Hong Kong students should be conscious of the hidden costs of consumer goods on the environment, a veteran green activist says.
Addressing about 50 Lingnan University students during an Earth Day event, Friends of the Earth director Mei Ng Fong Siu-mei said youngsters had been bombarded by the city's consumption culture and were blind to the costs.
'When you throw away a plastic bottle, you throw away more than just a piece of rubbish,' Mrs Ng said.
Production of every kilogram of plastic bottles generated emissions such as hydrocarbons, sulphur oxides, carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide, and used 17.5 litres of water.
'The problem is that consumer goods are too easily available and students don't think twice about throwing things away,' Mrs Ng said.
She urged students to cast off their 'passive consumer' mindsets and take up environmental responsibility by learning about the costs behind choices they made every day.
She suggested students could make an informed and responsible choice when spending their money by reading product labels and, for example, choosing between traditional or fair-trade coffee.
They could bring their own cutlery to lunch and re-use plastic bags.
Lingnan University student Timothy Golden, 23, who organised the Earth Day event and is a member of the international student organisation Aiesec, said it had been a dramatic adjustment getting used to the poor air quality and the culture of consumption when he first arrived in Hong Kong after growing up on a farm in West Virginia, in the United States.
He found people did not consider where products came from or how they would be disposed of.
'It is the choice that each one of us makes that makes the difference,' Mr Golden said.