The outlook for Hong Kong's sustainable development sparked heated debate yesterday among members of the public, environmental science students, government officials and corporate bigwigs.
The event, the first inter-university forum set up to discuss environmental innovation, saw a gathering of minds to discuss energy, architectural design and environmental protection policies.
Jessie Zhang, a first-year environmental science masters student at the University of Hong Kong, said having good technology and products was insufficient, as changing public perceptions was also part of the work.
The event's chairwoman, Zhang, 24, said she spoke from her experience of helping to establish the local offices of United States-based electric carmaker Tesla.
'Innovation is not just about technology but innovation that changes people's minds,' she said.
'For example, a lot of people were talking about how to find new renewable sources of energy, but then someone said, 'Why don't we just think of better ways to use what we have?''
The three-hour forum, organised by 22 students from five universities, was opened by former environment secretary Dr Sarah Liao Sau-tung. More than 200 people attended.
Zhang said the forum was unique because it was organised entirely by students, who came up with the idea three months ago following comments from outgoing Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying on the environment, technology and innovation. The forum's main goals were to provide a platform to exchange ideas on environmental innovation, raise public awareness and allow students to meet relevant organisations, Zhang said.
Speakers included Anthony Wilson, director of architectural services at Chinachem Group, and Michael Ma Chiu-chi, who heads planning and design at the Urban Renewal Authority.
Ma said heritage conservation was often a tricky balance between protecting old buildings while ensuring they adhered to strict regulations. As such, parts of buildings occasionally have to be torn down so as to conserve them in a sustainable manner.
A panel that discussed environmental policies aroused passionate responses, with the government calling for more trust, while corporate executives said stronger leadership was needed, Zhang said. The panel comprised representatives from the Environmental Protection Department, Airport Authority, Swire Pacific and the Jockey Club.
A report outlining the forum's main discussion points will be compiled and sent to the government.
Shaun Martin, an adviser with the Environmental Management Association, said: 'Hong Kong's sustainable development affects everybody and events like this offer a bit of hope.'
In line with the environmental focus, no paper materials were produced to promote the event. And all the participants were encouraged to take public transport. No disposable packaging was used for the catering.
The number of three-person families that can be fed by the 29 tonnes of edible food that the city's four supermarket chains dispose of daily