Live Sustainably – Shop Naked

By DBS, 25 Apr 2022

Back before major chains came to dominate the consumer market, mom and pop stores were selling rice, condiments, local snacks and groceries where shoppers brought their own rice bags and oil bottles to get refills on their daily necessities.

Nowadays, supermarkets and department stores offer everything prepackaged in the name of convenience and efficiency. It takes shoppers mere minutes to choose a package, pay and leave. Once the goods are unwrapped however, all that one-off packaging becomes waste, eventually making its way to the landfill.

Disposable packaging has become a huge burden on the environment, accounting for a shocking proportion of global pollution. This has given rise to so-called “naked shopping”, a growing trend in environmental protection.

A return to naked shopping

Naked shopping means bringing your own containers to cut down on disposable packaging – essentially version 2.0 of bringing your own rice bag to the local store. A pioneering advocate of this zero waste concept is SLOWOOD, a social enterprise grant awardee of DBS Foundation Grant Programme 2021. SLOWOOD stands as a success story for naked shopping, with shops in Central, Kennedy Town, Discovery Bay and Shatin.

Walking in, SLOWOOD stores feel fresh and trendy, yet unpretentious. Interiors are finished primarily in white and unadorned pale wood, offering a natural ambience accented by light background tunes. It’s a laid-back and comfortable environment for shoppers to peruse and pick their favourite organic products – all sustainable, fair trade and package-free.

Environmentalism should not be a burden

"Environmental protection doesn’t need to be dull or restrictive,” says Kai-Ping Chen, one of the founders of SLOWOOD. “We created SLOWOOD to prove how comfortable and easy-going naked shopping can be.”

In addition to the stylish ambience and enticing displays, prices need to be competitive as well. Since most of its goods are unpackaged, SLOWOOD is able to pass these savings to the customer and sell its organic products 30% cheaper than the competition. Last October, SLOWOOD opened the city’s first electronic refill station at its Central store. Dubbed “RefillFirst”, it offers liquid products like household detergents on tap, enabling customers to pay to fill their own containers. It’s been a hit with shoppers, boosting sales threefold.

Helping naked shopping take root

Public policies play an important role in promoting sustainable living in Hong Kong, but prompting changes in consumer patterns is also crucial. That’s why DBS Foundation focuses not just on business sense but also on innovative thinking when it comes to choosing which businesses to fund each year. SLOWOOD stood out among many other green businesses because it balances social responsibility, commercial viability and innovative thinking. It brings style and convenience to environmental protection, making it accessible to consumers and earning many loyal shoppers.

Though it is a common practice in many countries, naked shopping is still in its infancy in Hong Kong. For it to become more widely accepted, a great deal of creative thinking will be necessary – as well as the funds to turn ideas into reality.

To this end, the grant funding of DBS Foundation is supporting SLOWOOD’s newest endeavour to develop and place naked shopping vending machines out in the community, in locations like housing estates and supermarkets. Customers can fill up on all sorts of daily necessities using their own containers. This will not only save on rental and labour overheads, but also get shoppers more accustomed to naked shopping. It’s one way to help sustainable living take root in the community.

Click here to learn more about the DBS Foundation Social Enterprise Grant Programme.