Saturday, 21 April 2012

What's growing on in the city?

According to guidemesingapore, 90% of food is imported into Singapore. Not surprising given the available land versus the high population. One way of reducing the environmental impact of the food we eat is to reduce the distance it travels from farm to plate, otherwise know as food miles. In fact, instead of reducing it down from 3,000 miles (perhaps importing from Australia) to 300 miles (from Malaysia), is possible to reduce it down to 30 miles or even 30 centimetres?

In the UK, many people grow food in allotments and countless more in their back garden. There doesn't seem to be the same provision for allotments here is Singapore. Please correct me if I'm wrong. It's one great way of reducing those food miles to food metres.

However, not everyone can get an allotment, so creative ways of growing your own food are sprouting up all over the place. Landshare is a scheme which connects people with land to spare to people who want to grown their own.

There are also whole towns which are growing food in the containers around town - like in Todmorden, Lancashire, UK. It started when someone adopted an uncared for bed outside a college and started growing leeks, in a guerrilla gardening style.

It's not just community groups who grow food like this. One office in the UK has started a city allotment.

More commercial ways of urban farming are happening too. Take the FARM:shop in London. They grow vegetables using hydroponics, with the water filtering through fish tanks.
The local government in Singapore has started to get in on the act now with AVA's recently published advice on how to grow food in vertical pipes.

So what am I going to do about growing my own food? Well, after I've moved out of my temporary accommodation into somewhere more permanent, I'm going to investigate how easy it is to grow food here and what kind of food can be grown in the home and, maybe, even see if I can grow something in the condo's communal garden (probably a no-goer but we'll see). Keep your eyes open for updates on this blog and through twitter (@livinggreeninsg).

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Green Wash(ing up)

I was washing up, using the washing up liquid left in our temporary apartment by the previous occupant when I noticed that it had a Green Label. I then looked at all the other packets and bottles around. There's so many green labels out there - which can you trust?

So many different labels!
  Back in the UK I used two washing up liquids, dependant on availability and budget. One was Ecover and the other was a supermarket's own brand liquid that had an EU Ecolabel. The Ecolabel aims to make it simple for consumers to choose environmentally friendly products. It certifies a whole range of products: soaps, shampoos, hair conditioners, cleaning products, textiles, footwear, paints, computers, TVs, floor coverings, furniture, soil, lightbulbs, heat pumps (air conditioners that heat too - a foreign concept in Singapore ;)), lubricants, mattresses, copier paper, toilet paper, campsites and hotels. Quite a varied list! All in all there are over 17,000 products that have been labelled.

But is it any good? The other liquid that I bought was Ecover. They like the label but have a number of issues with it - I guess nothing's perfect!

Turning to Singapore's very own Green Label. It covers even more products than the EU's:  Automobile Tyres, Cosmetics, Dishwashers, Electric Kettles, Environmentally Innovative Products, Espresso and Coffee Machines, Fire Extinguishers, Gas Cookers and Gas-fired Cooking Appliances, Hand Driers, Hot Water Storage Tanks, Insulators, Mattresses, Mobile Phones, Photovoltaic Equipment, Refrigerators and Freezers, Solar Powered Products, Textiles, Cement and Precast Concrete Product, Brick, Tile/Ceramics, Standard Laundry Powder Detergent, Concentrated Laundry Powder Detergents, Laundry Liquid Detergent, Dishwashing Detergent, Floor Cleaner, Computer System Unit, Electronics - Computer Monitor, Washing Machine, Air-Conditioners, Compact Fluorescent Lamp, Photo Copiers, Printers/Faxes and Multifunctional Devices, Correction Fluid/Tape, Organic Fertilizers, Products Made From Recycled/Renewable Fibres
Industrial and Institutional Cleaners, Carpets, Adhesives/ Sealants, Panel Boards, Wall Coverings, Products Made From 50% Recycled Materials, Biodegradable Products, LED, Food Packaging, Crockery and Cutlery, Paints and Surface Coatings, Stationery Paper, Hygiene Products, Printing Paper, Office Automation Paper, Independent Solar Cell Powered Calculator, Independent Solar Cell Powered Watch,
Hair Spray/Gel/Mousse, Deodorant Stick/Roller/Spray, Shaving Foam & Cream. Phew!
Both schemes are members of the Global Ecolabelling Network.

My mission, from now on, is to only buy Green Label products. I shall report my success via twitter. Follow me @livinggreeninsg.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The (free range) elephant in the room

So I've been in Singapore for around a month now, and have been eating food all that time, amazingly. I'm not a vegetarian and in the UK I always tried to eat free range meat, that has been raised in a more humane way. I've been trying to avoid thinking about the conditions the animals have been raised in whilst tucking into my chicken and rice, but having seen a few items on the local news, it's an issue that I can't ignore much longer. And boy, is it a big issue!

I was going to start by looking at chickens and eggs, although I couldn't make my mind which to look at first - chicken or egg ;) but one issue rose from the deep at attacked my attention - Shark's Fin Soup. First, this week's 8 Days magazine has a special feature about two local celebrities - Glenn Ong and Jean Danker - who won't be serving the soup at their wedding. Further celebrities then give their opinions on eating the soup - some for, some against. Plus there's a list of hotels that don't serve it anymore and the options the offer instead (although one of them does offer cod - which is also endangered, but I'll look at fish in more detail soon).

8 Days Issue No. 1120 Apr 5, 2012 - Special Feature about Shark's Fin Soup - Pages 28 to 47
I then read about my company's pledge not to serve or order shark's fin soup. They've signed up to the WWF campaign.

As a westerner, shark's fin soup wasn't something that I'd really come across, but I saw some on a trip to Hong Kong and it seems to be served at most weddings in Singapore. It's not something that I'd eat and I've signed the WWF pledge not to eat it. Why don't you?

Monday, 2 April 2012

Green House Hunting

We've been in our temporary accommodation for a couple of weeks now so it's about time we started looking for somewhere more permanent to live. Of course, the choice of where we live will impact on our green lifestyle.

I've not lived in rented accommodation for a few years now, so I've had total control over the energy and water use and been able to reduce these by making changes to our house and fittings, and been able to compost and grow food in our garden. Our house was also located in cycling distance from my work too. Going back in to rented accommodation means that some of those decisions are taken out of our hands.

In the UK every home that is rented has to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) which rates the energy performance from a G rating (worst) to A rating (best), so if you're interested, you can select your future home based on the energy rating band. New homes can also be rated using the Code for Sustainable Homes or EcoHomes (for slightly older properties). But then as house building is at an all time low in the UK, not many homes are being assessed under the Code.

Whilst Singapore doesn't appear to have an equivalent of the EPC, it does have Green Mark. There are over 1000 rated buildings or projects. Since 2008, all new buildings had to achieve the minimum Green Mark score, so there are (after a quick search on 10,781 apartments to chose from today. Gulp!

After putting all our criteria for an apartment in, that leaves a whole 3 properties to choose from which have the Green Mark! How lucky we are. Two of those are in the same condo - so are possibly the same property, and the condo is right on the other side of the island, so too far to commute and one is actually being advertised as a flat share. So that is a total 0 properties! It seems that to afford a Green Mark rated flat, we'd have to vastly increase our budget.

So, it's back to the usual compromise of location, price and size, with "green" being at the bottom of the checklist. that gives me an idea. So you can't afford a Green Mark rated apartment? Don't worry! Watch this space for my Renting Green in Singapore checklist!