Go Green, Stay Glam: The Best Luxury Sustainable Products on the Market Right Now

After the usual heated debate, Collins dictionary has announced its word of the year and it is “single-use”. The term beat ‘gammon’ ‘gaslight’ and ‘MeToo’ to the top of the lexical podium after a four-fold increase in single-use plastics over the last five years.

An estimated 5.2 million plastic bottles are thrown away everyday in Hong Kong alone. The city’s dependence on single-use plastics is causing public health concerns as landfills fill up and marine life is increasingly threatened. Many fashion-conscious denizens cite the unfashionable nature of more sustainable products as a reason not to use them. But the green market is swapping its associations with burlap and sackcloth for high-tech, more sartorially sustainable options.

Gafencu looks at some high-end alternatives to single-use plastics, showing that there’s no need to sacrifice style in an effort to go green. 

Aquasana Stainless Steel Insulated Clean Water Bottle

Luxury sustainable

Fitted with a state-of-the-art changeable filter, this sleek water bottle allows you to immediately drink water straight from the tap. Double-walled insulation keeps the liquid inside as cool or warm as you like for up to 24 hours. Available in four different colours.

Available at www.aquasana.com

Matt and Nat LEXI – ALLURE shopping bag

Luxury sustainable

Approved vegan leather with 100% recycled nylon interior. Conveniently roomy and eternally stylish, this is a far more sartorially savvy alternative to a stash of plastic bags under the sink. Includes a removable inside pouch. Available in blue and pink. 

Available at mattandnat.com


Bodum Vacuum Travel Press in Stainless Steel

Luxury sustainable

Takeaway coffee is certainly convenient but nothing tastes as good as home brewed. Skip the coffee shop queues and waste no time with this mug-meets-French press which can hold a single serving of coffee or tea. Vacuum insulation means your coffee stays hot and your mug remains cool to the touch. Available in three colours.

Available at www.bodum.com/

Tiffany Gold Vermeil Crazy Straw

Luxury sustainable

Sterling silver with gold vermeil and iconic Tiffany blue accent. Far more elegant than plastic and proof that Tiffany artisans can transform even the most mundane of objects into works of art. Available in white, yellow and rose gold. Eco-friendly has never looked so good.

Available at www.tiffany.com

Text by: Alice Duncan

This villa on Mount Davis is an inspirational take on green architecture

The dawn of the Digital Age saw humankind embrace all things electronic. Engineers have developed smart phones, smart cars, smart watches and wearable tech. But far more elusive and ambitious is the greater project of the smart house.

We first encountered “Mount Davis Villa” when visiting the International Design Furniture Fair that ran last August at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. It was part of a touring exposition entitled Reading Single Family House, a showcase of inventive homes in Greater China curated by Index Architecture founder Anderson Lee.

The project caught our attention as a rare subject belonging to a dying breed of single-family homes in Hong Kong. Upon closer inspection, the mystery project on Pok Fu Lam’s mountainside revealed more and more ingenious features that would delight the cultivated mind: from solar design principles and wind generators to hydro-seed technology for wall landscaping.

A round ‘Heaven’s Gate’ opening allows views into the house, and beyond, over a Jacuzzi and lap pool that protrudes toward infinity

Clearly no funds were spared in the fulfilment of the home-owner’s vision. The man is described as a “naturalist and avid bird watcher involved with the World Wildlife Fund.” Further digging led us to Markus Jebsen, executive chairman of MF Jebsen Group and a direct descendant of Jacob Jebsen – founder of its colonial-era parent company.  The Danish businessman belongs to a 120-year-old trading family whose assets include one of the world’s largest Porsche dealerships and Blue Girl, the city’s best-selling brew.

“The owner insisted on environmental friendliness and as much self-sufficiency as possible,” said architect and interior designer Santa Raymond, who reviewed the project. “Materials and construction methods aimed to be [as] sustainable as possible, with – for instance – rubble from demolition being used to level the site. Wind turbines were considered but, apart from planning issues, the lack of access to a local grid into which to feed excess power removed this as a practical option.”

The three-storey house sits on the southern slope of Mount Davis with broad views over the Lamma Channel. Formerly occupying this 600-square-metre site was a one-storey European house with a swimming pool belonging to a relative. It was demolished to make way for the current building, which is sandwiched between Mount Davis Road from the top and Victoria Road below.

Tree planting was encouraged to create shade, reduce temperatures, and attract birdlife.

Award-winning architecture and urban design firm Farrells was chosen to turn this vision of an eco-friendly family home into reality. Designers were initially set back by the long and narrow site; regulations limited interior space to just 420-square-metres across three floors. In response to the rectangular constraints, Farrells designed a long building – a concept partially inspired by the Malaysian longhouse. The form ultimately allowed wide sea views from most rooms, promoted cross ventilation and provided an acoustic shield.

To the north, a large vertical stone façade anchors the house to the ground and shelters the dwelling from the road. Clad in split face stone, the wall is reminiscent of Mount Davis itself. The stainless steel roof, inclined at 30 degrees, also echoes the slope of the hill. 

On the ground floor, inhabitants congregate in the double-height family room, which has direct access to the external garden terrace and children’s swimming pool. Guest bedrooms are located here as well, while the family’s bedrooms are on the second floor.

The first level is comprised of the kitchen, main living room and dining space. A large opening in the stone feature wall makes up the main entrance, accessed from the outside by a cantilevered staircase. A spiritual rejuvenation area – designed to ‘let the dragon through’ – includes both a gymnasium and a projecting infinity lap-pool.

