How to Promote Environmental Education in Hong Kong Secondary Schools?

How to Promote Environmental Education
in Hong Kong Secondary Schools?
Dr. AU Yin Ching Loretta, Ph.D.
University of Hull, U.K.
Copyright © Dr. Au Yin Ching, Loretta 2008
Dr. AU Yin Ching Loretta in the Seafront Garden, Hong Kong, 2008
The slogan of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games is “One World, One
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Dream”. The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX
Olympiad ( 2008 ) points out that the Olympic slogan reflects
“the universal values of the Olympic spirit - Unity, Friendship, Progress,
Harmony, Participation and Dream. It expresses the common wishes of people
all over the world,…… to strive for a bright future of Mankind……It is our
belief that peace and progress, harmonious development, living in amity,
cooperation and mutual benefit, and enjoying a happy life are the common
ideals of the people throughout the world.” ( p.1)
The Beijing 2008 Olympic Games is a great success that is witnessed by all
people living in the world. People share their common dream to live in a sustainable
cooperative world and in harmony with nature. China is proud of the “Green Olympics”
as there is a great leap forward to environmental protection by applying a large variety
of advanced green technologies for the Olympic Games such as digital network
technology, rainwater collection, water recycling, solar energy, natural ventilation,
natural lighting and environment-friendly building materials [ Beijing Olympic Action
Plan ( Part I ), 2008 ] so the “Green Olympics” sets an excellent example for all
countries to follow and Hong Kong is no exception.
In the same world, people should be aware of the harmful effects of prosperous
economic development, rapid population growth and advanced technology on the
environment so international cooperation is essential for a sustainable world.
Economic Development and Environmental Degradation
Globalization promotes economic growth but leads to environmental
degradation. Many East Asian countries have achieved fast economic growth and higher
living standard over the last 30 years. They have also increased environmental problems
such as destroying habitats through changes in land use and losing biodiversity due to
pollution ( Kojima, et al., 2005 ). For example, Guangzhou, one of China’s largest cities,
ranks among the most polluted in the world ( Murray & Cook, 2002 ).Water availability
and quality have been critical problems throughout the 1990s, particularly in northern
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China and they are likely to deteriorate over the next decade. Moreover, about one third
of China is affected by acid rain. Nevertheless, it is difficult to improve air quality and
reduce acid deposition and carbon dioxide emissions due to China’s increasing energy
demand and its heavy reliance on coal ( China : Air, Land, and Water : Environmental
Priorities for a New Millennium, 2001 ). Furthermore, Asians use wildlife in many
products such as pharmaceuticals, food and ornaments. In addition, rapid deforestation
can be attributed to economic development such as agricultural development,
industrialization, commercial logging, timber trade, plantations and urbanization
( Kojima, et al., 2005 ).
There is now a consensus among scientists, especially those involve in the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( IPCC ), that human activity leads to
global warming. The reason is mainly due to the burning of fossil fuels over the past two
centuries ( McDonagh, 2006 ). The burning of fossil fuels results in the emissions of
carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming
( China : Air, Land, and Water : Environmental Priorities for a New Millennium, 2001 ).
Global warming leads to climate change, rise in sea level, flooding, drought, damage to
agriculture, and harm to natural ecosystems and species ( Harris, 2003 ). In addition,
Chlorofluorocarbons ( CFCs ) are widely used in refrigeration however they destroy the
ozone layer of the atmosphere ( McDonagh, 2006 ).
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( IPCC ) estimates that the
increase in surface temperatures will range between 1.4°C and 5.8 °C over the 21st
century. Many glaciers have been melting at a faster rate during the past 20 years due to
global warming. Snow on the eastern Himalayas has decreased by 30% since the 1970s
and in 2002, scientists in the Antarctica reported that the Larsen B ice shelf had
disappeared from the map releasing 500 million, billion tonnes of water into the ocean.
In 2005, Professor Chris Rapley, the head of the British Antarctic Survey, announced
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that the huge West Antarctic ice sheet might begin to disintegrate and lead to a rise in
sea level by 16 feet. In 2006, a research team from the University of Colorado estimated
that the ice sheet in the Antarctic lost up to 36 cubic miles of ice yearly ( Ibid ).
Rise in sea level leads to harmful effects as more than half of the world
population lives in coastal areas which are densely populated and have some of the
richest agricultural lands. A rise in sea level leads to flooding and can be very costly for
Bangladesh, Egypt, China, Maldives, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Ireland.
