By Elmer W. Cagape
As one of the most progressive cities in the world, Hong Kong is being emulated by others. Drives against corruption, transportation efficiency and broadband networks are among them. But we’re pretty sure the city is not a good role model for environmentally-friendly practices.
There are measures already in place such as the idling engine ban and plastic bag levy. But what else can be done to make Hong Kong get close to beging called an eco-friendly city?
1. Turn Off Computers After Use
Several years back, as I left the office, I couldn’t help but notice colleagues only shut down computer monitors as they call it a day. Not sure if these machines have scheduled jobs for the night but energy-wise they certainly left a mark in our electricity bill. Newer operating systems offer sleep mode, which enables computers to resume operation almost instantaneously. But this could also leave the wrong impression that machines in this state do not consume power. Shutting down computers after use is still the best energy-saving measure.
2. Fewer Table Napkins and Plastic Utensils
When taking orders at a fast food restaurant, customers often are liberated from restrictions on items such as extra stirrers, plastic utensils and table napkins. This creates a lifestyle of living in excess which can also apply beyond our tables. Minimal use of resources means less demand for resources to replenish them. This initiative can come from restaurant and fast food managers.
3. Replace Toilet Paper With Hand Dryer
It is not enough that I see the note ‘To help preserve the environment, please use less paper napkins / use hand dryer’. I believe these reminders rarely make an impact. Assuming use of electric hand dryers is more eco-friendly than napkins made up of wood pulp from trees, then malls, offices and public facilities need to make a choice on behalf of users.
4. Allow Clothes To Hang In Open Air
Hong Kong’s residential structure sets limitations on the use of clothes lines. Worse, open spaces ideal for this use are often marked with warnings that prohibit residents from hanging their laundry. Not only hanging clothes in the open saves electricity bills, it also means longer life for fabrics.
5. Receive Notices By Email or SMS
For those who spend most of their time on personal/office computers or smartphones, it makes sense to use these devices to channel reminders such as bank statements, telephone and utility bills instead of taking the daily route to the mailbox and pile envelopes on your desk.
6. Use E-tickets or QR Codes When Traveling
Issuing paper air tickets is so last decade. But come to think of it, e-tickets are still often printed on paper and shown to airline check-staff although it requires less amount of paper than what old tickets look like. Moving forward, Cathay Pacific has introduced QR code as boarding passes for the convenience of passengers. That’s more impressive.
7. Promote Recycling Through Garage Sale
Community garage sales promote the reuse of old but serviceable items such as table lamps, books, hair dryers or space heaters. Surely, Fortress and Citycall would encourage buying brand-new items for safety and guarantees but this advice isn’t applicable all the time. Expat communities, religious groups, Salvation Army’s Family Store or AsiaXpat’s Trading Post are promoting this practice but still more can be done with the help of the government. By the way, garage sales are good opportunities to meet new friends too.
8. Borrow Library Books Or Buy Second-hand Ones
I always love the idea of borrowing books at the library instead of buying a new one. Once I finish reading a book, I rarely touch it again unless it is a reference material. With limited space at home, there are only a few items you can afford to accommodate. Unfortunately, books may not be in the priority list.
9. Clean Windows On an Impending Rainy Day
Save water by cleaning windows on a day forecast to have thunderstorms. Bring out the plants as well.
10 . Promote Use Of Both Sides Of Paper
When printouts are discarded, their backpages can be recycled as for drafts, preliminary designs, brainstorming ideas, or other uses without taking a fresh piece of paper from the shelf. Once both sides are used and fully utilized, that’s the time they are supposed to head to the paper shredder or a recycle bin.
11. Use Showers Instead Of Baths
Baths are definitely more relaxing but they also use about twice the amount of water as when one goes to a shower. Remember, Hong Kong pays billions to China — a place where droughts are also experienced recently — for a resource that could run out faster than we imagine.
12. Expand Implementation Of Waste Segregation
The government still lacks ideas on how this can be implemented. I am sure there are ideas that will make Hong Kong be at par with Taiwan, Korea and Japan in terms of waste segregation. Ideally, every household should dispose plastics and biodegradable materials separately — or pay for extra. No time to do so, you say? Maybe it’s just lack of proper time management. We just want to get out of that dubious ranking.
13, Proactively Respond To Unwanted Mail
I often receive ‘Private and Confidential’ letters in our mailbox addressed to ‘The Owner’ instead of my full name. Gotcha, spammer. Unwanted mails like that spammer offering loans or your neighborhood pizza sending leaflet reminding you to taste their new seafood cheese combo can be dealt with more proactively than simply rerouting them to the nearby paper recycle bin. Hongkong Post’s ‘No Circular Mail’ sticker gives hint to postmen to skip your mailbox and lessen his daily load. Okay, I just need to get that sticker.
14. Spend Less Time On Showers
Australia, a continent also affected by droughts in recent years, has asked its citizens to stop singing or day dreaming in their showers and cut short their trip to the bathroom. While Hong Kong has yet to make that announcement, we don’t have to wait for that to happen.
15. Reduce water pressure as necessary
It also helps to save water by reducing water pressure coming from faucets. And while brushing your teeth does require a certain amount of time to be effective, shutting the faucet close during this time helps a lot in conserving water, a resource that has always been a source of conflict over history.
16. Promote Use Of Bicycles
Why continuously fret on poor roadside air quality and not do something concrete to alleviate this problem? Promote bicycle use in Hong Kong by constructing dedicated bike lanes, accessibility on public transport and work place. Right now, this is not very visible: road accidents involving cyclists, fees for bikers on Star Ferry, much to the disappointment of organizations and enthusiasts.
Adjust Office Temperature
To save energy costs — which can be used for other more useful purposes such as salaries for lowest paid workers or equipment upgrade — office temperatures can be set at desired level of 25.5 C
17. Recycle Umbrella Bags
One of the worst eyesores during rainy days are rubbish bins filled with umbrella bags, still usable but inconvenient for users to take it with them. As a result, they are scattered around these garbage cans and attended only by overworked heroes of the street, the cleaners. One nice idea is to place a receptacle to dry these bags outside train stations (like this one in Taipei) and buildings so people use take or leave them.
18. Get Rid Of Plastic Cups, Coffee Stirrers, Styro Boxes
Plastic cups, coffee stirrers and styro boxes have become part of Hong Kong’s “take away” food culture. If only these materials can be replaced with more eco-friendly substitutes without disrupting that widely practice lifestyle of buying food and eating it elsewhere. Someone who can provide such idea deserves an award.
As you can read above, making Hong Kong more eco-friendly should be everybody’s responsibility (government, businesses and residents) and not pinned to a certain group. Otherwise, we can only end up harping and pointing fingers without getting anything done.
Now, where shall we start?