Environmental Experiential and Study Tour 2018-19

2-7 June, 2019

Environmental Experiential and Study Tour 2018-19

As the saying goes, “Travelling brings about far greater benefit than mere book learning”. This summer, our student green ambassadors travelled to Japan to see and learn about the tactics, and policies for achieving environmental sustainability. There is no better way to spend the summer than experiencing the world, exposing to other cultures and broadening horizons.

As the economy started to take off in 1960s, waste and pollution problems emerged. To cope with the problems, the Japanese Government has continuously revised the laws and unveiled strategies for waste management and environmental protection. In late 1970s, the Japanese Government promoted proper landfilling to prevent leachate and leakage of hazardous substances. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Landfill Site proclaims the success of the Government’s attempt. The restored landfill site will become the venue for equestrian and rowing competitions in the coming 2020 Tokyo Olympics. To alleviate the waste problem, the Government is now aiming at expanding the landfill and reducing waste through promoting the 3R-principle (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle).

Moving into 2000s, the Japanese Government began to steer the society towards developing a material-cycle society, which emphasises waste generation reduction. The Kawasaki Ecolife Museum and Asahi Clean Center is one of the multi-functional facilities build to fulfil the goal. The facility accommodates an incinerator, a recycling centre, a thrift store, and a swimming pool. Bulky household items are disassembled and shredded into fine chips for easier incineration, while stripped recyclables are sorted by workers and machines, which will then be reused as secondary raw materials. The heat generated by the incinerator is recovered and used to warm up the swimming pool. The facility does not only transform wastes into resources but also transforming the energy portfolio in Japan.

At the same time, the Government also looked into increasing the efficiency of incineration facilities. Indeed, Japan is one of the countries having world-class incinerators. Hazardous substances generated from waste incineration are strictly controlled and managed to minimise damage to the environment and health of nearby residents. Student ambassadors visited the Higashi-Saitama Resource Centre, where waste are burnt under high temperature and melted into slag. The slag are used to produce asphalt, metal and eco bricks. Student ambassadors knew the hazardous substances and gases are purified before emitting into the atmosphere because rice paddy is found next to the incinerating facilities.

Heavily rely on imported fossil fuels for energy generation, the Japanese Government has to transform its energy portfolio in order to tackle environmental pollution. Indeed, Japan is among the first in liberalising the energy market. Being the fourth largest energy consumer in the world, the country is gradually shifting from conventional energy to renewable energy. The country is accelerating their development of renewable energy and is now a leading country in the world Photovoltaic market, manufacturing 45% of the world’s photovoltaic cells. Student Green Ambassadors visited Chiba University of Commerce, the first university across the country to be 100% powered by renewable energy. Their solar farm is of a size equivalent to a baseball field!

Toho University also establishes itself as a green university. Apart from adopting solar energy, the University also adopts wind power and wastewater recycling system. Sewage collected on campus is purified by the system and then reused as flushing water. In addition to those systems, the University puts efforts in greening the landscape and maintaining an herbal garden. Student Green Ambassadors toured around the campus and learnt about the green technologies.

They also participated in an exchange session, in which they exchanged insights with local university students on cultural and environmental issues in Hong Kong and Tokyo. The University’s endeavour to upholding environmental sustainability does not limit to hardware improvement. Customers are welcome to order food according to their needs. Every customer has full control over the amount of food waste one generates. If you were there, you would be stunned by how little leftover was produced. The University empowers every member of the University to act sustainably.

Known for upholding environmental sustainability, special designs and technologies are incorporated into architecture in Japan to minimise environmental footprint. The Fukutoshin Green Subway Station has applied design that allows air exchange and thereby lowering carbon emissions. Cool air from the outside flows into the station, while heated air generated by the train expands and leaves the station. This design makes use of the natural ventilation for temperature regulation, in turn reducing the demand for and the use of air conditioning.

While technological advancement has proven to have profound positive effects on minimising environmental devastation, education also plays an important role in shaping a sustainable future. By integrating environmental sustainability into education, learners do not only acquire environmental knowledge, they also develop skills such as leadership, communication and management, which are important for personal development, raising awareness and ultimately transforming the society.

Satisfactory is a corporate in Japan, which takes very seriously of their responsibility for providing education for sustainable development. Alongside their business, the corporate also runs an environmental education programme, namely “EduCycle”. Through collecting wasted raw materials, such as fabrics, carpets and glass bottle etc, from other companies, the corporate turns them into handcraft packs for educational purposes. Student Green Ambassadors participated in and enjoyed a fun, inspirational and practical workshop hosted by Satisfactory. During the workshop, our ambassadors brainstormed ideas for integrating sustainability into business development and generated innovative solutions for the “wastes” generated by the business.

This study trip has been inspirational to our Student Green Ambassadors. No matter how many times they have been to Japan before, they have not visited any waste management centres, nor have they learnt about Japan’s environmental history, and the planning and policy launched by the Japanese Government. They have taken away many innovative, yet practical ideas that could be applied to make Hong Kong more sustainable and less wasteful.