Green.

I can’t say for everyone but I do believe that there is a time in our lives that when we read articles about environmental efforts, we wonder if it’ll actually make a real impact. I know I always ask myself that. In fact, the disturbing thought will always be there when environmental discussions come up. It’s because with one effort we campaign, there are a thousand more that’s contributing to environmental problems. There’s also the dilemma of wanting to help, but can’t help contributing to the environmental issues because of various reasons. This dilemma is a personal struggle I fight every single day and I have no solution yet for it.

Last weekend, there was an event called the Cooler Lumpur Festival; a fest with forums, discussions, workshops and many more on shaping the future of our beloved capital city, Kuala Lumpur. It is my first time attending this sort of event in Malaysia and I must say that I am impressed with everything. They had good programmes going on for the weekend, not leaving out activities for kids and also small entreprises/home businesses. I attended 2 of the sessions, one on sustainability and discussion towards a greener future while the other was about writing across differences. While it is amazing to see Malaysian citizens coming together to tackle environmental issues, it is without any doubt that more needs to be done. And perhaps, even our focus ? The discussion on sustainability was attended by 5 experienced individuals; the person who initiated zero waste campaign in Malaysia which has over 4000 members in her zero waste community today, Aurora Tin, Angelia Chin who is actively involved in the Lost Food Project where they collect commercially rejected food and put them to good use, Danni Rais, a youth politician whose focus is on national empowerment, Tun Jeanne, wife to our fifth Prime Minister that encourages planting of trees movement and lastly, the famous Malaysian eco-activist, policy change-maker and a true eco warrior Gurmit Singh. Each of them had a lot to talk about on sustainability and their efforts in helping the environment, be it planting more trees, tackling food and waste management, nation empowerment and even policies.

Throughout the discussion, I realized that if I never attended the session in person I’ll never know the existence of these campaigns or efforts. For example, the Lost Food Project collected over 140 000 tonnes of food that is perfectly edible but rejected due to the appearance in the last 18 months. This is collection of food at certain state or areas, not even our whole country. To be honest, I was also taught to pick food before buying them especially fruits and vegetables. It did not occur to me that those fruits that weren’t pick by consumers would be thrown away instead of consumed. This project is amazing in the sense that it helps with the redistribution of food to those who needs it like orphanages, our food for homeless movements and many more. The zero waste campaign on the other hand, was impossible to believe at first but after the talk it got me thinking about how it could be done, what part of our lifestyle we can change to reduce our waste such as the choices of our snacks, the wrapping paper to our favourite chocolates and many more.

The session left me with a lot of questions and thoughts on how to change our lifestyles to eco living. Gurmit passed a remark to the audience about how those in the session knows the importance of saving environment but still, probably drove to Publika (where the event took place). It got me thinking if there was a way to go there by public transport but I had no clue whatsoever on any public transport that pass by that area. It then strike me that there’s a few problems in this thought itself. First of all, I can say that I was partly ignorant of the whole situation. Because I was carpooling with my friend, I took the easy way out and settled for the car, instead of googling the route using public transportation. In our daily lives, this is probably the case for most of us. We take the easy route because we own a car and it’s really more convenient going places with cars as you don’t have to walk under the extreme weather or share a space with people while travelling. We might know the fact the vehicles are highly related to global warming due to the contribution of carbon emission but because we don’t see with our naked eyes that it emits carbon dioxide we assume it’s okay. It is one thing feeling the rise in temperature but it is another to constantly notice and be aware of what causes it. Second, if I did took the public transport to the place of event on that day which is a combination of LRT and bus or commuter from where I am, I have to allocate about an hour or two for the commute while driving takes only 20 minutes or so. Now looking from the point of opportunity cost, not many of us would be willing to leave two hours before for the commute when we could be there in less than half an hour by car. Perhaps we are willing too but we may not have that much time to spare as we have other engagements to attend to. Even if I did take the public transport, there’s no way of knowing that I will arrive on time or if there’s a delay unless I’m at the station itself. So does this mean that driving is justifiable in this circumstances? For whatever our reasons are, one thing’s for sure that the moment we drive our cars it emits carbon dioxide. So even if we are fully aware of the situation, we may not be able to opt for public transportation due to various pressing reasons. For those who are well aware and are concern about the environment, they might do what they can to reduce environmental issues, but what about the general public? If you give a person these two options as means of travelling what will motivate them to choose one over the other? Some may argue that the role of a car is to take you to respective destination in a more convenient manner and at a faster speed too. So why opt for a less convenient method? Some may not even have the luxury of opting to commute because they need to be in few places in a certain period of time. Of course, I am sure that there are many people too willing to commute instead of opting for convenience at the expense of our environment but there’s always two sides of looking things the way they are.

