GreenNet@PolyU, Issue 21 (Oct 2019) (Text Version)

For graphical version, please click here.

 

1. Feature Story

Our campus landscape shapes our experience

Connectivity, collaborative spaces, activity spaces, greenery are integral parts of the outdoor environments at a university. The Hong Kong Polytechnic University is using its outdoor spaces for more than just a connection from one building to another. Careful planning and visionary strategies are here to bring new meaning to PolyU’s campus landscape, taking into account the key factors including sustainability, quality, and community.

A well-maintained university campus landscape communicates to students, staff, and visitors the university’s aesthetic, social, and environmental values. “When creating an inviting atmosphere on the campus, there are many factors to keep in mind. We need beautiful, lasting, and impactful designs that demonstrate vitality. We need engaging landscapes that deliver an enjoyment of scenery and an attractive palette of colors in layers. The traditional college campus has grass and trees, but that’s no longer enough nowadays. We want more than just green,” says Sandra Kam, Senior Facilities Officer (Landscape and Tree Maintenance) from the Facilities Management Office (FMO).

A university campus is a dynamic, constantly changing environment. When it comes to campus landscape design, PolyU pays much attention to effectively balance the aesthetic with the practical, and to create a positive long-term impact on sustainability. The University has its dedicated Landscape Master Plan that sets the tone of landscape development in the coming three years. This plan is a helpful tool in creating a landscape environment that meets the diverse needs of all campus stakeholders. “The plan outlines what we want to achieve, and puts forward a vision which comes along with some very challenging recommendations. It is time for new, transformative, and exciting landscape planning approaches. We want to instil excitement and liveliness to current iconic spaces and other zones on campus. We also have to deal with landscapes and areas that were not realizing their potentials,” Pure Wong, Facilities Officer (Landscape and Tree Maintenance) adds.

According to Sandra and Pure, the potentials to rejuvenate the PolyU campus are huge. “You can see a lot of greenery on our campus. That’s our strength and our foundation to move on. The zoning of our campus presents great opportunities for absorbing new elements. We plan to introduce new plant species such as fragrant flowering plants and theme gardens to different zones. We hope to build a landscape with impressive plants that act like a highlighter to emphasize certain moments of their campus experience. We hope to convey the special character of each zone to impress the campus users. They will combine to shape the experience of our students and staff while simultaneously maintaining a consistent overall campus aesthetic value. Our students and staff can enjoy the beautiful and interesting outdoor spaces to study, work, and relax.”

Changes do not come easy. Introducing new ideas to the campus landscape requires careful planning and a thorough understanding of the existing landscape pattern, such as open and green spaces, architectures, paths, and walkways. It is common for any outdoor environment that trees are planted to provide enclosure and shelter, and soft landscape is sometimes used for hiding undesirable views. Sandra and Pure are therefore seriously examining the distribution, density, and variety of the trees and plants on campus to identify areas for improvements and room to accept new elements. They comment that new elements have to fit well with existing campus design, particularly the overwhelming brick-red towers and linked wings. Together with members of the Landscape and Tree Maintenance Team, they come up with new proposals and bring in more seasonal flower species to positively enhance the campus environment and attract campus users, including Mauranthemum paludosum (白晶菊) for Spring, Pelargonium (天竺葵) for Summer, and other species that flourish all year round such as Lantana camara (馬纓丹), Tulbaghia violacea (紫嬌花), and Petuniacultivar (矮牽牛). A good mix of new plant species and shrubs coming in different forms, heights, and colors will be introduced around the Stephen Cheong Kam Chuen Memorial Plaza and Logo Square, delivering high visual values and energy to their surroundings.

Besides, fragrant flowering plants that give off an appealing aroma are now visible on campus, which add another layer of enjoyment and pleasure to the campus. Plant species with colored foliage are added to enrich the campus environment with colors and deliver mood-boosting benefits. The team also makes fascinating suggestions on bringing stylish potted plants and new arrangements to mega campus events like the PolyU Education Info Day and Congregation, aiming to boost visual interests and break away from the traditional monotone setting. Team members are working hard to increase plant density and executing improvements on poor soil on identified locations.

Effective teamwork brings success. Sandra and Pure receive much encouragement from the Senior Management, who doesn’t hesitate to give the green light to their new ideas and suggestions. They are also happy to be part of a family of gardeners who share similar values. These gardeners have a very busy schedule spending good parts of their days outside to perform landscape maintenance duties all over the campus, such as trimming, watering and planting. Regardless of their responsibilities, all of them are passionate about their work and care about the green spaces on campus.

