Shop Local: Sustainable Living in Malaysia

What if you could have a zero-waste lifestyle? We speak to two local businesses who are making sustainable shopping possible. 

Want to shop sustainability? In this second instalment of Shop Local, we speak to a food store that enables a zero-waste lifestyle and a handmade soap business that harnesses the benefits of natural ingredients.

Find out how these two emerging local businesses have made it their mission to create a more sustainable environment while meeting the needs of modern consumers.

The Hive Bulk Foods

Say no to plastic; bamboo is beautiful, says The Hive’s founder Claire Sancelot. From reusable metal straws and bamboo toothbrushes to tasty bulk whole foods such as brazil nuts, learn how Malaysia’s first zero-waste co-operative is promoting greater awareness about sustainability, one package-free product at a time. 

Sustainable bodycare products from The Hive Bulk Foods
Image Credit: The Hive Bulk Foods

1. Tell us more about your business.

I started The Hive in 2016 because I’ve always wanted to shop at a bulk food shop myself. The market didn’t have a lot to offer at that point with shops that offer package-free and qualitative food, so I took it as a chance to bridge the gap.

2. Have you seen a rising interest for your package-free, organic produce in recent years?

Even though we’ve only been in business for barely two years, we have definitely seen increasing demand for sustainable alternative and organic food.

3. As one of the few industry players in the bulk food industry, what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

Sourcing isn’t easy, and it has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in the running of the business. Simply because the products that we are looking for are rather niche and the market is still quite underdeveloped. This means we still lack a network of suitable suppliers.

4. Could you share with us a collaboration or project that you are most proud of? 

One of them is our involvement and partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC) programme, which serves to protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people. We provide income to all the women who help make our signature products such as The Hive straw pouches (RM 12 or US$3), makeup removers (RM 7) and mesh bags (RM 12).

5. How do you think we can all play a part in achieving a more sustainable environment?

As a business person, I think it’s very important to support the local female community at large. As much as possible, we source from local female businesses. I would say it’s been very efficient in helping these women gain financial independence. As for consumers, I think it’s essential for all of us to play a part in becoming the solution to sustainability. There needs to be a change of mindset in the way we consume items daily. We can all start small by buying local produce, package-free products, choosing vegan options as much as possible and most importantly, learning to reuse.

6. Where can people buy your products?

In Kuala Lumpur, we have two shops in Bangsar and a new shop that’s slated to open in September in Hock Choon, Ampang. Our products are also available at our online shop. We deliver all over Malaysia and to Singapore. In addition, we run workshops to educate the community about sustainable shopping and living in general. 

Address: 92 A, Lorong  Maarof, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur & Bangsar Village 2, Level 1, The Pilgrims

Kinder Soaps

Although it first started as a hobby, Michelle Ho’s all-natural formulations have caught the attention of those who want to care for their skin while caring for the earth at the same time. Read on to find out more about these soap boars that are free from palm oil and wrapped in special homemade packaging that makes them biodegradable. 

Featured best-sellers from Kinder Soaps
Image Credit: Kinder Soaps

1. Tell us more about your business.

Kinder Soaps was a hobby turned business in 2009. It was also, in part, my search for the right skincare solution for my baby girl, who showed tell-tale signs of eczema shortly after birth. Having suffered from eczema myself, I was adamant about not letting my daughter go through the same pains and regime. Looking back at the past 10 years of the business, I’m glad to see how my products have helped to serve the needs of those with sensitive or troubled skin with our all-natural formulations for basic but effective skincare items.

2. How are your soaps different from others?

What’s unique about our products is the emphasis of function over form. We specialise in making soap bars, moisturising oils and balms that nourish and protect those with sensitive skin as well as solve specific skin concerns. It is also important to us that our products are free from palm oil – it’s our way of making a statement regarding deforestation concerns around the use of palm oil.

Our packaging is rather special too – we use our homemade cotton wraps infused with beeswax and resin to wrap the soaps. They might be labour-intensive and relatively costly to produce, but their biodegradability and natural water resistance is of greater importance. Also, knowing how this helps to lessen the amount of plastic waste generated makes it all worthwhile.

3. Have you seen a rising interest for your handmade soaps?

Our signature shampoo bar, The Mane Event, has been gaining quite a bit of interest from the public. It all started when we were tagged in a viral Facebook video on solid shampoo bars. The increase in awareness of environmental issues and the benefits of natural ingredients in skincare has moved consumers to actively search for small, boutique brands that are doing their part to address these concerns as well.

Summer Fizz, the handmade bar soap by Kinder Soaps
Image Credit: Kinder Soaps

4. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far in running this business?

Getting our studio certified by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) as being compliant with ASEAN Cosmetic Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) wasn’t easy. However, this was important as it gives our customers an assurance of quality by making ourselves available to scrutiny by the NPRA. The GMP certification also opens up new markets for us, allowing us to legally export our products and market them overseas.

Through three years of trial and error and self-directed learning, we managed to do so without having to hire a professional GMP consultant. As a result, we are now able to help other small cosmetics companies get their products properly certified with NPRA, while retaining the scale, charm and quirkiness of handcrafted goods.

5. What steps has your brand taken to create a more sustainable environment for all?

We actively encourage our customers to return our wrappers to us in exchange for fresh soap – every 12 wrappers returned entitles customers to one free bar. By taking our cotton beeswax wraps one step further, we believe it helps to kickstart better environmental habits among consumers. 

6. Can you share more about your signature products?

We have two signature products: The Goat’s Milk and Patchouli soap, which was first created as a solution for my daughter’s skin rashes, and The Mane Event, which has been one of our top best-sellers. These are both priced at RM 24, or RM 23 if you choose to go packaging-free.

7. Where can people buy your products?

We have a shop in Damansara Jaya and our products are available online as well. You can also find us at zero-waste shops such as The Hive Bulk Foods and more locations to come by the end of 2018.

Address: 11A-A, Jalan SS 22/23, Damansara Jaya, 47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor

 

Inspired by the efforts of these social entrepreneurs who are helping to build a more sustainable environment? Share with us in the comments below if you know of other local brands that are worth featuring or check out other articles in our Shop Local series!

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