Ideas for Sustainable Living
Here are some starting points for transition to sustainable living:
LOCALIZE OUR FOOD SYSTEM
The globalised food system relies heavily on long-distance transport, industrialized operations, and extensive input of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. The fossil fuel energy consumed in moving food far exceeds the food energy provided by the food and accounts for 1/3 of today’s global greenhouse gas emissions. This illogical system is coming to an end now together with the supply of cheap oil. There is an urgent need for us to rebuild a localized system to guarantee food security.
• Choose fairly traded organic food which has travelled the least distance.
• Support local agriculture by joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) scheme.
• Purchase food at a local Farmers’ Market.
• Support small local food stores and food production initiatives.
• Preserve traditional food culture and cuisine.
DIET FOR A MINDFUL SOCIETY
The World Health Organization tells us that about 20 million children under five years old, worldwide, are severely malnourished, leaving them vulnerable to illness and early death. At the same time, animals raised for food are fed with more than 80% of the corn and more than 95% of the oats produced by the US, which are grown largely with the heavy input of machinery and fossil fuel by-products in the form of fertilizers and pesticides. Additionally, many people in affluent countries over-eat. Four out of ten adults between the ages of 18 and 64 in Hong Kong are overweight or obese.
• Eat less meat and more fresh, seasonal, locally-grown organic produce
• Cook your own food lightly and eat at home more often.
• Never waste food, and compost organic waste.
• Refuse disposable utensils and food packaging.
According to a local 2006 survey, 44% of the respondents had thrown away new clothes without even wearing them once! Mass production and mindless spending are twin evils fed by cheap oil, which has deepened our ecological and financial debt. The extraction of resources and discharge of harmful chemicals takes place in every step of the life cycle of consumer goods; during the manufacturing process, during transportation to the store, to the consumer, and finally, to the landfill. Compounding the problem is the planned obsolescence of goods, which creates a relentless demand for new clothes, the latest electronics and all other 'must have' consumer items.
The effects of Peak Oil (Global production of conventional oil peaked in 2006, marking the beginning of the end of the era of cheap oil) will force our society to face a new economic reality with a simpler “less is more” mentality (except those wise people who already live very simply). The energy and time we spend on acquiring “stuff” could be devoted instead to developing relationships with people and nature, which are, after all, ultimately a greater source of happiness.
- Take purchasing decisions seriously. Pause before you buy something - put it off for a week or so; come back to it at a later time and see if you still really need it
- Donate what you don’t need (Freecycle)
- Buy used goods when you can
- Purchase goods that are durable, useful, beautiful, practical, trustworthy, and simple
- Take care of and repair the goods you own to extend their life
- Choose to buy locally made products from small locally-owned shops
- Support local enterprises with social and environmental goals, and fair trade goods
- Be cautious about the product-life-cycle when buying – how a product is made, used, and disposed of after use all matter
- Watch less TV, spend much less time on your smart phone, and go shopping less
- Spend more time in nature and interacting happily with people
- Always bring your own shopping bag (BYOB)
- Visit the GovHK webpage to learn how you can recycle waste and where to obtain more information about local waste collectors and recyclers
‘MINDFUL CONSUMPTION IS THE WAY TO HEAL OURSELVES AND TO HEAL THE WORLD.’ THICH NHAT HANH
DIRECT ENERGY USE
Hong Kong, renowned as the Pearl of the Orient, is famous for the lights that burn brightly around the clock, many of them household lights. According to WWF, direct energy use (using electricity, gases and other fuels) and transport services account for over a quarter of our household-related Ecological Footprint. In 2008, Hong Kong’s Ecological Footprint exceeded its bio-capacity by more than 150 times.
- Seek energy-free alternatives first.
- Save energy – it is the most effective (and cheapest) strategy to cut our reliance on fossil fuel.
- Conduct a simple audit at home and at your workplace to find out how electricity is used, as well as ways to reduce energy consumption.
- Make use of FREE renewable energy – drying clothes by hanging, and reading by daylight are examples.
- Choose appliances and homes with high energy-efficiency.
- Over one-fifth of our energy is used in air-conditioning - you can cut it down by closing windows, setting the aircon at 26 degrees and supplementing this with a fan, and installing double glazing.
Visit the GovHK webpage to learn more energy saving tips
NEW WAY FOR TRANSPORT
When Cuba lost access to Soviet oil in the early 1990s, one of the country’s immediate responses was to purchase 1.2 million bicycles from China, which were distributed along with another 700,000 produced in Cuba.
Today, in Hong Kong, cycling is regarded as a ‘recreational pursuit’ and not even a valid form of transport. It will have to play a stronger, even central, role in Hong Kong.
- Urge the Government for a policy that incorporates cycling as a legitimate, safe mode of transport for mass transit
- Be a responsible cyclist and follow traffic rules for road users
- Save fuel on a journey by taking public transport and car pooling
- Cut your air miles. Spend more vacations relaxing and exploring nature in Hong Kong
- Visit the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)’s website to calculate the carbon footprint of a flight trip for carbon offset planning
WE NEED MULTI-FUNCTIONAL GARDENS EVERYWHERE
Today, in Hong Kong, over 95% of our food is imported, coming from over 150 countries. Feeding the population will be the immediate challenge when fossil fuels become increasingly costly in the future. We have to transit towards a more localized and sustainable food system that is built upon small, less energy-intensive organic farms and community-based urban gardens. Apart from food supply, urban gardens will help us create a multi-functioning landscape that serves nature conservation, recreation, community-building, water and organic resource recovery.
Roof tops, balconies and parks are other potential places for growing our own food! Agricultural land covers only 6.1% of Hong Kong and is equivalent to the size of 6,800 football fields - we must act now to safeguard it from development, to assure some level of food security.
- Learn to grow food in an earth-friendly way
- Join a community farm and/or create one for your community
- Find space on a balcony, a roof or in public space for growing food
- Buy or rent land to grow food
- Learn food preserving and processing – it is fun and serves practical needs
- If you have children teach them to grow some of their own food and connect them to the soil
- Let the Government know that you don't want farmland to be lost forever under the developers' concrete
- Let the Hong Kong developers, who own vast amounts of farmland but prohibit people from farming on it, know that you want farmers to farm that land now and long into the future, and you do not want them to build on it
Visit the KFBG website to find out more about courses and workshops for food growing
‘ANY INTELLIGENT FOOL CAN MAKE THINGS BIGGER, MORE COMPLEX, AND MORE VIOLENT. IT TAKES A TOUCH OF GENIUS – AND A LOT OF COURAGE – TO MOVE IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION’ ALBERT EINSTEIN