By Gary Stokes, Sea Shepherd Hong Kong

Organic. Sustainable. Compostable. Biodegradable. Earth-friendly. Eco. Green. Zero Waste

This week, I have heard a lot of mentions about Zero Waste, largely in part to the lovely ladies at Ecozine who organized a week of events. I fully support and strive to become zero waste myself personally as should everyone. It won’t come overnight, but each wasteful item you cut out of your life makes a difference.

However, I am getting tired of buzzwords.

Is it just me? But plastering eco-friendly buzzwords everywhere doesn’t make you green. “You need to be the change you want to see in the world.” At least that’s what it says. Restaurants and supermarkets have been milking these words to get your dollars, often adding more dollars to the price of the item just to get more dollars out of your pocket while making you feel good … like you are helping the planet. You’ve done your part.

Sustainable seafood? No such thing. There is no 100% sustainable wild-caught fishery on the planet. As long as illegal fishing exists, quotas will be exceeded and eco-systems will be damaged.

As for Zero Waste, I do find it ironic that anyone would think it smart to print those words on something disposable.

This is no meant as a personal attack on Mana, which is a great restaurant and serves great vegetarian food, but I was given their package at a school talk and thought it bizarre. Great work that all the packaging is paper not plastic (there was no PLA plastic cutlery included thank god), but zero waste … hmmm.

They are not alone, open your eyes next time you visit the supermarket.

When I first arrived in HK as a young bartender, I remember Carlsberg bottles were brown and arrived in crates. Each week they’d collect the empties and wash and reuse. Then they had a huge media campaign “We’re Going Green” Wow great news. Sadly what it meant was changing to green glass from brown glass, oh and the bottles, they were no longer collected and refilled, just thrown in the bins and sent to landfill.

If you want to help reduce your waste here are some tips.

1. Get a good water bottle and make a habit of carrying it with you all the time. We need to become as connected to it as we are our mobile phones, wallets, keys and glasses. check out Klean Canteen who make great stainless steel bottles (available here in Hong Kong).

2. When dining in a restaurant, never use disposable cutlery, no matter what its made of. Demand restaurants stop being lazy and use metal, wash and reuse. If taking away is your regular thing, get yourself a cutlery set you can keep in your office or bag.

3. Always have a small, lightweight shopping bag on you. Never have the need for using a plastic bag.

4. Don’t support restaurants that use polystyrene takeaway boxes. If you love their food tell them to find something that wont pollute the environment and won’t be back until they become responsible. If everyone did this, they’d change in a heartbeat. Your voice is powerful, you may be only one, but many think the same so let everyone know your thoughts and reasons. Rally support = change.

5. Supermarket packaging is getting out of control. Bananas wrapped in plastic, apples in foam nets and plastic, oranges peeled and put in plastic for our convenience? Buy wisely. Don’t buy brands heavily over-packaged. Unpack unnecessary packaging and leave it at the checkout for the supermarket to handle. If everyone did this, it would certainly be a concern for them.

Watch out for green-washing. Learn to recognize the buzzwords. Identify responsible companies and support them.