Health & Environment

Health & Environment

Hong Kong's zero waste community leaders addressed the importance of switching to waste-free events

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Tomiris UrstembayevaEdited by: Yolanda Gao、Sammi Chan
  • 2018-05-07

Dozens of events as talks, concerts, games are held every day in Hong Kong and most of them result in tonnes of waste including plastic cups, plates, and cutleries because event organisers provide their attendees with everything from tissues to single-use pens and notebooks. Although “green events” are recently becoming popular, event hosts usually sort the waste and provide recycling bins only. It is not effective because most of the event participants don’t rinse or empty plastic containers before throwing them to waste-separation bins. Aigul Safiullina, a co-founder of Zero Waste Life, a non-governmental organisation aimed to promote and educate sustainable lifestyle by coaching and providing public with useful sources, thinks that the general public, especially event hosts should embrace a more responsible lifestyle by not only sorting the waste from events and providing recycling bins, but also taking a step further to plan the event ahead and reduce the source of waste. "There are only three types of recyclable plastics, by offering recycling bins is not enough and unreasonable," she said during the talk, "Taking small steps to achieve a zero-waste life in Hong Kong" conducted by the panel of Hong Kong’s zero-waste community leaders, last Wednesday. Paola Cortese, a certified Climate Reality Leader suggested the ways to organise a sustainable event. She said that waste reduction can be achieved through smart planning at the start which would promote a waste-free lifestyle and raise the awareness of Hong Kong’s waste problem. "Small steps could start from reusing banners and decorations. Instead of buying, it would be more environmentally friendly to borrow or to loan them," said Ms. Cortese. She also suggested using e-invitations instead of printed cards. Even though the e-invitation cards or tickets are used by the majority of event organisers, attendees are usually asked to print them …

Health & Environment

Beware of sugar-coated Lunar New Year food health snare

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Rachel YeoEdited by: Alexandra Lin、Sammi Chan、Maggie Liu
  • 2018-03-19

Can government do more to ease unhealthy consumption of Chinese New Year food? Eat one Lunar New Year rice cake and you’ve almost hit your daily sugar limit. With 21 grams of sugar, a rice cake comes close to the World Health Organisation’s recommended 25 grams a day. “Sugar is just as addictive as cocaine with similar effects on our brain, making it extremely irresistible,” Denise Tam, a Holistic Nutritionist at the brand Food for Life, said. “That is why once we start, it's hard to stop.” According to SingHealth, a healthcare institution based in Singapore, Chinese New Year delicacies contain excessive carbohydrates and sugar, which can cause weight gain in the short-term and much more serious long-term problems. Sugar plays a major role in the development of diabetes and heart disease, the institution warns. Both diseases are among Hong Kong’s top causes of mortality. Diabetes even enters the top ten and heart-related diseases account for 13.2% of all deaths in the city, according to government statistics. Eurasian CrossFit coach Anthony Haynes, 29, said he never eats traditional New Year’s treats, even during obligatory visits to his Chinese relatives’ homes. Instead, he consumes lean meats, steering clear of anything with excess MSG, salt or sugar. “I try to avoid them like a plague as much as I can, even for (the) festive season,” he said. “It’s a bit sad, but I’m quite extreme.” With a plethora of annual treats - such as deep-fried niangao (rice cake), peanut snacks and candied fruit - it is not easy to abstain while socialising.   Holly Liu Hoi-ning, 19, said she knows they are unhealthy but eats them anyway. “We only eat (Chinese New Year) food once a year, why not be carefree and eat all we want? If people calculate how much calories …

Health & Environment

Getting rid of insomnia with an app?

