Meet Permaclub, the local gang exploring an alternative to Hong Kong’s waste heavy lifestyle.
Stumbling across Permaclub is unlikely unless you know where you are going. Located at the bottom of Hang Hau Wing Lung Road in Clearwater Bay, down a small path between the trees and away from the road, a handmade sign lets you know you’re going in the right direction. From the undergrowth emerges a sizeable outdoor space teeming with life thanks to the small but dedicated team at Permaclub.
Permaclub’s aim is to empower the Hong Kong community to reconnect human living spaces with nature. To achieve this the organisation uses ecological design principles to grow clean food and improve sustainable practices. A walk around Permaclub’s grounds sees a huge variety of plants, fruits, vegetables and herbs being grown, composting and rainwater recycling systems and even a pond full of frogs.
“In 2012 we were lucky to host Steve Cran, a permaculture veteran, who helped us to transition from a weekend garden club to a real permaculture site”, says Jacqueline Faulkner, Community Manager of Permaclub. “We created an environment where people get back to the basic pleasure of growing food. We have since grown over 200 varieties of fruits, vegetables, flowers and plants”.
With land prices in Hong Kong at a premium, finding a suitable location for a project of this scale can be a potential stumbling block. “We were very fortunate to find a piece of land graded for conservation use”, says Faulkner. “Our location means we can work closely with our neighbours to present an alternative way of life in contrast to Hong Kong’s waste heavy lifestyle. The large residential community in Clearwater Bay alone generates a considerable amount of waste and uses a lot of energy and resources. The site we are in now used to be a rice paddy so it has a rich farming history long before we arrived”.
While current laws prevent raising livestock on site, there are up to four harvests each year and an outdoor kitchen and workspace area allows Permaclub to host a range of activities for the community. “Our outdoor kitchen is a great place to take a break, relax and enjoy the view”, says Faulker. “We have a beautiful sheltered area for yoga while our outdoor pizza oven has proved a great hit with kids who can make their own pizzas from scratch”.
Great care is given to reducing as much waste as possible as evident in the club’s own composting toilet. Any food waste goes straight into the worm farm or into the compost which breaks down into organic soil for next year’s crops.
Looking to engage with the local community to develop a greater awareness of a sustainable lifestyle, Faulkner is keen to welcome newcomers. “We host regular volunteer days every second Sunday where people can get stuck in with some gardening. We also encourage people to cook together as well. Schools can book us for educational workshops and we run after school activities to learn about gardening, art and science. Yoga will return in the Autumn and we are working closely with our neighbours to develop a recycling scheme to prevent waste going to landfill”.
Having developed a small corner of Clearwater Bay into a thriving and sustainable garden full of fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs, the team at Permaclub are positive that many more will discover the wonders of reconnecting with nature. “People often come down on our volunteer days for a few weeks and it’s not long before they are inspired to start their own projects at home,” says Faulkner. “It is a lot easier than you think to grow your own delicious food!”.