Friday, 19 October 2012

Pandering to conservation

Wondering what to do this weekend? Then why not head down to Clifford Pier (between Fullerton Bay Hotel and One Fullerton) to have a go at the Panda Maze? The maze was supposed to close today but it's staying here for another couple of days, 'til Sunday!

The Panda Maze on Clifford Pier
The maze has been put together by the Chengdu Research Base, who are currently raising awareness of panda conservation through their Chengdu Pambassador programme.

The Chengdu Pambassador 2012 is a three-month programme to find panda lovers from around the world and give them the chance to become a "panda ambassador" (or Pambassador) to promote global knowledge and awareness about giant panda conservation. They held the semi-finals in Singapore on 13th.

Welcome to the maze!
Here's a freebie to get you going!
Find out more on their facebook page, where you can enter competitions too!

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.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Green Gardens by The Bay

I've been to the new Gardens by the Bay a couple of times now. They really seem to have taken on many sustainability issues and are passing the message on. For instance, the wall along the edge of the Supertree Grove has information "spots" about all sorts of issues.

Information "spot" about the Gardens' energy sources

One of many "spots".
The messages continues inside the Cloud Forest. Once you've got to the top of the mountain, make sure your journey back to the bottom includes not only staring in wonder at the mountain covered in plants, the amazing structure of the greenhouse (disclosure: I'm an engineer and anoraky about this kind of thing) and the Crystal Cave, but also a wander through the Earth Check exhibition. This includes facts and figures about climate change, including a good animation of how CO2 and temperature levels have changed over the last 400,000 years (stills below).

The Carbon Cycle animation

CO2 levels 400,000 years to present day - that's 4 ice ages.

CO2 levels 1,000 years ago to today - natural warming

CO2 levels in the last 25 years - look at the levels since the Industrial Revolution - gulp!
Travel down the escalator and watch the +5 degC film demonstrating what would happed if the Earth's temperature rose 5 degC by 2100. I've not made my mind up whether the film is alarmist or realistic regarding the impacts. It's often said that the message around climate change is too alarmist, but perhaps, if what is shown in the film will happen, the message isn't alarmist enough? Human nature seems to be to bury our head in the sand until it's too late and alarmist messages can drive you to do this even more! Like with smoking, people know the consequences of their actions but still do it.
"All endemic species will be dead." (Endemic means specific to a particular location e.g. Galapagos Islands)

They could turn the air-con down a bit - it was freezing in there. Then again, if you're making your own cooling from waste plant material, why not use as much as you can?

Sponsored by ST Engineering - the guys who also service aircraft and manufacture arms. They do have a corporate social responsibility policy.
After the film, there's a room with a model of the Gardens explaining where they get their energy and water from and where the waste from the Gardens go. They've thought of everything, including using the Supertrees as giant chimneys from the biomass boilers that burns their plant waste to create heat that's, in turn, used to cool the greenhouses. Pretty amazing. More information can be found on a long page about their sustainability efforts here.
Animated model of the Gardens showing how the greenhouses are cooled.
Throughout the Gardens there is information about biodiversity and the importance of plants.

The plants still need some time to bed in properly and establish themselves, but all in all, I'd recommend a trips to the Gardens to anyone - especially if you want a green fix!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Singapore Garden Festival 2012

I checked out the Garden Festival over the weekend at Suntec to get ideas for growing food in the city and to see what other sustainable things would be there. Whilst it wasn't one of the themes of the show, there were a few themes that I picked up on:
- Growing food
- Green walls and roofs
- Green organisations.


Growing food

A couple of the gardens contained ideas for growing food. The first one I came across was Designer Veera Sekaran's Living Green Balcony (must have been named ofer me! ;) ) There was a nifty idea for growing lots of chillies, herbs and spices in a small area. It contained a number of long, thin containers in a moveable frame with an irrigation system built in.

Chillies growing in the Living Green Balcony vertical planter

Irrigation tubes built into the top of the planter. 

The next garden I came across was the "My Home Garden" in the Horticulture and Community section. This garden was a recreation of an apartment but was full of plants and displays, like the train track which was in a real mini jungle! Outside the kitchen was a mini kitchen garden with herbs and vegeatables.

The kitchen garden in My Home Garden.

The final food themed garden was the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore's (AVA) Garden of Edibles and Ceral Grains. The garden contained examples of plants that could be grown in a community garden, like cassava, sweet potato and soy beans. I picked up one of their lealets which tells you how to grow the crops and also where to get seeds from. The companies listed are Ban Lee Huat, Faithful Provider Agricultural Products and Seeds, Far East Flora, Known-You Seeds Distribution (SEA) and World Farm Co.

A couple of the market stalls sold vegetable seeds - I bought some for my (soon to be started) balcony garden - Far East Flora and Kiat Lee Landscape & Building.

