Sino Junior Reporter Programme 2014 Winners

By Andrea Zavadszky

A programme on reporting and environmental protection hopes to polish students’ writing skills and inspire them to green living

By Andrea Zavadszky |

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At the end of the first session students had a good overview of journalism and the Sino Group's environmental programmes.

Writing skills are usually the most difficult to acquire in a foreign language. Getting some help from experienced journalists is a great opportunity, and this is what happened to close to 30 students who joined the Sino Junior Reporter Programme held in cooperation with Young Post.

“We are glad to partner with the SCMP’s Young Post on this meaningful programme, which provides an opportunity for students to learn more about English writing and a platform to practice what they have learnt by reporting on an interesting topic,” said Ivan Yau, Deputy General Manager (Corporate Communications), Sino Group.

Chosen out of more than 600 applications, the students received a half-day workshop provided by a Young Post journalist and some representatives of the Sino Group.

The topic of the students’ report was their visit to Skyline Tower and Olympian City, two Sino developments with rich environmental initiatives. Through the visit, Form Four students learned about many innovative environmental practices which deeply impressed them. They also had the opportunity to interview Sino executives, who showed them the environmental projects and explained the projects’ details.

“In addition to honing their writing skills, students got a chance to practise their interviewing and reporting skills and a good flavour of what it is like being a reporter. Through site visits and speaking to our executives, they could learn more about the efforts that go into environmental protection,” said Yau.

From a roof garden, vertical garden walls and food recycling to automatic taps which work with electricity generated by the lights above them, the students learned about various large and small exciting projects which hopefully can serve as an example for the readers, as well as corporations.

“Through site visits and speaking to our executives, we hope the students get to understand our group Group more and appreciate the efforts that go into building a better, greener community. We hope the green efforts will resonate with them and spark a desire for green living among our next generation,” said Yau.

The excellent job the students have done is richly rewarded. Here are the five winning articles.

Sino Group is planning to continue with this project, making it an annual event expanded in scope and may also take it to other markets, such as Singapore.


First place: Small steps, great results

Tina Ko Lok-sun, Ying Wa Girls' School

Companies often talk about corporate social responsibility, but a visit to Skyline Tower and Olympian City last month demonstrated, the Sino Group is among those who have actually realised this mission.

Sino Green is one of the group’s corporate social responsibilities, offering services such as food waste reduction, energy saving and creating a green lung in an urban environment.

No one can visit the tranquil roof garden and organic farm on top of Skyline Tower without being impressed. The stone pathway metaphorically indicates the many small steps taken by the Sino Group to do their part for a greener Hong Kong.

The highlight is the organic farm managed by the Hong Chi Association, whose members have intellectual disabilities. This scheme provides equal job opportunities for a minority while Sino Group staff and tenants can enjoy a more beautiful workplace. In an annual fair, crops like organic corn and aloe vera are sold and the profits donated to Hong Chi. Michelle, who works with the Sino Group said, “I always find these events meaningful and come to support them with my children.”

Since the tower was built in 2004, it has won numerous accolades, such as the Green Building Award 2010. Without the whole-hearted participation of the staff, tenants and the community, the goal of becoming “A Green Leader” could not have been achieved.

It is reassuring to see that a huge company would care so much for little things. While society is busy making big bucks, the Sino Group is thinking small: how to be more environmentally friendly one step at a time. Just as Frank A. Clark once said, “Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realising that life is made up of little things”.

Another place worthy of a visit is Olympian City, which has won the Best Landscaping Award (Gold) 2012 and Grand Award in Facility Management 2013. Truth be told, they won so many awards because they dare to try. They introduced the prototype of a hydro-electric power generator and demonstrated the feasibility of power generation in the company. This remarkable step identifies them as the vanguard of a new era of energy saving in Hong Kong.

Most importantly, they inspire others to think out of the box: even the automatic taps in the washrooms run on self-sufficient electricity generated from the light above, with a small solar panel placed on top of the tap, replacing the use of batteries.

In addition, Olympian City has the first-ever green bridges in Hong Kong. “Utilising natural sunlight, the bridges enhance the indoor green features and enrich visitors’ visual enjoyment,’ said Ivan Chan, poperty officer.

His colleagues, Thomas Lau and Billy Wong said about the shopping mall’s vertical green wall, “The refreshing vertical green system lowers the indoor temperature slightly and we brought in auto irrigation to provide just enough water for the plants.”

The shopping mall has been turned into a green community centre, which proactively calls attention to how little steps can enhance the overall environment in Hong Kong.

Second place: Saving our world

Chloe Chan Cheuk-nam, St Mary's Canossian College

It is rare to find places in Hong Kong’s concrete jungle where one can see a vast lawn and blue sky without any tall buildings blocking it. The Sino Group’s rooftop garden on top of Skyline Tower is truly an oasis in the bustling city and an inspiration for many people and different industries.