The 2m x 12.5m infinity lap pool overlooking Lamma Channel

For all its aesthetic appeal, the villa was fundamentally designed to utilise the latest environmentally friendly technologies. Double glazed windows, large mass walls, and an insulated roof reduce the house’s cooling load. North-facing operable skylights also facilitate a stack effect for natural cooling in summer months.

The roof’s aforementioned solar collectors provide hot water that powers the water-fired absorption chiller, which provides air-conditioning. In addition, a gray water system was incorporated to collect rainwater from the large roof and garden where it is stored in a tank and used for bathroom flushing and garden irrigation.

“Young architects can’t work on anything but boxes nowadays,” says Lee, who featured the 2005 villa in his exhibition. He chose the Jebsen home as one of the few Hong Kong residences that can be proudly presented as a triumph in holistic, ‘life-cycle approach’ design.

Raymond concurs: “The house is impressive at every level. It is a highly sophisticated solution on a demanding site that works as a family house, as a part of its location and as an example of innovative thinking. Its aesthetic defies categorisation, but communicates that it is an imaginative solution to a specific location and situation.”

American naturalist Edward Osborne Wilson once said, “Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction.” For all of mankind’s advances in building and composition, it looks as if we remain destined to return to the work of the greatest designer and architect of our smart planet: Mother Earth.


This article originally appears as “The Smart House” by Julienne C. Raboca on Gafencu Magazine’s March 2018 print edition. Photos are courtesy of Farrells and Carsten Schael.

Hong Kong’s First Zero-Waste Grocery Opens in Sai Ying Pun

Live Zero in Sai Ying Pun is the city’s first packaging-free, zero-waste store

On the 1st of February 2018, a bright little shop on the quieter side of High Street opened its doors to the public. Little did passers-by know that it was a brave pioneer in the 852 scene, as the territory’s first, zero-waste, bulk-buy shop.

The goal? To begin a movement that changes the way people purchase their necessities, returning us to how we humans were prior to plastic. 

ReadSustainable Living: Five easy ways to live sustainably in Hong Kong

It’s not easy to go plastic-free in Hong Kong. Scant legislation on product packaging and waste management has prevented the development of a ‘mature waste market’ like that of nearby Japan. However, what with the emergence of Edgar in Tsim Sha Tsui, and now Live Zero in Sai Ying Pun, things are looking up. Maybe Hong Kong’s landfills won’t explode in 2020 after all, as experts have predicted. Or it can even be as simple as having clean waters to swim in and trash-free beaches to enjoy.

Millennial 25-year-old interior designer Tamsin Thornburrow is behind the small business, which stocks a range of products from foodstuffs to personal care items. The entrepreneur has spent the last year researching brands and suppliers to feature on Live Zero’s shelves. Customers can come in with their own empty containers and fill them up with what they need, purchase pretty recyclable ones, or use whatever others have donated and left free-for-the-taking on the table by the door. 

Read: 8 Hong Kong farms to check out for all your green needs

Thornburrow studied landscape architecture and previously worked for a furniture company and a homeware retailer. At 22, she launched Thorn and Burrow, a home decor shop specialising in textiles. It was there she noticed a significant appetite for reusable packaging, when sales for her stocked S’well stainless steel water bottles picked up. 

The young activist-entrepreneur then opened the first iteration of Live Zero in PMQ, Central. Then, after gleaning advice from similar setup Unpackaged in London, she decided to dive headfirst and lease the space on High Street for a full-on eco-friendly venture.

ReadSustainable Fashion Quiz: How eco-friendly is your wardrobe?

“[Zero waste] is about limiting yourself to what you need,” says Thornburrow, whose latest project has gotten a lot of attention and support from the community and media alike. “We’re made to feel we need [so much] stuff,” she says. But do we, really?

Live Zero Bulk Foods, 24 High Street Sai Ying Pun. hello@livezero.hk www.livezero.hk


Written by: Julienne C. Raboca

8 Hong Kong farms to check out for all your green needs

Are lunar new year resolutions even a thing? If so, and yours include “going green” this Year of the Dog, we’ve put together a few grassroots movements in Hong Kong that you can check out for a more wholesome 2018. From glamping to organic shopping, these farms will get you on the right track the fun, interactive (and delicious!) way.

GrowingSmart.HK – Permaculture-based programs, workshops and volunteer activities www.growingsmart.hk

Evergreens Republic – Order locally grown organic produce (harvested and delivered within 24 hours) from the largest and only USDA certified organic commercial Aquaponics farm to operate in Southeast Asia www.evergreensrepublic.com

Nature’s Harvest

Nature’s Harvest – a natural environment connecting visitors with their local and natural food system whilst escaping to a rural retreat in Clearwater Bay www.naturesharvest.com.hk www.veggies.hk

HK Farm – An organisation of Hong Kong farmers, artists and designers who grow local food, curate exhibitions and design products / services relating to urban agriculture www.hkfarm.org

Eat Fresh – An organic e-Greengrocery delivery where you can get packaged organic products like gluten-free brownies, baby & toddler fresh seasonal produce subscriptions or coconut body milk www.eatfresh.com.hk

Homegrown Foods – an e-grocery delivering premium, sustainable clean food to most anywhere in Hong Kong, 7 days a week www.homegrownfoods.com.hk

Go Green – An organic pineapple park and BBQ / camping / events venue in Yuen Long www.gogreenlife.com.hk

Sai Yuen Farm – One of several farm staycations have also sprung up. This one in Cheung Chau features glamping; you can check into Stargazing Geodesic domes, Transparent igloos set on a higher elevation offering breathtaking views of sea and sky. At night, the see-through ceilings yield unobstructed visions of twinkling stars from the comfort of your bed. At HK$3,300 a pop on weekends, prices are comparable to hotels in the city. www.saiyuenfarm.com


Words: Julienne C. Raboca