Cathay Crew Face Disciplinary Action For Taking Food Destined for Landfill

According to Apple Daily, 6 Cathay cabin crew members face disciplinary action and possible termination for taking food that was destined for the landfill at the end of a flight from Korea to HK. During a spot inspection, the crew members were found to have croissants, bottled water, milk, yogurt and lemons in their luggage. In order to protect its in-flight property, Cathay had recently … Continue reading Cathay Crew Face Disciplinary Action For Taking Food Destined for Landfill

HKU Takes the Lead to Ban Bottled Water

The University of Hong Kong(HKU)has taken the lead to become the first university in Hong Kong to ban bottled water on campus. Ditch Disposable is a campus-wide campaign led by the HKU Sustainability Office to reduce plastic waste by targeting single-use plastic water bottles and other disposable containers across campus. It starts with an initiative to eliminate single-use plastic water bottles of 1 litre or … Continue reading HKU Takes the Lead to Ban Bottled Water

A (slightly) Greener Way to Travel


To many middle class Hong Kong residents, travel means flying.  Since Hong Kong is an island, there are not many opportunities to take long road trips. Cheap plane tickets, and the difficulty in arranging extended vacation time explains why a lot of people in Hong Kong are obsessed with taking short trips over long weekends. If someone takes several of these long weekend trips a year, how much carbon are they emitting?

To find out, we used the WWF carbon calculator that was created specifically for Hong Kong residents. According to the calculator, my total carbon emissions for 2011 was 8.25 tonnes.  Of this amount, 2.35 tonnes was due to plane travel which consisted of one business trip to Beijing and one 2-week leisure trip to Taiwan.  I have no plans to do any air travel in 2012.  Without the 2.35 tonnes from air travel, my carbon emission of 2012 will be reduced to 5.9 tonnes, which is lower than the 6.5 ton average per person in Hong Kong.

When air travel has almost reached the status of a basic human right, you probably can come up with a hundred reasons why you are entitled to continue to do so as often as you like.  To many individuals, reducing air travel seems like an infringement on their personal freedom. Reducing air travel along with reducing meat consumption are the biggest contributions we can make on personal level to mitigate climate change. However, if flying is a “necessity” for you, here are some tips you may want to consider.

1. Avoid short vacations

Having taken not a few of these weekend trips in the past, I have come to question their value. I used to go to Taipei to soak in a hot-spring and hang out in their 24-hour bookstores.  I visited Bangkok for Thai massages, shopping for cheap but cool looking decorative household items, and eating some delicious Thai food.  Not only does each of these trips generate tons of carbon emissions, but when you consider that you spend at least 35% of your “leisure” time in transit, is it really worth it?

I am not suggesting that we should forgo air travel altogether, but can we make better use of our carbon budgets? By taking fewer longer vacations (as opposed to many shorter ones), we actually get to spend more time vacationing rather than in transit. We can give ourselves more time to get to know the local culture or even make a few local friends.

Another factor to consider is that short-haul trips are more carbon intensive per mile flown than long-haul, due to the large amounts of fuel burned during take-off and landing. The plane burns less fuel when cruising. That being said, the optimal trip from a carbon emission perspective would be short in distance but long in time. Continue reading “A (slightly) Greener Way to Travel”

A World Cultural Heritage Destination Near You

DESTINATION Kaiping City. Guangdong Province. PRC.

PRICE HK$ 3300 per person for 4 days/3 nights.

VACATION RATING Quite good. Kaiping Diaolou is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site with a unique blend of Chinese and Western architecture. This is not a lie on the beach, eat Thai food and drink margaritas kind of vacation. There’s lots of walking involved. With the right tour guide, it’s a great exploration of architecture, culture and history.

GREEN RATING Quite Green. Travel by ferry (2 hours) and coach (2 hours). In Hong Kong, where we feel the need to fly somewhere for a vacation every few months, it’s great to find a worthwhile travel destination that is accessible by low carbon transportation.

ORGANIZED BY Concorde Air-Sea Services in Central (852) 2526-3391 and the non-profit organization Friends of Diaolou. See the Visitors section of the Friends of Diaolou website to arrange a tour with English-speaking experts. The fee will go toward restoration of these heritage buildings.

Note: If you have a foreign passport, you’ll need to get a PRC visa.

Vacation destinations are much more limited when you don’t fly. I try to avoid flying because the carbon emissions from a round trip, short haul flight are about equal my total carbon emissions for the whole year. One trip would make all the effort we take to reduce our carbon footprint in our daily lives essentially meaningless. Discovering this UNESCO recognized destination so close to home was a great find.


A quality tour guide is absolutely essential to this tour. After taking this trip, I really regretted visiting other historical destinations such as Rome, Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat without a proper tour guide. A good tour guide can explain the cultural, historical, architectural and social significance of the buildings and that changes the whole experience. Without this contextual knowledge, no matter how magnificent, they are just a bunch of old buildings.

Since the particular tour we took was organized to celebrate the 100th anniversary of HKU, HKU also arranged for Selia – a university professor, HKU alumni and architectural conservationist – to narrate our site visits. Her combination of genuine enthusiasm and warmth, deep academic knowledge, and stories from her own childhood growing up in the area bring to life these magnificent old buildings. Our tour started with an outstanding lecture from her.

On her website Friends of Dialou, she explains:

The diaolou are multi-storyed defensive village houses in Kaiping, which showcase an intricate and flamboyant fusion of Chinese and Western structural and decorative elements. They reflect the role of the emigre Kaiping people in the development of the region during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The diaolou can be grouped into three categories: communal towners built by several families and used as temporary refuge, residential towers built by individual wealthy families and used as fortified residences, and watch towers (though other diaolou served as schools or storerooms).

Conflict in the Kaiping area drove the local men to migrate to the US, Canada, Australia and South East Asia in the mid 1800s. While abroad, they not only earned the necessary income, but also absorbed the knowledge and skills required to build such fantastical buildings. Facing discrimination abroad and longing to return, they sent money home to build these houses. Only the well-to-do emigres were able to return home. Many men got married, emigrated to work and never returned to see their families or the buildings that their incomes earned abroad had financed. Continue reading “A World Cultural Heritage Destination Near You”