Sunday, 16 September 2012

On yer bike!

This post has been lurking in my draft folder for a while. Mainly because I haven't been cycling to work a lot lately. :( But this all changes tomorrow! I'll be definitely back on my bike. The F1 race has inspired me to get back on my bike because, quite frankly, i have no idea how I'll get to work (or more importantly, home from work!)

My route starts on the road, past the junction where I was hit by a car, WHILST NOT MOVING! Then on through Tanjong Rhu and the Gardens by the Bay via the Marina Barrage to the CBD (and most importantly, a shower!)

I'm lucky that my route is mainly off road. Watching the traffic along Nicoll Highway from my bus really scares me. Those cyclists who do use it as a route must be so brave!

It's sad to see that cycling is just seen as a menace in Singapore. For a country that claims to be a beacon of sustainability, I was really surprised to find this out. If somewhere as congested as London or as hilly as Bristol can embrace the bike, then surely flat Singapore with its wide roads can find rooms for bikes. What Singapore really needs is the Government to see cycling as a viable form of transport and integrate it into its policies. For instance, I went to the LTA Gallery and there were only two mentions of cycling, this photo below plus an old trishaw. There was no mention of integrating cycling into the future infrastructure. In fact, the future is filled with two storey roads. Ick!

But have no fear, there is a ground swell of support for cycling, as can be seen by the comments following this letter in Today.  Here are a few blogs about cycling in Singapore that demonstrate this support:
Cycling in Singapore
Love Cycling in Singapore 
JZ88 folding bikes blog
Singapore Cycling Forums
Small Wheel Big Smile

And if you're interested in how thing's are going in the UK (the debate still rages there too, despite good progress), here's a couple more good sources:
Sustrans - a charity campaigning for more sustainable forms of transport and who have set up the National Cycle  Network - like bicycle motorways cris crossing the whole of the UK. They've got great maps too.
Guardian Bike Blog - weekly blog about cycling, both for commuting and for sport.

Don't forget bike hour this equinox - 22.09.12 at 6pm. Find the Bike Hour facebook page for more details or see this site.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Never Ending Eco List #11 to #15

It's been a while since I reported on my Never Ending Eco List, so here goes.

#11 Complain to 4Seasons Gourmet Supermarket about their overpackaged fruit and veg - Done.

I wanted to get some apples to have at work. There's not a lot of grocery shops near my office, but I found  Four Seasons Gourmet Market. They sell lots of fresh fruit and veg. The problem is, it's all refrigerated and all shrink wrapped. In fact, the apples were even in a hard plastic tray AND shrink wrapped. Considering that apples come with their own protective packaging, I think this is just too much packaging.

I sent an email to complain and actually received a response. Here's what they said:

"Thank you for your feedback and I fully agree with you for the need to reduce wasteful packaging.

Due to our customers' demand for good quality, we had to chill most of our products. We find it very difficult to ensure good quality for products left outside the chiller. Apples left outside would become soft and not crunchy quickly, and vegetables would rot as well. We currently have some of our fruits and vegetables outside the chiller due to insufficient space, and are already experiencing significant wastage on them.

For the shrink wrapping, it is due to product safety and shelf life issues. I lived in London for a few years during my studies and was always amazed by the colorful/delicious displays of fruits at the fruit stores in Europe, which unfortunately is not possible for my store with the layers of plastic now covering the fruits. Some consumers in Singapore tend to have the bad habit of pressing the fruits while selecting them, causing damage to the fruits, so we need to protect the more sensitive fruits.

For fruits that are eaten with the skin on, consumers usually prefer retailers like us to shrink wrap the fruits to prevent bacteria on consumers' hands from contaminating the fruits. With bacteria like e. coli and staphylococcus aureus being spread by unclean hands, it has therefore become necessary for us to package our fruits to prevent contact with human skin.

We are currently exploring biodegradable trays made from palm, and environmentally-friendly shrink film made from corn.
I hope that we would be able to switch to those after evaluating the costs and consistency of supply.

I hope that you are satisfied with my reply and I assure you that we would do our best to cut down on unnecessary packaging."

#12 Take own cutlery when going to Lau Pa Sat for lunch - in progress.

I keep forgetting to do this but then again I've been going to Asia Square a lot for lunch instead and using their proper cutlery! I've just put a fork and spoon in my work bag so they will be ready for Monday!

#13 (or #12 again on my tweets) Have a Meat Free Monday and help stop deforestation - Done.

Here's a few reasons why you should have a meat free Monday. As I'm not in charge of food shopping and cooking, I'm having a bit of difficulty with this one. Instead, I've decided to have meat free lunches instead. This is going quite well as there's quite a lot of choice for lunches, especially if I include fish too - skipjack tuna and mackerel (Saba) are my usual choices for fish, which are both plentiful. I'm a sucker for BBQ Saba! There's salad, soup, Indian, sandwiches and you can usually find veg choices at the economy rice stall. It's a good chance to eat the veg I like that "my cook" doesn't!

#14 (#13 tweet) Refuse plastic bags everyday, not just on International Plastic Bag Free Day - Sometimes a fail.

I tend to carry a cloth bag with me everywhere I go so this one isn't too hard, although I have been too slow on some occasions and the shop assistant has bagged my item before I've had chance to refuse. The Dairy Farm chain of shops (Giant, Cold Storage, Guardian etc.) are promoting reducing the use of plastic bags (see below). It's just a shame that they've not taken the first step by training their staff to ask if you want a bag. I'm sure it would reduce plastic bag use in their stores - especially ones like Guardian or 7Eleven where you might just be buying one small item. They could also let you pack your own bags. I don't need everything in it's own carrier - that's what (over)packaging is for!

If you're interested, the next International Plastic Bag Free Day is 3 July 2013.

#15 Find Peat Free Potting Compost - Fail.

A fail and a win on this one. I bought some compost, have no idea if it's peat free but at least I know where to get some next time! See my earlier blog post.