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5 Tips For An Eco-Friendly Chinese New Year

Let's ring in the year of the sheep with celebrations that don't treat the environment too "BAA"-dly.

cnny 2015

Chinese New Year celebrations kick off on the 18th of February! There's lots of food, fun and family to look forward to, and no reason your love for the environment should put a damper on all the festivities. For eco-friendly fanfare, check out these top tips.

5 Tips For An Eco-Friendly Chinese New Year

@ViatorTravel/Twitter  @ViatorTravel/Twitter, cover photo @Hg2/Twitter

1. Reduce Food Waste

@CauldronFoods/Twitter @CauldronFoods/Twitter
Foodlink donates excess food to those in need. Foodlink donates excess food to those in need.

Heaps of sweet rice balls, mountains of sticky cake; just thinking about it is enough to make the mouth water but sometimes we can go a bit overboard. This year, try to minimise your food waste and recycle or donate any leftovers.

* PhatRice charity partner Foodlink collects uneaten food from hotels and other food and beverage outlets, redistributing it to hungry people in Hong Kong. Volunteer for a Foodlink event, or get in touch if your big CNY dinner might have food to be donated.

Food Angel is a wonderful charity with the mission of "Waste Not, Hunger Not." They prepare nutritious hot meals for underprivileged communities in Hong Kong and they’re always looking for volunteers. You can even help out on an ad-hoc basis through Hong Kong volunteers on meet up.

* If you receive a lot of food gifts for CNY or are simply clearing out your cupboards, you can donate packages and tins to The People’s Food Bank who have a number of collection points around HK.

* Otherwise, why not keep it simple? Re-invent those leftovers for tomorrow's breakfast or lunch. Alternatively, start a compost garden and put your food waste to good use.

2. Give A Gift That Gives Back

handsome co


Obviously, when you’re looking for a gift that makes a sustainable positive impact there’s only one place to go: PhatRice! Here are a few of my own personal favourites.

Eden Ministry jewellery, because I’m a sucker for a new pair of earrings and Eden Ministry’s offerings are particularly stunning.

Handsome Co. wallets and watches. Super cool and made out of recycled Hong Kong taxi seats!

* Finally, something for the little ones. Baby Hero donate a Neonatal Survival Kit to a mother and her newborn in need every time one of their t-shirts are sold.

3. Grand Days Out


cnny 2015

Use some of that holiday cheer to do something charitable over the Chinese New Year break, or take a trip along one of Hong Kong’s inspiring nature trails to remember why protecting our environment is so important.

* For Mandarin speakers, the brilliant charity Bring Me a Book are hosting a day of storytelling, recounting beloved Chinese New Year tales and traditions.

Hong Kong Red Cross are preparing a CNY elderly home visit where children help prepare materials and small gifts for older people living alone.

* An excellent family destination is the Hong Kong Wetlands Park, an eco-tourism attraction that demonstrates the diversity of the Hong Kong's wetland ecosystem and highlights the need to conserve them.

* Get out into nature and discover somewhere new. Apart from Hong Kong’s major trails there are many lesser known hikes to enjoy and explore. My personal favourites include: the Ng Tung Choi or Three Waterfalls Hike, High Junk Peak and the Pat Sin Leng Nature Trail to Bride’s Pool. All three are fairly easy hikes with spectacular views and destinations, suitable for both seasoned hikers and families. On top of that, their starting points are all easily accessible by MTR and bus, even for those with the bare minimum of Cantonese.

4. Lai See

According to one green group’s survey**, Hong Kongers are killing 16,300 trees each year as they exchange some 320 million red packets among family and friends during the Lunar New Year holidays. We all love the lai see tradition, so what can you do to stop this alarming trend? Here are a few ideas:

* Buy reusable red packets, i.e. nothing with this year’s zodiac animal printed on it. Save any left over or reusable red packets for the next year.

* Recycle your red packets. Lai see collection points are often made available in supermarkets and other business. Encouragingly, green initiatives in Hong Kong are working harder and harder to set up recycling points for used packets.

* A more creative option is to turn left over packets into beautiful lanterns to decorate your home. Just search “red packet lantern” on that bastion of handicrafts, Pinterest, and you’ll see what I mean. They look fabulous and speaking from experience, they’re incredibly easy to make.

(** The 2013 poll was conducted among 808 respondents by Greeners Action, a charitable environmental conservancy which is pushing for the reuse of paper envelopes.)

5. Say No To Sky Lanterns

@KempinskiJKT/Twitter @KempinskiJKT/Twitter

Finally, please resist the urge to fly any sky lanterns. Although not technically illegal in HK, flying sky lanterns is banned in densely populated areas, as are firecrackers. The maximum sentence for flying a lantern in any Hong Kong country park or open countryside is one year in prison and a HK$2,000 fine. The environmental dangers of sky lanterns have been widely recorded but just in case you’ve forgotten:

* Sky lanterns are an obvious fire hazard. They can be unpredictable, especially if the wind picks up, and they don’t always go out before they hit the ground. Lanterns can burn fields and panic wildlife.

* Wire and even biodegradable bamboo used in ‘eco sky lanterns’ can be swallowed by livestock, leading to ruptured stomachs and catastrophic effects.

* Remember, Sky lanterns can be dangerous to people as well as animals. As lanterns become more popular UFO sighting dramatically increase, but so do false alarms to fire services and coast guards (when people mistake the lanterns for distress flares).

* Instead of flying a sky lantern, light traditional candles in a safe environment, replace your normal lampshades with festive lanterns, or take out a kite during the day.

Have a Happy Eco New Year!

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