PUBLIC HEALTH

Young Hongkongers lagging the old in adapting to green lifestyle

Research by Oxford University and Chinese University looks at environmentally friendly habits

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 April, 2016, 11:49pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 April, 2016, 11:49pm

With better education opportunities and a more liberal mindset, young people are assumed to care more about the environment than their elders. But that’s not the case, according to a survey.

A research centre jointly run by Oxford University and Chinese University has found that Hongkongers aged 15 to 24 are the least likely to act in an environmentally friendly way, while old people are the “green champions”.

Researchers stopped short of explaining the trend, but hoped the data, the first of its kind, could be used as a benchmark for continuous assessment. The findings will be passed on to authorities for reference in future policies.

The survey, conducted between January and February this year, interviewed 1,017 local residents over the phone.

There were encouraging signs, such as the 70 per cent who have made using fewer disposable shopping bags and packaging a daily habit. Researchers attributed the trend to the government’s plastic bag levy, which came into force in April last year.

And half of the city’s households sort recyclables from non-recyclables on a daily basis. But those who live in public housing fell behind the overall population, with only 42.2 per cent doing so.

Centre director Emily Chan Ying-yang said a further investigation found that recycling facilities in public housing estates were less sophisticated than those at private buildings or subsidised housing, so residents naturally had less incentive to take up the habit.

Wan Chai households lagged behind the rest of Hong Kong on waste separation. Chan said this also had to do with the lack of big housing complexes in the busy district, making systematic recycling efforts difficult.

While the need to use fewer plastic bags is etched into people’s minds, conserving water may not be.

Only 23.7 per cent of respondents claimed to shower for less than five minutes a day, compared to 62.1 per cent who opted for a long soak in the bath.

The findings followed a 2014 Water Supplies Department initiative, which called on the public to save 10 litres of water every day.

Researchers said the government could do more to promote awareness of carbon-reduction measures that are also beneficial to people’s health, such as switching to a vegetarian diet or

consuming less meat.