The First Asian to Win Prestigious Sustainability Award Shares Tips on Eco-Friendly Travel

Environmental scientist and economist Janice Lao on what to do and where to go around Asia.

Janice Lao, this year’s Sustainability Leader of the Year at the EDIE Sustainable Leaders Awards in London, wears many hats.

Born in Manila and Hong Kong-based since 2005, Janice was recognized for her efforts as director of corporate responsibility and sustainability at the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Limited. The group is one of the first hospitality companies in the world to announce a commitment to ban single-use plastics by 2020. Janice also led a project that produced a teddy bear by upcycling retired bed covers from The Peninsula Hong Kong, in collaboration with The Repulse Bay, Hong Kong-based charity St. James Settlement and Manila-based social enterprise ANTHILL Fabric Gallery.

Janice is also an environmental scientist and development economist, and is one of the 26 women STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) professionals in a children’s book “Everyday Superheroes: Women in STEM Careers” with Nobel winners and NASA scientists. Published in America, the book’s aim is to encourage more children to get into STEM careers.


We had a chance to catch up* with the first Asian recipient of the prestigious sustainability award on all things travel in Hong Kong, the Philippines and her favorite destinations around the Asia-Pacific:

On great eats…

Janice: “My favorite restaurant in Hong Kong is Grassroots Pantry [Ed update as of July: renamed as Nectar Integrative Dining]. I’m not vegan (yet), but this restaurant blew my mind and taste buds with the way Chef Peggy Chan showcases intentional and ethical eating. If you want to convert a meat-lover, take them here. I guarantee you this restaurant will not disappoint. My other go-to is Kind Kitchen. It’s run by David Yeung who started the Green Monday movement.”

  • Nectar Integrative Dining; 108 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong; Tel +852 2873 3353;
  • Kind Kitchen; 1/F Nan Fung Place, 173 Des Voeux Road Central 999077, Hong Kong; +852 2110 0055;

On ethical shopping…

Janice: “I try to live a zero waste lifestyle and there are number of cool zero waste shops at Sai Ying Pun. My favorites are Live Zero and Now No Waste. As for ethical trade items, I am obsessed with Anthill Fabric Gallery in Cebu. The founder, Anya Lim, knows I’m a sucker for sustainable and ethical fashion. I like to look good, because it makes me feel good. What better way to make me feel good than to wear my heritage on me. Everytime I wear their product, I always get someone asking to buy it off my back!

  • Live Zero; 20 High Street Sai Ying Pun, 5 Tak Lung Back Street Sai Kung (bulk stores); S102 1/F Block A PMQ (Police Married Quarters) 35 Aberdeen Street Central (lifestyle store only);
  • Now No Waste;
  • Anthill Fabric Gallery; Pedro Calomarde St.Cor Acacia St.Gorordo Avenue, Cebu City, 6000 Cebu; Tel. +6332 505 4175;

On sleeping well… 

Janice: “Of course I love The Peninsula Hotels, but if I had to choose other accommodations: Bohol Bee Farm – I love the rustic feel that it’s so out of the beaten path and you can be one with nature but still have luxury comforts and yummy food. There’s also Green Island Resort in Cairns – I love that it’s isolated and that you’re in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef. Easily snorkel or kayak if you want to.  Also being one with nature and having luxury comforts is huge for me.

  • Bohol Bee Farm; Dao, Dauis, Panglao Island, Bohol; Tel.+6338 5101822;
  • Green Island Resort; Green Island, Great Barrier Reef, Tel.1800 673 366;;

Favorite travel spot in Asia

Janice: Cebu is my top favorite spot. I love this place and I would love to retire there one day. I speak the language and I love Cebuano humor! It’s so dry and sarcastic and I end up with tummy aches from laughing. It also feels like a bit of New York in it, a great place to enjoy cultural activities but also very cosmopolitan. I love the diversity of things to do there and just how cool people are and the food is amazing – lechon, seafood, you name it – from its street carinderias to its five-star restaurants.  

Key travel essentials

Janice: my iPhone because I like to catch up on my Netflix shows inflight. I hardly ever watch inflight TV. My Kindle, I love books and I love that I can read a book in one sitting when am travelling. My backpack from Matt & Nat (a sustainable bag company based in Canada) – I like having everything in one place and it’s easier to organise it all on my backpack and allows me to be hands free and on the go.

Travel advice

  1. Live like locals in Hong Kong. Take public transport in Hong Kong. It’s one of the best ways to see the city and one of the cheapest forms of transport – whether you choose the tram or the MTR. Yes, you will have to do a lot of walking but it is so worth it!
  2.  Travel sustainably. Buy carbon offsets (some airlines already offer this option when you buy a ticket with them); travel light (do you really need to bring all those suitcases?); bring your own straw, reusable containers and water bottle!

*Interview by Coni Tejada

Cebu Pacific flies to Manila, Hong Kong and various destinations across the Asia-Pacific region.

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