environment


Update (26/6/07): The Today reporter said she only reported the estimated figure of 2.5m (which was prominently featured in the headlines), as provided by NWDCD, and advised me to contact them for clarification. I have emailed them and will update here if they reply.

I saw this headline in the Singapore papers today: “North West CDC initiates move to recycle 2.5m bottles yearly.”

That’s great news. For a population of 4.5 million people, 2.5 million plastic water bottles is a substantial quantity.

Until I read the article and realised that this plastic waste is created by North West CDC (NWCDC) itself.

OK, some background information for our overseas readers: A CDC is a government organisation which organises community-building programmes for Singapore residents. CDCs are divided according to geographical regions, and there are five in all.

NWCDC formed a Brisk Walking Club (BWC) five years ago to encourage regular walking as a form of exercise. BWC is not a single club, but an umbrella of over 100 separate clubs and 28,000 members. A typical walk is 2.4km long with warm-up exercises at the start.

Singaporeans love freebies. So there are various enticements to get us to participate, such as a complimentary breakfast at the end of the walk.

And a free bottle of water.

Hmm, there are 2 things I don’t get:

First mystery is why go to this trouble of recycling plastic waste that could have been avoided in the first place.

Simply encourage participants to bring their own water bottles. Or they could provide re-usable water bottles, similar to our recent campaign for plastic carrier bags.

What is also puzzling is how the figure of 2.5 million bottles is derived:

Liang Eng Hwa, MP, Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, said: “In the case of North West CDC Brisk Walking Club, we have monthly walks.

28,000 bottles per participant x 12 walks a year = 336,000 bottles per year

Can anybody enlighten me? 🙂

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Sometimes we take ourselves and the business of saving the earth too seriously. It happens to the best of us.

“No Impact Man” aka Colin Beaven has been getting a lot of media attention for his one-year attempt to “live in NY City without making any net impact on the environment”.

This means cutting down on new purchases during this period. It got to the point where even buying new mounting tape for a family photo became a big no-no. I’m all for eliminating unnecessary consumption, but this seems a tad extreme.

Thankfully he saw the lighter side of it. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, black or white. The environmental movement, like all things in life, comes in lovely shades of grey.

Just do whatever we can, every little bit helps.

I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom from Dogbert:

Dogbert the green consultant

🙂

The Singapore Environment Council is organising an Eco Action Day on 5 June 2007, to raise awareness of environmental issues among companies.

Not much effort is required, just a simple flick of the switch to turn off any unnecessary lighting or office equipment.

I have already signed up Star Bamboo for this programme, to show our support and commitment to reduce energy wastage. The lights for our Singapore warehouse are usually turned on whenever we step into the adjoining office. Now, we will only turn on the lights when we actually retrieve stocks from it.

It’s a simple act, but it will save us 1/3 off our lighting bills. It’s so simple that we will be practising it every day starting right now – why limit yourself to 5 June?

Although this Eco Action Day programme is meant for Singapore companies only, all overseas visitors reading this are welcome to start similar initiatives in your company.

It’s easy, it’s simple, and speaks volumes of your commitment to the environment. If you decide to join in this effort, please drop me an email to tell me all about it. I’m all ears!

OK, better sign up first because the 28 May deadline is just around the corner. Click here to register now!

The big news last weekend in Singapore was the announcement by S Iswaran, Singapore’s Minister of State for Trade and Industry that the F1 carnival is finally coming to our shores.

F1 is the most un-green sport today. Today’s Straits Times newspaper carried an article with some fascinating nuggets of information to show just how polluting it is:

  • Each F1 car burns up to a litre of fuel and releases 1,500g of carbon dioxide per km, which contributes to an estimated 10 tonnes of CO2 per race weekend.
  • The mooted night race format requires an estimated 500 energy-sapping high-intensity light poles.
  • F1 car engines are loud enough to be heard literally half way across Singapore, or shatter glass windows of nearby buildings.

Coincidentally, S Iswaran was also the Guest-of-Honour at the prize-awarding ceremony for the Eco Products International Fair (EPIF) 2006 where Star Bamboo won the Silver Medal for our bamboo flooring:

EPIF 2006 award ceremony

The EPIF and F1 are at opposite ends of the eco-friendliness scale, but there is one common link.