The Landscape and Tree Maintenance Team puts sustainability at the forefront of their landscape practices and new plans. Treating water as a valuable resource, the team is reviewing proposals to save water and reduce the need for irrigation through a better irrigation system and plant selection. They plan to add more perennial plants instead of annual plants to avoid replanting. They are also exploring possibilities to introduce more native plant species that can adapt to the campus conditions and enrich biodiversity. The idea of using sustainable planting materials and locally-generated biochar to improve soil structure is highlighted. Besides creating multi-layered tapestries of color and texture on the outdoor environment with a good matrix of plant species, they are working to establish different theme gardens at different zones over the campus. Rock garden, Japanese Zen garden, herbs garden, tropical garden, and butterfly garden at different zones amid the brick-red towers are in their visionary blueprint. “All these lead to a mutual interaction between the quality of outdoor spaces and quality of life on campus. Our students and staff can feel much relaxed and derive the most enjoyment when strolling around the campus.” Sandra and Pure point out.

Campus landscape is a key element and one of the most defining aspects of an institution’s identity. It has profound impacts on the quality of daily life for students, staff, and visitors. With new ideas from the Landscape and Tree Maintenance Team and increasing investment and resources from the University, PolyU looks forward to embracing a campus landscape that promotes students’ and staff’s awareness and responsibilities for the environment while we can all simultaneously relieve the tensions and frustrations of everyday life. We can experience, understand, and enjoy the sustainably and managed green landscapes on campus, and become stewards of the natural environment.

 

 

2. Sustainable Campus in Action

More EV chargers in carpark

With the first phase of electric vehicle (EV) charging facility in full operation on the ground level of the carpark last year, the Campus Sustainability Office (CSO), Department of Electrical Engineering (EE), and Facilities Management Office (FMO) together have brought to the PolyU community another phase of EV charging facility provision on the first floor (Level 2) of the carpark. Four more designated parking spaces are equipped with semi-quick AC charger (32A 3-phase output), and are managed under the ‘Automatic Load Management’ system which effectively distributes power to all EV chargers. Users may also check the availability of all charging facilities via a web-based platform at https://www.polyu.edu.hk/greencampus/evcharger/.

Interested PolyU staff and students with valid parking permits are welcome to register with FMO in advance. More information on this service can be read from FMO’s website at https://polyu.hk/aiojh, or you can contact FMO Help Desk on 2766 7777.

 

New requirements to restrict the use of disposables at University events

PolyU is committed to promoting Green Event, using resources effectively, reducing food waste and plastic waste generation caused by using disposable dining ware. Corresponding measures and practices have been in place. In late April 2019, PolyU started requiring campus event organizers to submit the Green Event Checklist for review and approval when they make bookings via the Facilities Management Office’s Venue Booking System covering selected locations on campus. This was reported in our GreenNet@PolyU Issue 20.

In September 2019, we have tightened measures to curb the use of disposables in campus events. Under the new requirement, the organizing department or office that runs campus events targeting around 200 anticipated participants should ONLY provide reusable food and beverage containers and cutleries. No disposables are allowed. Whilst for campus events of more than 200 anticipated participants, the organizing unit can arrange reusable food and beverage containers and cutleries to meet the use of around 50% of the attendees. Colleagues are also encouraged to remind external partners or venue hirers to follow and implement similar measures in their catering options.

 

Food waste collection system at the Communal Building catering outlets

Funded by the Recycling Fund of the HKSAR Government which aims to promote recovery and recycling of waste, PolyU has recently installed a small-scale automatic food waste collection system coupled with dewatering functionality at the catering facilities in the Communal Building. This food waste collection system, which is the first-ever in Hong Kong and East Asia, started running in Hong Kong in July 2019.

This food waste collection system means more than functionality and performance testing. We expect that it can replace manual collection practices in the long run and maximize food waste recycling by reducing the weight and volume of the collected food waste through the dewatering process. In turn, it will help reduce the collection and transportation costs to the food waste recycling facility. PolyU will closely monitor its operation and share its observations with the Recycling Fund Secretariat regularly. Our experience will help the Government to determine and promote a cost-effective food waste recycling practice for the local catering business, and further, relieve the pressure on landfills.

 

Campus Greenery – Devil Tree (糖膠樹)

The Devil Tree (Scientific Name: Alstonia Scholaris) is an elegant evergreen tree, usually up to 20m tall and 10m wide in an urban setting, and reaches 50 - 60m height in native habitat. Its mature bark is grayish, and its young branches are copiously marked with lenticels. The flowers are very fragrant, and it flowers from August to November.

