2028 sustainability challenge progress and performance

The operational focus area of the HKUST 2028 Sustainability Challenge includes specific goals and targets on five priority areas: (1) Energy/GHG Emissions, (2) Waste to the Landfill, (3) Water Consumption, (4) Landscape and Biodiversity, and (5) Community Wellbeing.

These five priority areas are bound by HKUST’s policy on transparency of sustainability data. Each of the five areas include indicators that can measured so that the broader community can have access to the real data that indicates our progress and performance over time. The recent data for each of the indicators is posted on the Progress and Performance pages of this website.

The Sustainable Operations Executive Committee (OpCo), chaired by the Vice President for Administration and Business, oversees the implementation of the progress and performance of this sustainability master plan and reviews and reports progress to the campus community.


Energy and GHG Goal 

Using the baseline year of 2014,

  • exceed the Hong Kong government energy target by reaching a 15% reduction by 2028. 
  • reduce GHG emissions by 40% by 2028. 


Measurement and reporting of energy and GHG footprint 

Tactics and Approaches 

Incremental Change Projects  

  1. Continue with incremental improvements in lighting, equipment, and air conditioning system upgrades.  

  1. Expand retro-commissioning efforts to all buildings.  

  1. Incorporate metering and sensor data for more accurate analytics and ability to make changes rapidly and predictively.  

  1. Develop high performance renovation strategies to increase performance for every new space retrofit, with an emphasis on windows and building envelope. 

Step Change Projects  

  1. Complete Solar project and develop a phase II renewable project that includes non-traditional locations and building integrated technologies.  

  1. Review and revise policies to facilitate the centralization and sharing of equipment, and adopt LCC and LCA evaluation metrics as standard.  

  1. Fast-track Sustainable Smart Campus (SSC) projects as pilots for larger implementation opportunities. 

Green Labs Emphasis  

  1. Form a Green Lab Task Force to evaluate policies, procedures, space allocation, and current lab practices with the goal of identifying and removing roadblocks to aggressive changes within laboratories.  

  1. Evaluate energy charging schemes in labs to provide the right incentives for lab users to conserve energy.  

  1. Develop a comprehensive plan for refurbishing labs over the next 10 years with an emphasis on resource efficiency. 

Water Goal 

Make substantial progress towards UN Sustainable Development goal #6 Clean Water and Sanitation by limiting potable water consumption to less than 500,000 cubic meters by 2028 



Measurement and reporting of freshwater and seawater consumption 

Tactics and Approaches 

Residence Focus  

  1. 1. Retrofit all showerheads in staff quarters and residence halls with low flow models. Install low flow faucets in all restrooms.  

  1. Implement behavior change strategies that nudge residents towards more water savings actions.  

  1. Encourage the use of dish washing machines in staff quarters to use water more efficiently.  

Incorporation of Technology  

  1. Incorporate greywater collection and filtration for water recycling. Focus on water from washing machines, showers, sinks, and other lightly contaminated water sources for easier treatment.  

  1. Develop rain water capture and treatment tanks to make better use of the free water falling onto the campus.  

  1. Recommission the underground water tanks to offset as much as the new cooling tower consumption.  

  1. Install drip irrigation pipes and water sensors where most likely to improve plant watering needs. 

Conservation in Buildings  

  1. Incorporate water saving and water recycling measures in campus canteens, with focus on cleaning and washing.  

  1. Capture condensation from the air conditioning systems in the main buildings and recycle for use in the buildings.  

  1. Identify ways to get recycled water into the new back-up cooling tower equipment to reduce its large water demands. 

Waste Goal 

By 2028 reduce waste to the landfill by 75% compared to the 2014 baseline year 


Measurement and reporting of waste to landfill, food waste, avoidance, and recycling data. 

Tactics and Approaches 


  1. Eliminate one-time use plastics and nonbiodegradable disposables cannot be recycled; Increase separation and processing for materials that can be recycled or composted.  

  1. Reducing the need for these materials is the priority. Developing reusable container programs, lunchbox borrowing schemes, and financial disincentives are options.  