Jola Mok tosses and turns in her bed for hours every night. The death of a close relative when Ms. Mok was 19 has taken its toll on her mental health. “I am afraid of going to bed,” Ms. Mok said. Every evening, she feels anxious to face another long night. Some 40% of people in Hong Kong suffer from insomnia , according to a survey conducted by the Surveillance and Epidemiology Branch of the Centre for Health Protection in 2015. Nearly half of the respondents said they had sleep disturbances, including difficulty in falling asleep, intermittent awakenings or difficulty in maintaining sleep during the night” and waking up early and unable to sleep again. “Stress is usually the main cause of insomnia. If people cannot handle stress well, insomnia may be one of the consequences,” said Dr. Dennis Cheung Ching-ping, a specialist in psychiatry. Ms. Mok is among them. She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and that led to insomnia. People who suffer from sleeping problems sometimes seek help from doctors or psychologists. Recently, patients with insomnia look for alternatives, for example, applications on their phones that might relieve  insomnia. Might these apps be a handy way to alleviate sleep disturbances? “Sleep Better with Runtastic”, “Void” and “SleepTown” are some mobile apps that help people arrange a well-organised sleep schedule. Some track users’ sleep cycle, help them relax and provide motivation to eliminate the habit of using mobile phones before sleep. “Sleep Better with Runtastic”  was by Runtastic, an Austrian mobile fitness company. The app focuses on tracking users’ diet and exercise habits and links them with sleep quality. After users enter their stress level, caffeine consumption and dreams in the app, it then analyses the data. Users can then understand the fundamental causes of their sleep disorders …

Health & Environment

Flexitarian: an easy way to go green

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Sharon Pun、Candice WongEdited by: Richelia Yeung、Ellen He
  • 2017-11-21

To become a flexible vegetarian in Hong Kong "I'd like to have the Pesto Chicken Salad, but please take away the chicken," said Ms. Chan at a bakery cafe. Her friend surprisingly asked her, "What? You're taking away the best part of the dish!" This is a situation often encountered by Chan Wun, but her diet habit is different from that of traditional "vegetarians". She is a member of a rising group, "flexitarians", a combination of "flexible" and "vegetarians". The number of flexitarians rose from 5% in 2008 to 22% in 2016, while vegetarians only account for 3% of Hong Kong's population. Up till 2017, over 1,000 restaurants in Hong Kong have joined an initiative programme to offer vegetarian-friendly menus, according to a social startup, Green Monday. "In order to lose weight, I had become a vegetarian for around two months during high school," said Ms. Chan, an 18-year-old university student. She had no choice but to constantly ordered Indian curry since it was the only vegetarian choice at school. Things become more difficult during family gatherings. When Ms. Chan's mother cooks vegetarian meals for her non-vegetarian father and brother often complain that the meals lacked protein. "It is difficult to avoid eating meat especially when we are living in Chinese culture where specific cuisines and dishes will be offered during celebratory events and festivals," said Ms. Chan. "Then I decided to quit because of inconvenience, time cost and expense." Instead of being a strict vegetarian, she opted for a flexitarian-style diet. In fact, the problem was not faced just by Ms. Chan when she was a vegetarian. To Hiu-yan, 20, a university student who has been a vegetarian for two years, said that the once-athlete started this eating habit to keep fit.   Ms. To said she faced limited …

Health & Environment

Hong Kong's first solar-powered food truck wins catering award

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Holly Chik、Michelle NgEdited by: Choy York Borg Paulus
  • 2017-11-07

Hong Kong's first green food truck won the Gold Prize of Catering in Traditional Cuisine of CLP's Greenplus Award Programme. The solar-power panels, which cost over $20,000, are installed on the vehicle's roof to supply electricity for fans and for customers to charge their electronic devices. "The eye-catching panels also demonstrates the eco-friendliness of the vehicle whereas other energy-saving measures are usually not obvious," said Trevor Ng, Managing Director of Pat Chun, who has been operating the $800,000 truck since March this year. The company also adopts an energy management system which can be operated with a smartphone to improve energy efficiency. "With the system, we can collect real-time energy consumption data and adjust the use of electricity," said Ng. For example, they can use the remaining heat generated by the automatic rice-fryer to cook their stewed beef brisket. To reduce interior temperature, they opted for a heat-resistant automatic rice-fryer. The solar panels on the roof also serve as a heat barrier during hotter days. A centrifugal range hood and a grease trap are also installed to collect used cooking oil that will be converted to biodiesel for the car. Ng said they save about 25% on their electricity bill after implementing these measures. Such environmental protection measures "mitigate climate change, lower business cost and create new business opportunities," said Philip Yung Wai-hung, Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development (Commerce, Industry and Tourism).  

