Students empowered to take lead in green initiatives for schools and communities

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Taking a non-confrontational approach to environmental advocacy, Nature Conservancy protects the environment by creating further incentives on top of existing government policies for schools and communities to go green.

(Photo Credit: Gary Chiu; The Nature Conservancy)

The Nature Conservancy, an international environmental NGO that has a branch in Hong Kong, has recently organised the Nature Works Hong Kong programme. The official pitch day will take place 21 October, during which student participants will present their sustainability projects to the public. The programme aims to provide incentives for schools and communities to enhance their sustainability efforts, while students can put their creativity and entrepreneurship into good use.


A non-confrontational approach

The Nature Conservancy adopts a non-confrontational approach to environmental advocacy. Rather than wrestling with the government and schools over environmental issues, the organisation provides further incentives on top of government policies and existing efforts for schools and communities to go green.  

This principle applies to the Nature Conservancy’s education programme as well. The organisation’s Nature Works Hong Kong programme seeks to further incentivise schools to enhance sustainability practices on the basis of the Hong Kong Green School Award, a government programme that encourages schools to formulate environmental policies.

“It’s about aligning with existing efforts,” explains Matt Sears, Consultant, Education of the Nature Conservancy Hong Kong. “In the education programme, it’s taking a look at what’s already out there in terms of what the government offers in the Green School Award, and see how can we take this further, how can we make it better and push more schools into it, rather than saying, ‘this is terrible, do our thing instead.’”

The Nature Conservancy’s Nature Works programme offer opportunities for students to design environmental strategies for schools and communities. The result is twofold: in helping schools and communities to become more environmentally friendly, student participants also fulfil their extracurricular requirements in their coursework.

This year, 132 students from 23 schools in Hong Kong and 15 schools in mainland China are joining the Nature Works programme. The official Pitch Day will take place on 21 October, during which participants of the programme will showcase and pitch their pilot projects to the public at the Hong Kong Science Museum.

“In the bigger picture, one of the goals of the programme is helping schools understand that the risks of action is less than the risks of inaction,” Sears states.


Students helping schools to go green

Po Leung Kuk Choi Kai Yau School is embarking on a programme that makes waste more visible on campus so to encourage waste reduction. Students physically alter waste management systems at primary schools by drawing a line on partially transparent garbage cans, so primary school pupils can monitor the amount of waste produced every school day and set goals to reduce waste.

Other projects include using different mixtures of plants to improve indoor air quality, rewriting new tenders that include requirements for food waste reduction for potential vendors at school, and installing insulating materials on rooftops for energy conservation.

For the 2017 cohort of students participating in the Nature Works programme, the Nature Conservancy provides free-of-charge equipment for students to monitor the impact of their projects scientifically, such as large scales for measuring amounts of waste, and air quality monitors for evaluating carbon dioxide levels.

“It empowers students to have a more scientific approach,” Sears says. “We need to give students and schools the responsibility to track [the impact of the projects], and demonstrating to especially school leaderships that it is actually easy to make improvements.”


Erratum: HT incorrectly stated that 24 Hong Kong schools are participating in the Nature Works programme 2017, when in fact 23 Hong Kong schools are participating. HT regrets the error.