While living in Hong Kong might make us experts at getting the most out of space at home, we may not be making the most environmentally-friendly or sustainable choices. We’ve spoken to the experts for some top tips to make your home cleaner, greener and safer for the whole family.
Back in 1989, NASA released a study outlining the effectiveness of using plants to remove pollutants from the air during research in the International Space Station. Furnishings, upholstery, synthetic building materials, and cleaning products in homes and offices can emit a variety of toxic compounds, such as formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), toluene and ammonia, but certain plants are effective at removing these substances from the air. Even in apartments with limited space, a few select plants dotted around can increase oxygen levels and help to clear harmful chemicals. Easy to maintain and readily available varieties include Aloe Vera, Spider Plants, Gerbera Daisy and Goldon Pothos.
Head down to the Hong Kong Flower Show at Victoria Park from March 11-20 to snap up some new plants at the biggest horticultural event of the year.
Grow your own
Branch out further and grow a few of your own herbs and vegetables from home. Not only is having plants in your home good for the air, but you also save a bit on your shopping bills while making sure your food is free of chemicals and pesticides. Even if you are tight on space with only a windowsill or small balcony, the team at recently launched City Hydroponics has developed some ingenious, space-saving hydroponic growing systems that are perfect for Hong Kong. Founder, Wouter van Marle has developed an environmentally-friendly and sustainable technology that uses only natural light. “My systems don’t come with growing lights, instead they use natural light and even have the option to use solar power for the pumps,” he explains.
In a city packed with high-rise buildings, unused rooftop spaces are perfect places for transforming into an urban garden. Social enterprise Rooftop Republic is spreading the message of “grow your own” to Hong Kong businesses and households. Co-founder Michelle Hong wants the organisation to enable city dwellers to reconnect with their food and where it comes from. “Urban farms are not only places to produce organically grown vegetables and herbs,” she remarks, “but also places where city dwellers can have a first hand experience of farming and growing food, learn more about how their food is grown, and to establish a greater sense of sustainable living and more conscious consumption”. If you don’t know how to make the most of your outdoor space, the team at Rooftop Republic are on hand to help, plus they are spreading the word on urban farming through talks and community engagement.
Switching from shop-bought cleaning products to home-made is an easy step to reducing the number of potentially harmful chemicals and irritants in your home. The good news is that making the switch does not mean a reduction in cleaning power, plus homemade is usually cheaper than shop-bought. There are some basic, natural ingredients that can be easily sourced in Hong Kong, including white vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and essential oils, which are highly effective at removing dirt and grime.
Change your shopping habits
Clingwrap, tinfoil, and kitchen roll are all single-use items and therefore hugely wasteful materials to have in the kitchen. Ditch these items in favour of a reusable product like a Beeswax wrap, which can be washed and used repeatedly to keep items fresh in the fridge. Replace kitchen roll with old clothes cut into cloths, or have a stack of e-cloths ready to mop up any spills.
Claire Sancelot, founder of HK Green Home, has been reducing her family’s waste for several years. She recommends looking at the bathroom and kitchen cupboards to see what products can be swapped with organic ones. “Bamboo toothbrushes for kids and adults are compostable and the feeling of wood in the mouth is so much nicer than plastic,” she says. “If you have babies, consider making the switch to reusable diapers from disposable, plus there is also now a wide selection of reusable sanitary products available for women”.
And if the 50 cent surcharge for plastic shopping bags hasn’t already made you purchase a reusable shopping bag, then pick one up now!
Although the majority of homes in Hong Kong will have water-based paints on the walls, the quality varies. There are paints on the market that have either low or no VOC levels, to give complete peace of mind to families who want to ensure their home is as safe as possible.
Joakim Cimmerbeck, owner of innovative paint manufacturer eico paints, outlines how technology and the need to protect the environment can work together. “All aspects of our company and our products are as sustainable as we know how to make them,” he explains, “We are a carbon-free production company and only use the highest quality raw materials available”. The result is a range of paints that can be used both indoors and out and with over 10,000 colours available, plus new ones developed daily, using healthy paints in the home does not need to be dull. Running dehumidifiers is crucial at various times during the year, but if mould does appear, then Cimmerbeck’s advice is to not paint over it. “It won’t go away just because it’s not visible”, he explains. “It needs to be removed properly and a good anti-mould paint applied”.
Living in a built-up city with high levels of pollution and a sapping tropical climate means having a clean and healthy home is all the more important. Not only providing a more pleasing and family-friendly living environment, a few simple changes can reduce everyone’s exposure to harmful chemicals, mould and air pollutants. Once you’ve decided to make these changes, you’ll realise that not only does your health benefit, but your wallet too.