28 April 2010

Green Volunteering

Practicing the 3Rs and other conservation measures are an important aspect of leading an eco-friendly lifestyle. While doing our own part for the environment, it’s also important to contribute to society’s efforts to make our environment clean, healthy and sustainable for all. Here are some ways in which residents of all ages and walks of life can get involved in community volunteering efforts.
  1. 1. Step up and clean up!
Beach and park clean ups are an excellent, hands-on way to help improve the environment. Organise a cleanup with your friends, community group or school, and give your favourite park such as Kranji Reservoir, Lower Seletar Reservoir and Sembawang Park a facelift, and reward yourself with a picnic after!
  1. 2. Hold the earth in your hands.
Terrariums are basically glass jars containing plants that flourish for months on end – self-sustaining ecosystems. They beautify any desk or room, and are effective ways of encouraging a love for nature. You can start by attending terrarium making workshops conducted by SEC. Then, you can make your own terrariums out of recycled materials, and sell them to raise funds for your favourite charity organisation. Contact info@sec.org.sg to learn more about terrarium making workshops!
Gambar Galian Ciuyah Waled Cirebon Jawa Barat

  1. 3. Chip in by logging in!
With a busy school schedule, it can be difficult to find the time to volunteer on a regular basis. You can still do your part by helping to spread environmental awareness, online!
North West CDC and SEC have jointly joined GS 2050, a project aimed at guiding Singapore’s environmental development in the coming decades. Log on to www.youthhabitat.sg/gs2050 and make your opinions count by answering a short survey on issues that matter to you, and contribute to forum discussions amongst your peers! Your responses will be collated into a document that will serve as a reference for businesses and policymakers alike.
You can also log on to www.youthhabitat.sg and contribute articles on environmental issues to the site, as well as help maintain the website. Sign up today!
  1. 4. Go out and spread the word!
A great way to raise awareness amongst the young is by encouraging peers to share their thoughts and ideas with one another. SEC trains volunteers to give talks at their schools on topics such as green lifestyle habits and environmental consciousness. Contact us at info@sec.org.sg to get trained as a volunteer speaker today! The public speaking skills and environmental knowledge you will gain in the training workshops will be valuable to you in all aspects of your school and professional life!

Green Tips for Daily Living

Here are some simple “green tips” for every day living. When done regularly, they just become a way of life. Drop us an email at feedback@greenkampong.com with tips of your own.

1. Skip the bottled water
  • Use a water filter to purify tap water instead of buying bottled water. Not only is bottled water expensive, but it generates large amounts of plastic container waste.
  • Bring a reusable water bottle, preferably aluminium rather than plastic, with you when travelling or at work. This also applies to buying coffee.
2. Borrow instead of buying
  • Borrow from libraries instead of buying personal books and movies. This saves money, not to mention the ink and paper that goes into printing new books. Download from bit torrent. Go paperless and wireless.
3. Less petrol means more money
  • Shake those legs! Walk or bike to work. This saves on petrol, ERP and parking costs while improving your cardiovascular health and reducing your risk of obesity.
  • Consider telecommuting if you live far from your work. Or move closer. Even if this means paying more rent, it could save you money in the long term.

4. Make your own cleaning supplies
  • The big secret: you can make very effective, non-toxic cleaning products whenever you need them. All you need are a few simple ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, lemon, and soap.
  • Making your own cleaning products saves money, time, and packaging-not to mention your indoor air quality. It’s fun!

5. Eat smart
  • If you eat meat, add one meatless meal a week. Meat costs a lot at the store-and it’s even more expensive when you consider the related environmental and health costs.
  • Buy locally raised, humane, and organic meat, eggs, and dairy whenever you can. Purchasing from local farmers keeps money in the local economy.

