A Paper Affair.

This is a post about my recent research on paper making and how it affects our Earth. We all know that it’s good to reduce paper usage and if you do, make sure you shred it and voila your duty is done. But this post will be more than just these two simple steps. It all started when I had to use papers during my internship. Back then I was doing a lot of company credit rating research so I had to read pages and pages of companies’ annual reports for my credit rating reports. It’s all finance stuff so if you’re not into finance, let’s just say that I had to read and research a lot. It gets tiring sometimes to continuously read reports on your laptop and makes it slightly difficult to discuss with your colleagues when you don’t have the printed copy. So, torn between wanting to reduce paper usage and getting the job done, I decided to print. Not all , though. The feeling still bugged me about reducing paper usage. Then I proceeded to the shredding machine where I make sure all my papers get shredded and not thrown into the rubbish bins. But it occurred to me, what happens then after I shred the paper? Will it help with the environment and where does all this shredded paper go?

At that time, it was just a thought which I forgot about later on. Then earlier this year, I had my final examinations and I printed some of my slides. I usually just use my tablet to learn but realized that I end up writing everything back while studying (not so efficient and very time consuming and I waste paper as well). So while printing them, the same thought occurred to me and I got a little distracted and frustrated with the amount of papers I used. I came home and with all the free time I had, I started reading up on the paper industry. I did my research and to be honest, it took me awhile before I came up with this post because I wasn’t sure about so many things with the industry. And this is what I found out from all the readings I did. It may not be complete with all the information about pulp and paper industry and this is a summarized/simplified version based on my understanding so if you are interested on this topic, you can definitely do a further reading.

papermaking

http://www.brdisolutions.com/what-is-the-paper-converting-industry

The diagram above is a clear process of how paper industry works and what is done when you recycle your paper. Starting with the collection of wood, following the brown arrow that leads to paper making which then is distributed out before going back to the industry as a recycled product. It’s pretty much straight forward and looks sustainable with very little environmental problems. That was what I thought when I first did my research. But if you look again at the process, these are some of the issues concerning the paper industry:

Cutting down of trees; the consequences of it. When you cut down trees, not just one of two trees but hundreds of them for paper production you not only disrupt the natural habitat for wildlife but also may cause soil erosion and contribute towards global warming. It may seem like a simple problem where you can solve by planting new trees to replace the ones you cut but it’s not. That’s the thing about natural resources and environmental problems, they’re all interconnected and you have to look at the bigger picture to connect the dots. The disruption of ecosystem can cause permanent effect to the wildlife and also may lead to extinction of some species. It’s not like as if a forest can be built within two weeks so should we be cutting down trees without waiting for trees to grow first ? The dilemma is always there. In fact, 40% of industrial wood is traded globally and this means that its not just a one country’s affair. People trade wood for production of paper, among other usage of wood. We cannot replenish the forest before cutting them down again at the rate we are consuming it. The question is, how do you shift the wildlife to a new habitat before cutting down the trees ? How do you counter back the issue with soil erosion ? At the rate we’re going, we’ll probably clear out all the forest and left with no more trees to harvest.

This is where the recycling part comes in. In today’s paper industry, there are two types of pulp used; virgin and recycled fibre. Recycled fibre is used in the paper production so that we can reduce the intake of virgin fibre which is a product made from the trees we cut down. So if you’re wondering what’s the purpose of shredding your paper, this is it. The shredded paper will go through a few process before turning back into pulp that is then used again for paper making.

