Waste has always been an issue in Vietnam, but it’s only recently that the government has started to step in with serious measures. While it’ll still be decades before the practices are widespread, we can all do our part by supporting Ho Chi Minh’s many sustainability-focussed ventures. Here is a handy guide to get you started.
Food and drink
The first port of call for those looking for an eco-friendly stay, L’Herbanyste is a lush villa set in Thao Dien’s expat enclave and converted into the best of environmental everything: vegetarian café, eco-retail store from local artisans, holistic treatment room with Vietnamese skincare, design studio and workshop, plus a cosy pool to while away your days. Surrounded by the lush green of District 2, it’s an easy start on your sustainable journey.
Organik House has only been around for a couple years, but it’s established itself as arguably the city’s best sustainable restaurant. Set down an alley in hip Da Kao, it serves up vegan-only food sourced locally, with dishes that are affordable, ecological and delicious. It’s also branched out into homeware too, with a range of biodegradable products to bring back with you.
Vietnam’s coffee obsession often leads to short cuts, many a shop serving up slop riddled with flavourings. For a cleaner, eco-focused cup, head to Talk Barista, a proudly organic coffee shop that serves rare beans from famed sustainable coffee farm Son Pacamara. It also offers a number of talks for would-be baristas and coffee shop owners, highlighting the importance of fair-trade beans.
Need something to take the edge off after a hard day of being sustainable? Hidden speakeasy Below keeps that environmentalism going strong, with an entire menu dedicated to sustainable cocktails: fruit and herbs are recycled into various original concoctions, garnishes whipped up using various leftover peels and every drink is served in reused soda cans.
Possibly the most popular sustainable fashion brand in Vietnam, Ginkgo has stores all across the city, blending organic fabrics and irreverent country-centric designs for pieces that appeal to both locals and visitors. Its T-shirts and traditionally inspired dresses might be the most sought-after, but we’re equally big fans of its recycled accessories, including handbags, stationery cases, notepads and mugs.
Metiseko prides itself on being Vietnam’s premier high-end sustainable fashion brand, founded by two French designers and with a strong focus on ensuring all their pieces are made in Vietnam. Using organic cotton, Vietnamese silk and other locally sourced fabrics, they trace each step of the supply chain to ensure a fully ecological approach, offering a full range that stretches from clothes to accessories and soft furnishings for the home.
Handbags and shoes are two all-important accessories in every women’s wardrobe. But the mass production and high use of leather can strain the environment. Anupa is focused on high-quality accessories and takes great care in sourcing the entire production cycle, from sustainable leather through to ethnical production methods, as well as selling an impressive range of local artisan jewellery and silk pieces.
Vietnam’s recycling policy is questionable to say the least, so take no chances and opt for refillable products. Lai Day prides itself on being a refill station, with three separate stores at major hotspots around Saigon, offering everything from bath products and toiletries to sunscreen, hand sanitiser, perfumes and other on-the-go items. It also has a healthy selection of recycled and eco-friendly homeware items, meaning you can sustainably kit your entire house in one store.
Green Lady / Lintimate
These companies sell fully reusable menstrual products. Both Green Lady and Lintimate sell cups that are fully recyclable and pads that are reusable, alongside underwear, gels and other products that aid comfort. For people on every level of the economic ladder, they’re helping the sustainability cause.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
The carbon footprints of regular hops around Southeast Asia aren’t in-keeping with a sustainability minded approach. For your next break, head 20-minutes up the river to Am Lam, an eco-focused resort set among Saigon’s abundant nature. Sustainability is high on the agenda here, with everything from the furnishings to the food ecologically minded – and while it’s not cheap, with rooms starting at £158, it’s worth it for your peace of mind.
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