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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Take a vote

The poll results are out!
So, the question is: Do you bring your own reusable bags when shopping?

I am disappointed to see that 23 out of 64 people who voted cannot be bothered to bring their own reusable bags when shopping. It does not come as a surprise, but it is saddening all the same. Also, 46 out of 64 people voted with a negative answer to my question posed. It is sad. But this means we have plenty of room for improvement! There can be more education about the negative impacts of using plastic bags, and how using a reusable bag can go a long way. (There is one person who brings a reusable bag for shopping! One is better than none!)

After reviewing this poll, I realized that some of my poll options can be tweaked or changed to make my results more comprehensive for analysis. Furthermore, my sample size is pretty small, so my results cannot be conclusive. Hopefully I will get to do a survey on a larger scale in the future, to study people and how they regard their environments.

Monday, October 27, 2014

We're all in this together

I have come to realize that recycling, and anything else to do with saving with the environment is a very social thing, It has to do with people. It's all about the people. Yes, even though there is a lot of science needed in the process of recycling the material, it is more about pushing the people to do it.

A simple search on Google gave me these results above. There are definitely many websites with information on how to get people to start recycling, and also why they do not recycle. I suppose some of their suggestions may actually work out, but I feel that the success would really be dependent on the culture, attitudes, and other characteristics of the society.

Recycling and green living have really been becoming increasingly popular, and I really hope that this trend will continue, and even pick up its speed.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Big big world

I have found two interesting newspaper articles! You should click on them to read them. :) 

Newspaper article from the Straits Times (October 24, 2014) about a
hotel recycling leftover soap for redistribution.
This article's title says it all. Recycling used soap for the needy! I find this to be a really ingenious idea. It's recycling coupled with helping the needy; killing two birds with one stone! Or a soap bar, if you prefer. 

Newspaper article from the Straits Times (October 25, 2014)
about recycling of refrigerants
This other article is about recycling refrigerants, but I shall not elaborate on it. Personally, it's not as interesting as the previous one, but that could be because I do not really see or understand the impact or the process. It is still a worthy cause though, and with a great positive impact!

When I see big firms doing their part to recycle and save the environment, it gives me hope that more firms would follow their lead to be more environmentally friendly and recycle their waste! Referring to the first newspaper article on soap recycling, if all the hotels in Singapore do what this hotel is doing, imagine how much soap can be recycled and not just thrown away! If they expand this activity to reduce food wastage and others, they will not be producing so much waste.

Big firms can do big things with big impacts, I can only hope that they continue to do work that does not harm the environment! 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

You could take a little trip around Singapore town

I would like to start off with this: please excuse my mediocre photography! 
Anyway, I've taken a trip down to Farrer Park to have lunch at City Square shopping mall, and came across these pretty cool things! 

A sign with information about the impact of
plastic bags on our environment.
I thought this sign was really great! And it was pretty informative, although the words were slightly small, and people had to stop for a moment to actually read all the information on it. Singaporeans tend to always be in a hurry or preoccupied with their human friends, or hand-held friends (also known as the cellphone), so these signs may go ignored most of the time.

However, I learnt recently, that a child's curiosity about new things like these can actually influence the parents' curiosities (Saxe and Stollak, 1971). Since shopping malls are places where parents bring their children, then these kids will be likely to question their parents about it! And hopefully, the parents would read these signs as well and explain it to their children.

Separate bins labelled clearly with a poster girl urging people to recycle
I also saw these bins with the clearly labelled signs and separate compartments for each type of waste! I thought they were pretty cool, especially the little cardboard girl at the side. Until I peered into the bins. (I apologize for forgetting to take a photo. It wouldn't have looked very pleasant anyway.) 

The can bin was fine, it had a few cans inside. But the plastic and paper bins were atrocious. There were unfinished plastic cups of drinks, kit-kat wrappers that aren't all that plastic, and so on, in the plastic bin. In the paper bin, there were Mac Donalds cheese burger wrappers which I assume are slathered in tomato sauce and cheese, and used tissue paper. 

I am not very sure how this recycling process is going to unfold. I guess it is just not very feasible to have these bins in shopping malls, especially with a society that is not in the habit of recycling. Perhaps more information on what can be recycled could be put on signs above the bins!

Literature cited:
Saxe R. M., G. E. Stollak (1971). "Curiosity and the parent-child relationship" Child Development 42(2): 373-384

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monkey see, monkey do

Recently, I have been talking about taking initiatives, doing volunteer work and just taking the opportunity to be better stewards of the environment. I feel that if more and more people decide to do just that, then it would become the norm. Recycling would soon become part of our lifestyle in Singapore!

I've read some notes on social psychology online here. I feel that many of the points brought up can be applied here. For example, normative social influence, which is "influence resulting from a person's desire to gain approval or avoid rejection". I interpreted this as: if many people around person A recycles, then person A is likely to be influenced by their habits, and also begin to recycle.

But I suppose, that could also be mindless conformity, also mentioned in the slides. According to the slides, it is "using others as cues to behave without thinking or dealing with the dilemma of perception/thoughts and others' perceptions and thoughts". Personally, I observe mindless conformity as being the more prevalent type of influence in Singapore.

I was glad to see in the slides that our actions can affect our attitudes. One reason mentioned was because of cognitive dissonance, which is "the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change". (Google definition) How I saw this was even if we did not fully understand at first why we are following our friends' habits of recycling, we would change our attitudes about recycling sooner or later because we want to see consistency between our actions and attitudes.