sustainability-mobile-map stora enso paper

http://printingandreading.storaenso.com/sustainability

Chemicals and water pollution. The process of paper making, whether using virgin fibre or recycled fibre uses chemical and other materials. Transforming the wood to pulp usually involves cooking the wood chips in a chemical solution. Chemicals used, from what I read are often sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfide. After that, fillers are added such as chalk, clay, starch or titanium oxide. The materials vary based on the type of product produced and the company’s methods. Even with recycling paper, you have to remove the ink which involves bleaches or dyes then convert them back into pulps that can be rolled to papers or other products. This will lead to water pollution, no doubt. It is not easy to separate chemical solutions from the water again and it’ll eventually flow into the ocean, disrupting the aquatic ecosystem and also affecting the soil. In fact, based on research done, pulp and paper industry is one of the largest consumer of water used in industrial activities. There was an article by WWF about this industry and how it’s affecting the environment in more than just one way. It also said that paper mills discharge pollutants and this will lead to aquatic problems as well as health issues. Let’s not forget that we humans consume water too on daily basis and with all the pollution, the water needs to be treated first before it’s safe for us to consume. This adds to the social cost and consumer will have to bear the additional costs.

Apart from the obvious environmental issues I stated above, there are other concerns too such as illegal harvesting, regulations, irresponsible practices in the industry etc etc. There have also been development on producing paper using other resources as many people are becoming more aware of the issues in this industry. I found this while doing my research and it’s a really good website, do check it out !

zero-waste-cycle the poo project

http://thepooproject.ourproject.org/index.php?slab=about

The development of creating a sustainable environment is a continuous effort and requires lots of researches. But even the little things, if we are able to do it we should. Here are some suggestions on how to help:

  • Shred them papers ! If you don’t own a shredder, recycle them at the recycling centre. You can google the nearest recycling centre, I’m sure there’s one in each area. Don’t forget to remove paper clips or other non-paper materials before you recycle.
  • If you can avoid using paper, why not? Save you some pocket money too!
  • Responsible sourcing and trade of paper products. Know the brands you choose and choose a responsible one.
  • Ask for transparency in the sector, exercise your rights as a consumer! If you have questions about the brands you use, why not drop them an email for clarification?

Let’s not forget that wood is used for more than just paper. It’s also used to create furniture, construction of buildings and many other products. If we cannot avoid using those products, the least we could do is use it wisely and not practice irresponsible consumption. Remember, when you buy something, the company will have to produce more to replenish their stock. This means higher demand for wood and therefore, more trees being cut down. Not all products from wood can be recycled and reused as raw ingredient. If you buy just to realize later on that you have no use for it and end up throwing it away, that too can contribute to various environmental problems. Let’s together be a responsible consumer 🙂

It’s the little things that matters, the little effort that will bring changes to the world.

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Join me?

Degree done and dusted, now what ?

Time to read more ! (read as: sleep). On a serious note, I’ve been reading and researching on environment management in Malaysia since I came back and found lots of interesting changes that’s happening in our beloved country.

From where I live, which is quite near to the capital city I’ve seen many changes regarding environmental awareness compared to when I was young. More shops and malls are adopting the no plastic bag regulation and a fee is charged for plastic bags to discourage customers from using plastic bags. We are also slowly moving towards renewable energy, in particular installing solar panels at homes and in buildings. I’ve had the opportunity recently to watch a video of our nation’s energy supplier, TNB on their vision and future direction. I must say that the direction our energy industry is moving towards do seem to be promising in regards to our efforts in practicing sustainable development. Putting aside corporate businesses, I’ve also seen changes among our citizens. With the new and upgraded public transportation system, more and more of our citizens are using the public transport and utilizing the facilities available instead of using their own transport. I have no doubts that the public transportation system have a lot to do still especially in terms of making it accessible for people living far away from the train stations. I believe the bus routes and system too has to be upgraded to make this possible. Nonetheless, it is good to see that we are developing in the right direction to encourage energy conservation and reduction in pollution. Being in the capital, I am accustomed to our famous daily traffic jams that can usually go on for hours. This, again calls for efforts to reduce the usage of cars as mean of transportation in the city. I would love to make bicycle as an option but to be honest, I will probably think twice (or maybe more) about riding a bicycle to go for meeting at 3 in the afternoon. The sun here in Malaysia is unbelievable! It’s summer all year long and if it isn’t shinning bright, it’ll be raining so heavily. Therefore, although I love the concept of bicycle as a mode of transportation similar to the practice of other countries, I must say that we must be realistic. I doubt I want to arrive for a meeting looking all sweaty and extra shiny face with melted make ups, might scare people away instead. But with the new strategy brought in by Uber and Grabcar, we are an app away from having a car at our disposal. The problem with our usual taxis is that it did have issues with accessibility. Not all areas have taxis waiting around for us, especially in the housing area. Then we also have the issue of taxi with metres and without which creates a negative impression on the taxi provider. If these issues could be solved and the level of efficiency is up to the standards set by Uber and Grabcar, then I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be just as good. The only worry is that in terms of regulation especially safety and insurance coverage, Uber and Grabcar in Malaysia still need to work on that to eliminate the loopholes. This way, we can promote carpooling, reduce the amount of cars entering the city, pay unbelievable parking tickets, save more energy and create jobs for people!

