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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Hong Kong

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Hong Kong
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Registered: December 2016
City/Town/Province: Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong
Posts: 1
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"Eco-friendliness", although quite popular in much of the western world as a matter of principle and practice, does not hold much sway in Hong Kong (or probably most of Asia). Although recycle bins can be found in parts of Hong Kong, they are few and far between. The government and many NGOs have been propagating the virtues of eco-friendliness, the messages seem to have fallen on deaf ears; pollution of all kinds and overflowing landfill sites have been worsening.
About two years ago when I was a high school freshman, I decided to participate in a "save the environment" initiative organized by my school. I helped clean one of the beaches in Hong Kong. It was a lot of hard work (and meaningful work) but I also learned from the experience that (i) cleaning up the mess left by un-eco-friendly minded people was helpful to the environment, but it was not proactive enough, i.e., it would not help prevent or reduce the same eco-damaging behavior from recurring; (ii) the cleaning may in fact encourage the behavior to be repeated since it would come at a lower cost (someone else would take care of the mess); and (iii) there was minimal pre-emptive power that the post-mortem cleaning could exert on the "perpetrators" to make them more eco-friendly, i.e., there was not much educational value that could influence behavior.
As a result, I had been thinking how I could design an initiative that could fill the gaps I identified above. This year, I founded an initiative called Baking for Teachers, which was later expanded into Baking for the Environment (BFE).
I noticed that the teachers in my school worked very hard and were hardly ever shown appreciation by the students. I therefore decided to bake every month for teachers who had their birthdays that month. I would ask the teachers to complete a form which would indicate their preferred choice of cake and whether they would have any allergies to any ingredients. I would then use eco-friendly ingredients and cooking methods to bake a quantity of cakes that were just enough for the teachers. For example, when I baked, I would try to minimize the amount of eggs I used. In fact, not all cakes would need to include eggs. A favorite recipe of mine for whole-wheat strawberry banana muffins does without them and still produces a highly tasty flavor. If I had included eggs, I would have increased the carbon footprint of the muffins by a fair bit, considering that a box of eggs is equivalent to around 1.8 kg of CO2 (according to "How Bad are Bananas?" By Mike Berners-Lee). Furthermore, I would always use organic flour, which would not have been exposed to fertilizer or pesticides, for baking. Excess fertilizer and pesticide can contaminate groundwater with their toxic residue and could lead to disastrous consequences for the environment, threatening humans and wildlife. Another way I tried to be eco-friendly while I baked was to use unbleached parchment paper. The unbleached parchment paper was made from 100% unbleached recycled paper and was perfect for lining baking sheets to avoid burning. I often used recyclable parchment paper when I was looking for an easy cleanup for those cakes that tended to stick to the baking pan a bit more. Below is a photo of the food I prepared for the minority women center.
The result was that (i) there would be hardly any leftovers or waste since the cakes were the teachers' preferred choices and they were in limited quantities; (ii) the teachers would not have to separately and individually get their own birthday cakes (reducing travel time and emission); (iii) the birthday cakes that had been displaced by my cakes would have likely been made by commercial bakeries that would have used very non-eco-friendly ingredients and methods in baking them; (iv) the teachers all recognized and approved of the eco-friendly theme of my baking and were more than happy to "spread the word" for me in relation to eco-friendly baking. Subsequently, I was encouraged to expand the program to cover a school club of which I am the Secretary, i.e., the Tri-M Music Honor Society, which is a US based honor society and a community service sponsored by the Hong Kong government catering to minority women living in Hong Kong. I baked for Tri-M members and the minority women, spreading the same eco-friendly message.
My inspiration of launching BFE came from a summer college credit course that I took at University of Chicago last summer. The course was titled "Biotechnology for the 21st Century" and was taught by Professor Schonbaum, a pre-eminent authority on biotechnology. As one of the youngest members of the class (probably the only rising junior taking a college credit course), I had the rare opportunity of being exposed to the wonders of a wide array of natural bio-chemical elements that exist in planet earth and how their power can be harnessed, via biotechnology, to benefit mankind. On the other hand, if such elements were not probably handled, there could be severe harmful effects. A topic that we explored in class that really piqued my interest was the pros and cons of GM crops and their unknown effects on humans. I then started thinking: what else in environment could be more impactful to us than the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat? And how could we preserve the "naturalness" of these elements for our own benefit and we would live longer and healthier to preserve such naturalness, accentuating a virtuous cycle for the long-term benefit of mankind.
Looking back to the four months over which I have been running BFE, it seems more and more people are talking about BFE and the benefits (obviously the cakes they got to eat) they received from BFE. So far I have baked close to 400 cupcake-sized cakes for around 100 people over four months. I found BFE invigoratingly effective in that people got exposed to eco-friendliness not through indoctrination but through eating their favorite foods and it was the best kind of education with a positive influence, and hopefully with a more proactive, pre-emptive power that could help save our environment. For sure, there is a lot less to clean up (with all the BFE sessions combined) than a beach clean up! I am planning to expand BFE further, with the help of more people who have been convinced by BFE's benefits, in 2017 to reach even more people with this "edible" message.
Date: December 28, 2016 Views: 894 File size: 14.3kb, 210.5kb : 1600 x 901
Hours Volunteered: 40
Volunteers: 1
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17
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