The species gets the name scholaris because its timber is traditionally taken for the making of wooden slates for school children. It is also known as Devil Tree as the plant is believed to the devil's abode - probably due to the intoxicating fragrance emitted by flowering trees, especially at night. Tribal people from the western coast of India are reluctant to sit or walk under Devil Tree as they consider the strong fragrance so inauspicious.

 

Green IT Tips – Change your printing habits to reduce office paper consumption

Just make some changes of printing habits and you can help the environment by reducing office paper consumption. Here are some suggestions on how you can save paper:

When preparing a document for printing, you can:

  • Reduce margins of your document. The smaller margin of 0.75 inch (1.9 cm) is becoming more common.
  • Adjust font size to reduce the number of paper needed.
  • Use single line spacing for your document.
  • Use efficient fonts like Times New Roman or Arial – these fonts use significantly less space.
  • Proofread your document carefully before you print.

When printing a document, you can:

  • Use the ‘Print Preview’ mode to make sure what you are printing is exactly what you want.
  • Print on both sides of the paper where possible. It’s the most effective way to reduce paper consumption by half. You may also change your default print settings to double-sided printing.
  • Print only the pages you need by using the ‘Print Selection’ function.
  • Use scrape paper for less important documents.
  • Print 2 or 4 pages per sheet where possible.

Last but not least, always THINK TWICE before pushing the print button!

 

Greening your space with indoor plant – Pilea nummulariifolia (古錢冷水花)

Pilea nummulariifolia (古錢冷水花) is a creeping groundcover plant that is native to South America and the West Indies. This species has attractively textured, glossy green leaves. It thrives in both indoor and outdoor environments in the Hong Kong climate. It grows best in bright and indirect light in a humid environment and requires plenty of water. This plant can be propagated easily by stem cutting (such as a section of 15cm). Simply put the tip of cutting into water, the root system will start to develop after one week. It is a good option if you are looking for a trailing plant with green ornamental foliage!

 

 

3. Stakeholder Engagement

Knowing spiders in Hong Kong

An entertaining lunch talk on spiders was arranged on 22 August 2019, and attracted over 70 students and staff. Mr. Dickson Wong, the author of A Guide to the Spiders of Hong Kong, gave an amusing sharing on the various fun facts about these eight-legged creatures. He offered interesting information on the behavior of these tiny neighbors whose existence is an integral part of the ecosystem. He also gave some tips about finding and taking photos of common spiders in our environment. Participants at the talk brought home insights on how spiders are our nice neighbors and friends, and we should show our love to different species on Earth and cherish the amazing biodiversity.

 

Bringing sustainability education to freshmen

The Campus Sustainability Office (CSO) participated in the Orientation Info Day on 30 August to welcome the freshmen with exciting ideas and activities on sustainability and green lifestyle. The Office managed its dedicated booth and promoted different campus-wide sustainability initiatives, useful tools, and information to the students. Various green events and activities that the newcomers can get involved in were also highlighted.

GreenCoin, the not-to-miss campaign launched this year, was featured and caught the students’ eyes. They were encouraged to download the GreenCoin mobile app to enjoy the rewards by staying green and taking part in sustainability activities.

More about this ‘green’ encounter can be read from Eyes on PolyU.

 

GreenCoin brings more attractive offers

PolyU’s GreenCoin, managed by the Campus Sustainability Office (CSO), is a campus-wide campaign to empower and reward students and staff who perform sustainable actions. With support from our various partners, GreenCoin has introduced new and attractive rewards for the University community, encouraging green dining, BYO culture, and doing sports.

  • Apart from the Communal Student Canteen (文康學生飯堂) (3/F, Communal Building), the GreenCoin users can earn Coins and use HK$3 dine-in e-coupon in the Communal Student Restaurant (茶樓) (4/F, Communal Building) as well, starting from September 2019.

  • With the support from the Office of Counselling and Wellness (OCW), e-coupons that entitle GreenCoin users for one FREE booking session of the Basketball Court, Indoor Soccer Court, and Badminton Court in Block X Sports Centre are available in addition to the existing arrangement for the Fitness Room, since October 2019.

  • With the support from Green Monday, GreenCoin now offers some tasty veggie snacks since October 2019, including vegan puffs, seaweed crisps, rice chips, and crispy fruit chips. GreenCoin users can redeem with different number of Coins and pamper themselves with a green and healthy treat!

Download and enjoy the GreenCoin App now and read updates at https://www.polyu.edu.hk/greencampus/greencoin!