There are so much positive changes in Malaysia and I am happy to see our country moving towards a green and sustainable direction. Having said that, there is still a lot that has to be done too. From the different articles I’ve read, I came to an understanding that:

Development also equal to greater environment problems 

This means that we will face issues such as deforestation, increase in pollution, lost of habitat for our nature and if we are not careful contributing in extinction of exotic species. The amount of carbon emission, water and air pollution that is caused by development can affect in ways that will bring harm to people’s health. Mentioned above are only part of the negative impact of development towards our environment. While there are methods to reduce issues as stated above, implementation and awareness is necessary to ensure that all parties are highly aware of the possible consequences of their actions. This does not mean that I am against developing the country, as I am well aware that we need to boost our economy more now than ever. We also can’t run away from being the cause of environmental issues because we live based on the resources we have in our country and on the land that we step. However, I do believe that modernization and development has to be done right with more weight on ensuring sustainability of resources rather than just concentrating on profit making for the economy. We need to start thinking for the long term effects and stop making short term profit at others’ expense. To do that, more work has to be done on the regulation and law as well as the proper steps for implementation. Above all this, education which I continuously mention in most of my post is so important to tackle this problem. Because it is an issue that deals with lifestyle, it can only be changed with a change in our lifestyle. This might mean changing certain things that we are so used to, probably even practices we were brought up with. But change is necessary and is a must. It’s not easy as I admit that I’m also trying to find ways to reduce my contribution towards pollution but we have to put in the effort.

We know that education is crucial in this matter. So what do we do now ? We educate ourselves. Which is why I came across this idea and I would love to work with as many people as possible on these ideas:

  • Create animated videos about different topics on environment and eco-friendly development, sustainability, eco changes in lifestyle etc etc
  • Illustrative short comic strips, short stories that can be downloaded and accessed by everyone digitally

They are just rough ideas at the moment and still need to be further developed. I know I am not well educated in all aspects of this issue especially providing information and facts therefore I would love to hear from people with different education background and skills. To make this idea happen, I also believe I do need some guidance by people who have knowledge in animated video making and animation drawing. Not exactly a talented artist you see. Let me know what you think about it and please please I do value your feedback so don’t be shy wherever you are especially to my fellow Malaysians! Let’s make these little things that we can do to bring change.

Volunteering for CAEPA Cameroon

If you notice, I’ve been posting lots of article on CAEPA Cameroon lately. And why exactly ? Cameroon is in North West of Africa and why specifically that organization ?

So let me start from the beginning and tell you all about it. I am an online volunteer for CAEPA Cameroon. How did I become their volunteer when I’m in UK and they’re in Africa ? It’s easy all I did was registered myself as a United Nation online volunteer and I am able to search for volunteering opportunities across the world in various field. The volunteering tasks varies as well which is really interesting and you will get a certificate at the end of your volunteering period. It’s good because even if you’re unable to be physically present you are still able to provide support and help the organizations in your own way. In a way it also helps you build certain skills and you are free to learn at your own pace within the deadline given.