6. Think before you buy
  • Go online to find new or gently used second-hand products. Discover vintage. Whether you’ve just moved or are looking to redecorate, consider a service like yahoo classifieds or ebay to track down furniture, appliances, and other items cheaply or for free. This is especially true for baby’s toys and accessories.
  • Check out garage sales, thrift stores, and consignment shops for clothing and other everyday items.

7. Save energy to save money
  • Use fans whenever possible; air conditioning units are huge energy eaters.
  • Install compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) when your older incandescent bulbs burn out.
  • Unplug appliances when you’re not using them. Or, use a “smart” power strip that senses when appliances are off and cuts “phantom” or “vampire” energy use.
  • Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible. As much as 85 percent of the energy used to machine-wash clothes goes to heating the water.
  • Use a drying rack or clothesline to save the energy otherwise used during machine drying.

8. Buy smart
  • Buy in bulk. Purchasing food from bulk bins can save money and packaging.
  • Wear clothes that don’t need to be dry-cleaned. This saves money and cuts down on toxic chemical use.
  • Invest in high-quality, long-lasting products. You might pay more now, but you’ll be happy when you don’t have to replace items as frequently.

9. Save water to save money
  • Take shorter showers to reduce water use. This will lower your water and heating bills too. Take cold showers whenever possible; avoid baths.
  • Install a low-flow showerhead. They don’t cost much, and the water and energy savings can quickly pay back your investment.
  • Avoid using a dishwasher; soap plates without using the tap and then rinse sparingly.
  • Wash your car as sparingly as possible; commercial carwashes have a tendency to waste large amounts of water though some do use recycled water.

10. Keep electronics out of the trash
  • Keep your cell phones, computers, and other electronics as long as possible.
  • Donate or recycle them responsibly when the time comes. E-waste contains mercury and other toxics and is a growing environmental problem.
  • Recycle your cell phone.
  • What items can and can’t be recycled; lobby to have a recycling bin in your area.

