“It’s a little bit of a secret garden,” says Ellie Tang, head of sustainability at New World Development Company Ltd and director of Nature Discovery Park. “We want to give our customers a surprise by bringing nature to the city centre.”
Nature Discovery Park is the first urban biodiversity and sustainability-themed education center in Hong Kong that sits atop K11 MUSEA, a museum-retail complex in the Tsim Sha Tsui harbour front. In the past, the area used to be where the New World Center once stood.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Tang moved to the United States to pursue her education from high school and onwards. This experience enabled her to open her mind to different international issues and discovered her interests in sustainability.
“Somehow I found this calling in resource management. I was convinced that it would become a bigger topic that determines how the world moves forward,” she says.
According to Tang, the city’s rich biodiversity and the beauty of its natural environment are often overlooked – even by locals.
“Appreciating natural beauty is the first step to developing stewardship and conserve natural resources so I want to bring that concept into the built environment projects through my work,” she says.
Nature Discovery Park opened as part of K11 MUSEA’s core visions of providing experiential retail, art, culture, and dining experiences.
As head of sustainability, her role has been to help standardise the way they build the hardware side of things. But it all goes down to how they educate the public and how they fit in the built-in environment.
Tang says there were varying opinions and interests vying for what Nature Discover Park should be and so it took about ten years to build, but the challenges went beyond biodiversity and projects. It was about pushing sustainability and “that itself is quite a feat,” she says.
The biggest challenge has been the flexibility that it offers such as discovering its butterfly garden, tropical and native plants while keeping in mind that the park has business aspects to it.
“We obviously cannot compare this outdoor space to New Territories farms. We want people to come through to appreciate the beauty of nature and then learn about growing their own food and protecting other natural resources in their daily lives,” says Tang.
“It is our role as practitioners to demonstrate authentic sustainability results with quantifiable impact and hopefully more of us will do things in a systematic manner and eventually mainstream sustainability,” says Tang
Nature Discovery Park provides tours of over 180 native and exotic species, and workshops on how to protect the habitats in the city that enriches biodiversity while demonstrating the future direction of food production with rooftop farming.
Tang says this hub allows to tell a story behind the scenes and to tackle the grander scheme of things like providing food as cities’ population continue towards an upward trend. And with the ongoing global pandemic of Covid-19, supply chain and the logistics have become the top issue on people’s minds.
Nature Discovery Park plans to launch different offerings including certificate programmes to children wanting to learn more about conservation that involves their parents in doing “green parenting.”
“We’re sharing what we know with parents as well so as to change the mindset of the entire family. Apart from that, there will be more brand collaboration to influence businesses on sustainability,” Tang says.
Having studied public administration and environmental sciences out of personal interest from the get-go, Tang today encourages anyone to practice more sustainability regardless of their job.
“Learning about sustainability is not just for someone who want to get an impact investment or NGO management job. It actually affects the way any business will be run.” I hope more people would learn about it and apply it within their roles,” Tang says.