  1. Where disposables are compostable, develop a collection strategy for on-site processing.  

Extending Life of Materials  

  1. Avoid items that are designed to be used and replaced quickly, such as fast fashion and cheap electronics. Develop more “sharing economy” opportunities with more durable goods that can be used over a longer period of time.  

  1. Emphasize repairing and reuse, and support activities like “Repair Parities” where equipment can be brought back to life.  

  1. Institute an equipment and material sharing program among offices and departments. 

New Approaches  

  1. Develop new on-site composting systems to allow many other options for waste reduction. Emphasis should be on paper towels for mixing with food waste to produce high quality compost for use on campus.  

  1. Generate more opportunities to use smart technologies to help reduce food waste. Take advantage of SSC projects that use AI and image recognition algorithms to identify specific food choices that are more likely to be wasted. Expand use of RFID tags and sensors to streamline processes. 

Landscape and Biodiversity Goal 

Utilize the campus landscape as an active resource for research, sustainability experimentation, and community engagement. 

Landscape Priorities  

  • Water conservation – particularly in irrigation – is one of the key areas of focus. Tactics include capturing rainwater, using drip irrigation techniques, and the use of mulch for water retention.  

  • Another priority is to add new ways to utilize the landscape for the learning and enrichment of our campus community. Tactics include increasing the amount of space for community gardens, orchards, and providing campus eco-tours. 

Biodiversity Priorities  

  • A healthy and biodiverse campus starts from the ground up, literally. Tactics will be to improve soils by reducing chemical fertilizers and replacing them with natural amendments like compost and biochar.  

  • To better understand campus biodiversity, an effort will focus on developing an inventory of flora and fauna.  

  • Specific zones can be identified for special treatment as butterfly gardens or other diversity hotspots. 


Measurement and reporting of fertilizer use, compost created and used, and campus-related projects 

Tactics and Approaches 

Healthy Soils  

  1. Allocate spaces on campus for utilizing “green” landscape wastes and storage of site-developed compost.  

  1. Prioritize the use of compost in flower beds as a way to provide natural nutrients a groundcover that can retain moisture.  

  1. Experiment with “compost tea” as a way to add natural nutrients to the turf and grassy areas.  

Water and Irrigation  

  1. Test different drip irrigation technologies to see which options are most robust and durable, and under what conditions.  

  1. Build a rainwater capture system for use in irrigation.  

  1. Test new water sources (e.g., waste water from washing machines) to see how well they can be utilized for irrigation. 

Engagement and Research  

  1. Expand the number of community garden plots on campus.  

  1. Collect flora and fauna information from SSC projects to build a public and visible inventory of the natural capital of the campus.  

  1. Add specific landscape areas and features in the campus tours for incoming students and visitors.  

  1. Make more spaces available for research on moods, behaviors, and ability to reduce stress levels. 

Community Well-Being Goal  

Establish a framework for measuring progress for the well-being of the campus community in relation to food, lifestyles, and workplace environments.  


Measurement and reporting of number of betterment projects, staff and student surveys, and quantitative improvements in food and nutrition 

Tactics and Approaches 

Healthy Food Choices  

  1. Develop a campus-wide mobile phone app for ordering that includes calorie counts, GHG footprint impacts, and purchasing data to help customers make more informed decisions.  

  1. Annually assess the items in the Food Made Good sustainable restaurant rating index to find new areas of opportunity for improvement.  

  1. Implement vegetarian food tasting events to drive interest in eco-friendly food choices  

Healthy Work/Live Balance  

  1. Develop a university-wide inventory of student-related surveys, well-being measures, and activities that can become a benchmark for evaluation and progress  

  1. Adopt flexible modes of working by devising policies to cater to different needs of our staff. Include evaluation of software or technologies necessary to support flexible work arrangements. Include evaluation of schedules and adapted work  

  1. Redesign of spaces and areas to encourage more healthy lifestyles 

Healthy and Productive Workplaces  

  1. Monitor air quality indoors and outdoors and make the readings available and transparent  

  1. Establish renovation standards to provide more natural lighting for staff work areas and increase comfort levels relating to temperature and humidity  

  1. Develop a set of indicators that can be used to benchmark happiness and wellbeing for faculty and staff