Yaay!!! Chinese New Year (CNY) one of our favorite Chinese celebrations is around the corner!! This year, why not reconsider some of the usual traditions of “out with the old, in with the new”, and take some small steps towards a more sustainable CNY?
Red packets, or lai see as more locally known, are generally given out during the 15 days of CNY. Traditionally, they are made of paper, but there are other options, such as digital lai sees or these reusable cloth ones sold by a couple based in Hong Kong: Little Storiz (https://littlestoriz.com/?lang=en). They are priced at hkd119 each, with 5% off purchases of 5 or more. You can customize them with names and also zodiac signs of the receiver, and use them again and again each year!
Pic 1: Photos obtained from the co-founder of Little Storiz
If sticking to paper lai sees, you can consider re-using them next year if they’re in good condition, instead of using them once only. If you’re a strict traditionalist and just cannot accept using anything “old” for CNY, you can also consider other more sustainable options, such as red packets made out of recycled paper, or ones with more generic designs instead of ones with zodiac animals so that you can save any unused ones for next year.
My favorite places for buying secondhand clothing are Green Ladies (https://gl.sjs.org.hk/), Carousell (https://www.carousell.com.hk/) or for something a bit fancier, Hula (https://thehula.com/). My mum used to be horrified hearing of my secondhand clothing hauls, but as the years went by, she hardly bats an eyelid now, except if I dare wear anything secondhand for the first day of CNY! If you’re anything like my mum and absolutely need to wear something new, there are other more sustainable options compared to buying from the fast fashion houses. For example, you could search for “brand new” on Carousell and still get something new which might not have fit the seller. At least you’re saving something from landfill! Or buy your new year gear from a sustainable clothing shop – granted, you’ll need to do a fair bit more hunting around if you want something red/pink/orange (somehow these colours seem harder to find in the sustainable/eco-friendly market…) but here’re a few Hong Kong based brands to get started, which do have these in stock - https://milimilu.com/, https://thercollective.com/ or (for kids) https://be-mome.com/ (message the founder for the colour you want).
Pic 2: A couple of dresses available from the R Collective, prices are in USD (photos obtained from R Collective website)
Choose decorations which can be used over and over again, eg those made of cloth or more durable paper. Or go simple, and use some tangerines as decorations – both yummy and biodegradable! If you have some old red packets lying around, why not use them to create some decorations of your own. There’re tons of ideas/instructions for these online, here’s an example: https://giant.sg/20-easy-unique-chinese-new-year-decorations-out-of-red-packets
Pic 3: packet mini lantern (photo obtained from giant.sg as linked above).
CNY is the time to indulge in treats such as cookies, pineapple tarts, chocolates, bak kwa (dried barbequed meat slices). There seems to be a trend recently for individually-packed treats, but where possible try to choose instead treats with less packaging. Eg: do you really need to have individually packed mandarins?? If you have the time, gifting some home-made treats such as radish cakes, sticky rice cake, mung bean cakes etc. (which generally would have less packaging than commercially made ones) would surely bring a bigger smile to your neighbours and friends.
Pic 4: Photo of radish cake from https://en.christinesrecipes.com/2009/01/chinese-new-year-turnip-cake.html
Pre-CNY, many households would be doing a general clear-out/tidying of their homes, in preparation of visits from relatives and friends. Instead of just throwing away old items, if they’re still in usable condition, why not considering donating them instead? Refugee Union (http://refugeeunion.org/) takes in items such as clothes, shoes, milk formula, diapers, kitchenware, appliances, laptops etc., whereas Salvation Army (https://recycling.salvationarmy.org.hk/) takes in similar items (but probably not formula/diapers).
So there you go, my top tips for having a more sustainable CNY! I hope you’ve gained some inspiration for your eco journey and happy CNY from all of us at Localhood!