Health & Environment

Two out of 40 prepackaged juices found to contain mycotoxin

  Consumer Council said two of prepackaged juices samples were tested positive for patulin, a mycotoxin a UN committee on Food Additives say could suppress immunoreactions, damage nerves and affect the development of infants. Although patulin is commonly present in decaying fruits, especially apples, "the risk is higher in juices because mould cannot be seen", said council spokesman Michael Hui King-man. The distributors have instantly removed the two cold pressed apple and blended apple juices, in which the amount of patulin have exceeded the Centre for Food Safety's action level. The council also found that the dietary fibre content of all 40 samples, including those with fruit pulps claims, was lower than the detection limit of less than 1.1g/100ml of fruit juice. Vitamin C content in apple juices was also found generally lower than 2mg/100ml, whilst that in orange juices, on the whole, was higher, ranging from 11 to 52mg/100ml. High sugar content in all samples also entailed that they are "not deemed as a low-sugar food" under Hong Kong's current nutrition labelling standards. For the sample with the most sugar, drinking 1 bottle of 360ml of juice would amount to 46g of sugar intake. In other words, it is equivalent to 92% of an adult average daily intake of 50g free sugars limit. The council urged consumers not to substitute fruit juice for fruit because juices contain less vitamin C and fibre but are more expensive. Reported by Holly Chik Edited by Daisy Lee

Health & Environment

Parents and students criticise Carrie Lam's neglect of student suicides

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Angie Chan、Ezra Cheung、Japson Melanie Jane、Michelle NgEdited by: Winnie Ngai、Jianne Soriano
  • 2017-10-11

The Hong Kong Chief Executive paid little attention to current youth problems in her maiden 195-page policy address released in the Legislative Council this morning. Various stakeholders, including parent and student representatives and social workers, expressed their disappointment with the report, accusing the leader of neglecting the lives of Hong Kong students. Covering youth policies in just five pages, she put the spotlight on their participation in politics: creating opportunities for young people to join the Central Policy Unit to be re-organised soon and different commissions under the 13 policy bureaux. Lam also focused on the provision of internship and exchange opportunities outside the city. "We will strive to do our best in youth development work by addressing their concerns about education, career pursuit and home ownership," she said during the Legco meeting, "and encouraging their participation in politics as well as public policy discussion and debate." Yet, the city's leader has failed to mention a single word about the severity of the student suicide epidemic which has claimed 432 lives since 2013. The Committee on Prevention of Student Suicides was formed March last year to tackle this issue. But no further action was done after its final report was published, according to Althea Suen Hiu-nam, the former president of the Hong Kong University Students' Union and a member of this government-appointed student suicide prevention committee. She expressed her dismay on Lam's failure to include the issue in her first policy address. "It's absurd to ignore the issue," Suen said, "a disrespect to the lives of the youth." Annie Cheung Yim-sheun, spokesperson of the Hong Kong Parents United, felt Lam had neglected a major issue given the increasing number of student suicides in Hong Kong. Cheung attributed Lam's avoidance to the sensitiveness of the sudden death of Peter Poon Hong-yang, …