I'm not sure if my understanding of this social psychology is right, but I hope to learn more about this in the subsequent years of study I will undergo in NUS.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Environmental advocates return!

Results of the recycling drive in NUS

I was very happy to see this result! 34448 kilograms of e-waste is definitely no mean feat! Remember my post on the 18th of August? I talked about initiatives taken by students in NUS to make people more aware of the waste they produce and show them feasible ways to recycle. At first I did doubt the effectiveness of these posters due to the lack of information available, but once I see these numbers, I'm no longer doubtful! 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

One man's trash is another man's treasure

Newspaper article from the Straits Times (September 20, 2014) about a factory start-up,
to turn plastic into landscaping products
In my preceding post, I spoke about people having the opportunity or taking the initiative to start something that can help the environment. I stumbled upon this old newspaper article while lining my guinea pig's cage. It's about an ordinary woman, Lorna Rutto, who used her personal savings and prize money to start a factory to turn plastic trash into landscaping products. New life for the plastics! Her factory, EcoPost, is now pretty successful, in my opinion, since it's recycling 20 tonnes of plastic trash every month.
Her passion and grit are definitely laudable, and perhaps, if examples like her are given more attention, people will begin to realize that large-scale projects like hers can become reality. Such encouragement to do more!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

It only takes a spark (or an idea)

Previously, I spoke about opportunities for environmental initiatives. Today, I will elaborate a little bit more!
One story from Idea Jam stood out to me: this.

A volunteer from WWS picking up litter from Marina Reservoir
Photo credits to asiaone 
This story is about Waterways Watch Society (WWS), where its volunteers pick up flotsam from the waterways in Singapore every weekend. WWS wants to educate the public so that they are aware of pollution of the waterways and also to identify the sources of pollution and suggest ways to end it.

I feel that this initiative is a really good idea, but it should be given more media attention so that Singaporeans will be more aware of this. I am quite glad to learn that there are already 370 volunteers! I believe that when a person is involved in picking up litter and trash like this, he or she will be more conscious of the importance of not littering, because he or she will see the impacts first hand.
There are many other opportunities for Singaporeans to volunteer. For example, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has a Values in Action (VIA) program take part in different projects to learn about how they contribute to the community. Many of such projects are based on helping the environment, such as helping to pluck the weed Clidemia hirta, aka hairy clidemia, which is an invasive plant species that compete with native plant species. (That's what I did when I was in secondary school!)

If there is a good combination of voluntarism, and more initiatives to save the environment by recycling, I believe that Singaporeans will be able to develop as a nation to increase recycling efforts and reduce our waste production!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Recycling starts with you!

Newspaper article from the Straits Times (October 1, 2014) about green initiatives
Recently, I've been talking about some ways to recycle and some cool packaging and marketing strategies. Since I've come across an interesting article in the Straits Times about an initiative taken by a young person in Singapore to promote recycling, I will talk about what we can do as members of one community!
It's very cheering to see young Singaporeans step up to do something about our environment, and I share the sentiments of Mr Ronnie Tay, chief executive officer of the National Environment Agency (NEA). He said that seeing more nominations for the NEA EcoFriend Awards shows that there is an increasing number of Singaporeans who are taking ownership of our environment. For me, seeing the younger generation taking such initiatives shows that we understand the need to be responsible stewards of our environment.

Newspaper article from the Straits Times (October 1, 2014) about Idea Jam
I also saw this article in the Straits Times about Idea Jam: it is an initiative by the Straits Times, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, and the National Youth Council. It gives youth, with big ideas to solve problems in our community, an opportunity to make them become reality! Youth like Jarel Tang (from the previous article) who are passionate about the environment are able to do even more now. I will write more about them in the near future! 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Up, up, and away!

A couple of years back, I’ve tried my hand at upcycling, and here are some of the results!

Wallet made out of an envelope
Wallet made out of poker cards

Wallet made out of plastic bags
Why I chose to make my own wallets was because most wallets are made out of leather, and there are many detrimental impacts on the environment when tanning leather. There are high concentrations of organic compounds, salts, and heavy metals present in the waste product of tanning leather. (D.W. Nazer et al. 2006) According to K. Joseph, a lot of resources such as fossil fuels for electricity and transport, and water, are used in leather as well. He also mentioned that 14% of the waste produced is non-biodegradable, and 6% are hazardous.

Even if the wallets were not made out of leather, and instead from PVC or cloth, production of these materials will still have their own large carbon footprint. Some may criticize, saying that using envelopes, cards and plastic bags to make wallets are also not sustainable. However, my argument is that I delay their trip to the incinerators and landfills, making the most out of their material lifespan, such that the resources spent in producing them in the first place will be maximized. At the same time, it takes away my need to buy a wallet!

Literature cited:

Dima W. Nazer, Rashed M. Al-Sa'ed, Maarten A. Siebel, Reducing the environmental impact of the unhairing–liming process in the leather tanning industry, Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 14, Issue 1, 2006, Pages 65-74, ISSN 0959-6526, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2005.04.002.

Kurian Joseph, N. Nithya, Material flows in the life cycle of leather, Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 17, Issue 7, May 2009, Pages 676-682, ISSN 0959-6526, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2008.11.018.