Just like many other commercial buildings, Skyline Tower’s entrance and lobby impress with big office plants and shiny marble floor. But there is one thing that helps you to tell Skyline Tower apart from most commercial buildings: it is the ceiling LED lights.

Although the cost of LED light bulbs are more expensive, the general lifespan of LED lights is longer and can save approximately 10 per cent more electricity, being environmentally friendly without losing from its glamour.

But this is just the appetizer of today’s green menu; the main course and dessert are on the rooftop.

Once we reach the rooftop and step out of the lift, the lights and a television screen will turn on automatically, thanks to a motion detector installed on the ceiling. This will turn on the lights and television when there are people in the lift hall, and turn them off when people leave.

“Since fewer people come to this floor than to the others, it would be a waste of electricity if we turn on the lights and television for the whole day,” said Mr. Alan Lai, manager of Skyline Tower.

The 910,000 square foot rooftop garden is primarily used by tenants and staff of the building for relaxation. “We value the importance of environmental protection,” said Ms Gabby Yeung, assistant manager. “As a large company, we have a responsibility to protect the environment and encourage other companies to follow our practices. Although we know this may be insignificant compared to other green projects, still we cannot neglect our duties of protecting the environment.”

Besides an extensive lawn, Skyline Tower has a small garden located right next to the grass. Plants such as mint and corn have been planted there and are nurtured by members of the Hong Chi Association, providing the people with intellectual disabilities employment opportunities. In order to facilitate the growth of plants, Pacific Coffee in Skyline Tower provides coffee grounds as fertiliser, promoting the message of green and encouraging other companies to emulate. At harvest time, there products go on sale and all proceeds will be donated to Hong Chi Association.

“What we seek is not success, but ideas,” said Mr. Lai. “You don’t need a lot of space to protect the environment, just use your thoughts and effort, the example of your success will encourage others to do the same, and we can save our world together.”

Third place: Let the rainbow shine

Akina Wong, SKH Tsang Shiu Tim Secondary School

Have you ever seen a rainbow, or did it just fade away because of the air pollution? Be that as it may, the environmentally-friendly rainbow elements have permeated both the Olympian City and Skyline Tower, due to the Sino Group’s effort in promoting greening, waste reduction and eco-friendly trial facilities.

Red, the first colour in the rainbow spectrum, typically represents the sun. As sunlight is an inexhaustible energy source, the Skyline Tower has three solar panels installed on its rooftop to provide electricity.

Yellow, the following colour, represents the soft light emitted by lamps. Skyline Tower has gradually replaced T8 fluorescent lamps with LED T5 tubes and installed motion sensors on backstairs and some lift halls. All these can reduce the use of electricity in those areas by approximately 40 per cent.

Green is a must-have colour in a cozy environment. Therefore, the rooftop garden of Skyline Tower’s annex must be a highlight with its vast lawn and eye-catching “Mission Green Top” organic farm. The plants are nursed by the Hong Chi Association, a local not-for-profit organisation which provides jobs for the intellectually disabled.

The Sino Group also promotes greening in the Olympian City. It has installed vertical green systems on the internal and external walls of the mall and has utilised fully the footbridges and their rooftops to grow plants. Blending into the natural environment, the Olympian City has become a green shopping paradise.

Blue symbolises the precious water resources. Apart from quenching our thirst, water can be used to produce energy. Contrary to all expectations, generating hydroelectric power doesn’t need large water resources. Sino has installed in Olympian City two small hydroelectric power generators to probe into the feasibility of generating electricity itself.

With the power of the different colours, the eco-rainbow shimmers in the workplace. Actually, there is a rainbow which can help reduce waste at source. The ‘Mission Green Rainbow’, a set of seven-coloured recycling bins, collect items as common as paper and plastic, and as unique as rechargeable batteries, stationery and rags. These colourful bins are placed on each floor to facilitate their daily use by tenants. With easily-accessible recycling bins people’s environmental awareness can be raised and the waste dumped into landfills substantially reduced.

“These are just a trial version of the environmentally-friendly policies. We want to promote these measures to the general public and reap the benefits of the measures together.’ said Billy Wong, the officer-in-charge of the vertical green system.

Being a pioneer upholding sustainable development, the Sino Group is proactively promoting a greener life. It reminds us that not only the government, but every company and individual should kick our wasteful habits and shoulder the responsibility of protecting our Mother Earth.

Many a little makes a mickle. If everyone goes the extra mile in leading an eco-friendly life, it will go a long way in sustaining the authentic rainbow up in the sky for the next generation.

Merit: Building a green community

Angela Leung, Carmel Divine Grace Foundation Secondary School

Although Hong Kong people are becoming increasingly aware of environmental problems, many environmentalists believe that we are still far behind many other countries and regions in this aspect. So do corporations. Therefore, a growing number of them undertake environmental projects as part of their corporate social responsibility and devote themselves to promoting environmental protection and sustainable development.