I applied to be a volunteer in charge of social media for CAEPA so that I can enhance my social media and IT skills. Considering how I had a working experience with social media and marketing, I thought I would put it to good use and help them in terms of social media. I will be assisting them for a duration of 10 months; 6 hours a week which is very flexible and it doesn’t even affect other commitments I have. One of the reason why I volunteered to be part of CAEPA is because they are a charity body with very good ideas and concepts that revolve around agriculture and community improvements. I must say that although they are not widely known like other NGOs, they are working very hard to provide for the community in Cameroon, particularly women and children. It makes me happy to know that people from all over the world are putting efforts to empower women and educate children regardless of their condition. This is what we call humanity. Helping those who needs it and providing them what is rightfully theirs. Knowing how amazing they are working to improve their community, I simply cannot resist to be part of it and help them too in a way that I am capable of. Their current project ‘Women 4 Climate Change’ is about fighting the global climate issue and at the same time empowering women in Cameroon by providing support in ‘operation 100 trees’ for 30 women. Agriculture is a significant industry especially with our growing global population today. Many of us have been focusing too much on technology developments and such but we tend to neglect the primary sectors that have great influence in our daily lives. So well done to CAEPA Cameroon for engaging with the primary sector and using that method to empower women ! They are also involved with other efforts; one I particularly respect is how they are providing a home for orphans in Cameroon and support them in any way they can to ensure these kids receive good education and are in good health.

So if you are interested in volunteering, you must check out CAEPA Cameroon’s international volunteer programme. They have all sorts of roles available and there is even a chance to experience working at a bee farm ! You can also show your support in their current project to empower women and fight climate change by donating to them. Do support them and get to know more about them through their official website.

This are the relevant links :
CAEPA Cameroon
CAEPA Cameroon Facebook page
United Nation Online Volunteer

If you have any questions about CAEPA or UN online volunteer just drop a comment and I’ll be happy to answer them 🙂

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Sustaining the world – start today

Many of you must have heard about the Global Sustainable Development Goals by now. It is basically a set of goals countries all over the world have adopted starting Sept 2015 to have a better tomorrow. International companies and various industries are slowly adapting and changing their work methods to comply with the 17 transformation goals. The aim is to achieve these 17 goals 15 years from now, hoping to have a sustainable and a well developed world. You can check out the list of goals here .

It is important for people to move towards a sustainable living & development considering how alarming the environment has changed through out these years. During my visit to Iceland, the locals informed us about the formation of glacier ice and how the melting process has speed up rapidly these past few years. Soon, there will be more empty lands and less glacier ice formation. And I can personally say that my home country is way warmer now than a few years back. Heat stroke isn’t really famous back then in my home country. It’s also true that up north the snow and ice melts faster nowadays compared to few years back . In fact, a research has been done about which natural disaster has the most impact on the world and its not surprising to know that flood has the highest percentage (source : world economic forum)

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These negative impact on the environment lead to a few transformation goals ( climate action, life above land and below water) we would like to achieve in the next 15 years.

Besides environment, the Sustainable Development Goals will also be focusing on education and literacy . Educated children is an assurance for a brighter future. Research has shown how education can change the cost of living based on past years data (source : world economic forum)

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If we continue providing access to education to all parts of the world, emphasizing the importance of learning, by 2030 we will have zero poverty and hunger, top qualitg education and an educated generation leading to a new developed era. As for now, not all countries have access to internet which is one of the most important tool for learning. Here’s a chart of internet usage in different countries (source: world economic forum)

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The internet serves many purpose and it contains many useful information for education and learning. Therefore, we should focus on building internet access to cover more areas and allow more people to use it for education reasons.

The 17 transformation goals are something organizations and individuals should be aware of and if neccessary, make changes so that we could achieve these goals soon. Failure to do so might cause deterioration to our nature , leading to more environmental and economic problems. Take a look at the Global risk report 2016 (source : world economic forum)

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You can google more about the sustainable development goals and spread the words about it so more people are aware of it ! Here are some of the things you can do yourself to help achieve these goals . Make sure you read the article as it is really interesting – learn what you can do from your couch ! Or your home . Get you family and friends involved and before you know it, it will spread to be the new trend .

Here’s to #globalgoals