Health & Environment

Health & Environment

Hong Kong Sevens rolls out reusable pint cup initiative to combat plastic waste

The Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) is set to introduce 250,000 reusable pint cups as part of its sixth annual "Green Rugby" campaign, with an aim to cut down on single-plastic use at this year’s Rugby Sevens tournament. According to the HKRU, around 200 tonnes of waste was produced at the three-day mega-event amongst the 120,000 spectator in attendance in 2013, but the number was down by 100 tonnes as of 2016. This year, patrons would be asked for a HK$10 deposit paid either through cash or Octopus card for a reusable stack cup produced from fully-recycled plastic, which would be subsequently assembled, cleaned, and sanitized for reuse by local social enterprise BottLess over the course of the game and other non-rugby events, according to the HKRU. The Green Rugby is focused on providing not just a green campaign, but to also aim to work with local companies like Diwash to handle all of their dishware cleaning. Aside from working with the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), the Leisure and Cultural Department (LCSD), as well as large mainstream beverage suppliers like Carlsberg and Swire Coco-Cola Hong Kong, the HKRU has also partnered with local sustainability consultancy The Purpose Business to streamline and monitor the operation of the campaign. Dr. Merrin Pearse represents The Purpose Business based in Hong Kong and the Philippines. One of their main aims is to  reduce waste at the Sevens in 2019. "This Green campaign is the 6th year running, every year we aim to do something more," said Dr. Pearse. In previous years, the Green Rugby campaign has tackled food waste and eliminated plastic straws. This year was the first year it aimed to eliminate single-use plastic. In 2018, 61 tonnes of general refuse was collected from the event, marking a 48% of reduction from 2017. …

Health & Environment

Weekend Review: Veganism struggles to grow in Hong Kong

People believe it costs more time and money to produce animal-free food and products in Hong Kong. Last weekend, PMQ Central held the first international trade fair and conference for vegan  living, VeggieWorld Hong Kong. And guests including nutritionists and company founders gave speeches inspire the Hong Kong community to live a vegan lifestyle. Vegan food has been the spotlight in the market. The first VeggieWorld Paris in 2016 attracted 6000 to 8000 visitors with the vegan products , such as superfoods, food supplements and meat and dairy alternatives. More than 50 vegan-friendly brands gathered in VeggieWorld Hong Kong to showcase visitors different types of vegan produce as alternatives for the regular ones like chips, chocolate, bread and cheese. Sarah, a foreigner who is living in Hong Kong, said she was glad to have discovered Mayse Artisan Bakery based in Tai Mei Tuk, a bread store which produces plant-based and gluten-free bread, because she has been suffering from gluten-intolerant.   She said despite the fact that the store is far for her, she is happy to start seeing vegan alternatives around because there had not been much choices in Hong Kong for her before.    Mikus, one of the owners of Mayse Artisan Baker, said although the ancient formula he uses to bake their gluten-free bread is successful, it takes them a maximum of  two days to produce a single loaf of bread. "Most of the bakeries nowadays use bleached flour and instant yeast to make bread faster for sales, but the outcome  is not good at all," said Mikus. Holding her new foldable recycle cup while strolling along stalls in the fair, visitor Jenn, who is not a vegetarian, dropped by briefly knowing there were recyclable cups, which she had "always wanted" on sale.   Though impressed by the creativity …

Health & Environment

Hong Kong students boycott classes for global Climate Change Strike

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Katherine Li、Wallis Wang、Rachel YeoEdited by: Vimvam Tong、Oasis Li
  • 2019-03-16

Around 1,000 demonstrators composed mostly of students boycotted classes this Friday in protest against insufficient government policies to combat climate change as part of a global environmentalist movement. The students handed a letter to representatives of the Environment Bureau and of the Chief Executive, with demanding more renewable energy and establishing youth representatives within the Steering Committee on Climate Change in Hong Kong as the main focus. "Hong Kong accounts for so much of the carbon dioxide emissions," said Emily Tarr, a 17 year-old student of Southern Island School who is one of the three organisers of the local Climate Change Strike. "We can see climate change occurring here due to the catastrophical typhoons and the sea levels rising and also the increasing number of hot days, and that is very scary." Hong Kong is among the more than 100 countries whose youths joined in to set March 15th as a global student strike day. Ms. Tarr gave credit to Greta Thunberg — a 16 year-old student from Sweden who spent many Fridays sitting in front of the government building to demand climate change actions from the government and large corporations — for being their inspiration. Initiated by Ms. Thunberg, the movement called #FridaysForFuture has been spread to Finland, Britain, United States and across the world. "One of the main things we want is renewable energy, because Hong Kong only has 1% of renewable energy. We want that to happen now, as soon as possible!" said Ms. Tarr. Shouting slogans like "be the solution, not the pollution" and "the seas are rising, so are we", the students marched to the Government Central Offices in Admiralty from Chater Garden. "Adults always think that children and teenagers don't care about politics and know nothing about it, but the fact that we children …

Photo Essay

The Green Women Festival: A celebration of women in environmental protection

The Green Women Festival 2019 is held in the Campfire Collaborative Spaces to celebrate social entrepreneurship, environmental awareness and gender equality. Speakers from various social organisations gave presentations, while workshops involving art and discussions are held for everyone to explore the concept of a green lifestyle.