As one of those environmentally aware corporations, the Sino Group has reaped many awards for its environmental excellence. To learn about how their green projects work, I visited Olympian City, one of their properties.

Olympian City is one of the largest shopping malls in West Kowloon. However, few people know that it is the first shopping mall in Hong Kong which has installed a food decomposer to provide their tenants free food waste recycling services. The food decomposer with a capacity of 100 kilogrammes can decompose up to 99.8 per cent of the collected food waste, outputting only a small amount of water vapour and carbon dioxide. In the next few months, the company is going to install a bigger food decomposer with the capacity to recycle 500kg of food waste a day to serve a larger part of the mall’s community in the well-received food recycling programme.

Besides the food recycling service, Olympian City also has a remarkable environmentally friendly architectural design, for which it has received several awards.

Large-scale vertical green systems have been installed on the mall’s vacant walls indoors and outdoors, with the greenery producing decorative and artistic patterns. Two footbridges connecting different phases of the mall also have a similar green concept with eye-catching design. These vertical green walls and green brides are not only for our visual enjoyment. They also lower the surrounding temperature and improve air quality.

In accordance with the philosophy of “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”, the mall has introduced some other environmentally friendly systems as well. For example, the parking guidance system shows drivers how many parking spaces are on the floor, cutting down the time they spend trying to find a parking space. They are also experimenting with a limited-capacity hydro-electric power generator. Although these are in a rather small scale, they play a part in energy conservation. If these technologies could be promoted to the community, they would certainly bring great benefits to the environment.

A representative of the group shared that his colleagues had once made a small-scale vertical green wall in the office. It seems impossible, yet everyone can easily construct one by hanging plants planted in ice cream cups on any vacant wall. Their creativity also encourages us to try new things.

Also, the experience reminds us that caring for the environment is not that difficult. We can always contribute to the environment in our daily lives. Bit by bit, we can make a great difference in our daily lives.

As one of the corporations which has already garnered many awards for environmental excellence, the Sino Group will continue to dedicate their efforts to promoting environmental sustainability. I hope these efforts can raise Hong Kong people’s environmental awareness and – as they said – build a greener community.

Merit: Small acts add up

Colby Li, CNEC Lee I Yao Memorial Secondary School

What is Hong Kong famous for? Is it its outstanding shopping, gourmet delicacies, or vibrant culture? These are all partly correct – but the most accurate answer has to be its gloomy skies and all that smog.

We’re not proud of it. It may even make us feel somewhat depressed. But are we not overlooking something that can rekindle our hope? Greenery planted on a wall that helps clear the air and feed the eye with beautiful green patterns.

The people behind the Sino Group’s eco-friendly programme known as “Sino Green” are the very gardeners who have come up with this brilliant idea. So, how is that greenery planted on a wall?

“This is our vertical greening system” says Billy Wong, the landscape manager of Olympian City. “The green wall is irrigated automatically by way of a state-of-the-art irrigation system and groomed regularly.” Olympian City isn’t the only owner of such a magnificent design; it has also been launched at other residential and commercial Sino Group developments, such as Citywalk, Citywalk2 as well as a rooftop garden in Skyline Tower.

You may wonder how this vertical green system came to be invented. Wong explains, “The amount of land in Hong Kong is inadequate, so we must make good use of this very precious resource, for our environment’s sake.” The “Green Wall” does indeed occupy a small space, but manages to increase the green area dramatically.

Another eco-friendly architectural design is the “Green Bridge”, a footbridge of the Olympian City. Marvelously, the plants are cultivated along both sides of the structure, on the top and the external facade of the bridge.

It’s commonly believed that advanced engineering is required to achieve sustainable development. But this is proven wrong by Mission Green Thumb, a green plant sponsorship scheme that Sino Green and Hong Chi Association jointly operate.

“If you’re one of our tenants here in Skyline Tower, congratulations, because you can cultivate your own plants here,” says Gabby Yeung, customer service department manager, Skyline Tower, wearing a radiant smile on her face. If tenants want to keep a potted plant, all they need to do is to donate $100 to the Hong Chi Association, a charity which helps those with intellectual disabilities, who come and look after the plants every week.

Standing in the mini-garden, one is gratified not only by the relaxing green view, but also by the knowledge that you are contributing to sustainable development and a worthwhile charity.

It seems that Sino Green has invested a lot in its eco-friendly campaign. But is it really advisable to devote so many resources to it? In response to this question, Ivan Chan, property officer of Olympian City, reassures us with a few wise words, “Everyone has the obligation to protect the environment. If nobody takes their environmental responsibility seriously, once the environment is irrevocably ruined, who should we blame?”

Instead of regretting living under those bleak grey skies, start taking real action for the benefit of our environment. You can take your lead from Sino Green.