Minimalism, zero waste, sustainability are all being mushed into one big cluster. They all originated from social issues, and at some point inform each other. To take on all three challenges can be daunting. While shifting our priorities in making decisions, also altering our living habits which are deep-rooted in our daily lives and local culture, needless to say, ethical living can be challenging. Well, it really shouldn’t be that hard and here’s what ethical living looks like and what it is actually about.
It doesn’t always look Instagram worthy.
The look of an ethical/minimalistic lifestyle appeals to a lot of people. It’s hard to deny the beauty of sustainable materials like wood, straw, stainless steel. There is beauty in functions, just like how Dieter Rams describe what good design is. (http://bit.ly/2vrlePM) I love my wooden spoons, stainless steel straws, and mason jars, they make soda water looks a hundred bucks better. But it doesn’t always look as glamorous.
A lot of the time our first approach in achieving a certain aesthetic is consumption. We are not saying that’s what everyone does, but there’s this tendency since that’s what we were told through media. Since terms like ‘minimalist', ‘eco', ‘green' are so trendy these days, it’s easy to get muddled in the look and not its true meaning. Here are a few things that sound cooler than they look:
- Mismatched second-hand furniture that looks ‘used’.
- Sorting out our recycling does not look glamorous at all. (See Fig.1)
- Less waste means using things until their death.
(Record: Blouse of 6 years, sports shoes of 5 years.)
- Recycling zip-locks and plastic bags can look filthy, like, REAL filthy.
In other words: It’s not an aesthetic.
It looks silly.
Recycling system in Hong Kong is flawed, but we still choose to do it. Quoting from a book I recently finished on doing the small and significant things, “ It might sound naive to suggest that whether you order a chicken patty or a veggie burger is a profoundly important decision. Then again, it certainly would have sounded fantastic in the 1950s if you were told that where you sat in a restaurant or on a bus could begin to uproot racism.” ( Just FYI, Rosa Parks is my all time hero. ) It’s about integrity and conscience. The things you cannot ignore after knowing.
Hopefully, us looking clumsy, rattling our way to recycling bins, will inspire our neighbors to take actions. If there are enough of us who cares to do it, then we can pressure our government to do something about HK’s environmental policies. In other words: It’s about bringing change.
It looks odd.
‘No straws, please’, and man at the other end of the table stares at us. His eyes burn with the question ‘but WHY’. That’s just one of the many occasions I get stares and puzzled looks from strangers. From talking to friends or striking up (friendly) conversations with starers, we found most of them are quite okay with others living the sustainable lifestyle. It’s just that they don't think it’s for them. By showing confidence and breeziness, instead of long speeches on why we do what we do, it comes across less intimidating. Rather than embarrassment, genuine amusement is more of a common reaction from people. In other words: It’s an alternative way of living.
It looks pretentious.
There’s no need to shame others. Doing what you can, looks different to everyone everywhere. It’s about finding ways that work for you. There’s no standard to meet, only setting intentions for yourself and do what’s realistic for you and your household.
We are far from being zero waste and we constantly meet with challenges living in a city boasting its convenience in everything. That doesn’t stop us from learning and finding out what we can do and how we can do more. In other words: It’s an opportunity to learn.