Getting to Know the Green Team- Helene Schroeder & Joey Ho
Tell me about yourself?
I’m an exchange student from Germany, and doing part of my master in mathematics at HKUST, expected to be finished by next year. I enjoy math a lot, but that’s not everything I do- I play music too!
Can you tell me about your university in Germany?
The university that I studied in Germany was located at a small town called Aachen. Aachen is in the very west of Germany and has a population of 250,000 where 50,000 of those are students. Basically it is a university town!
What’s the difference between the university in Aachen and HKUST?
A: The university in Aachen is spread out around the city and therefore distances are longer than at HKUST. I used to bike a lot in Germany as public transport is more expensive. The basic bus fare is 2 euro 70 (~HK$27), and therefore everyone bikes. If you are in town, it’s relatively easy to bike around and it’s not dangerous. It only takes 10 mins to bike to the university, 20 mins to the farm, 20 mins to shared garden, 10 minutes to the woods, and 30 mins to bike out of town. It’s a small town!
What made you care about the topic of sustainability?
When I moved to Aachen, I missed my mother’s garden back home, and the opportunity to work in it. I found out about a shared urban garden in Aachen. I would go once a week and work in a group and this made me more aware of this topic.
How does the green team work at university in Aachen?
They didn’t have any green team in Aachen yet. We were about to set up a team but then I came over for exchange. Therefore I was excited to join one at HKUST! However, I attended a retreat with a group of interested students from all over Germany back in May about the topic of sustainability. It was a one week retreat with 60 people and we were separated into 4 groups (6 of those participants were also from my university in Aachen) and each had a topic on suitability, such as sustainable technology and smart city etc. We would teach each other, discussed on the topic and brainstormed on what was bad as well as what can be changed.
Have you noticed anything that’s different in Germany in terms of sustainability wise that you might want to bring to Hong Kong?
Europe has thicker walls and windows and the isolation keeps the heat out from the hot weather in summer. Hong Kong doesn’t have much isolated walls and the air conditioning is too cold in the Summer!
Also, when I go grocery shopping, I not only bring a reusable shopping bag, but also plastic bags for wet or dirty vegetables. I also reuse paper bags for bakery items or don't get any at all. A deposit system for cans and plastic water bottles has reduced their usage and since people have to pay for plastic bags in every shop (0.15 euro / 1,5 HKD) their usage has dramatically drecreased as well.
How did you get involved on the green team at HKUST?
I was reading a magazine and saw an advert about a beach cleanup event by the yacht club. I wanted to join and when I looked it up online, I saw they had a beach cleanup event last year at the university. Since I am staying on campus, why not organize one here, so I reached out to green team and organized it.
How was the beach cleanup?
The beach by the hall was very dirty especially after the typhoon. After the first cleanup, we all thought it was a meaningful event to keep our campus clean, so for the second cleanup, we decided to pair up with the Connect Team as they have a large group of volunteers. I had to communicate and liaise with the connect team, sustainability unit and facility management office. The facility management office even provided apparatus and helped collected the trash afterwards. For the third time it was a lot easier with recruitment, since we have started to spread the word out. Out of our surprise, the beach was very clean when we got there! We suspected that our beach cleanups had made the facility management office more aware and they sent people to clean the beach.
Tell me about yourself
I joined the university as a staff in May and now working at the Development and Alumni Office.
Why are you passionate about sustainability?
I have lived in Vancouver, Canada for some time and the hipster city has shaped me to be more aware of recycling as well as the importance of maintaining a sustainable city. Hong Kong is such a blessed city where it possesses a vibrant and buzzling city life but also very accessible to Mother Nature at the same time. The economy is very much dependent on people’s spending habits but that comes with a cost: over consumption and production of unnecessarily wastage. In Hong Kong, we are taught how to buy but we aren’t taught how to deal with the garbage that results from it. Land is so precious in Hong Kong and developing a new landfill isn’t the solution, but reducing garbage and recycling would be one of the solutions. There are lots of room to grow in regards to the recycling scene in Hong Kong and I hope I can contribute to this movement as Hong Kong is a very lovely place.
Can you share your experience with any green team projects in the past?
As I am new to campus, I just got involved with the lunch box go green team and I am hoping to start by influencing my colleagues next to me to reduce the usage of takeout boxes. I am very inspired by the group of students and staff who are in the team. Everyone brings their expertise and experience to the table and they are all very passionate about building a sustainable campus and treating this university as part of their home.
What is your observations on campus, vision to get involved and ideas to build a more sustainable campus?
I am hoping to promote more recycling on campus. I have signed up for a leadership role in this project. We will start our first meeting soon and will roll out a series of initiative in the upcoming semester. Personally, I am interested in the topic of recycling plastic and my vision is to be able to recycle the plastic packaging from cosmetics or personal products.