N: Natalie A: Arthur
Can you tell us your experience at the HK Tertiary Schools COP21 Challenge?
After becoming the finalists, we entered a two-day intensive overnight workshop and were assigned to team up with another student from HKUST. The challenge was to develop a proposal with feasible solutions to a specific climate change issue in Hong Kong. We then came up with the idea of ‘V’air’—an Airbnb-style online platform that encourages local travel by allowing individuals and groups to list tours available in Hong Kong. We were very honoured to have received the first prize from Secretary for the Environment, Mr. K.S. Wong and Consul General of France in Hong Kong and Macau, Mr. Eric Berti.
Why do you want to promote local travel? In what ways can ‘travelling local’ help the environment?
If you think you are leading a relatively eco-friendly lifestyle, try adding your travel history into a carbon emission calculator—the result may surprise you! The CO2 emission of a return flight from Hong Kong to Japan is about 0.5 tonne, which equals the amount of emission for leaving a light bulb on for a continuous period of six months. Spending holidays in Hong Kong not only allows you to save time and money, but also reduce your carbon footprint. A survey launched by WWF revealed the average amount of CO2 emission of a Hong Kong resident per year was 13.44 tonnes in 2007–2010, almost twice the amount provided by the Environmental Bureau (around 5 to 7.4 tonnes CO2-e per capita from 1990–2012), as the latter did not include air travel and other related data. Travelling by air can take up to more than half (55.4%) of the annual carbon emissions by each Hong Kong resident.
You posted many photos of interesting places in Hong Kong on your website and Facebook. Why do you think these places are rarely visited?
People don’t want to spend a few hours on the road just to visit one single attraction. That’s why we are planning various itineraries which allow travellers to make multiple stops along the way. They can appreciate the sceneries or stop by unique local restaurants before reaching the final destination, or even spend a night at a nearby hostel before returning home.
What if I really want to experience a different culture and try things that are only available overseas?
N: We understand that travelling abroad offers you many extraordinary experiences. For example, if you want to see a volcano or experience snowing in the winter, you can’t do that in Hong Kong. However, people are flying so frequently nowadays for leisure. Many people travel to the same place over and over again just for food or shopping. Some of them are not even particularly impressed by their journeys. They travel just to kill time. We hope to introduce an alternative and more eco-friendly option to this group of travellers.
A: In fact, we can all do our parts to support the sustainable development of rural Hong Kong if we spend our time and money wisely. Eco-friendly local travel is ‘sustainable’ as it is not only friendly to the environment, but it also helps the economic sustainability of local communities.
How do you envision the future of yourselves and V’air?
We are still at the initial stage of developing our concepts. Currently, we want to add more contents and introduce more local attractions to our website. Media coverage also attracted some CUHK students to join our team. They are now using their expertise in language and photography to help edit the travelling articles and images before we post them online. In the next few years, we would like to collaborate with local NGOs to organize a three-day eco-tour. In order to do that, we need to obtain a business registration and further enlarge the scale of our operation. We hope that in the future, V’air will become a popular and resourceful online platform to facilitate eco-travel in Hong Kong.
This article was originally published in No. 479, Newsletter in Jun 2016.