Restaurant 208, a local Italian restaurant in Sheung Wan, swarming with Ex Patriots; only if I knew that earlier on in my trip…I wouldn't feel as though I stuck out like a sore thumb, unlike other parts of Hong Kong i.e. Wu Kai Sha…‘no comment’. Sheung Wan made me feel like I was back in Sydney for a split second… until a rat ran right from underneath my feet and snapped me back to reality…“YES Olivia, you are still in the centre of one of the most populated cities in the world”.

So why 208, in Sheung Wan on a Tuesday night. Well.. Let me explain… One of my local friends noticed that I was doing a project (on one of many social media outlets) exploring Hong Kong’s Neon and LED Signage presence/culture. He managed to link me up with an LED Specialist Jennifer Yang who knew everything and anything about the subject; so… I organised an interview and took her out to dinner as a token gesture to say ‘thank you for your time’.

Personally, I know absolutely nothing about the subject, and that is the way I’m going to keep it… unless I learn about it first hand, more so than relying on tools such as google or standard Wiki (hardly a classified secondary research tool… but worth mentioning). I let Jennifer steer the interview so that I could gain a basic understanding of the differences between the two light sources. My initial understanding of Neon = BRIGHT, My initial understanding of LED= EXPENSIVE/SUSTAINABLE. Who knows why my cerebral understood these words with the above associations? I guess I have to thank mass consumerism and marketing for that.

Culturally Neon lights have framed the streets of Hong Kong for many decades. Neon lights are bright, they are indicators of many things, whether it be restaurants, advertising, business logos, landmarks, they have almost always been the key source of signage at night for all. It wasn’t up until a few years ago that there has been a technological revolution in signage in Hong Kong, and all over the world.. LED lighting. LED is short for Light Emitting Diode, and is designed to lower the Lumons per Watt, effectively cutting electricity bills for small businesses, homes and public spaces. Not only is LED going to save you money in the long run, its also going to cut labour costs, reduce waste and emit almost the same amount of light that a Neon or Tungstun globe can.

So let’s look at the Neon and LED lights from a sustainability perspective. Neon lights are made out of glass that can only be cut at certain lengths. Neon lights only usually have a very short life span e.g. if a Neon light is kept running for 24 hours for one month, it instantly becomes obsolete and will have to replaced immediately. The reason for its short life span is because Neon emits light and heat by a chemical combustion of electricity, gas and mercury (Hg). The Neon glass can get so hot that it has the ability to burn human skin if it is left running long enough. The heat causes all sorts of issues for the Light depending on the waves of electricity that enter the circuit or how the light is turned on and off over time. So in response to a dying industry, LED has started to replace these Neon lights in a hope to increase sustainable living, cut labour costs (i.e. constantly changing Neon tubes, once they become obsolete) and save a tonne of money on electricity bills.

Unfortunately in Hong Kong people are not educated about the positive effects that LED could have on their day to day lives. Although LED lights are a little bit more expensive to purchase, they do save you a lot of money in the long run, especially where electricity bills are concerned. A lot of people are hesitant to purchase LED lights purely for the fact that they weren't a reliable source of light about 3 years ago due to the fact that they were still being tested and trialled amongst consumers. The elderly in Hong Kong also don’t place specific emphasis in moving towards a technological upheaval. They prefer to stick to traditional neon or tungsten bulbs; you may as well classify them as ‘laggards’.

So in terms of culture vs technological advancement. I still think that both light sources can live harmoniously; Neon still filling Hong Kong’s lighting culture with significant presence and LED transforming the use of renewable energy for businesses big or large.

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