What is happening on the streets of Hong Kong with regards to sustainability?

Well, when it comes to food things are starting to happen which is good for tourists and locals alike. However, there are big challenges regarding population growth, waste management and sustainable shopping that is impacting the lives of locals. Here is a snapshot of my experience in Hong Kong and what I observed on the streets.

Sustainable Food

Hong Kong is known as a ‘foodie’ hub with amazing food on every street corner. The sheer volume of options is enough to give the most decisive person anxiety. Being a vegetarian automatically limits options and the hunt to find quality, vegetarian food was somewhat difficult. Here are my top 3 recommendations for sustainable and vegetarian food.

Green Common

I did find one chain of restaurants promoting green eating and living called ‘Green Common’. It is a business born from the team at Green Monday who are on a mission to tackle climate change and global food insecurity by making low-carbon and sustainable living simple, viral and actionable. Their purpose led branding and content was really impressive. They have also been recognised as one of Asia’s fastest growing brands, which prove that it is possible to create new businesses that are hyper commercial and simultaneously tackle some of the world’s biggest issues like climate change.
See locations here.

Mana! Fast Slow Food

Another favourite was Mana! Fast Slow Food who are plant based and serve a healthy, organic & plant-based alternative to fast food in an Eco friendly & responsible manner. Their wraps were super delicious and in central Hong Kong. It is a small hole in the wall, so there are not a lot of spaces to eat during peak hour rush.
See location here.

Green Veggie

I had a friend take me to a vegetarian restaurant called ‘Green Veggie’ which was delicious. She said that purely vegetarian restaurants are not easy to come by but this one is popular as it vegetarian food is healthier.
See location here.

Sustainable Living

Teslas!

The first thing I noticed in Hong Kong was the amount of Teslas on the road. Literally within the first 2 hours of being on the streets of Hong Kong, I saw almost 10 Tesla cars! I asked around and found out that the Hong Kong Government offered a tax break for electric vehicles in 2016 which effectively made the cars just over half the price. This led to Hong Kong having the most Teslas per capita globally! However, the tax break has ended and the sales have slowed.
Not sure what the next phase of electric cars will be, however the Government program shows a level of leadership to incentivise more sustainable living. Read more here.

Public transport

Public transport is very convenient in Hong Kong. I was staying right next to a bus stop in Kowloon and got into the central area within half an hour. The only problem with using buses to get into central is that the tunnel is a bottleneck with trucks, buses and cars all using only a few lanes to get across. The MTR train is an efficient and convenient option as well. It is a little bit more expensive than buses, however all public transport is really cheap and often a better way to get around than taxis and cars.

Green spaces

There are some parks around the harbour area and a big area called Kowloon Park. There are also awesome hiking tracks which are easily accessible including Lion Rock. It took us about 2.5 hours to hike it and make sure you bring mosquito repellent!

My favourite spot was a shopping mall called the Forest which has some shops (including Green Common!) and a rooftop area to relax and enjoy some greenery and a view. Check out location here

Plastic usage

In 2015, the Hong Kong government introduced a plastic bag levy that impacted 100 000 retailers in the region with a minimum HKD 50 cents (approx. $AUD 10 cents) per plastic bag. This generated a 90% drop in plastic bag usage which is a great result. Businesses are using the incentives in different ways including Top Shop offering a HKD$1 discount on purchases if you bring your own bag. See South China Morning Post article here.
Tip: Bring your own bag when shopping and food container to restaurants (you can buy some that fold flat so they are convenient to put in your bag!)

However there is still a long way to go with supermarkets and restaurants largely exempt from the tax and using other forms of plastic in unnecessary ways. After speaking with the shop assistant I found out that many of the fruit and vegetables in the pictures were imported from Japan.

Sustainable business

The conversation about business to drive social and environmental change is still quite nascent, however there are some exciting things happening with the shared value project Hong Kong. They are a team of people who are committed to driving new business models within corporate networks that incorporate business and social outcomes in their design. Check out Planet B’s wrap up from the panel here.

With about 98% of businesses in Hong Kong being small businesses, there is a need to tap into this market in order to drive scalable change. B Corps are not that common with only a handful accredited here. The Government has created a Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SIE) fund which is designed to connect NFPs, Government, Community, Startups and Business to drive poverty alleviation. Companies and individuals can apply to the fund for capacity building, research and new venture development that will achieve the goal of poverty alleviation.
See more about the SIE fund and the structure here.

Overall

The Government seems quite active in driving new funds and incentives that help society and the environment. There are not too many businesses stepping into this space and it seemed the underling perception that it is still the role of Government to drive social change. This is slowly changing though with more conversation happening between sectors about the role of business to improve society.

Regarding lifestyle, if you cannot handle excessive plastic usage and congested traffic, then this place is not for you. However, if you can overlook these, it is a wonderful place to explore and try new types of food that are delivering environmental change…. you just need to look for it!

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