It may not be totally green yet, but Hong Kong continues to make strides — sometimes little ones — on the sustainability and green building front. Some of that has to do with the formation, in 2009, of the Hong Kong Green Building Council (HKGBC), a member-led non-profit with a mandate to introduce building practices to members and stakeholders and advocate for green policies by government. It may have been a slow start (business here is hard to convince of anything without a solid dollar argument) but developers, legislators and the public are increasingly in agreement. Green building is here to stay.
At the end of last year, the HKGBC marked its sixth anniversary by acknowledging some of its most notable achievements in the greening of the city, among them the expansion of the BEAM Plus green certification programme to cover 90 million square feet on 200 million in registrations, broadening its scope to incentivise for retrofits and existing buildings, product assessment and an energy benchmarking tool for offices.
“Climate change has long been a challenge to the international community and buildings are indeed playing a crucial role in the combat against global warming. By working closely with the general public and private sector communities over the past six years, we are proud to have made tremendous strides towards creating a healthier living environment by reducing carbon emissions from the built environment and making Hong Kong more energy efficient,” said then-chair Ir Conrad Wong in a statement. (Wong is also on construction firm Yau Lee Group’s board.) Noting that education was key to continued greening, Wong added, “The cornerstone of success in creating a low-carbon and healthy environment is community participation, thus we have always put territory-wide campaigns and school education programmes at the top of our agenda.”
Whatever the HKGBC is doing, it’s no longer alone — though it never was. Most major developers now have substantial sustainability policies on the books, with Swire, Hysan and Hip Shing Hong among the most committed. New serviced apartments like Atria in Central and existing ones such as Madera in Jordan, which incorporate significant green features and responsible practices, are becoming the norm rather than the exception. Better still, the government is responding and factoring climate change and sustainability into its policies (along with the Belt and Road of course).
In his most recent Policy Address, Chief Executive CY Leung stated, “The Government will take forward mitigation measures proactively and has published the Hong Kong Climate Change Report 2015. The Chief Secretary for Administration will chair an inter-departmental committee to steer and co-ordinate the implementation work.” (The report can be read at www.enb.gov.hk and www.epd.gov.hk.) Some of the plans: increased energy savings in buildings, improved air conditioning performance, reduced dependence on coal, overall greening in the city, cleaner transport and more of it and waste-to-energy transformation. “While climate change is a very major challenge, it also offers us a chance to pursue our liveability by embarking on a low-carbon path,” said Secretary for the Environment KS Wong in the report. “This opportunity is very real for a high density city like Hong Kong, as we have considerable possibilities to enhance our natural assets and physical infrastructure, create jobs, as well as strengthen social collaboration.”
Walking the Walk
If you’re looking to add some Earth Day cheer to your home, there are scads of sustainable, ecologically conscientious, fair trade — in a word, green — options now available in Hong Kong. Though “green” gets used, and abused, as a marketing buzzword these days, genuine green choices exist. As it has been for 10 years a good place to start looking for furniture is TREE, the city’s first eco-friendly interiors retailer and still one of the best. “Over the years we’ve been seeing a growing demand from people who, like us, value the importance of protecting our natural resources and want to know more about the origins of the pieces they are buying for their homes,” notes Managing Director Kate Babington. And sourcing is difficult, and getting more so. “With the growing global popularity of eco-interiors, this process isn’t necessarily getting easier, as it deserves the same time and diligence to ensure authenticity.” Still, TREE plans on staying on the path it forged in Hong Kong, and “Looks forward to spending the next ten years and beyond providing our customers with sustainable, stylish choices for their home.” As a start, new for spring are the Brooklyn collection, furnishings from dining to storage in a mix of reclaimed hardwoods, whose “stripes” make a statement; the Patch range, inspired by the YSL-influencing artist Piet Mondrian and accented with industrial pipework; and the FSC-certified teak Nordic line, for those looking for clean, elegant, classic lines. That’s the tip of TREE’s spring iceberg. (www.tree.com.hk)
For green home and lifestyle options that are little more hands-on, Sonalie Figueiras, co-founder and co-publisher at Hong Kong’s Green Queen green living guide (www.greenqueen.com.hk), recommends Soapnut Republic (www.soapnutrepublichk.com) for keeping your home clean. Made from non-toxic Sapindus mukorossi (soapnut berry) extract, SR retails a range of dish, glass, floor and multipurpose cleaners and laundry detergent, and also has a few bonus products in hand soap and food wash for the very picky (or paranoid) — all hypoallergenic and biodegradable. Shop online or from its select retailers. If you want to commit to environmentalism by doing more cycling, take a step further with an eco-friendly custom bike from Kowloon Customs (www.kowlooncustoms.com), ideally fit to your body and range of movement. Choose from the lightweight signature 852 (bamboo and carbon fibre), the heavy-duty hemp and bamboo Zelle or the more stylish Zero, personalise your handlebars, seat, tires and more. Finally, get in touch with your inner goddess, clean the bathroom or ride to work in sustainable gear made from recycled PET bottles and coffee grounds by Rumi Yoga Wear (www.rumiyogawear.com).