“I believe that children are our future…” | WWF Hong Kong

“I believe that children are our future…”

04 April 2017

Today, 4 April, is Children’s Day in Hong Kong – a day when we celebrate children, the future of our city and our planet. Ironically, 4 April is also 2017’s Hong Kong Overshoot Day – the day on which, if everyone on Earth consumed natural resources at the rate we do in Hong Kong, humanity would have consumed an entire year’s worth of resources. Hong Kong Overshoot Day signifies the alarming general decline in the world’s renewable natural resources: in just one quarter of a year, humanity would have used up our natural resources “budget” for the year. From this day onwards, we would be running a natural resource deficit. While this is a symbolic day, the wider implications are unmistakable: if we continue to consume at this rate, our children and subsequent generations will be left with fewer and fewer natural resources.
The latest figures show that 76 per cent of Hong Kong’s Ecological Footprint comes from the daily consumption habits of individuals, families and businesses. This year, WWF suggests that we all use Children’s Day as an opportunity to educate our children about how we can live more sustainable lifestyles in four major ways: personal transportation, food, clothing and electricity. Let’s take a closer look at these categories.
Personal transportation
Personal transportation accounts for 20 per cent of the daily consumption category in Hong Kong’s Ecological Footprint. 2016 data from the Transport Department shows that there are 73 private cars per thousand people in Hong Kong, a figure which has been steadily increasing since 2006. While the short-term convenience brought by driving is undeniably useful, burning fossil fuels pumps more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. On Children’s Day this year, why not take public transportation to a country park to enjoy the stunning scenery!
There is no doubt that children love eating fast food, but these treats often go hand in hand with disposable packaging and single-use containers and utensils. These items are harmful to our environment in a number of ways: producing them requires the use of fresh water and energy, and they end their short lifespans as solid waste which goes to a landfill or, worse, ends up polluting fragile ecosystems or the marine environment. Sixteen per cent of the daily consumption portion of our Ecological Footprint comes from food. Eating wisely involves considering the environment and asking questions; for example “Is this food sustainably produced or harvested?”, “How big a portion do I really need for this meal?, “Am I eating seasonal produce?” and so on. Looking around the supermarket for products with eco-labels like MSC (Marine Stewardship Council), ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council) and FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) could be a fun and unique activity for your family this Children’s Day!
Clothing accounts for 14 per cent of the daily consumption section of our Ecological Footprint. Clothes are commonly given as gifts to children, more often these days given the rapid growth of the fast fashion industry. Competitive pricing and aggressive marketing means that consumers are often persuaded to buy new clothing, but they often fail to take into account the environmental costs of these clothes. Cotton is the predominant fibre used in the manufacture of clothes, but the production of the one kilogram of cotton needed to make a T-shirt and a pair of jeans requires more than 20,000 litres of water. Given that almost half of the world's population will be living in severe water scarcity by 2030 if no new policies are introduced, we need to stop buying so many clothes. If we do not, we will continue to deplete the resources of future generations!
Our daily consumption of electricity at home and at work forms seven per cent of this Ecological Footprint category. Switching off unused lights is a common, yet sadly overlooked and forgotten action item. Evidence of this can be seen in workplaces around the city during lunch hours, when many lights are left on but nobody is actually working. Even more frequently overlooked is the need to avoid putting electrical appliances in standby mode instead of switching them off. Previous research has revealed that office appliances left on standby mode can be responsible for as much as twelve per cent of an office’s total electricity usage! Switching appliances and devices off is a simple and effective way to reduce our electricity consumption. Last but not least, saving electricity and while developing sources of clean energy are equally important in the long run; you can contribute to a brighter future by supporting WWF’s renewable energy advocacy work!
There are so many different ways to make a change – but are you actually doing as much as you could be? Learn more about how you can safeguard the world’s resources for future generations!
Compared to other countries and territories, Hong Kong’s per-capita Ecological Footprint is ranked 17th globally and second in Asia, after Singapore. Our consumption of the Earth’s limited resources is so rampant that if everyone on the planet lived like us, we would need 3.9 Earths to provide what we need from nature.
On Children’s Day, we urge you to remember this important fact: we do not own our planet’s resources, we simply borrow them from our children and grandchildren. If we want to leave a healthy planet with plentiful resources to our future generations, we must act now.