WildChina > Destinations > Beijing > Sustainable Sites: Green Initiatives in China’s Cities

In China, cities are delivering eco-friendly initiatives that are shaping a future of urban resilience.


Chongqing is a leading example of China's sustainable sites, having commited to the "sponge city" concept with innovative approach to city planning.
Qiansimen Bridge in Chongqing, China

Chongqing, known for its mountainous terrain, is leading the way with pioneering urban planning. By intertwining nature and innovation, the city has created a dynamic landscape that acts as a living sponge, soaking up excess rainwater and reducing flood risks. With permeable surfaces that resemble urban oases, parks bursting with life, and cutting-edge drainage systems hidden beneath the surface, the city is not only confronting climate challenges but transforming them into opportunities for sustainability. The ‘Sponge City’ approach is enhancing biodiversity, improving air quality and forming flourishing spaces for residents and visitors alike.

Notably, in parallel to this movement, ceramic artist and WildChina Jingdezhen porcelain expert Caroline Cheng is advancing sustainable water management solutions by utilizing waste materials. Through the development of a porous new material derived from ceramic waste, Cheng is exploring further avenues to leverage the sponge effect in China.

For a deeper understanding of Caroline Cheng’s work and its implications, listen to The China Travel Podcast episode we did with Caroline.


Photo credit Alice Zhang
Daoming Bamboo Art Village museum

In neighboring Chengdu, Daoming Bamboo Art Village is a remarkable example of sustainable living. Here, bamboo is the building material of choice, shaping a striking landscape of eco-friendly homes and communal spaces. Harnessing bamboo’s inherent strength and flexibility, the village champions environmental benefits such as carbon capture and minimal energy consumption. The village also acts as a vibrant hub for community engagement and heritage preservation. It provides interactive workshops for visitors that integrate traditional bamboo craftsmanship with modern sustainability practices.


Sustainable Sites: Green Initiatives in China’s Cities
Shanghai Tower, Photo credit: Benjamin Ceci, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Heading east to the glittering skyline of Shanghai reveals a towering achievement in sustainable innovation: the Shanghai Tower. This spiral architectural marvel stands tall as a testament to human ingenuity and design excellence. However, it’s not just its impressive height that captures attention; it’s the innovative features seamlessly integrated into its structure. Wind turbines catch the city’s breezes while the sleek exterior invites rainwater to replenish its reservoirs, and energy-efficient systems are intricately woven into every aspect of its design. The tower also features 21 gardens spread across nine zones, contributing to air regeneration. Rainwater collected from the tower’s rooftop irrigates these green spaces.


Sustainable Sites: Green Initiatives in China’s Cities
Parkview Green Complex. Photo credit: N509FZ, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In Beijing’s bustling central business district is one of China’s largest sustainable architecture projects, Parkview Green. This hotel, commercial hub, and shopping mall combines style and sustainability through its stunning and environmentally conscious design. Its architects prioritized energy efficiency, incorporating a special ‘microclimate’ approach into the building’s transparent structure which ensures consistent temperatures throughout the year. They also included a smart ventilation system featuring chimneys at the building’s peak, allowing for natural airflow to improve comfort and save energy.


Sustainable Sites: Green Initiatives in China’s Cities
Shenzhen Bay Eco-Technology Park

Heading south to the shores of Shenzhen, the Shenzhen Bay Eco-Technology Park is a project that integrates green technologies such as solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems, reducing environmental impact while showcasing solutions for future cities. Beyond its physical infrastructure, the park fosters community engagement. Visitors can explore the area’s educational exhibits and on-site guided tours, delving into themes of renewable energy and ecological conservation.

Hong Kong

Sustainable Sites: Green Initiatives in China’s Cities
The iconic Star Ferry of Victoria Harbour (Photo by Cheung Yin on Unsplash)

In Hong Kong, the revitalization of Victoria Harbour is emblematic of the city’s dedication to sustainability. The iconic Star Ferry’s eco makeover has halved its emissions, marking a shift towards sustainable transportation. The surrounding terminals have been transformed from gray industrial areas into lush, green public spaces with green roofs and energy-efficient lighting. The initiative extends to the creation of a Wetland Park adjacent to the terminals, providing a natural sanctuary amidst the city landscape and a habitat for local flora. The park also hosts educational exhibits on biodiversity and wetland conservation.

From Chongqing’s ‘Sponge City’ approach to Shanghai’s achievements in sustainable architecture to the eco-villages of Chengdu, these highlighted sites showcase China’s dedication to constructing more livable, resilient, and environmentally friendly urban areas. Yet, they represent only a fraction of the sustainability initiatives underway nationwide. With countless other projects in progress, China continues to play an important role in global sustainability efforts.

By Gabrielle Keepfer