For the second year running, the Sustainability Unit selected 20 students to work on various projects, sponsored by Shanghai Commercial Bank. Among them were Veronica Li, part of the rainwater harvesting feasibility study, and Varna Kanungo, whose group focused on developing a vibrant outdoor space. “I got interested in sustainability, global warming and renewable energy at a young age,” says Veronica. “As I learned more, I realized we need to take more responsibility.” Varna was motivated by the desire to give back to the UST community.
Veronica explains the essence of the harvesting rainwater project: “HKUST uses a lot of seawater, but drawing it up from the bay involves a lot of pumping energy. If we can harvest rainwater and gather it in a tank on the rooftop, the distance the water travels is shorter so energy is saved. In addition, there is huge educational value – the tank is hard to ignore, so I believe it can make an impact on conservation and raise awareness of water usage.”
Varna's group have been working with a landscape architect to create an attractive outdoor environment that will be utilized by staff and students. “We came up with three themes, and through focus group and an on-campus survey, we discovered that people wanted space to relax and unwind,” she says.
Both look back at the experience with pride and satisfaction. “This was my first time leading such a project,” says Veronica. “I realized where I have weaknesses and where I can improve. I’ve learned a lot more about sustainability, but also other facets such as overcoming challenges and voices of dissent – if you believe in it, you will stand up for the project.”
For Varna, it has been a great learning experience. “This will have an effect on students and staff – if people use the space, it will make us feel like we did something for HKUST,” she says. “I was a bit timid talking to sponsors and other stakeholders, but this project made me reach out to people and be more confident.”