Green Team Leads on Sustainable Dining

Green Team members explore new opportunities for engaging the campus community for a more sustainable dining.

Did you know that the amount of water used to create ONE BURGER is equivalent to THREE MONTHS of not showering? And did you know that animal agriculture is the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions? The truth is, a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is more than protecting the lives of innocent animals, but also to enable a more sustainable way of living. This is why one of the working groups under Green Team held series of events to educate staff and students of HKUST about the benefits of living a plant-based lifestyle. The goal of the events was to raise awareness regarding the environmental impacts of eating meat, and to change people’s perceptions on the taste and variety of plant-based dishes.

The first event held in last spring semester was a screening of Cowspiracy, an award winning documentary which uncovers the environmental impacts of animal agriculture. Hong Kong Vegetarian Society was also invited for a panel discussion, where they answered questions from those interested in living a plant-based lifestyle. To follow-up on the screening, the Green Team also held a food-tasting booth in the Atrium. Students had to answer questions related to vegetarianism, then they could try out vegetarian dishes such as pizzas, burgers or spring rolls. Students could then place a vote on their favourite dish so that the most popular dish would be considered by caterer for adding in the menu in the upcoming semester. Prior to this event, most students believed that vegetarians only ate salads, but their views changed when they realized the variety of dishes we were serving were also vegetarian. Students and staff also learnt about the variety of vegetarian food choices that are currently served on campus, and commented that they would make a more active choice to order those dishes in the future.

Most people feel like their individual actions towards a sustainable lifestyle will not make a huge impact on Earth, so they do not bother trying. But in reality, we get three chances per day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) to make a vote towards the kind of future we want to live in. And every day when we are choosing to eat meat over a plant-based meal, we are making an active choice to make an impact on the environment. The reason why most people still choose to eat meat daily is because they simply do not know the truth behind what is on their plates. By educating people about these harmful effects, hopefully they will make better and more informed choices each day. The Green Team hopes to continue on raising awareness on this meaningful issue, and will continue to organize similar events in the upcoming future.

Another group of green team members designed a “Lunch Boxes Go Green” campaign aiming to reduce the number of disposable lunch boxes generated on campus from canteens and to change the behavior of University community members to bring their own lunch boxes when they buy takeaways.

This group made the bring-own-lunch-box-enjoy-$1-discount more visible by putting up posters in canteens and from March the campaign encouraged staff and students buying takeaways with their own lunch box by giving out a $25 meal coupon after completing 5 times of green actions. Though the number of participants were not as high as expected, the group planned to redesign the project in the new academic year to include more educational element to increase people awareness on disposables impact on the environment , think of innovative ideas to encourage more people bringing their own lunchboxes, design feasible lending system to provide reusable containers, work out proposal for university to set up water basins in common area to increase convenience for lunchboxes cleaning and disincentives for new caterers to add in charges for disposables. Natalie Chang, one of the green team members, hopes that all staff and student members are willing to protect the environment even though it may bring some inconvenience to us.

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