I also bought some potting compost but the packet is all in Chinese so I have no idea what is in it. Not good if it is 100% peat! Here's why. The really annoying thing was that I walked past the GreenBack Compost stand afterwards. Their compost is made from garden waste from Singapore and has a Green Label. I know where I'll be going next time!

One final stand that I saw was the Watercircle Hydroponics promoting hydroponics for vegetable growing.

Vegetables growing in a hydroponics system

Hydropoic tomatoes

Green Walls and Roofs

The Living Green Balcony demonstrated the small scale application of green walls, but the Skyrise Greenery stand took it to a whole new level!

Skyrise Greenery is a collaboration between the Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology (CUGE) and National Parks. It promotes the use of roof gardens, green walls and roofs through an incentive scheme, awards and conferences. There are many benefits of greening buildings in this way, such as reducing temperatures both inside and outside the building, increasing urban biodiversity, reducing air pollution and reducing rainwater run-off. One of the leaflets I picked up from the stand - A concise guide to Rooftop Greening - even suggests using the roof space to grow vegetables. Yay!
More infomation about Skyrise Greenery!

There were a few stands of companies who sell systems for green walls and roofs. Here's a list (sorry if I missed you off!), some of whom have GreenLabels for their products:
- Uniseal Creative Solutions
- Greenology
- Greentech Materials
- Prince's Landscape & Construction

Green Organisations

There were a few organisations there that promote a more sustainable way of doing things. Apart from those mentioned above, there was also:
Kranji Countryside Association who promote Singapore's own farms.
The Green Volunteers who are a group who get involved in hands-on projects such as mangrove clean-ups, gardening and nature guide training.
The Nature Society (Singapore) is dedicated to preserving biodiversity.

The Nature Society's stand was popular
It all amounted to quite a busy afternoon!


Sunday, 8 July 2012

Never Ending Eco List - #6 to #10

Next update from my  #neverendingecolist.

#6 Turn off shower when soaping up - Doing

Back in the UK, I knew that  I should really turn off the water whilst washing but I used the warmth of the running water to keep me warm in our chilly bathroom. I don't need to do this here as it's nice and warm, so I can save 12 litres of water for every minute I spend soaping up! Putting that in context, humans need to consume 2 litres of water a day (although a lot of that is already in your food), so that's wasting a lot of useful water!

#7 Find source of recycled tissues - in progress.

I sneeze. A lot. So when my box of tissues ran out at work I had a look in a couple of local convenience stores. All I could find were five-packs of boxes of tissues (wrapped in plastic) and none were recycled.

I'm still working on finding a shop that sells boxes of recycled tissues. I have a bit of time though. Whilst I may sneeze a lot - I still have four unopened boxes under my desk to get through!

#8 Make regular donations to WWF - Fail

If you don't know already, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) (not to be confused with the renamed wrestling foundation) is one of the world’s largest and most experienced independent conservation organisations.

Established on 29 April 1961, it was the product of a deep concern held by a few eminent gentlemen who were worried by what they saw happening in our world at that time. Since then, WWF has grown up to be one of the largest environmental organisation in the world.
They started their Singapore office in March 2006 to engage individuals and organisations towards making a positive change in their lives and business operations.
Through their awareness campaigns and outreach activities, they aim to educate individuals from all walks of life on how a simple action can add up to make a big difference to our environment and safeguard the world’s biodiversity. They also work with businesses both locally and within the Asia Pacific region to help them identify sustainable business practices, as well as on how they can reduce their ecological foot print on the planet.

Across the Asia Pacific region, WWF has a strong presence and history with conservation programmes in over 22 countries.
I did try to set up a regular payment but they need to text a code to my mobile. Which is fine, except I haven't given my bank the number yet. Fail! But will absolutely send my bank my contact details so I can donate online.

#9 Buy refill versions of toiletries and cleaning items - Doing

The availability of refill packs here is much greater than in the UK. So far we've, bought refill packs for Mama Washing Up Liquid, Kirei Kirei hand soap and Yuri hand soap.  In fact, refills are so prevalent that I bought a refill pack of washing liquid for clothes when we first arrived here as there weren't any bottles, just refills! Luckily it had a screwtop so the lack of bottle to pour it into wasn't a problem.

#10 Sign this! Save the Arctic - Done

Although the Arctic is literally half the world away from Singapore, it helps keep our planet cool. You think it's hot in Singapore, wait until climate change really kicks in!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Never Ending Eco List - #1 to #5

So here's the first update on the #neverendingecolist that I've started on my Twitter account (@livinggreeninsg)

#1 Turn the water off while I'm brushing my teeth - In Progress

I'm trying to remember to do this!

 #2 Find my electricity meter - Fail

Must try harder! Will keep this on the update list until it's done. It was easy in the UK - it was right next to our front door!

#3 Find a garden centre that sells seeds - Done

I've found a couple of sources of seeds:

I think first I need some soil.

This website looks like it migh be useful too:

#4 Choose snacks with less packaging - In Progress