 

VeggieLicious impacts the campus

The annual campus veggie event, VeggieLicious, was held from 16 to 20 September this year to promote the concepts and the fun of green dining. Some informative sharing sessions, a fun-filled lunch carnival, and a few inspiring workshops were included in this one-week event, which engaged over 500 students and staff. To offer a better understanding of the benefits of veggie dining, various veggie food producers, NGOs, a Chinese medicine doctor, and other ‘green’ experts came to our campus and joined this event.

VeggieLicious is now the irreplaceable activity on campus to boost awareness on green dining. It reinforces the significance of sustainability among the PolyU community and observes an increasing number of staff and students taking part in it. It’s time to become a member of the veggie-loving community and develop green dining habits together now!

 

Bridging staff with upcycling concepts and principles

On 23 September 2019, our Green Officers visited the St James’ Settlement Jockey Club Upcycling Centre and picked up different upcycling ideas and how to associate them with sustainability lifestyles.

The Centre aims at promoting environmental protection and eco-lifestyle by creating upcycling products through encouraging corporations and organizations to donate used or leftover materials. Local designers are part of its team who use these so-called ‘waste’ for new product designs and involve people with disabilities in the making of upcycled products.

The visit offered the Green Officers an impressive lesson on upcycling ideas by local designers and insights on waste reduction. By participating in a workshop with hands-on experience in making their customized cardholders, they were reminded of the importance of waste reduction at source.

 

Collecting mooncake and polyfoam packaging items

To promote a ‘waste less’ lifestyle on campus, the Campus Sustainability Office (CSO) set up collection points in campus canteens to collect surplus mooncakes from staff and students from 7 to 19 September 2019. Over 50 mooncakes were collected and donated to FOOD-CO, which is a local service provider running an IT platform for food support service. 

The Office also ran an exercise to collect unwanted polyfoam packaging items. It is horrifying to know how polyfoam packaging materials can lead to serious environmental pollutions and adversely affect marine species. The Office received boxes of polyfoam packaging items, mainly the individual fruit wrapping materials, which are common in shops and stores around us. The collected materials were sent to and recycle through Missing Link – Polyfoam Recycling Scheme.

 

TreeMap@PolyU enters phase 3

Plants and trees are an integral part of PolyU’s campus landscape and bring about a pleasant and relaxing ambiance for all campus users and visitors. With support from the Facilities Management Office (FMO), the Campus Sustainability Office (CSO) launched the TreeMap@PolyU in 2016 to publicize the campus trees and flowers to the University community and the public, providing some fun facts about these species through easily accessible online and offline channels.

TreeMap@PolyU now enters its phase 3 this year, in which trees around QR Wing and the Lawn near Li Ka Shing Tower are featured. It allows the University community to locate the trees and learn about their special features and some interesting stories. Let’s get closer to them!

 

PolyU supports paperless habits and culture

Following the launch of the World Green Organisation’s Paper Saving Campaign in April 2019, a press conference cum commendation ceremony was held on 14 July 2019 to call for actions from corporates, educational institutions, non-government organisations, and the public to reduce the use of printing paper, paper towels, and paper products. PolyU is the campaign’s technical partner and shares the same vision. The University has been running various campus-wide activities to promote awareness on saving paper, and it also considers that behavioral change from the public in reducing the use of paper and associated products is necessary to save trees and conserve resources.

 

Views on long-term decarbonisation strategies shared

In 2015, 196 signatories adopted the historic Paris Agreement which aims at combating climate change and unleashing actions towards a low-carbon, resilient, and sustainable future. Hong Kong is obliged to draw up its long-term decarbonisation strategy up to 2050 by 2020. In this regard, the Council for Sustainable Development (SDC) initiated a territory-wide public engagement exercise for gauging the views of the public and stakeholders in formulating a long-term decarbonisation strategy for Hong Kong, and mobilizing stronger climate actions across different sectors of society.

A dedicated briefing session for the PolyU community was held in early September 2019 to collect views from PolyU staff and students towards this pressing issue. The Convenor of Support Group on Long-term Decarbonisation Strategy under SDC, Mr Lam Chiu-yin, shared his insightful views over the necessity to mitigate climate change which is not just for ourselves, but also for our children and future generations. In addition to the briefing session inviting PolyU members to share their views, an exhibition was staged on campus to arouse awareness. 

 

 

 4. Upcoming Activities

Collection of graduation bouquets

College graduates receive beautiful flower bouquets from their friends and families upon celebrating their graduation. What happens next to the flowers? We can take a little step and share our happiness with those less fortunate. The Campus Sustainability Office (CSO) is going to arrange the first Graduation Bouquet Collection Activity soon. The flowers collected will be sorted and sent to an NGO named Fleurdot. It will upcycle the flowers and deliver to those who are facing physical and emotional difficulties in hospitals or daycare centers.

