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Sustainable ways to celebrate the Lunar New Year

08 Feb 2019

The Lunar New Year is all about flourishing your home with decorations and gifting red packets to spread good luck and prosperity, and while it is indeed a time of celebration, we often overlook the waste that is created. In today's bLOG post, we share with you some sustainable ideas to practice this New Year, so that you can enjoy the festivities whilst protecting our planet.

Plants of prosperity

As symbols of renewal and growth, it’s no wonder plants are widely used during the holidays to welcome the New Year. Among the popular choices are peach blossom trees, which represent longevity and romance, as well as kumquat trees that bear tangerine-like fruits, which are believed to usher in prosperity, wealth and luck. While these decorative plants certainly add a vibrant and festive touch to the home, during the Lunar New Year, the unfortunate reality is that they end up in landfills as soon as the celebrations come to an end – it was reported that almost 40,000 kumquat trees (equivalent to 1,400 tonnes in weight) were disposed in one year!

There are steps that we can take to mitigate the amount of waste produced from just plants alone. Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department has implemented a peach blossom tree recycling service (stay tuned for this year's collection points), providing collection points to facilitate proper disposal of the festive flora. Once gathered, these peach blossom trees will then be processed into mulches, compost and other materials, which can be given back to our soil and planet and reduce landfill. Be sure to clean your peach blossom tree of any decoration or tapes before you drop them off!

Did you know? The leaves on kumquat trees provide food and a nesting ground for several butterfly species in Hong Kong, making them a valuable resource that can be used beyond decorative purposes. In an effort to relieve pressure on landfills, the Tai Po Environmental Association and Feng Yuan Butterfly Conservation Area have developed a re-cultivating programme, encouraging companies and institutions to donate any unwanted kumquat trees so that they can be replanted and benefit our local species. Click here for more information about this programme.

Alternatively, if you have a green thumb or want to try your hand at gardening, consider recycling your kumquat tree by replanting it in your patio or backyard. With a little pruning, patience and love, you’ll have yourself a fruit-laden tree ready for harvest and your enjoyment! As these trees are primarily used as decorations for the Lunar New Year, they are likely treated with pesticides, and we therefore suggest to wait until your plant grows a new batch of fruits before consumption. Check out some of our favourite kumquat recipes, including a tea concoction that doubles as an effective cough remedy, as well as this delicious marmalade that can be enjoyed year-round!

Give your clothes a new lease of life

As part of the Lunar New Year preparations, it is customary to give your home a thorough cleanse, sweeping any bad luck from the last year whilst making way for good fortune that lies ahead. For those who went through a wardrobe purge earlier this month, we’ve rounded up a few organisations where you can donate unwanted clothes, give them a new lease of life, and reduce landfill waste.

Green Ladies is a social enterprise operated by St. James Settlement, and through its consignment model, encourages eco-friendly habits and secondhand fashion for a sustainable use of resources. Upon donation, the team at Green Ladies will review your pieces, ensuring that they meet the right conditions, style, and quality for reselling. Accepted garments will be randomly displayed in their stores, which offer a beautifully styled and curated selection like-new clothing and accessories, and is sure to change your perception towards secondhand fashion.

Also aiming to inspire change within the industry is Redress, a local based NGO that has developed programmes to reduce textile waste and promote sustainable fashion. Through its partnership with Zara, you can now drop off unwanted clothes at collection containers located in Zara stores throughout Hong Kong. Donations will be then sent to Redress, who will sort and redistribute your clothes to re-use, repair, re-sell (to raise charity funds to support Redress’ work), up-cycle (for emerging fashion designers) or recycle. Any pieces that do not meet the standards for any of the aforementioned streams will be down-cycled as stuffing materials and rags through their local partners. Talk about circular economy at its finest!

Get the look: KD wardrobe

Recycle and reuse your red packets

Red packets, or lai see, also play an important role during the Lunar New Year, and are gifted to wish friend and family good fortune and prosperity in the forthcoming year. Despite this longstanding tradition, reports reveal that an estimated 320 million red packets are exchanged every year, and is equivalent to cutting down 16,300 trees.

Local environmental group Greeners Action has implemented a recycling programme in response to this staggering statistic, which encourages the public to reuse red packets that may otherwise have gone to waste. Following the Lunar New Year, collection boxes are set up across Hong Kong to drop off like-new red packets, which are then sent to Greeners Action for sorting, redistribution and reuse. Click here to find your closest drop-off point!

If you’re feeling a little crafty, consider turning your used red packets into unique decorations that you can enjoy the following Lunar New Year. And, for our book lovers, these make for vibrant bookmarks to keep in your latest read!

Get the look
: Wooden rat

Now that the Lunar New Year festivities are over, we hope these tips inspire you to take small steps in minimising your environmental impact. From the heart, Kung Hey Fat Choy!

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