HKUST holds Asia\’s first carbon-neutral congregation


The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has recently held the first carbon-neutral university congregation in Asia.

A post-event carbon audit has shown that HKUST\’s 2010 Congregation, held over three days from 10 to 12 November at the Hong Kong Jockey Club Atrium on campus, achieved carbon neutrality based on British Standards Institution\’s PAS 2060 protocol.

The environmental measures on carbon reduction taken include providing additional recycling bins, composting used cups and plates, providing a carbon-friendly menu, as well as using recycled paper and environmentally friendly ink for printing the congregation program.

A meaningful start, a pledge to improve

\”We at HKUST are delighted that we are the first Asian university to have made this important step towards achieving carbon neutrality. While this is just a small step, it is a step in the right direction and we hope that this will inspire other organizations to jump on the bandwagon. We pledge to maintain this momentum of improvement,\” said Prof Joseph Kwan, Director of the Health, Safety and Environment Office and Adjunct Professor in the Division of Environment at HKUST.

HKUST is committed to sustainability as one of its main targets, by devising and implementing \’green\’ measures on our campus. Striving for carbon-neutrality is the University\’s goals in the long run. The congregation, involving about 10,000 students and parents, is the largest annual event on campus and this year HKUST made history on its road to achieving its environmental goals.

Carbon-neutrality initiatives

To maximize recycling opportunities, recycling bins were placed alongside ordinary litter bins placed at convenient points in the Atrium and in the academic concourse where refreshments were served to students as well as their parents and relatives. HKUST student Green Ambassadors were deployed to provide recycling assistance and encouragement.

The refreshments provided were from a carbon-friendly menu, made with locally available ingredients such as vegetables, chicken and fish. The snacks consisted mainly of finger foods that required no utensils. Meanwhile, the plates and cups were composted after the event. Plastic bottles, aluminum cans and paper waste were collected for recycling.

Paper use for the event was kept to a minimum, and the congregation program was printed on recycled paper with soy-based environmentally friendly ink.

\”The carbon-neutral pledge is made on the basis of a three-year program. The footprint of the 2010 Congregation – being the first year of the program – will serve as a baseline for successive years where future congregation footprints will be reduced through a mix of measures including improved energy efficiency, increased recycling initiatives and heightened community awareness,\” said HKUST Environmental Sustainability Project Officer Mr Calvin Lee Kwan.

Calculating and offsetting emissions

The calculation of carbon emission was based on fuel consumption for transport on campus, consumption of electricity at the various venues, consumption of paper and water, the amount of food and paper waste, and even dry cleaning of academic robes.

The total carbon emissions verified after the event were offset through the purchase of verified carbon credits, an internationally recognized best practice method of offsetting carbon emissions. The sums paid will contribute towards the implementation of renewable energy projects such as solar energy, wind and hydro-electric power and energy efficiency measures.

In the case of this Congregation, a total of HK$5,500 in carbon credits was required to be purchased. A small-scale donation campaign organized by the graduating students was organized and $3,500 was raised for the purpose. The shortfall was paid by HKUST through a matching donation, with a modest surplus for setting up a sustainability fund at the University to support similar initiatives.

Carbon neutral events at HKUST will not end with the Congregation. The Institute for the Environment is developing an event carbon calculator that will estimate the carbon emissions for any campus event.