 

 

5. In Pursuit of Excellence

PolyU garners Four Awards at Silicon Valley International Invention Festival

The Silicon Valley International Invention Festival (SVIIF) 2019 was held in the United States from 24 to 26 June 2019. Hosted by International Federation of Inventors’ Association (IFIA), the SVIIF offers a platform for inventors from research institutions, academic bodies, and business enterprises to explore opportunities for collaboration and commercialization of innovations and attracted about 30 countries/regions to showcase their inventions this year.

For the first time that Hong Kong institutions participated in this global annual event, PolyU received 4 prizes with two outstanding innovations at the SVIIF 2019. Its Smart Indoor Farming System won a Grand Award and a Gold Medal with the Congratulations of the Jury, while its Flexible Scoliotic Brace with Shape Memory Alloy Struts won a Gold Medal and a Special Merit Award.

 

PolyU establishes first local research platform on urban agriculture

With the support from Suga International Holdings Limited, PolyU has established the Suga Research Laboratory for Sustainable Urban Green Agriculture to support research activities in the urban agriculture area. This is Hong Kong’s first research platform focusing on urban agriculture. The laboratory will focus on research directions including the investigation of the optimal correlation between major environmental factors and the growth of hydroponics vegetables. It aims to develop a new and safe urban agriculture model to cultivate high quality fruits and vegetables in a small indoor space.

 

Students win Gold Award with innovative garbage-collecting robot design

A team of mechanical engineering students won the Gold Award at the ASM Technology Award 2019 with their innovative garbage-collecting robot design. The robot is semi-automated with a unique gripper design for garbage collection with the aid of vision-based alignment. It was developed with design inspiration from studying real-life tools such as robotic arms, forklift, and dump cart. The project demonstrates the potential of transforming the robot for use in real life.

The ASM Technology Award has been organized since 2015 to recognize excellence in technology, showcasing outstanding final year projects of undergraduates from top faculties and schools of engineering in Hong Kong. This was the fifth time that PolyU participated in the competition and the second time that a PolyU team won the championship.

More details about the design and award can be read from PolyU’s Media Release.

 

Third consecutive win for occupational health and safety promotion

PolyU won a Gold Award from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in the UK. The award is the University’s third consecutive win in recognition of its dedicated efforts in developing occupational health and safety management systems, related culture as well as improving safety awareness.

 

 

6. Green News Around Us

Phase 2 of the Plastic-Free Takeaway, Use Reusable Tableware campaign concludes

Phase 2 of the Plastic-Free Takeaway, Use Reusable Tableware campaign successfully concluded in August 2019. It was a campaign that the Government collaborated with the food and beverage industry to provide incentives to encourage members of the public to give up disposables. Under the programme, people were offered a sticker for each takeaway order made at participating catering outlets if they chose not to use disposable tableware. After collecting six stickers, they could redeem them for a free stainless steel cutlery set. Together with the campaign's first phase, the programme saved 2.4 million disposable tableware sets.

 

Green transport trials endorsed

The transport sector, including road and marine transport, was the second-largest air pollution source in Hong Kong in 2010.To help improve roadside air quality and reduce carbon emissions, the Government set up the $300 million Pilot Green Transport Fund in 2011 to subsidize the testing of green innovative technologies applicable to the public transport sector and goods vehicles. The Government approved 20 new applications in July 2019, which include the trials of 27 electric light goods vehicles and one hybrid light goods vehicle, involving a total subsidy of over $5 million.

 

Government steers review on measures managing external lighting and future developments, with public engagement forums held

The Environment Bureau launched the Charter on External Lighting in 2016 to invite owners and responsible persons of external lighting installations to pledge to switch off their decorative, promotional or advertising lighting installations that affect the outdoor environment. About 5,000 participants from different sectors have signed the Charter to indicate their support. The Working Group on External Lighting is now conducting a review on the effectiveness of the Charter. Public engagement forums were scheduled and an online survey was conducted to gauge the public's views on measures to manage external lighting and their future developments. Information about this review exercise can be read from its dedicated website.

 

Report says Chinese White Dolphins close to extinction in Hong Kong

The population of Chinese White Dolphin in Hong Kong waters has dropped drastically. According to the latest annual Marine Mammal Monitoring Report issued on 1 August 2019 by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), only 16 dolphin calves were spotted, which is the lowest since 2003. Concerned groups such as the WWF-Hong Kong urges the Government to take immediate action to set up a ‘Dolphin Conservation Management Area’ in the western and southern waters off Lantau Island to protect the critical foraging and resting habitats, to stringently manage vessel traffic and noise, as well as dolphin ecotourism activities in these waters.