Tread softly, and leave the lightest footprints on the earth – more and more environmentally-minded souls are being drawn to living the zero waste lifestyle, cutting down on the waste they generate.
Now – a first in Kuala Lumpur’s heart – a new zero waste store has sprung to life to support those life choices.
Bliss Zero Waste Store is tucked into Mingle Cafe, just under Mingle Hostel on Jalan Sultan; it’s a haven not just for the conscientious, but also those looking to experience a little Chinatown charm in one of KL’s most character-laden corners.
For Bliss owner Loke Poh Lin, “zero waste” just means a simpler, less wasteful, more respectful way of living that leaves as little damage to the Earth as possible.
“It’s something everyone can practise – not some elitist, super-nerdy thing that only the well-to-do/those with high IQs/young/retired/someone from the West can do!” she said.
“It just takes awareness, a little education and a willingness to develop new habits and stop wasteful ones.”
Bliss retails home and personal care items for everyday use, including dishwashing and laundry detergents, bathroom cleaners, shower gel and shampoo, and a range of naked (unpackaged) soaps for hair and body.
Loke sources them from local makers and manufacturers, so that the carbon footprint of each product is reduced.
“Our home care and personal ranges are all safe and biodegradable, and we also have a plant-based range for people with sensitive skin,” she said.
Customers bring in empty bottles for filling, so they’re charged only for products, not packaging.
“If customers come in without bottles, we have both new and recycled bottles for purchase – we charge for the new ones to encourage customers to keep and reuse them,” said Loke.
Bliss also carries products like sanitary pads and panty liners made from organic natural cotton, and organic mosquito repellent made from citronella, beeswax and shea butter, beeswax wraps and Pekalongan batik sarongs.
Everyone starts somewhere
Loke thought that the zero waste concept was a pretty lofty idea when she first came across it years ago.
“While it appealed to me tremendously, I didn’t see how it was possible to live in such a radical way,” she said.
And she thought she was already living a green lifestyle – carrying her own shopping bag, recycling paper, plastic and glass, composting her kitchen waste.
“It didn’t occur to me that even that wasn’t enough.”
In 2017, Loke started following the Zero Waste Malaysia Facebook group.
“It slowly dawned on me that it was highly possible, in this day, in this city, to live a simpler life by being guided by a set of simple guidelines – the 5 Rs, which are Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot,” she said.
“It was a big shock to learn that recycling (alone) is not a solution to our ecological woes – it’s seldom done properly, if at all and it requires energy.
“Plastics, in particular, do not disappear no matter what you do to it and no matter how long. They simply break down into microplastics, and these infect the oceans, the water table, the earth – all living beings.
“So really, the first thing to do is refuse any single-use plastic or other materials which will just end up in a landfill anyway. Refuse receipts (Bliss will send you an e-receipt upon request), refuse business cards (Bliss didn’t print any), refuse packaging and even refuse gifts,” she said.
“‘Reduce, reuse, recycle’ is what most eco-friendly people have been doing for decades,” she said. “And I have been composting (that’s the Rot component) since learning the skill from Sahabat Alam Malaysia in Penang in 2015.”
Loke retired from corporate life three years ago.
“I was growing fat and lazy at home and was looking for something meaningful to do … like saving the planet!” she quipped.
The seed of an idea germinated in her head, reflecting her own growing concerns about the planet.
In April this year, she started looking for resources and space.
“As with a lot of things in my life, I had no idea what I was letting myself in for – I have no first-hand experience as an entrepreneur or a retailer. But I believed I would be offering a meaningful service, and that as a direct result there would be a corresponding reduction of plastic containers heading for the landfills,” said Loke.
She opened Bliss in early July.
“My younger daughter, Jia Yi, was invaluable in helping me put rhyme and reason to the display and systems of operating a retail outlet,” she said.
With the need to keep costs low, having shared premises made sense – hence Bliss sharing space with Café 55.
“Mingle Cafe started in February this year as the F&B extension of Mingle hostel,” said Loke. “It serves healthy food and drinks, with vegetarian and vegan options. And both Café 55 and Mingle embrace the eco-conscious philosophy and practise recycling – they will even start their own composting of kitchen and café food waste soon.
“We share many values, so when they offered me the space, I jumped at the chance – and 10 days later, I had Bliss Zero Waste Store up and running!
“Ultimately, I’d love for Bliss to become a mini-market, where everything for the home can be bought without packaging, but such growth will have to be organic,” said Loke.
“I’m working on making this little enterprise sustainable first. Then we’ll look at expanding to include other product ranges, like food and other household items. Maybe even baked goods.”