Warmer seas have negative impacts on the marine life. In Alaska’s Bering Sea, capelin,
herring and other coldwater fish become much scarcer. In addition, krill has decreased
by 80% since 1970. Melting glaciers have a negative impact on tourism in ski resorts in
Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Austria. Higher temperatures mean greater water loss
due to evaporation. In Australia, about 54% of the continent’s butterfly species may
become extinct before 2050. Moreover, amphibians and frogs are particularly vulnerable
to extinction. Scientists point out that global warming exacerbates desertification. In
January 2006, approximately 11 million people faced starvation in Ethiopia, Kenya and
Somalia because of the lack of rain. Average temperatures across China will rise
between 3°C and 4°C by the end of 21st century and large proportions of China’s
population will suffer from hunger and poverty ( Ibid ).
Population Growth, Technology and Environmental Degradation
From 1965 to 1999, Asian grain demand increased 2.6 times from 340 million
to 890 million tons due to population growth. Increased demand for basic foodstuffs has
3 kinds of environmental impacts. Firstly, people use farmland and water resources to
the maximum on arid land, steep land in mountainous regions and in tropical forests.
From 1961 to 2000, Asia’s average annual increase in farmland area was 0.5% showing
the farmland expansion has almost reached its limit. Secondly, the increase use of
modern agricultural technologies such as high-yield varieties, chemical fertilizers,
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pesticides and irrigation leads to environmental problems. Irrigation causes soil
salinization and a fall of water table. Salinization occurs because irrigation water has
high salt concentrations and water evaporates rapidly. In China and India, the amount of
salinized farmland is 11 million ha and 4.7 million ha respectively. Excessive
withdrawal of groundwater for irrigation causes a fall of water table. Environmental
pollution caused by residual pesticides is a hazard. DDT, BHC and organochlorine
insecticides are suspected of carcinogenicity and decreasing reproductive ability. In
addition, these pesticides can remain in the environment for a long time. Pesticide
pollution is more serious in the developing countries because the illiterate farmers have
little information on the harmful effects of pesticides. Excessive pesticide use also leads
to health damage to farmers ( Sugimoto & Iwasa, 2005 ).
Biotechnology and genetically modified ( GM ) crops are powerful tools for
overcoming environmental constraints and saving people from poverty and famine. Asia
is a potential region for GM use ( Sugimoto & Iwasa , 2005 ). Though GM crops
contribute to helping the poor by improving agricultural productivity and food nutrition,
agricultural biotechnology has enormous impact in the U.S.A. In 2002, GM crops
dominated the U.S. agricultural market in soya and cotton ( around 70% ), oilseed rape
( around 55% ) and maize ( around 30% ). Although Americans show a moderately
positive attitude towards GM food, Europeans are quite hostile towards the new food
technology ( Toke, 2004 ). There is no doubt that GM food has quite a number of
disadvantages to human beings. GM food is more expensive than ordinary food. The
bugs develop resistance to the pesticides used in the field and some individuals may be
affected by allergic reactions to the gene.
International Cooperation in Environmental Protection
Sustainable development aims at meeting the needs of the present generation
without compromising those of future generations. It deals with economic, social and
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environmental policies in a mutually reinforcing way ( European Commission, 2002 ).
Kyoto Protocol ( 1997 ) seeks international cooperation to deal with global warming.
The scientists called for at least a 60% cut in greenhouse gas emission so as to stabilize
global temperatures. Those countries attending the meeting could only agree on a 5.2%7% reduction on 1990 levels by 2012 ( McDonagh, 2006 ).
Sustainable development is the global objective. The European Union aims at
a more prosperous, cleaner, safer and healthier environment. However, the main threats
to sustainable development are global warming, hazardous chemicals, food safety,
poverty, loss of biodiversity and transport congestion. The European Union contributes
to global sustainable development by the following measures : Limiting climate change
by increasing the use of clean energy, addressing threats to public health, managing
natural resources, improving the transport system and land-use management and
combating poverty ( European Commission, 2002 ).
Finland is an environmental forerunner in the EU because in many sub-areas
its standards are far higher than the EU’s minimum standards ( Sairinen & Lindholm,
2004 ). Concerning climatic change, the UK reduced its greenhouse gas ( GHG )
emissions by 13.5% from 1990 to 2000 and made very good progress towards meeting
the national target of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 20% between 1990 and 2010,
and its international target under the Kyoto Protocol ( a 12.5% reduction in GHG
emissions between 1990 and 2008-12 ). Drinking water quality also improved in
England and Wales in the 1990s. The UK introduced a landfill tax in October 1996 with
the aim of reducing the UK’s heavy reliance on landfilling ( Environmental Performance
Reviews : United Kingdom, 2002 ).