Health & Environment

The Haunting Boars: Government measures on local wild boars control remain ineffective despite use of contraceptive vaccines

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Karen Kwok、William TsuiEdited by: Anna Kam、Maisy Mok
  • 2019-03-01

Zosha Piotrowski, a resident in Clearwater Bay area, said it was scary to see packs of wild boars by the rubbish bins when she was walking her dogs at night. "The wild boars knock down the bins and rummage for food, and there has been more and more of them in recent months," she added. According to the written reply from Secretary of the Environment, Wong Kam-sing, to Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, current legislative councillor from the geographical constituency, in early January, the number of the wild boars reached 738 in 2017, more than double what it was in 2013. Back in the 1970s, teams of civilian volunteers were granted arms licenses and special permits by the police and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) in order to hunt the boars, Mr. Wong said in a statement. Around 40 to 60 animals were caught each year. But in early 2017, the government suspended the hunting teams after reviewing their strategies for quantity control and relaunched the Pilot Capture and Contraception/Relocation Programme (Pilot CCRP), a two-year wild boar contraception project which successfully sterilised 54 wild boars by December 2018. Jeremy Young Chit-on, a district councillor for Central and Western District who wants the government to restart the hunting team, said contraception injections are ineffective because it is difficult to administer. The anaesthetic in the contraceptive vaccines, takes at least five to twenty minutes to take effect after injection. This gives the boars time to try to escape and become aggressive during the operation, a Legislative Council panel discussion summary released in late January stated.   Wild boars may become aggressive and attack humans when provoked or threatened, it quoted from the AFCD. On account of operational need and safety, the AFCD has to deploy 12 to 15 staff to capture …

Society & Politics

18/19 Policy Address: Policy Address rekindles hope for Chinese medicine industry

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: King Woo、Stephanie Ma、Hailey ManEdited by: Zoya Zhao、Yolanda Gao
  • 2018-10-11

The Chinese medicine sector stands to benefit from a slew of healthcare measures announced yesterday at Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s second policy address. The government unveiled a plan to subsidise certain Chinese medicine services, aiming to integrate traditional practice into the existing healthcare system in Hong Kong. Proposed measures include public funding for in-patient and out-patient services delivered in a future Chinese medicine hospital, as well as out-patient services offered by 18 Chinese medicine Centres for Training and Research at the district level. Subsidised in-patient integrative Chinese-Western medicine treatment will also be available in specified public hospitals, but the government said further details are still being discussed with the Hospital Authority. A Legco document shows that in recent years there is a growing trend that many people are opting for Chinese medicine. The number of visiting patients to Chinese medicine centres is up by 100,000 in 2017, from 1.1 million in 2015. Wu Wei, a senior Chinese medicine practitioner at the University of Hong Kong, said that he was delighted with the initiative, in light of the hardship the industry is currently facing. “I hope these measures can be implemented as soon as possible. It’ll be even better if the Hong Kong government can learn from both the triumphs and pitfalls of the Chinese medicine industry development in China. We have to make use of Hong Kong’s strong international reputation to head the industry in a good direction, ” he said. For many patients, government subsidies will help with the cost of medical treatment. “Chinese medicine and treatment are quite expensive. The consultant and medical fee are over $1,000,” said Ms. Yip, a patient receiving Chinese medicine treatment at the public clinic at Hong Kong Baptist University. “It’s definitely good to have subsidies for patients on Chinese medicine …

Society & Politics

18/19 Policy Address: Long-disputed MPF hedging abolished after $36.5B vanished

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Anna Kam、Brison Li、Nadia LamEdited by: Ezra Cheung、Yoyo Chow
  • 2018-10-10

This year's policy address may bring workers in Hong Kong a bit of good news. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in her second policy address she would abolish the controversial hedging mechanism of the Mandatory Provident Fund. The hedging mechanism enables employers to withdraw money from the pot to offset severance or long-service payments. She also increased government subsidy of employers from 12 years to 25 years. Mrs. Lam added she was to boost the subsidy for employers from $17.2 billion to $29.3 billion to see the business sector through the 25-year transition. Chung Kim-wah, director of the Centre for Social Policy Studies at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, welcomes the abolishment. But he added that the proposal was "unfair to low-income workers" because they are usually bound to a contract which has to renew every year. Not all contract workers receive the MPF benefit. "Some employers will oppose this," said Dr. Chung, who also teaches social welfare at PolyU. "But as the government will subsidise employers with nearly $30 billion, it is unpersuasive for them to reject the proposal. The impact on employers has reduced a lot." But lawmaker Felix Chung Kwok-pan of the pro-business Liberal Party said he felt "very disappointed" with the policy. "We cannot accept the government's policy," said Mr. Chung. "After the cancellation of the MPF offsetting, labour cost will increase by 5.6%." He also complained the business sector would "have to spend $840 billion over the 25 years" under the new policy. Meanwhile, Wong Kwok-kin of pro-labour Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions supports the abolishment and hopes the government will implement it as early as possible. "The government said the legislation would complete in 2024," said Mr. Wong. "The time frame suggested is unreasonably long." Statistics from the MPF Schemes Authority shows …

