#Hashtag Hong Kong
Hello, my name is So Yeon. I am working as a student intern in Soap Cycling, a charity that recycles lightly used soaps from hotels to bring better hygiene to those who need it the most and help fight the waste crisis in Hong Kong.
It is only one month until Christmas and the holiday season until Chinese New year! The season of gifts, sharing and spreading love. How are you planning to spend the season of joy? Going on a trip for a special holiday experience? Well, I am convinced that at least some of you have booked luxurious hotels in Hong Kong for a ‘staycation’. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, ‘staycation’ means a vacation that you spend near your home rather than traveling to another place. There was a local staycation boom in Hong Kong for a while, especially when the pandemic has hit the city in 2020 and 2021.
Spending quality time in a hotel is certainly a nice way to take a break and recharge yourself. However, have you ever thought of where all the used soaps or shampoos that you have left behind end up? Most of the hotels provide fresh soap, shampoo, and hair conditioner as basic amenities every day. They come in a fancy plastic packaging, and are replaced everyday even when the guest has not finished using it. More than 2 million bars of soap are discarded by hotels in Hong Kong every year, which can actually fill in volumes of 400 carpark lots.
This seemingly trivial problem has a huge environmental impact on our community. This triggered Soap Cycling to start the journey to promote hygiene and protect our environment. We collect the lightly used soaps and other sanitation amenities from hotels, and recycle them and bring them into the hands of those who need them the most. Soap Cycling works in Hong Kong and Singapore, and also receives soaps from hotels in South Korea and Japan. The recycled soaps are shipped to the Philippines to support school hygiene programs; hygiene kits and liquid soaps are distributed only locally to underprivileged people with the help of our NGO partners.
While trying to take a role in bringing about a more sustainable world, Soap Cycling also aims to create a socially inclusive community. Our MEY Program, which stands for the Cantonese word “mey” for beauty and M minorities, E elderly, and Y youth, provides employment opportunities for these often marginalized community members.
…When you come to one of our recycling sessions run by student interns, our friendly and talented elderly workers will always be there to give you a hand. Should you choose to learn how to make soap from scratch, our soap master ladies with a minority background will be your teachers.
Joining some of the educational interactive sessions at our warehouse is an entertaining way you can support our core work as an NGO. Our mission to reduce waste needs as many supporters as possible, and we cannot emphasize enough the important role of individuals choosing to join the cause in addressing environmental concerns. Small actions and decisions make a big difference. We have a lot of tips on how you can turn this Holiday Season into a season of giving and truely spreading love to all. If you want to protect the environment, and are willing to make a step forward, let’s start from there together.
Here are some very easy steps you can take while you enjoy a staycation or vacation at a hotel to make it more eco-friendly. First, bring a bar soap of yours to the hotel! Bar soaps do not have plastic overwrap or packaging, which contribute to reducing plastic waste that is thrown into landfill without being recycled. Another positive impact of natural bar soaps is that it does not have the chemical polluting the water often found in liquid soaps. Many bar soaps come with organic ingredients, with so many benefits- why not change to bar soap entirely and get rid of all the plastic waste at home, too? Second, you can make a request to the hotel not to replace single-used plastic hygiene kits. Hygiene kits in hotels, including shampoos, hair conditioners, and hand washes are replaced everyday. Most of the products are single use plastic, which is a great waste of resources since disposable plastic items cannot biodegrade. Ask yourself whether you can finish using the shampoos or soaps within one day. For most of you, the answer would be no. So when you go on a staycation, just call the front desk and tell them there is no need to change your amenities every day!
There are a myriad of decisions one can choose to make in order to make a positive environmental impact. It does not have to be a big move. And it can be fun, too! Here, the good news is that Soap Cycling is co-hosting a Christmas market with The Green Hospitality from 23rd to 27th of December in West Cultural Kowloon District, and we are selling a variety of handmade MEY soaps. Visiting a Christmas market is great fun! What about giving some unique bar soaps as a Christmas gift for your friends and families this year? Isn’t it a genuine Christmas spirit, reflecting others on what’s really important in our lives?