On the other hand, many countries put in their efforts to solve the problem of
environmental degradation. For example, China’s government has initiated a “return
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farmland to forests” policy that involves planting trees and grass on land unsuited for
farming in order to solve the problem of water shortage and topsoil loss ( Sugimoto &
Iwasa, 2005 ). In 2001, three advisors from environmental non-governmental
organizations ( NGOs ) were appointed to help green the Olympic Games scheduled for
2008. Environmental NGOs make the best use of the “Green Olympics” opportunity to
raise the public’s environmental awareness so that the environment is better than before
the games ( Asuka, Otsuka & Aikawa, 2005 ).
In order to achieve sustainable agriculture, Asian countries must impose
restrictions on environmentally damaging activities such as teaching farmers how to use
chemicals properly, banning or regulating hazardous pesticides, monitoring
agribusiness. Moreover, Asian governments should reevaluate their agricultural policies
in connection with food imports and switch to eco-friendly policies that protect
agriculture. Consumers should rethink their lifestyles and the harmful effects of
excessive food imports and consumption on the environment. Producers should work
towards eco-friendly farming and local resource management. Sustainable agriculture
depends on the cooperation of both farmers and consumers at local and global levels
( Sugimoto & Iwasa, 2005 ).
Assessment of Environmental Protection in Hong Kong by the
Commission of the European Communities ( 2008 )
Mr. Donald Tsang, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special
Administrative Region, addressed the development of Hong Kong should be sustainable,
balanced and diversified and Hong Kong citizens should take care of environmental
protection and cultural conservation in order to provide a quality city life. However,
global warming is a challenge to the international community and in the same vein,
Hong Kong citizens should improve their regional environment ( Tsang, 2007 ).
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Therefore, every Hong Kong citizen has to shoulder the responsibility of protecting the
Nevertheless, the Commission of the European Communities ( 2008 ) in its
annual report 2007 on Hong Kong commented :“Hong Kong indeed faces a whole range of issues concerning
the quality of its environment: most notably air quality, water
quality, biodiversity, energy efficiency, waste treatment and low
emission standards for vehicles and power plants. It has yet to
formulate and implement a coherent long term strategy on
this front.” ( p.7 )
The report reflects that Hong Kong should have long-term policies to tackle
environmental problems.
Hong Kong, 2008
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Effective Measures for Promoting Environmental Education in Hong
Efficient environmental protection requires good environmental education
which starts at school. At present, environmental education is not a formal curriculum in
Hong Kong secondary schools so it does not receive much attention. However, some
effective measures can be implemented to improve it as follows :1. Administration of Environmental Education
• Appoint a Green Manager who leads to promote and implement environmental
education, sustainable development, environmentally-friendly activities, visits,
competitions and energy-saving measures in school.
• Establish a green club such as Environmental Protection Unit to promote
environmental education.
• Nominate a team of teachers as the Environmental Education Coordinating
Team. The nominated teachers should attend environmental training seminars
and workshops.
• Organize a staff training programme as a Staff Development Day event so as to
enhance the environmental awareness among staff.
• Nominate students to join the Student Environmental Protection Ambassador
Scheme and the Student Environmental Protection Ambassador Scheme
Training Workshop so as to develop students’ leadership skills to initiate
environmental education programmes in school.
• The school should provide sufficient financial support for organizing
environmental protection activities, buying prizes for various competitions,
purchasing materials for board displays and subsidizing coach fees.
• The school administrators should hold several meetings discussing the
implementation of environmental protection activities, budgeting and current
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issues with the Green Manager, teacher advisors and committee members of the
green club.
• Assign a month as Environmental Protection Month to promote environmental
awareness of recycling resources, environmental protection and energy-saving
via a series of activities and competitions such as Mooncake Box Recycling
Campaign, Plastic Bottle Recycling Campaign, Aluminium Can Recycling
Campaign, Computer Floppy Disk and CD Recycling Campaign.
• Allocate one class period for environmental education for each level each term.
• The school should have a Green School Environmental Policy which is executed
by the Green Manager and the Environmental Education Coordinating Team.
