From 13 to 24 March 2017, the PolyU Campus Sustainability Weeks (the ‘Weeks’) challenged PolyU staff, students, and the neighboring community to spotlight sustainability for two weeks. It explored into a pool of topics over green lifestyle and sustainability. It’s worth taking a step to learn what’s behind the scene – the real messages and insights which are communicated and embedded in its planning and across its activities.
Assembling the University community to look into sustainability
First held in 2013, this annual event embraces a series of activities by highlighting important initiatives and practices that help to build a more sustainable campus and community. Entering its fifth year, the Weeks staged a record-breaking number of activities for all participants and visitors. It empowered the audience to engage in sustainability focused workshops, sharing sessions, talks, exhibitions, and site visits which were inspiring, entertaining and thought-provoking. “The event means much more than it appears to be,” said Mr. Joseph Chan, Head of Campus Sustainability. “We want to run a campaign that assembles the University community to look into key aspects of sustainable lifestyle. We do not want to involve our audience with a one-time participation. We want to make the change and alert them of the need to change. Our ability to create changes in fact will open ourselves to a new realm of possibilities and bring about long-term benefits to our environment and surroundings.”
The real green event
Big events have a reputation for being wasteful. The PolyU Campus Sustainability Weeks, on the contrary, proves it’s possible to make campus-wide events green events. Joseph explained, “There are countless events and activities on campus on a daily basis. All event organizers should be fully aware of their responsibility to do their part in planning and organizing green events. It’s more than just hosting an activity with a ‘going green’ theme. It’s about producing an event that actually is green and sustainable as far as we can.”
The Weeks in 2017 was carefully planned since its inception stage through execution. Promotion and publicity were broadcasted electronically. Lots of fun-filled activities were held yet only critical equipment was on during rehearsal and show times and transportation resources were kept to minimal. There was a careful anticipation of food ordering and its quantities, and it successfully cut down on mealtime waste. One-time disposable tableware, cutleries and bottled water were not provided and participants were reminded to bring their own cups and cutleries when attending the activities. A special event was arranged to teach the participants how to make good use of used plastic bottles for plant growing as well.
Empowering change in offices
Events can be green. What about offices and daily operations? The University is running a Green PolyU Awards – Green Office programme to expand and promote sustainability within the campuses. It has introduced various activities, workshops and training sessions in the year. This programme has just concluded its Phase One campaign and close to 30 offices and units across the campus voluntarily joined an assessment scheme to track their sustainability performance. Results were encouraging as these participating offices managed to achieve over 100 different environmental and green workplace targets within four months, including energy saving, paper reduction, recycling actions, green procurement, and resources conservation.
“Sustainable principles can be successfully incorporated into different types of events no matter on campus or off-campus, small or large. Responsible and eco-minded practices can be easily implemented in the workplace as well. There may be hesitation and resistance from some members, but we are confident and patient to convince them. We are positive, and we are always ready to help those who may just need a little time to adapt to the switch,” Joseph commented.
To award those enthusiastic offices and units who participated in the assessment scheme, and to recognize their contributions in greening their offices, the PolyU Campus Sustainability Weeks staged a special award presentation ceremony, and everyone on campus was invited to join and show their support. The University knows well the success of the Green Office programme lies in getting staff buy-in since they have a lot more control over the greening of their workplace and daily operations than they may think. PolyU is about to offer more encouragement and support to the staff.
Reaching out to society and collaborating with like-minded people
There was another not-to-missed feature of this year’s PolyU Campus Sustainability Weeks which impressed the entire community. The University introduced the unconventional and eco-friendly patchwork banners made of fabric samples for publicity as a sustainable alternative to canvas or vinyl banners. Joseph stressed this was a ‘breakthrough’ on campus and he was glad to see the University community was genuinely positive towards this ever-first idea.
Partners to the University on this innovative idea in publicity were PolyU alumni Miss Sam Fu and Mr. Terry Law, who are running a social enterprise named madeinsample together with an experienced and talented designer Mr. Clive Sit. They managed to collect unused fabric samples from their suppliers and interior design firms, and turn them into impressive patchwork deliverables such as event publicity banners or even prominent artwork of fabric pieces hanging down from the ceiling. They made three banners for PolyU Campus Sustainability Weeks this year, and the banners will be transformed into cushion covers soon.
“We have devised our own comprehensive system to do the work. We will first sort the fabrics according to their colours and patterns. Then we will work on sketches to ensure that the fabrics will be trimmed to proper sizes eventually for each project or for making cushion covers. Everything will then be sent to a local rehabilitation centre where individuals there will do the cutting and sewing,” Sam explained in details at their studio.
Collaborating with institutions or businesses who share the same vision and passion in sustainability is something meaningful in her eyes. “We want to make people aware of the true meaning of sustainability. Every piece of fabric in fact can be better utilized. It can serve more than its conventional and originally intended purpose. Other materials are alike. We should not throw them away just because we think they are no longer useful. We can help think of new ways to make them useful.”
“We have been receiving enquiries about these banners since they show up,” Joseph said. “The banners bring out more to the University community than their bare existence. They are art pieces. And they are rocking everyone’s mind that fabric samples can be crafted in such a way.” The visibility of fabric patchwork banners in PolyU brings about a lesson to everyone on campus or even to the public. They are the effective tools to communicate the sustainability message and to make people aware of how we should treasure the life and durability of everything on earth.