Another social shift is bubbling in Nanjing; one mainly due to the increase in wealth and standards of living. The middle to upper classes are fed up and unwilling to buy many domestic products destined for the mouth.They should not be blamed.
Their foreign cousins take years to start trusting brand names in China, while most still spend sizeable amounts on imported products. Therefore, the lucky ones who can afford it, buy from organic farms in China. For others, perhaps those with enough leisure time and balcony space, having a green thumb is the newest hobby in town.
Nanjing’s climate results in a good eight months of the year where conditions are ideal for the more than its fair share of Chinese people who enjoy growing their own plants; everything from herbs and spices to tomatoes and garlic. Now, as more people buy their own homes and look for ways to decorate them, the hobby has won over all kinds of new fans who order seeds for their favourite condiments on Taobao and then dash to Ikea to and a beautiful pot in which to plant them.
Yu Bo lives in one of the many new spacious apartments off Muxuyan Jie to the south of Zhongshan Men in Nanjing and took up the hobby as something that she can do with her own hands, and of which she can be proud. Of the plants that have literally taken over her balcony she says, “I believe this is an activity that helps you to relax and improve your personality. I most like the moment when I see what was a small seed now sprouting above the earth! Most of all I like to grow herbs and lilies or other plants that help beautify my home!”
It is not only home improvement stores that have caught the green bug. Italian Architect and Urban Planner Stefano Boeri is bringing the construction of the “Nanjing Towers” to Pukou in the city’s northern suburbs; two towers that will house 730 trees, 5,000 shrubs and 11,000 plants.
Nanjing Vertical Forest is a pair of tower buildings, located in the Mingfa Fortune Plaza of Nanjing Pukou District. The project aims to export the green concept of the Vertical Forest in Milan to China, and to reflect Vertical Forest development, which incorporates greenery on the façades extending the full height of the buildings.
The project is the first Vertical Forest in China, applied through research and practice into Nanjing’s local climate, landscape, vegetation, site conditions and other aspects which, combined with each other, bring real building innovation and urban biodiversity to China.
Writing for inhabit.com, Lacy Cooke noted, “Nanjing Yangzi State-Owned Investment Group Company Limited is promoting the towers and is listed by Stefano Boeri Architetti as an investor in the project”.
The Pukou based State Owned company prides itself on its green credentials with an office headquarters that not only sustain themselves via solar panels on the roof, but also pump additional electricity back into the local grid.
While industry weighs in all green on one side, the Middle Kingdom also has its fair share of individuals putting their money where their mouth is for the sake of the environment. Huang Shaomin was born into a banking family and attended University in Nagoya City, Japan. She later went to Tokyo Agricultural University for her masters and doctoral degree and has receives a full scholarship from the Ministry of Education of Japan each year. Now, she has personally invested ¥10 million and has officially launched a modern agricultural base on Bagua Zhou, the large island that sits in the Yangtze river adjacent to Nanjing.
“Nowadays people are paying attention to the quality of green vegetables. Under this context, [I ask myself] how can I use state-of-the-art technology to help people transform their balconies into self-sufficient vegetable gardens?” It was with this question in mind that Huang Shaomin, came to Nanjing to start her career in growing vegetables.
Further afield, Wang Zhanfeng has been planting trees since the early 80s. Since then, he has turned what was a desert in a mountainous area of Youyu county in Shanxi into a lush green forest the size of 600 football fields. In Inner Mongolia, Mrs. Yin Yuzhen and her husband have planted 1,600 hectares of forest over a 28 year period, while the YMT organic farm company raised over ¥20 million from individual investors via a crowd funding platform.
Yet, going green remains a financial challenge. One acre of organic farm costs approximately ¥70 thousand per year to run, explaining why so many are now taking it closer to home and growing their own.