An example of a Green School Environmental Policy is as follows :-
Green School Environmental Policy
- To have good environmental practices throughout the whole school
- To save energy and water
- To reuse and recycle waste
- To communicate the environmental policy and practices to all staff, students and
- To invite parents to protect the environment
- To supervise environmentally friendly activities
Visions of Environmental Education
- To develop students to be aware of and concern about the environment and some
of its associated problems
- To educate students to love, respect and protect the natural environment
Missions of Environmental Education
- To formulate and implement plans to improve and safeguard the environment
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- To ensure the cleanliness and tidiness of the classroom
- To be aware of electricity and water conservation
- To maintain the plants and keep the campus green
- To help students appreciate and love nature
- To help students develop a sense of responsibility towards environmental
- To help students cultivate environmentally friendly behaviour and sustainable
- To organize environmentally friendly activities, visits and competitions
2. Energy-saving Measures
Set the classroom temperature at 25.5°C in summer and fix a thermometer next
to the ventilation control box so as to check the temperature setting regularly.
Students are reminded to reduce energy consumption. They should turn off
lights and air-conditioners when leaving a room and close all windows when airconditioners are switched on. When it is not too hot, they should switch off one
The class teacher appoints a Class Environmental Protection Ambassador who
sits next to the ventilation control box to monitor the implementation of energysaving in the classroom.
School prefects monitor each classroom during the morning assembly and after
school. If students forget to switch off lights, air-conditioners, fans and exhaust
fans, they should report to the class teacher who has the responsibility to remind
his / her class to implement energy-saving measures in the classroom.
Every energy-saving class will be awarded a certificate issued by the green club
and counter-signed by the school principal as a kind of appreciation at the end
of the academic year.
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Energy-saving leaflets obtained from the Environmental Protection Department
should be issued to all students so as to remind them ways of saving energy.
Posters concerning energy-saving and environmental protection should be
displayed on notice boards and bulletin boards in order to arouse students’
awareness of energy-saving and environmental protection.
Play VCDs such as “Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant” and “Energy Saving”.
Janitors clean air filters of air-conditioners monthly.
Use energy-saving light bulbs.
3. Competitions
™ For the promotion of environmental education, the green club can join the Art
Department to hold a large variety of competitions such as Sticker Design
Competition, Slogan Design Competition, Poster Design Competition,
Bookmark Design Competition, Environmental Protection Box Design
Competition, Green Club Logo Design Competition and Environmental Bag
Design Competition. By doing so, students can show their creativity and deep
knowledge of environmental protection issues.
™ The green club should hold recycling competitions such as Mooncake Box
Recycling Campaign, Old Clothes Recycling Campaign, Newspaper Recycling
Campaign, Plastic Bottle Recycling Campaign, Aluminium Can Recycling
Campaign and Recyclable Red Packet Design Competition.
4. Visits
¾ Arrange visits with the Geography Society such as visits to the Kadoorie Farm
& Botanic Garden, the Produce Green Organic Farm, the Endangered Species
Resource Centre, Ma Shi Chau, Tung Ping Chau, Tung Lung Island, Po Toi
Island, the Aberdeen Nature Trail, Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park, the Hong Kong
Wetland Park, the Lamma Winds, the Electrical and Mechanical Services
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Department, the Hong Kong Science Park and Exploring Chinese White
Dolphin. By doing so, students can learn about the characteristics of organic
farming, endangered species, ecosystems, the beauty of nature, geological
features, migratory birds, the crocodile Pui Pui, wind power station, energysaving, solar energy and the effect of water pollution on Chinese White Dolphins
¾ Arrange ecology camp with the Biology Society.
Quarry Bay Park, Hong Kong, 2008
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5. Activities
• Let each class design its own environmental protection box for collection of
recycled waste in the classroom.
• Arrange intra-school cleaning campaign so students can practise cleaning their
classrooms and school campus.
• Janitors help prevent Dengue Fever in the school campus by spraying antimalarial oil regularly and adopting anti-malarial measures.
• Report any water dripping from air-conditioners to the Green Manager
• Green and beautify the campus by growing more plants and planting more trees.
• Green the classroom by placing more labeled potted plants there.
• Set up an organic farm in school. Prevent using chemical fertilizers and
pesticides but use organic fertilizers and herbs as organic pesticides.
• Collect rainwater for watering plants.
• Join tree planting activity such as tree planting activity organized by the Leisure
and Cultural Services Department.
• Promote environmental awareness through the annual World Environment Day,
the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Festival and Green Olympics.
• Promote Green Christmas and Green Lunar New Year by minimizing food
waste, Christmas decorations, foam utensils and wrapping presents.
• Sell healthy food in the school tuck shop such as fruit, orange juice, egg
sandwiches and high calcium milk.
• Encourage students to have lunch with recyclable tableware.
• Set up a Green Corner displaying environmental scrapbooks, environmental
reference materials such as books, leaflets, CD-ROMs on topics like organic
plants, air pollution, light pollution, global warming, renewable energy, acid
rain, ocean, tropical rain forests, sustainable city, energy and water problems in
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• Disseminate environmental information via board displays, newsletters, intranet
messages, e-publications, assembly announcements and sharing.
