Go green for Christmas

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 December, 2007, 12:00am

Christmas is the favourite season for many people who see it as an opportunity to splurge on food, decorations and presents.

While the colourful gift-wrappers and baubles on Christmas trees add sparkle to school parties, most of them end up in rubbish bins once the festivities are over.

Determined to counter wasteful Christmas habits, more than 100 schools have joined a campaign aimed at promoting green messages during the festive season.

Launched by local group Green Sense, the Green Christmas School Scheme invited schools to sign a pledge that they would strive to become more environmentally friendly during Christmas celebrations on campus.

The schools must adhere to at least two of the four green practices to be members of the scheme.

They have to refrain from using wrapping paper when they exchange Christmas presents, prepare the right amount of food for parties to minimise leftovers and shun disposable cutlery.

They have also been urged to bring their own utensils and use recycled materials when decorating classrooms.

One of the schools which has pledged to go green this Christmas is SKH Li Fook Hing Secondary School in Chai Wan.

'Our students have made Christmas decorations from discarded materials,' said Tam Ka-nui, who teaches visual arts at the school.

'The plastic Christmas tree at the school gate has been used for more than 10 years.'

Despite their worn-out appearance, the discarded materials have not taken the shine off the festive atmosphere. Adorned with purple crystal balls and discarded CDs, the Christmas tree provides sparkling proof of the students' creativity.

'The second-hand crystal balls were bought from a shopping centre at a low price,' said Rick Wong Chun-lam, a Form Six student at the school. 'The giveaway CDs came with our old textbooks. With imagination and ingenuity, even old things can be made appealing.'

The Christmas party, due to be held at the school today, is also guaranteed to be a green affair.

'We decided to prepare most of the food ourselves as food bought from outside usually comes with a lot of packaging,' said Form Six student Wong Wai-lok.

Chan Kwan-yi, another Form Six student, added: 'Instead of purchasing disposable cutlery, we will use the utensils from the home economics classroom for the party.'

Despite the support of some eco-conscious schools, eradicating extravagant Christmas practices is a formidable task in a materialistic society such as Hong Kong.

A survey conducted last month by Green Sense helped shed some light on the wasteful practice of buying gifts.

Of the 568 respondents, 25 per cent said they did not like the presents they received.

Six per cent had even thrown away unwanted Christmas gifts, the survey revealed.

'Influenced by the retailers' promotion campaigns, many people still opt for the traditional ways of celebrating Christmas like buying gifts and sending Christmas cards,' said Edward Chan, campaign manager with Greenpeace.

'Instead of following tradition, people can express themselves through many environmentally-friendly ways.

'A little change in habits can work wonders for our ailing planet.'

Western trend

More and more consumers in the west are having a green Christmas. For example, people buy Christmas trees that have been grown without chemical fertilisers.

The used trees are collected by city governments for mulching. For decorations, incandescent bulbs are replaced by the more efficient and less power-consuming LEDs (light-emitting diodes).