How Hong Kong got green

By Sophie Barclay

Finance centre Hong Kong is revealing a greener side, hidden in her outlying islands and among the densely packed streets. Sophie Barclay investigates.

Head to Lantau Island, a 50-minute boat ride from downtown Hong Kong, and go hiking in the hills presided over by the giant Tian Tan Buddha. Photo / Thinkstock
Head to Lantau Island, a 50-minute boat ride from downtown Hong Kong, and go hiking in the hills presided over by the giant Tian Tan Buddha. Photo / Thinkstock

Green eating

Chef Margaret Xu has carved out an exclusive niche in Hong Kong's fine-dining scene.

Her restaurant Yin Yang, which closed its doors in May, has been reincarnated as Yin Yang Coastal in her own private kitchen, where a maximum of 30 guests can be treated to an intimate, exquisite six-plus course heavily influenced by her neighbourhood's traditional fishing village history.

Everything the chef prepares is made from scratch; including the tofu that she stone-grinds using traditional methods she learned living in a northern Hong Kong village for seven years.

Vegetables and fruit come from her two organic farms and menus are finalised on the day you dine. One-table private dining for groups of eight or more will be available from August. Book at least three weeks in advance and expect fresh, Chinese-influenced, beautifully-presented dishes that take days to prepare and years to forget.

Vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free diners catered for.

Green sleeping

The Eaton hotel has been recognised internationally and nationally for its environmental efforts.

From the lobby's green wall, made of 3600 so-called snake plants - renowned for their ability to purify toxins from the air - to their refurbished eco-rooms, which use recycled fabrics and beautiful bamboo blinds, and the "green meeting" packages (carbon-neutral lunch included), the hotel delivers faultlessly on the green front without scrimping on the four-star feel.

It also offers guests a chance to reduce their carbon footprint by indulging in an impressive range of vegetarian and vegan fare on "Green Monday", and has stopped the annual disposal of 350,000 plastic bottles by investing in innovative in-house technology that fills reusable glass bottles with water that is purified on-site.

Plus its location is perfect; just a hop, skip and a jump from the markets of Kowloon.

Green day trip

Lantau Island is a lazy, 50-minute boat ride through the island-studded harbour, affording a spectacular view of the teetering skyscrapers balanced precariously on Hong Kong's many mountains.

Tackle a section of the 70km Lantau trail, which winds through the densely bush-clad island.

Locals recommend staying the night at the backpackers (there are a couple of double rooms, but most are dormitory-style sleeping areas) near the giant, 34m, 250-tonne bronze Buddha and scrambling in the pre-dawn darkness (BYO torch) up the steep, 1.5-hour track to Lantau peak.

The intrepid will be rewarded with a breath-taking vista across the misty mountains as the sun rises over Hong Kong.

There's also a five-hour trek from Lantau to Tai O, a small fishing village that perches on stilts at the edge of the Zhujiang River estuary, near an ecologically significant mangrove forest.

Wander along the spindly looking, wooden green walkways and fill up on traditional Chinese food with a fresh, locally caught seafood spin.

Green shopping

If you want to buy something that will last you more than a day, steer clear of the poorly made, fast-fashion items at one of the many markets around the city.

Instead, head to Johanna Ho's classy flagship store in Central (Hong Kong Island) for designer knits and classic pieces with a colourful, modern twist made using eco-friendly materials and practises like zero-waste pattern cutting.

Ho, who studied fashion in London and had her first collection snapped up by Barney's NY, is stocked in more than 40 international retailers including Australia's Myer, and Harrods.

Her influence extends through the supply chain - she opts for eco and socially conscious operators that use natural dyes (where possible) and offer good labour standards - minimum wages and boarding for workers and their family is a must.

Ho is also a founding member of the Sustainable Fashion Business Consortium, which teaches environmental awareness to manufacturers and factory owners in the sector.

CHECKLIST

Getting there: Cathay Pacific offers non-stop flights each day between Auckland and Hong Kong.

- NZ Herald

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