Live Zero: Changing the way we shop for groceries and essentials

The first thing that strikes you when you meet Tamsin Thornburrow, owner of Live Zero, Hong Kong’s first zero waste grocery store, is her passion and dedication to make a difference in the world around her. Though only in her 20s, Live Zero is already her second venture! Her first was a homeware and lifestyle store called Thorn and Burrow. Curious to know what inspired her to choose this path, I asked, “So, how did you choose entrepreneurship?” To which she laughed and said, “I get really bored very easily. I like to do lots of different things. That kind of helps doing your own business. You have to do everything. Not every company does that.” She sums up her experience being an entrepreneur saying, “I love it and I hate it!”

Tamsin Thornburrow at the Live Zero Store

She handles everything at the store herself – from sourcing the products, pricing them, marketing and sales to handling the finances. The inspiration for this concept store is rooted in her search for a solution to the plastic water bottle she carried to work which invariably leaked and created a mess. She came across S’well bottles and one thing led to another, and very soon, she was stocking several reusable items like bottles, bags, straws etc. within her homeware store. She soon decided to follow this up with a pop-up store at PMQ dedicated to eco conscious products. The phenomenal response, naturally led to the stand-alone store opening its doors in February this year. Apart from reusable products, Live Zero also stocks several lifestyle and food products sans the wasteful packaging! With no prior experience in the food business, she laughingly claims she surprised herself, “I have no idea how this happened; It wasn’t planned.”

The store offers a wide range of products from basic types of flour, beans, dried fruits, spices, pasta, detergents and soaps to kombucha, a fermented local tea considered good for the gut and beeswax wraps, an ecofriendly alternative to plastic wraps/films. The food products, mostly organic, are neatly stacked in dispensers that are easy to use. Tamsin shares with us that snacks such as cranberries, nuts, almonds, dates etc. are really popular with customers as they provide a healthy option especially for kids. These snacks are 10-20% cheaper at the store than regular organic food at the supermarkets. Other popular products like the quinoa are up to 50% cheaper at the store. Tamsin not only sources the best products from across the globe, but her choices also reflect her strong sense of belonging to Hong Kong. Most lifestyle products and some others like turmeric, coffee, kombucha are sourced locally. At the same time, she also stocks products that contribute to the greater good as in the shampoo, sourced from a local NGO providing employment to older women. Tamsin is currently planning on introducing several new products like almond milk, honey, yoghurt, pesto sauce and even ice cream!

Food & bath products neatly labelled and stacked in easy-to-use dispensers

According to Tamsin, in the last few months, the store has gained its fair share of local

and expat customers. While I was in the store, I first-hand got a glimpse of this unique shopping concept. Some regular customers walked in with their own containers and personally weighed and packed the products they needed from the dispensers and then presented it to be billed. However, for the occasional walk-in customer, there are recyclable paper bags or jars donated by other customers that can be used as packaging.

Tamsin's personal favorite - the S'well bottle!

Tamsin is honest to admit that a store like hers has certain limitations as it is definitely not a “pick and go” store like the regular supermarkets. It is meant for only those who are committed to doing their bit to prevent wastage and are thus, willing to put in the extra time and effort required to shop there.

Reusable jars donated by other customers

In turn, the shopping concept helps thembuy just as much as they need, waste less and in the process, do their bit to save the environment. Live Zero is an initiative that can help us embrace a “Low Impact” lifestyle to lessen the footprint we leave on our planet for the benefit of our future generations.

This month when World Environment Day is being celebrated the world over, we hope our readers too will be inspired to do their own bit to reduce waste. Stemming from her belief that “reusing is better than recycling”, Tamsin shared some simple measures to reduce waste in our day to day lives. We leave you with some of these - carrying reusable bags for grocery and other shopping, a set of cutleries when going out to eat, a coffee mug and a set of steel/glass straws for your daily dose of takeaway coffees and drinks and finally, buying second hand items, where possible such as for furniture and clothes.

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