Climate Change – Making the Difference with Every Little Bite

This article is about feeling empowered and taking control of Climate Change. To not get disillusioned with the politics and lack of progress with Kyoto or Copenhagen talks but in fact to inspire yourself and all those around you with the profound impact you can make to Climate Change and the ecology of the planet.
I wrote recently about the ecological/carbon footprint of the disposable (coffee) cup [1]. It is fascinating and counter intuitive that a styrofoam cup (in our current era of green awareness) has a much smaller environmental impact than paper cups, at least in the broader context of energy use and GHG emissions. I get upset that the government doesn’t do more to promote cycling to work; that plastic bags aren’t simply banned or a mandatory levy isn’t  placed on their use;  that so many people take siestas in their cars idling  [2], and that people still want to eat shark’s fin soup! Etc etc the list goes on.
Climate Change has been acknowledged by many as the greatest threat to humanity, biodiversity and planet Earth [3]. In this context I remain troubled not that the climate change (denial) debate continues but that those who are already climate change activists are satisfied with doing nothing or feel that (little) contributions like keeping the A/C at 25c, changing their light bulbs, or turning off various electrical appliances is good enough! Don’t get me wrong, without question every such action makes a difference. But don’t you feel that these (little) acts just don’t seem momentous enough? And does it not perturb you that when you ask the experts, the Climate Change consultants and active speakers, “what can I do as an individual to make a difference?”, the answer (for me has been and) will be, “change your light bulbs, drive less, use public transport, .. etc.,… ”??!!
But aren’t we facing the greatest existential threat in the history planet Earth? For example, in the last 50 years the Arctic has lost 80% of its volume, the majority of which has been lost since 2000 [4]. The Arctic is now forecast to be iceless in summer in the not too distant future [5]. The Arctic reflects up to 80% of the suns radiation and once the Arctic is gone this radiation will be rapidly absorbed by the sea and hence accelerating Global Warming [6]. The further immediate implications for permafrost melt, the death of corals, the Greenland ice sheet  melting (which is equivalent to a 7m sea level rise), .. etc., only further reinforces and accelerates all the real and worst fears of Climate Change.
So do you still feel that changing the light bulbs in your house is the best thing you can do to make a difference? Do you want to go down fighting knowing that you did the most substantial and profound acts to save the Earth and all Earthlings? Well, there is one single act you can do every day to make such a significant difference and that is to reduce and ultimately eat No Meat.
In 2006 the UN FAO published its report “Livestock’s Long Shadow”. The report detailed how animal production accounted for 18% of GHG emissions and how one third of GHG emissions are related to agriculture and land use [7]. And now more recently, a comprehensive re-study of animal production agriculture and landuse by the Worldwatch institute showing that 51% of GHG emissions can be attributed to livestock and their byproducts [8]. And this shockingly large number does not include the other negative ecological effects that are a result of over fertilizing crops, GM contamination, untreated sewage runoff from animal farms, deforestation [9], and or animal welfare concerns [10].
Here are a few more facts and comparisons that may excite you
  1. animal agriculture accounts for 9% of our carbon dioxide emissions, emits 37% of our methane, and a whopping 65% of our nitrous oxide. This is particular more problematic when you know that methane and nitrous oxide are 23 and 296 times more potent than CO2 [11]
  2. If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would save: 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost 4 months; 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise fed to livestock, enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year;  70 million gallons of gas–enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined with plenty to spare;  33 tons of antibiotics [12]
  3. If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would prevent: Greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 1.2 million tons of CO2, as much as produced by all of France; 3 million tons of soil erosion and $70 million in resulting economic damages;  4.5 million tons of animal excrement;  Almost 7 tons of ammonia emissions, a major air pollutant [13]
The bottom line is reducing or stopping meat intake is the most profound positive contribution you can make to fix Climate Change, reduce and improve the ecology of many ecosystems globally, literally feed the world and improve global inequities, improve animal welfare, and also your health [14]!
  1. http://www.greenkampong.com/tech-science/rethinking-your-disposable-coffee-cup/
  2. Randomly drop into the Macritchie Reservoir car park most days and you will be surprised
  3. Google “climate change greatest threat…”  I would also suggest visiting http://www.climatecodered.net/ (there are other websites) and reading what hard core climate scientists are so concerned about. To talk about containing a (simple) 2c warming or a 1m rise in sea levels is almost grossly negligent and deceiving to what is actually likely to happen… Read Fred Pearce book “With Speed and Violence”
  4. http://www.climatecodered.net/ see article title “350 is the wrong target”
  5. Google “iceless arctic summer”.. http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2008/06/27/iceless-arctic.html the sad reality is that the IPCC initially suggested around 2100, then it became 2050, then after the record ice loss recently, it seems inevitable that within 5-10 years (hopefully not sooner) it will be iceless.
  6. http://nsidc.org/quickfacts/seaice.html, and http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/opinion/breaking-views/43546-tough-to-ink-deal-as-sea-levels-inch-up–michael-richardson for other Arctic and or Antarctic comments
  7. http://aphg.jhsph.edu/?event=browse.subject&subjectID=18
  8. http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6294
  9. Google “deforestation”.. depending on where you go anywhere from 70-90% of deforestation is due to grain for feedstock. That is for example soy being grown for animal feeds. You can hear and see this statistic in Yann Arhus Bertrands recent movie documentary Home http://www.home-2009.com/us/index.html
  10. A great book that covers a lot of the ecological issues of eating is “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan.
  11. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathy-freston/vegetarian-is-the-new-pri_b_39014.html
  12. http://www.kathyfreston.com/blogs_by_kathy/17_the_breathtaking_effects_of_cutting_back_on_meat.html
  13. http://www.kathyfreston.com/blogs_by_kathy/17_the_breathtaking_effects_of_cutting_back_on_meat.html
  14. http://www.thechinastudy.com/ most recent and probably best known empirical study that clearly shows that a plant based, whole foods diet is the optimal diet for  humans.
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