• Frequent board displays on major environmental issues such as Green
Christmas, Green Lunar New Year, Green Olympics and Urban Greening
• Environmental debates
• Environmental games
• Environmental worksheets
• Environmental workshops such as Solar Vehicle Workshop and Workshop for
Growing Organic Plants
• Open Day Exhibition
• Talks given by environmental organizations such as “Air Quality” and “Loving
Green Going Green”
• Second hand books selling among students
• Join the No Air-conditioning Day organized by the Footprint.
• Join the Environmental Outreach Programme organized by the Environmental
Protection Department.
• Participate in activities and competitions organized by the Environmental
Campaign Committee, the Environmental Protection Department and the
Education Bureau.
6. Parents and Alumni
™ Invite parents and alumni to give talks on environmental issues such as
Sustainable World
™ Invite parents and alumni to participate in environmental protection activities
such as Mooncake Box Recycling Campaign, Old Clothes Recycling Campaign,
Newspaper Recycling Campaign, Plastic Bottle Recycling Campaign,
Aluminium Can Recycling Campaign and Recyclable Red Packet Design
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™ Invite parents and alumni to participate in organic farming.
™ Invite parents and alumni to participate in school environmental auditing.
7. Cultivating Good Habits
‹ Write on both sides of paper.
‹ Recycle envelopes.
‹ Photocopy on both sides of paper.
‹ Communicate with classmates and friends by e-mails.
‹ Send electronic greeting cards to classmates and friends.
‹ Switch off computer when not in use.
‹ Collect printer toner cartridges for recycling.
‹ Collect printer ink cartridges for recycling.
‹ Bring your own reusable bags.
‹ Eat less meat because it takes more resources to rear livestock than to grow
‹ Eat with recyclable tableware.
‹ Take public transport such as the MTR and buses.
‹ Take a shower instead of a bath.
‹ Use energy-efficient appliances.
‹ Do not buy products made from endangered species of plants and animals.
‹ Subsidize green groups such as Produce Green Foundation.
8. Evaluation
¾ Observe students’ behaviour in environmental protection activities.
¾ Record number of students participated in environmental protection activities.
¾ Record the amount of waste collected in school.
¾ Evaluate students’ environmental knowledge by means of environmental
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¾ Do the Earth Saviour Environmental Test set by the Environmental Protection
Department so as to evaluate students’ environmental awareness.
¾ Evaluate students’ environmental knowledge and behaviour by means of
environmental questionnaires.
¾ Ask staff and students their opinions on environmental education and
sustainable school by means of environmental questionnaires or a suggestion
¾ Compare electricity bills and water bills with those of the previous year.
¾ Write a feedback letter to the Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen
concerning his environmental protection policies listed in his Policy Address
¾ The school administrators, Green Manager, teacher advisors and committee
members of the green club should hold a meeting at the end of each term
evaluating the implementation of environmental education in school.
A Building’s Lobby in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, 2007
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If we want environmental education to be successful in Hong Kong
secondary schools, the HKSAR government should allocate more funding and
environmental teaching materials to secondary schools to promote environmental
education and campus greening. The school principal who is the great school leader
should set the Green School Environmental Policy for the whole school to follow
and allocate more funding to environmental education. The Green Manager is the
leader who promotes and monitors environmental education, sustainable
development and environmentally friendly activities to be implemented in school.
He/ She should collaborate closely with subject panels and group leaders of extracurricular activities so as to implement environmental education through a “wholeschool” approach and in a cross-curricular manner. In addition, the Curriculum
Development Council should integrate more environmental issues into the
secondary school curriculum.
Teachers are more environmentally concerned than students and they can
serve as good role models of environment conservation and protection for students
to follow. For junior form students, especially S.1 & S.2 students, they should be
encouraged to participate more in environmentally friendly activities so as to have
a sound foundation for good environmental behaviour. Moreover, teachers should
encourage all students to put environmental knowledge into practice. Though
students have basic knowledge about the environment learnt from academic
subjects such as Geography, Biology, Economic and Public Affairs, they are
unwilling to behave environmentally friendly. The main obstacles to good
environmental behaviour are due to great freedom at home, convenience and
comfort. So, family education is also important to cultivate good environmental
behaviour. As a general conclusion, successful environmental education depends on
joint efforts of all members of the school, family and society.
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Dr. AU Yin Ching Loretta in Lei King Wan, Hong Kong, 2008
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2011 Global Research Centre. All rights reserved.