How to be a sustainable traveller (Hong Kong edition)
As the climate crisis grows more urgent, many travellers look for ways to practice sustainability even whilst abroad. There are countless paths a tourist can take to achieve this goal. Relax on this simulated journey to Hong Kong, as Portier shows you how travel can be sustainable too:
Packing and booking for a sustainable vacation
In order to avoid unnecessary plastic waste, ensure that all your necessities are packed before your journey. This way, you won’t need to use the disposable toothbrush included in your hotel room, nor waste the plastic packaging it comes in. Bring an empty water bottle in your suitcase so that you can refill it during your travels, instead of buying a new one-use water bottle every day.
Public vs private transport
Congratulations on your safe arrival in Hong Kong! When leaving the airport, consider taking the bus or the MTR if your luggage permits it. Public transport releases significantly less greenhouse gases than vehicles like taxis and rented cars. In Hong Kong, the tickets for public transportation are reasonably priced – you won’t need to drive to go places. You can even try a ride on the famous trams of Hong Kong – known locally as "ding-dings" – during your trip.
Moreover, public transport vehicles seat many more passengers than private vehicles do. Some of Hong Kong’s buses have a seating capacity of 150 passengers, whereas most of the taxicabs have a capacity of 4 passengers. As a traveller, by choosing this alternative to driving, you help to reduce the amount of fossil fuels being burned.
Shop local, support domestic farmers!
After settling down at your hotel, you might want to try your hand at cooking a local dish during your stay. If your hotel room doesn’t have a stove, you might still want to try fruits from the region. Shop local, though! Support local farmers, instead of buying imported fruits.
Whilst it’s true that Hong Kong is better known for its commercial hustle-and-bustle side, there are many farmers who grow fruits like the orange, tangerine, lemon, banana – alongside the lychee, longan, guava, wampei, and dragonfruit. In general, the latter fruits are more difficult to find outside of Asia, so it’s a good idea to try them during your stay in the city.
Not only will you be supporting local farms, you will also be reducing plastic waste by not buying packaged alternatives from supermarkets. Plastic can take up to 1000 years to decompose, creating a problem not only for the resulting polluted environment but also for landfills as they take up space in our city, which is already on the smaller side. Indeed, the wet market is home to the iconic red plastic bags which market-goers carry on their arms, filled with potatoes and choi sum and more.
If you use these plastic bags, the packaging might still amount to less than if you shopped at a supermarket that wraps all produce in plastic packaging. Despite the potential allure of the red bags for tourists like yourself, you can still maintain your attitude of responsible tourism by bringing your own reusable bag. You can buy a shopping tote from most supermarkets or independent stores around Hong Kong – and this brings us to our next sustainable travel tip.
Bring your own bag:
Many travellers come to Hong Kong with a day set apart just for shopping. If that sounds like you, you can bring tote bags and big reusable carrier bags depending on how much you intend to buy. You can use these to carry your items – be they clothes, souvenirs, or even snacks to bring for family to try – instead of walking away with dozens of branded plastic bags that will further cloud the polluted urban environment.
Supporting local vendors
As you prepare to leave, you might consider purchasing souvenirs for friends and family back at home, to share your travel journey with them. You can shop local when you buy souvenirs too. Though you are only staying for a limited amount of time as a traveller, supporting local vendors and independent stores – especially during this pandemic – is a great way to contribute to the local economy.
Even though chain stores have been hit hard too, independent shops don’t have the international brand behind them to back them up. You can browse the streets of Mong Kok and Sham Shui Po for locally made foods and goods, or even the more residential areas that are lesser-known to tourists like Tsing Yi and Tsuen Wan, for incredible finds at independent stationery and clothing stores.
Committing to sustainable travel
All in all, the first thing you should do as a sustainable traveller is understand the environmental impact you have as an individual on the city you are travelling. Consider the plastic, paper, and even water waste that will come out of every action and choice you make. Then, work around them and reduce your carbon footprint!
Whether that be through choosing to a public bus over a taxi, or bringing your own bags to shopping for food, clothes, and souvenirs... Or through actively supporting the local economy by turning away from imported and international vendors, and instead, buying from independent or domestic shops.
Whichever tips you choose to incorporate into your vacation, as soon as you put them into practice, you will realise how easy it is to be a sustainable traveller.