As an increasing number of people are embracing eco-friendliness and striving for a zero-waste lifestyle, many businesses in Hanoi are stepping up their efforts to guarantee a greener experience to tourists and residents alike. Here’s the low-down on some of Hanoi’s contributions to eco-friendliness.
Papa’s Dreamer began in the late 1980s when the only soaps available in Vietnam where harsh black blocks of chemicals. Papa’s daughter had allergy-prone, sensitive skin, so he took matters into his own hands and started crafting skin-kind creations from a happy combo of love and nature. Little did he know that his scented gems free from chemicals, nylon and palm oil would go on to be a hugely popular brand, injecting some freshness into the Vietnamese suds scene. They’re available at outlets around Hanoi in fragrant variations such as citronella and lemongrass, turmeric and ginger or bamboo charcoal, all based on the main ingredients of coconut oil, olive oil and essential oils.
Hanoi’s first zero-waste store was born thanks to the passion and commitment of ecopreneur Thao Hoang. As a pioneer in the city’s green movement, in 2018 she saw a pressing need to make eco-friendly products more readily available. “I noticed that many Vietnamese people wanted to be more environmentally responsible, but they have little or no access to more eco-friendly products, since those offered by manufacturers in the market almost always use plastic,” says Hoang. And that’s how Go Eco came to be. She transformed a little piece of Hanoi into a treasure trove of planet-friendly treats – many of which don’t have packaging – that are all local, seasonal and biodegradable. Take your pick from utensils crafted from coconut and bamboo, stainless-steel straws, nappies, laundry bags, detergent, shampoo and natural beauty products. Stock up on nuts, beans, oats, honey, turmeric powder and other food staples using your own containers or those borrowed from the store.
This successful venture is both an eco-store and a vegetarian restaurant, meaning you can refill and refuel in one welcoming space. The mission of V’s Home is to support small local producers and raise awareness of environmental issues. Browse its array of coconut shell and bamboo accessories and utensils, lotus and rose teas, rosemary hydrosol spray, vegan honey, banana vinegar, and all-natural clothes and accessories. Visit the refill station to stock up on rice, beans, nuts, cooking oils, healthy snacks, vegan fish sauce, tamari and its top-selling cleaning products. Finally, pop upstairs for a post-shop vitamin-rich meal.
This popular café is a magnet for creative types, serving as a space to dabble in art or music. It’s also easy to grab a cushion and a coffee and get stuck into one of the many books lining the walls. Rooted in eco-friendly practices, it sells and uses reusable glass, bamboo and metal straws. The vibe is mellow, with Hanoi residents strumming away on ukuleles in the creative corner or kicking back on the flowery rooftop.
Husband-and-wife team Eddy and Koko (hence the name Ekoko) created this shop after noticing a gap in the Vietnamese market for natural soap and skincare. Driven by a passion for the planet and the concept of self-care, they started out selling soaps, but now their diverse, toxin-free range covers hair products, body butters, shampoo bars, crystal deodorants, bamboo charcoal sponges, candles and insect repellent. “We make sure all ingredients come from sources that truly respect nature and human rights, and we avoid single-use plastics by choosing alternatives – we succeed in that for the largest part. And all of our online orders are shipped 100 percent plastic-free,” says Eddy.
In 2008, Ms Truong Thi Thu Thuy participated in a project to support ethnic minority groups in four northern provinces in Vietnam, which involved setting up cooperatives to revive and preserve the age-old yet dwindling tradition of brocade weaving in the region. She discovered that creating this beautiful fabric was time-consuming, and since there was no access to buyers, fewer people were keen to learn these techniques. Those who did learn used their products for personal use only. Fast-forward to 2011 and Ms Thuy established Chie Handmade, a business focussing on producing and selling the handicrafts of these groups. Chie offers a dazzling selection of colourful bags, clothes, bedspreads, soft toys and wall hangings – all made from 100 percent natural raw materials.
A brilliant social enterprise launched in Ho Chi Minh City in 2001 by Thanh Truong, Mekong Quilts now has three other stores throughout Vietnam, including one in Hanoi. Its colourful quilts are skilfully handmade by underprivileged women in remote rural regions of Vietnam and Cambodia. They use superior-quality cotton and silk fabrics and adorn them with traditional ethnic patterns to add a splash of vibrancy to interiors. But that’s not all: for those seeking to zip about town on the eco-friendliest form of transportation, Mekong Quilts also stocks bicycles made from hardy local bamboo. All profits go towards community development initiatives.
Tre Shop is a Hanoi-based online store for handy everyday items made from Vietnam’s bounty of fast-growing, natural resources. Check out its innovative almond-grass wallets, bags and mats, acacia-grass bags and baskets, and betel-nut bowls. And it’s a bamboo bonanza in here, with everything from large mats and carpets, steamers, bowls, kitchen utensils, pens, chopsticks and straws.
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