Health & Environment

The Online Hotbed for Illegal Drugs

Blue pills - the story ends, you wake up in your bed, believing whatever you want to believe. Red pills - you stay in Wonderland, knowing how deep the rabbit hole goes. Sixteen-year-old Amy chose a set of pills from Yanhee Hospital which promised "a safe and effective hallucination". Convinced by the photos and videos posted by an online shop on Instagram, she paid $300 to buy this medication. "On the first day, I felt dizzy after taking the medicine. My heart was pounding very fast and I was always thirsty. I couldn't fall asleep no matter how sleepy I was. The next day, I felt so weak as if I was floating. Eventually, I couldn't take it anymore. I felt like dying," Amy said. "I asked the shop owner why I was suffering through WhatsApp. The medicine had no disclaimer on its possible effects. The owner said everyone might react differently, and that I should quit if I was sick," she added. Social media has become a hotbed for illegal drug trade. By law, substances used for medical purposes must  be registered with the Pharmacy and Poisons Board of Hong Kong before sale. But this is often not the case for medicine sold online. Between 2014 and 2016, there were  23 convictions linked to illegal drug sales on social media, according to the Drug Office. Common drugs offered on social media include those that promise to improve one's appearance, such as breast enhancement or make you grow taller. They come under names such as Cosmoslim, Slim Perfect Legs and Yanhee. Input the keywords on Instagram and you get hundreds of posts of pills. Online drug sellers often claim there is no medication in their products and that they are approved by the foreign agencies. For example, an online post …

Health & Environment

Plastic free for marine creatures

  • 2017-04-22

The first thing Lin Guan Yi does in everyday morning is to open Facebook page and check orders for glass straws, yet she doesn't sell them for money. Instead, she sells glass straws for the turtles. Founded in 2016, 4theturtles aims for promoting glass straws to replace plastic straws. Lin, a financial manager, works part-timely for 4theturtles. This Taiwan-based environmentally friendly organization is encouraged by a popular YouTube video in which a turtle's respiratory tract is inserted by a plastic straw. Plastic straws and stirrers, along with other plastic products, are listed as top ten categories of coastal floating litter, according to a report published by World Wide Fund (WWF) Hong Kong. Marine litter has become a hit topic in recent years. In Hong Kong, there're at least more than ten non-profit organizations which have delivered this issue. Among them WWF Hong Kong plays a leading role. Started from 2014 by WWF Hong Kong, Costal Watch is a project providing a long-term resolution for marine litter. It focuses on analysing the importance of solving the marine litter problem and raising people's awareness of being green in order to reduce litter at source. In "Costal Watch – Turning Tide Against Marine Litter", its annual research report, WWF Hong Kong pointed out that plastic debris is a huge threat to marine ecosystems. The Coastal Watch team did surveys in cooperation with local fishing communities. They found that plastic debris makes up most of the marine litter found along Hong Kong shorelines. "The plastic debris could cause two problems. One is that marine creatures will be entangled by it. Another is that fish consumed plastic, which directly affects the health of the fish and the whole food chain, meaning that human health will be affected," said Yeung Chung-wing, Project Manager of Coastal Watch. …

Health & Environment

Teenage binge drinking on the rise

  • 2016-12-02

Local research shows more teenagers, as young as eight years old, are drinking alcohol by Isabella Lo and Tiffany Lui Ammy Cheng Pui-lam, currently a university student in Hong Kong, was 12 years old the first time she got drunk. She was celebrating her primary school graduation at a friend's home. Later she developed a drinking habit. She would go drinking two to three times a week. "My parents scolded me when they smelled alcohol on me at night, but who is not rebellious at that age?", Ammy said with hoarse voice, which she believed is the result of frequent drinking. In some films, TV shows and advertisements, drinking is often portrayed as a thrilling social activity that cool people would do in glamorous situations. This kind of depiction has affected young people's perception. "Drinking is a symbol of growing up, and we are enthusiastic to try," said 20-year-old Ammy. In a report published by the Hong Kong Academy of Nursing, the earliest age at which local kids start drinking alcohol beverages is eight years old. At the meantime, one in 16 teenagers aged 18 to 24 are reported of alcohol abuse, according to the report. Shiu Ka-fai, legislator from the Liberal Party, said a liquor license is required for restaurants and bars to sell alcohol beverages. "If they sell alcohol to the underage, their license will be suspended. I think they are quite careful on this," he said. He thinks it is inevitable that teenagers are mistakened as adults sometimes. "But I also see some responsible retailers that would question those who appear to be underage and demand to see their identity card," said Mr Shiu, who is also a member of the Wholesale and Retail Task Force in the legislature. In Hong Kong, alcohol is believed to have …