I pinch a tender mint leaf from a row of potted plants.
The restaurant next door uses our herbs in their dishes,” my tour guide Sarah tells me. I’m on a rooftop seven stories above a busy mall, but the garden is as lush as anything on the ground.
The urban farm approach to growing food in a small space opens my eyes to the possibilities of sustainable living in a big city. But it’s no surprise that my moment of clarity strikes in Singapore, a self-proclaimed “city in a garden”.
In a city-state where plants and skyscrapers collide, rooftop farms might not sound like a revolutionary idea, but the minds behind Edible Garden City have started a small movement of high-rise horticulture.
The team created 260 urban gardens in just 10 years. The purpose-built plant-based pantries are set to completely revolutionize the country’s food supply. Currently, Singaporeans grow 10 percent of their food, a number the government wants to increase to 30 percent by 2030.
Sarah is proud to let me know that the garden I visit in Funan is included in the plans for the building and other farms can be found in Raffles City and Queenstown. Both are open to volunteers from Monday to Thursday. Guided tours and workshops are also available ediblegardencity.com.
Fascinated by progressive green thinking, I wonder what other eco-friendly surprises lie behind Singapore’s high-tech facade…
A hotel in a garden
My accommodation, the Parkroyal Collection Pickering (from S$320/€214 per night; panpacific.com) in Singapore’s Downtown Core takes the concept of urban nature to the next level. Plants in the tiered gardens cover more than twice the hotel’s total floor space, a striking image that has to be featured on Instagram feeds.
As I walk from the lobby to my airy and modern room, I notice the open corridors that eliminate the need for air conditioning. I learn that the building’s narrowness was intentionally designed to maximize the amount of daylight entering the interior spaces – no energy-guzzling lighting fixtures are required – and I’m intrigued to hear the hotel was Singapore’s first , which used recycled plastic as a building material to reduce the use of concrete.
The combination of glass and green is very common here. At first glance, it might seem like Mother Nature has reclaimed the skyline, but it’s all part of a larger plan to build a greener city-state; One in which, thanks to the world’s largest completely underground district cooling system, entire districts are heated without air conditioning.
Clean wheels and rails
When it comes to getting around the city, Singapore offers plenty of clean transportation options. There’s the Mass Rapid Transit System, or MRT, where the network map offers a fascinating snapshot of the diverse cultures that have shaped the region. A Singapore Tourist Pass or STP offers unlimited travel from S$10 (€6.67) per day.
If you really want to go eco-friendly, there are plenty of bike lanes you can cycle through. Plans to build 1,300km of safe bike lanes will triple the coverage of the current network by 2030 – not bad for a nation 50km across and 27km north to south. SG Bike, a dockless bike sharing system, charges S$1 (67c) for the first 30 minutes and S$0.03 for each additional minute.
You don’t have to travel far to see the country’s green spaces. In fact, some of Singapore’s most iconic buildings in the city center help make it the eco-friendly holiday destination it is today. In Gardens by the Bay (gardenbythebay.com.sg) in the shadow of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel it is possible to see plants from distant places.
The largest greenhouse in the world, the Flower Dome (admission from S$20/€13.35 for adults) envelops guests and plants alike from a vantage point overlooking the Singapore Flyer Ferris wheel (S$33/€22).
Next door, a second shell-like structure, the Cloud Forest, is home to the world’s second-tallest indoor waterfall, where visitors will strive for the perfect photo while shielding their phones from a light, refreshing mist.
Beautifully presented and unexpectedly practical, the greenhouses collect rainwater which is circulated in a cooling system connected to ‘Supertrees’. The 25 to 50 meter tall forest at Supertree Grove was designed to disperse heat and harvest solar energy while also illuminating the sky. Nothing says “I’ve arrived in Singapore” quite like seeing the superstructures during the free evening light shows. Pay S$8 (€5.40) to stroll the 22-metre skyway and get up close and personal with the action.
Put greens on your plate
Filling up the plate is also surprisingly sustainable. For a fine dining experience, the Labyrinth (restaurantlabyrinth.com) is a must. The world’s first Michelin-starred ‘new Singaporean’ restaurant sources 70 percent of its ingredients from Singapore; Before the pandemic, the figure was 90 percent and the manager was excited about his plans to return to local suppliers very soon. A 15-course tasting menu costs S$218 (€145).
Dishes include the signature chilli crab ice cream, Ang Moh chicken rice and my personal favourite, Rojak; Twelve herbs grown by Edible Garden City and served in a cross between a log and half a coconut.
native (tribanative.com) Cocktailbar is the go-to place for responsible drinking, with alcoholic concoctions all made with locally sourced ingredients, starting at S$25 (16.70).
Master holistic health
Your last stop has to be Singapore’s only Garden Spa, Aramsa (aramsaspas.com), located in a busy public park where runners and yogis share the great outdoors with bathing otters.
My treatment room overlooks a manicured garden where pandan and ginger for teas have been grown. And after I’ve changed into a comfortable bathrobe, my masseuse works my upper back with organic oils and a firm, soothing grip. The Aramsa Touch Massage starts from S$148 (€99) for 60 minutes, the perfect ending to a sustainable escape.
For more information on the destination, see visitsingapore.com.
https://www.independent.ie/life/travel/world/supertrees-cycle-lanes-and-rooftop-farms-how-singapore-became-a-city-in-a-garden-41469570.html “Supertrees”, bike paths and rooftop farms – how Singapore became the “City in the Garden”.