Society & Politics

18/19 Policy Address: Government takes lead to extend maternity leave to 14 weeks

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Vimvam Tong、Maisy Mok、Fifi TsuiEdited by: Dorothy Ma、Sammi Chan
  • 2018-10-10

Reported by Vimvam Tong, Maisy Mok, Fifi Tsui Edited by Dorothy Ma and Sammi Chan   Working mothers in Hong Kong will be able to enjoy 14 weeks of 80% paid maternity leave, that is an extra four weeks under existing labour laws. The first female chief executive of the city, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced today in her second policy address that the newly extended leave will take immediate effect for civil servants. The extension is rolled out in view of the “much lower labour participation of women compared to men” and “a lower ratio of managerial roles taken by women” in Hong Kong, said Mrs. Lam. Employers can get up to $36,822 reimbursement per employee from the government to pay the leave. For employees with a monthly income of $50,000 or below, the additional four weeks of maternity leave pay will be borne by the government in full. The proposed extended maternity leave brings Hong Kong on par with the International Labour Organisation’s suggestion after the related employment ordinance had remained unchanged for 48 years in Hong Kong. Compared with other locations in the region, the duration of maternity leave in Hong Kong is in line with Japan, but is still shorter than Singapore by two weeks. In mainland China, new mothers can enjoy 19 to 22 weeks off, depending on the province while fathers can get up to 30 days of paternity leave. Mothers in Hong Kong have mixed reaction to the 14-week leave. “ I believe 10 weeks are enough,” Katy Lam, an educator and a mother of two believes that the duration of leave should depend on the woman’s occupation. “14 weeks would be better than 10 for sure,” said Venda Lee, a 34-year-old expectant mother, who works as a movie trailer producer. She sees …

Health & Environment

Smart Barcelona

Stroll down La Rambler in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona any day and see tourists and vendors fighting for space on the walkway alongside stalls offering souvenirs. Nearly 30 million visitors each year pack down the narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter in the old part of the city, according to Euromonitor. A tour guide, Aranxia Gonzales explained that the demand for accommodation is pushing locals out of the property market. " When you buy a property in Spain, you own it for life," she said, " and that means older folks who have lived here for a long time now have to put up with tourists as neighbours." By 2017, there were 16,000 holiday rentals, as reported by Barcelona City Council. According to a 2018 study by University of Paris Sud, when Airbnb started in Barcelona, rent rocketed by 28% between 2013 and 2016. In addition, there were more than 7000 illegal hostels. The number of private flats rented out to tourists reportedly went up nine times in a year. The city government has since hired a team of inspectors to look for illegal hostels. Owners may be fined up to €60,000. Paola Santoro, an Italian expat who has been living in Barcelona for eight years, explained that the influx of tourists has bumped up the rent in even further. "The demand for accommodation by tourists meant many apartments are being converted into apartments for tourists only," Paola said. "The average salary of a person in Barcelona is approximately € 1000-1500. The average monthly rent for a flat in Barcelona is also € 1000. A person with an average salary cannot afford to rent a flat, so many people are forced to share a flat with other people to reduce expenses." Barcelona, Paola thought, has become a city for …

Health & Environment

Virtual Healing

Researchers at the University of Barcelona have found virtual reality to be a useful tool in psychology   Virtual reality may be the buzzword in journalism and entertainment. But for a team of psychologists and computer scientists at the University of Barcelona, these are just new applications for tools that they have been researching on for some time. The Experimental Virtual Environments Lab (EVENT Lab) at the Department of Psychobiology of the University of Barcelona focuses on immersive and embodiment experiences. Researchers from the University of Barcelona, the University College London and the University of Derby help participants learn through compassion. They use avatars and computer science gaming technology to teach empathy. For example, a user can be embodied in a black avatar to experience racial discrimination, or an adult in the body of a child to empathise how it feels when parents are harsh. "We found that adults who experience the kind mother gain trust," Mel Slater, the director of EVENTS Lab explained, "but when they meet the harsh mother first followed by the kind one a week later, they tend not to trust her." To experience embodiment, the participant has to put on a black bodysuit. Sensor pompoms on the garment allow the computer to track the person's movement so that the programme can react accordingly. The signals are picked up by sensors mounted on the walls of the pitch black lab. A virtual reality headset then allows the user to immerse in the altered world. "Parents who go through the experience tend to become more empathetic toward their children afterwards," said Domna Banakou, a researcher at the lab. "Racial discrimination also tends to decrease after white people experience what it is like to be black," added Banakou. These virtual reality experiments have taken Mel Slater and his …