive mindset about zero waste?
In the past this was definitely true, but I find that this year there has been a huge mind shift. Thanks to social media, people have been inundated with images of plastic waste in the oceans and beached whales filled with plastic bottles. The recent typhoon in Hong Kong also dredged up so much waste on the beach that so many citizens were incredibly shocked and realised they have a role to play to stop this happening in the future.

I think that these days, people want to be thought leaders within their social and family networks and they want to inspire those around them to live their best life. That’s how we came up with the concept of being a #GiftActivist. We want people to use Christmas as an opportunity to change people’s minds about hugely problematic global issues like climate change and environmental destruction. Framing it this way really helps open people up to this idea.

A happy life is made of memories, not things. I honestly don’t give people lots of “things” anymore.

What’s one small change people can make towards doing Christmas more sustainably?
Don’t gift people any plastic – no plastic items, no plastic wrappers, no plastic packaging – make it a challenge to find gifts that are plastic-free. It could be a fun game to enjoy as a family. This one change will have a huge ripple effect across our community. And one more thing: VOLUNTEER. Christmas is the ideal time to give your time to those who need it the most. Shockingly, over a million people live below the poverty line in Hong Kong. They need help. Hands On Hong Kong has a fantastic online multi-org volunteering calendar that allows you to sign up to help out charities that need it.

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Zero waste shopping revolution for christmas 🍃🎄 By choosing to buy #bulk and #recycling your containers, not only can you buy as much or as little as you want, you are also making the decision to #makeadifference. ✌🏼 It’s time to embrace #consciousconsumption , because satisfying healthy appetites and promoting zero waste is what @edgar.hk do the best! Edgar is the first #nowaste grocery store in Hong Kong with organic and healthy produce. During our Zero Waste Christmas Market bring your own container, shop their lip-smacking products in bulk and help us create a sustainable future for all 😘 . . . . . . . . . . #zerowaste #greenqueenhk #greenchristmas #christmashk #nowastegrocery #nowastehk #lowwaste #reduce #reuse #recycle #repurpose #rethink #christmastime #christmasmarkethk #sustainableliving #ecoliving #gogreen #savetheplanet #hongkong #hkiger #explorehongkong #saynotoplastic #sustainablelifestyle

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And when they’re comfortable with that change, what are the next steps?
The important thing is not to feel overwhelmed and go step by step. For example, install a water filter and get a soda stream at home so you can cut out plastic bottle usage. If you drink coffee, start with making sure you always have a reusable hot or cold cup with you (bonus: coffee shops give you discounts when you BYO). Commit to reducing the amount of times you order food for delivery and go and pick up a takeaway with your own container. These are small changes that make a big difference. We have a great guide on How To Break Up With Single-Use Plastic that can help you get started.

Read also: How to build the ultimate zero waste traveller’s kit

What are some other ways you can approach Christmas responsibly?
I believe in supporting local all the way, that’s one of the founding principles of the Green Queen ethos – if you don’t nurture your own backyard then how can you hope to grow a beautiful garden in the future? I also believe in supporting women. Why not? Women are the true heroes of the small business community and they work harder than anyone else. Why not give them a chance?

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BAMBOO – THE WONDER PLANT 💪🏽 This amazing plant offers mankind a chance to enjoy many of the comforts of modern life without causing irreparable damage to our environment. If you’re prone to allergies and hoping to fill your home with green and eco-friendly products, @bamboahome is the solution 🍃 The #bamboo is guaranteed to be #pesticidefree and #biodegradable, promising no extra harm to the environment, while the bamboo beddings are hypoallergenic and perfect for sensitive skin. These bamboo products can help to alleviate deforestation as well as poverty in rural areas as the products are mostly crafted by local artisans. @bamboahome is the perfect #christmasgift for people looking for more sustainable solutions for their home. 🎄🍃 In a bid to combat the excessive waste that often comes as a byproduct of the festive season, a Zero Waste Christmas Market is coming to Hong Kong. We've brought together innovative, independent businesses dedicated to the environment for #greenergifting this festive season.🌟 . . . . . . . #zerowaste #greenqueenhk #greenbusiness #localbusiness #localartisans #lowwaste #reduce #reuse #recycle #repurpose #rethink #christmastime #christmasmarkethk #sustainableliving #ecoliving #gogreen #savetheplanet #hongkong #hkiger #explorehongkong #saynotoplastic #sustainablelifestyle #ecoconscious

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Finally I believe in supporting conscious & sustainable mission-driven brands, products and companies – I am talking about companies that support charitable organisations, that pay their workers fairly, that source ingredients so as to not endanger animals or our planet’s resources. As we say at Green Queen, ‘Vote For The World You Believe In With Your Wallet’. There are so many fantastic women-led ethical local businesses in Hong Kong today. We are showcasing a whole host of them at our Green Queen Zero Waste Christmas Market on December 15th at Garage Academy if you want to do some Christmas shopping there.

Read also: Where to shop, zero waste style

What are some of your top gift recommendations?

Obviously I have to recommend our Green Queen x Live Zero Limited Edition Zero Waste Christmas Hamper – it’s the perfect way to get your family and friends started on their #LowWasteLife. I also believe in gifting experiences: cooking classes, massages, tickets to a great show… A happy life is made of memories, not things. I honestly don’t give people lots of “things” anymore.

However, if hard pressed, I will choose items that last a lifetime like a great cookbook that can be passed down through generations, or something unique and defined by its craftsmanship like a clutch made by a vintage kimono or a product that has great utility like a essential oil scented body scrub (in a reusable glass jar of course) that pampers the recipient.

Feature image by Alan Pang for The Loop.

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Emma Chong Johnston

Emma is a new mum, compulsive shopper and cityslicker through and through. Perfect holiday: shops, sunshine and gelato (and maybe a babysitter).

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