Three Hong Kong fair trade stores and their top-selling items
As Hongkongers pay more heed to their carbon footprint some are opening fair trade stores to cater to their desire to consume with a conscience
Most of us love to shop yet many are oblivious to the negative impacts our spending habits and product choices have on the environment and labourers who produce these goods. The United Nations estimates that unfair trade rules deny poor countries US$700 billion every year. But Hong Kong is slowly becoming more aware of the issue, with alternatives to chain stores and supermarkets sprouting up to help us shop in a more socially responsible way.
With outlets in Jordan, Quarry Bay and Tsuen Wan, Fair Circle (shop.hkfairtradepower.com) has been advocating ethical consumerism for 10 years. Other than sourcing a variety of fair trade food and drinks, personal care products and accessories from Europe and Asia, the social enterprise has established a long-term relationship with various producers in India, Nepal and Bangladesh to identify their expertise and offer support to help them come up with products that cater to local preferences. Each product has a tag to tell its story and food items such as Podie's spices from Sri Lanka come with easy-to-follow recipes.
Best buy items:
Natural heating pad
The answer to a sore neck after a day's work. A choice of wheat (HK$149) or wheat and lavender (HK$189), this washable, microwave wrap made in colourful fabric by seamstresses from the Gansu Handmade Workshop is said to offer instant pain relief and enhances blood circulation.
Terracotta coil burner
Crafted by Corr - The Jute Works in Bangladesh in the shape of a tagine (HK$159) or turtle (HK$129) and designed by Fair Circle, it repels annoying insects and looks good into the bargain. Goes very well with the herbal mosquito coil (HK$59/eight coils) produced by India's Mereville Trust.
Anti-bacterial body spray
This invigorating mist (HK$89/50ml) doesn't prevent perspiration but deodorises with the help of a formula from a local brand named Beyond Aromatherapy. It is made with vodka and fair trade essential oils of sweet orange, lemon and peppermint imported from Moroccan and Indian villages.
Comes in brown or grey, this chic shoulder bag (HK$158) is made with woven fabric hand dyed using plant-based colours by Nepalese women under the Women's Skill Development Project. Designed by Japanese volunteers, it has an adjustable strap and can double as a waist bag. Other styles - including coin pouch and pass case - are also available.
Three branches, including shop 7, Breakthrough Centre, 191 Woo Sung Street, Jordan; tel: 3188 8064. Open: noon-8pm
In 2013, five friends from different backgrounds sharing a passion for independent producers and a sustainable lifestyle started Lively Life (facebook.com/livelylifehk). Resembling a well-stocked convenience store, it operates under the fair trade concept to ensure a reasonable return to all producers, who are mainly local or from the region, to minimise carbon footprint. They call the shop a "community economic interactive platform" as profit-making is far less important than educating consumers how their purchases can make a difference. It is looking to promote a suspended products initiative - inspired by the concept of suspended meals - to help the needy.
Best buy items:
Connoisseur's organic fair trade jasmine rice
The wooden table in the middle of the shop is lined with red-lidded jars which cover all of your cooking essentials from salt to sugar, rice and beans. Selling them by weight helps minimise wastage from bulk purchase. One of the hottest items lately is the organic food purveyor's fragrant rice (HK$3.10/ 100g), which is imported from Cambodia.
Virganic's handmade foti shampoo
You won't realise how much chemicals are taking a toll on your body until you stop using them. The local brand uses fair trade and organic ingredients for its popular range of natural skin and hair-care products. This shampoo (HK$95/250ml) is said to restore the health of the hair and scalp, plus the desirable side effect of fewer grey hairs.
Eco Femme's washable cloth pad
Tried and tested by the owners, this reusable menstrual towel (HK$98-HK$168) produced in rural India won't burden the environment like disposable ones. Sewn with pure cotton and a layer of waterproof, leak-free lining, it has buttons to secure it to underwear and can be easily cleaned with cold water and a pinch of soda powder.
The Rainforest Coffee
Started by Wu Zi-yu, a Taiwanese who chose rural development and fair trade over a career as a lawyer, the brand puts all proceeds towards improving living and education standards in Indonesian villages where he sources his arabica beans. You can choose to grind your own beans (HK$140/230g) or buy individual packets of instant powder for HK$14.
Shop L1-02, Level 1, Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre, 30 Pak Tin Street, Shek Kip Mei; tel: 5542 3204. Open: 12noon-8pm
It would take some time to browse through all the interesting items at Wecons (facebook.com/WECONS.flowermarket). Variety is guaranteed at the spacious venue - located in a revitalised historic walk-up in the flower market in Mong Kok. It is run by nine local organisations including an organic farmer and self-help groups that all believe in the benefits of promoting the domestic economy. Highlights include handicrafts based on current trends, healthy snacks, environmentally friendly cleaning products and a variety of freshly harvested produce delivered every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from Sha Tau Kok by a farmer affectionately known as Fai Gor.
Best buy items:
Preserved garlic in vinegar or honey
Way before black garlic became a trendy superfood, Chinese households always had jars of this immune system-boosting tonic (HK$110-HK$120/jar) in their cupboard. Housewives from the Tin Shui Wai Organic are dedicated to reintroducing this to the community, saying one clove a day keeps the doctor away.
Other than donated second-hand merchandise, Community Oriented Mutual Economy has stocked the shop with upcycled goodies produced by its team of experienced seamstresses. Creations include stylish handbags sewn from old jeans (HK$150) or broken umbrella fabric.
Organic We's soap nuts
Also known as sapindus or soapberry (HK$73/200g), four to six pieces of the nut used in the washing machine can replace 50g of washing powder and be used up to four times. It is a natural, allergen-free cleaning agent which foams up with water, while acid from the nut further cleanses and softens fabric.
Many go to GroundWorks greenshop.sjs.org.hk/catalog in Wan Chai for seasonal vegetables sourced daily from nine local organic farms. But don't overlook their traditional treats such as sesame candies or cashew cookies (HK$28-HK$32/100g) which are handmade using fair trade or organic ingredients in their community kitchen. For the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival, they are preparing moon cakes from scratch using lotus seeds from Sheung Shui's Long Valley.
1/F Good Point, 204 Prince Edward Road West, Mong Kok; tel: 9388 5560. Open: Tue-Sun, 11am-7pm, Mon, 3pm-7pm
Find out more
These shops hold regular workshops.
Aroma workshop: learn the benefits of organic essential oils and make your personal blend of massage oil using fair trade products from Indian and Moroccan underprivileged women.
August 17, 7pm-9.30pm, room 1301, Breakthrough Centre, 191 Woo Sung Street, Jordan, HK$390, HK$370 (members).
Kombucha brewing workshop: learn how to make the fermented tea with Yisheng Organic's fair trade Chinese tea and incorporate it in your everyday diet.
August 8, 11am-1pm or August 14, 7pm-9pm, shop L1-02, Level 1, Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre (JCCAC), 30 Pak Tin Street, Shek Kip Mei, HK$280, HK$500 for two.
Fair Taste (fairtaste.com.hk)
Multiple retail partners, plus a showroom. Unit 5, 11/F, Wing Hang Industrial Building, 13-29 Kwai Hei Street, Kwai Chung; tel: 2805 2336. Open: Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm
Good Goods (goodgoods.hk)
Duke of Windsor Social Service Building, 15 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai; tel: 2876 2988. Open: Mon-Fri, 11.30am-6pm
3A Kennedy St, Wan Chai; tel: 2116 1106. Open: Mon, Thurs, 11am-7pm, Tue-Wed, Fri-Sat, 11am-6pm