Just a bit less
Doing a bit less each time to better the environment
Three young entrepreneurs – Kai Siang, Chun Wen and Chun Fu – and their friends went on a trip to India and was warned about the safety of the water. Thus, they decided to be safe and drink a specific brand of mineral water. Those 17 days, they used so many plastic bottles and had to find a way to discard them while travelling.
After coming back to Malaysia, they realised that we still buy mineral water even though we had access to clean water. Thus, they researched what they could do and stumbled upon Zero Waste Malaysia and Bea Johnson, a lady who only produced a small jar of waste in a whole year. They both inspired the three friends to embark on a new journey. We spoke to Kai Siang and Chun Wen on the zero waste lifestyle and how they started A Bit Less Bulk Store, a bulk grocery store dedicated to helping the environment.
1Twenty80: When was your shop launched and what kind of obstacles did you face?
Kai Siang: We opened in May 2018. We approached suppliers but they didn’t have a lot of options because the supplies came pre-packaged. After research, we found suppliers who would work with us. I passed them my containers and asked them to just fill them up. We exchange containers when we order anything from them. Thus, we cut down drastically on plastic packaging, which was our goal and the supplier cuts down on packaging cost for us.
Our workshops also promote our message to our customers such as making beeswax wraps to reduce the use of single-use plastic. Same with our ‘make your own skincare’ workshops which cuts down on the plastic packaging of skincare products.
1Twenty80: How was it like during the early days?
Kai Siang: When we first started, our shop was very new and it took quite a bit of education of our customers. After a while, they understood and accepted it. A few came without their containers and slowly, they started to accept our concept.
At the beginning, it was just the two of us (Kai Siang and Chun Wen) running the shop and it was quite difficult. After hiring someone to help us out, it got much better!
1Twenty80: Why should we aim to go zero waste?
Kai Siang: Currently, we produce a lot of waste in our life and not just plastic; food and fabric waste as well. It’s polluting the environment without us seeing it. Truthfully, it’s quite difficult to go completely zero waste. Thus, changing your lifestyle to reduce any food, plastic and fabric wastage along with buying what you need would help the environment. So that’s our concept – doing ‘A Bit Less’ every day in order to minimise our impact on the environment.
1Twenty80: What are your tips to customers who want to visit you?
Kai Siang: Bring clean containers with a large opening for easy refilling! Shopping in a bulk shop can also be great fun for the kids who can learn how to weigh the items while their parents shop.
1Twenty80: Where do you source your products from?
Kai Siang: Most of the food items are from local suppliers but for foodstuff like oats which isn’t planted locally, they are imported. Our cacao nibs are produced locally where the cocoa plants are grown right here in Malaysia! Plus, the pasta, soaps as well as detergents that we sell are produced locally as well.
1Twenty80: Who inspires you to be the successful person you are today?
Kai Siang: Zero Waste Malaysia is really quite an inspiration to us. They are very clear on what the zero waste community really needs and they have provided us with very constructive suggestions. Bea Johnson and her family inspires us as well and also shows that a zero waste lifestyle is actually achievable.
1Twenty80: As an entrepreneur, we’re quite sure you’re very busy. How do you ensure that you have work-life balance?
Kai Siang: We try our best (laughs). The first few months of our shop opening, we opened seven days a week until we realised that this wouldn’t work. We then decided to close for one day a week with shorter opening hours.
We also make sure to eat right. I personally practice intermittent fasting and it’s actually not too difficult. I’ve lost some weight as well. I try to squeeze in some time to exercise at least once a week too.
Quote: Shopping in a bulk shop can also be great fun for kids who can learn how to weigh the items while their parents shop.
1Twenty80: Words of wisdom to any of our readers who want to become an entrepreneur and achieving a zero waste lifestyle?
Kai Siang: Actually, from conceptualising our shop to it actually opening, it took less than two months! We didn’t want to think too much and just went for it. Our advice is that if what you’re doing is beneficial to the community or society, just go for it!
As for the ‘zero waste lifestyle’, don’t stress too much about going zero waste. Do ‘a bit less’ each time such as refusing a single use straw. After a while, it will become a habit and encourage your friends to do so as well.
Sidebox: A Bit Less Bulk Store
20, Jalan Ambong 4, Kepong Baru, 52100 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan, Malaysia.