From the outset, the Singapore government has cited commercial reasons for courting F1: tourism receipts, branding of Singapore as a cosmopolitan and glamourous city to 500 million television viewers, and jobs creation.

That is why the Singapore government has committed itself to spending up to S$90m per year for the F1 race. If green businesses were ever to enjoy this level of support, we would have to demonstrate the same kind of ROI.

After all, it’s just business.

This ChannelNewsAsia report caught my eye this morning – “Easier entry for green energy suppliers”.

Unfortunately, reality is not as rosy as the headline.

The electricity market in Singapore is tightly controlled, and previously monopolised by Singapore Power – a corporatised body spun off from a government statutory board.

Liberalisation first started in January 2003, and it has been a slow process. The industry regulator Energy Market Authority (EMA) is doing it in slow, painful phases, beginning with the commercial sector.

The “easier entry” above simply refers to the scrapping of a relatively paltry $5,000 joining fee to join the energy market as an energy provider.

More than 4 years later, the entire domestic market of 1.2 million households in Singapore remain tightly bound to one company – SP Services (which happens to be a subsidiary company of Singapore Power).

It’ll be 2009 before a pilot trial to let the average consumer buy from other electricity providers even begins. Give or take another 2 years for the trial to be completed and analysed, it will easily be 2011 before we begin to see real alternative choices in the electricity market.

Even more astonishingly, the same CNA report above says that Singapore is planning to test by 2009 if renewable energies e.g. solar and wind power, can be fed into our national power grid.

I’m no energy expert, but it sounds like a relatively straightforward task. The Chief Executive of the wholesale market operator, Energy Market Company (EMC), Mr Dave Darlson himself admitted “there are no technical constraints to prevent renewable energy generators from joining the market“.

All these delays are highly unfortunate. The reason is simple – solar power.

(more…)

I remember when Star Bamboo first started production in 2001, there were concerns over the viability of the business.

People could see that our bamboo flooring product was lovely and durable, but they wondered if eco-friendly products would do well in a market where price was often the prime consideration.

Would people be willing to spend their money on eco-friendly products?

(more…)

A panda walks into a restaurant, sits down and orders a sandwich. After he finishes eating the sandwich, the panda pulls out a gun and shoots the waiter, and then stands up to go.

“Hey!” shouts the manager. “Where are you going? You just shot my waiter and you didn’t pay for your sandwich!”

The panda yells back at the manager, “Hey man, I am a PANDA! Look it up!”

The manager opens his dictionary and sees the following definition for panda: “A tree-dwelling marsupial of Asian origin, characterised by distinct black and white colouring. Eats shoots and leaves.”

Something to brighten up your week.

🙂

But seriously, I have received queries from concerned customers wondering if our bamboo flooring enterprise is depriving those endangered pandas of their food source.

The short answer is, No. We use a different species of bamboo from what pandas eat.

Lucy Siegle of The Observer asked a slightly different question: Will the focus on commercially viable species of bamboo result in monoculture, and lead to the extinction of the other species, including the ones that pandas depend on for sustenance?

She’s right to point out that making a product out of bamboo, however renewable and fast-growing it may be, does not automatically qualify it as an eco-friendly product. The source of the bamboo is just as crucial.

Star Bamboo only uses bamboo material that has been certified by the local Shaowu government. It has a programme in place to manage the harvesting of bamboo in the region.

It is also important to note that the species of bamboo we use, commonly known as Moso, is native to the region. It was not a species imported for commercial reasons.

Ms Siegle also remarked:

Material scientists also question the way bamboo is processed, predominantly in China, using elemental chlorine (which produces toxic dioxins) and where there are little to no standards or controls governing air emissions and liquid effluents.

Well, we don’t use a chemical as toxic and difficult to handle as chlorine in our production.

Instead, hydrogen peroxide is our preferred choice. It achieves a good bleaching effect for our Natural bamboo flooring, and the by-products are only oxygen and water.

It is costly too, which explains why Natural bamboo flooring is generally priced higher than Carbonised bamboo flooring.

So back to the question, do bamboo flooring manufacturers steal food from pandas?

The long answer is, it depends on the practices and ethics of the manufacturer. So please purchase only from responsible manufacturers, and market forces will ensure that the pandas do not go hungry.

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