Which then made me realize, that yes a car’s role is definitely to make our lives more convenient. What’s the point of owning a car if you need to commute for hours right? But then, using the public transport is also more convenient in the sense that you don’t have to worry about traffic or vehicle accident, though of course there are then other concerns relating to public transportation. My point is that, perhaps instead of focusing only on reducing the usage of cars, we should start thinking of how to develop green vehicles. I know some brands have their own hybrid cars but it may not be affordable for everyone and maintenance is probably costly too because the demand is not as huge as the normal vehicles we purchase. Also, since it’s a new technology there are still so much improvement to be made to bring down the cost and providing consumers with better quality. But this is definitely a technology we should focus on especially on making it affordable and accessible to as many people as possible. Even when we commute using the public transportation, we may still take the taxi or Uber or Grab to go to certain places. For example, you commute to go to your workplace and it’s fine if you’re all sweaty because your office have shower facilities but what about when you go to a meeting? Are you planning to ride a bicycle to a meeting in this weather? Chances are, you probably opt for taxi or Uber or Grab if there is no direct public transportation services to the meeting area. But that’s still contributing to the emission of carbon dioxide. If we instead have a taxi service that provide green vehicles maybe that will be a win win situation for both the environment and ourselves. Let’s not forget that we also use vehicles to transport goods. How are we planning to change that? We most likely can’t transport all types of goods using public transportation. So there has to be a real change on the supplier side too. I know it’s a long way to go when talking about innovation and green technology but we have to continuously encourage people to focus on tackling environmental issues from the perspective of suppliers and make them aware that this is also one of the methods we can approach to help the environment. As a consumer we can put pressure by stop using the products, but as a producer we can change people’s lifestyle through our production. It has to be the effort of both sides. Only then, consumers will not be in a dilemma whether to choose convenience over our beloved environment. But anyhow, I am amazed and truly humbled by the level of dedication some people put to help conserve the environment. Such efforts should be appreciated and in a way we do not want all these efforts go to waste. So, start today by thinking what’s your role in the society and how you can help in your current position. It always starts with yourself and what you can do.

(to be continued on dilemma on public transportation – user friendly ? a personal experience)

Advertisements

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.

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.

Morning from Budapest

Woke up today feeling at ease especially in a room filled with warm colors. The sunlight peaking through the curtains make it even more calming. It’s my third day in Budapest and I absolutely love this place, although I might say the same thing for every place I visit. But it is indeed beautiful. Budapest city is made up of two sides with Danube River in between. Not only it has 2 sides of history and culture to offer but it’s also different at night. Everything is relatively near and its interesting what you can discover when you’re out on a stroll around the city.

Since exams are over, I’ve been doing a bit of catching up with the current environmental issues especially here in Budapest. It fascinates and disappoints me at the same time to see what’s been going on around the world with regards to the environment. So here’s a bit of the information I got while I was leisurely enjoying the sun (or more like the bed) in Budapest.

On the 5th of June we human beings celebrated World Environment’s Day. I’m sure nobody missed this because it was trending everywhere on social media and there were news coverages about it too. I also read that US big players such as Google and Apple are joining forces to work towards their commitment in the Climate Change agreement. While Trump wanted out, it’s comforting to know that many US citizens are fighting his decisions and willing to come together for the purpose of making a better environment. But it saddens me to see that even environmental issues are highly influenced by politics when it is definitely every person’s responsibility to preserve and keep the environment in a healthy state. With so many challenges to protect our environment, the World Environment’s Day was indeed needed to bring people together and to instil awareness on the importance of keeping mother nature alive. People all over the world joined in celebrating the richness of earth by exploring nature and participating in environmental activities. Many organizations celebrated by holding conferences, events, competitions and setting trends on social media. It was really good to see everyone spirited about the environment and we must keep the momentum going. We can’t just celebrate for a day and expect the environment to heal on its own.

I also had a read on the passing of our Sumatran rhino in Malaysia. It is such a devastating news and with Puntung gone, Malaysia is left with only 2 Sumatran rhinos which is so close to extinction in Malaysia. Even in Indonesia, there are less than 100 Sumatran rhinos left. While Puntung’s death was to resolve it from going through suffering of chemotherapy and other pain, it is not doubt that the low number of Sumatran rhino population remains as a major concern for environmental workers in Malaysia. Protecting endangered species have always been a challenge in Malaysia especially when we are home to a diverse range of wildlife. Early last year, the news exploded when we lost more than 3 tigers within a month due to animal traps, accidents and poaching. That did not include other events, particularly animal trafficking and poaching that is constantly occuring not only in Malaysia but within the Southeast Asia region. While we don’t see the importance of protecting the wildlife, it is our duty to keep the balance in place. The wildlife is a source of contentment and happiness. It is in this world for reasons we might never know. But like every other creature on this planet, it is not our place to wipe them out so we can take over. They exist just like why the sky and sun exist. It is part of nature. The wildlife teaches us compassion and empathy on how to coexist in peace.

Apart from wildlife issues which are a constant worry, I’ve also been searching for ideas on how we can recycle things and remake them to be useful! While browsing through, I found a video about the typical paper cups we use to have hot drinks which are labeled as recyclable but often they are not recycled because of the high cost to remove a layer of wax from the cups. How surprising isn’t it ?! Of course when I get home I’ll be doing more research on that to fully understand the issue. I also found a few ideas that transforms plastic and old clothes to yarns so that it can be reused for weaving and knitting purposes. Since I love doing artsy stuff I had so much fun discovering all these ideas. I even made a few to-do list once I’m back at home. While this might not be contributing much to the amount of waste we humans generate every second, I really do hope that bit by bit we can instil awareness especially in Malaysia about the effects of wastage and how it pollutes our land, water, soil, air and many more. A polluted environment is definitely worrisome as it affects our health in general.

Also, I think this was old news as I read it a few months ago but there was a argument about the ban of plastic bags in Selangor, a state in Malaysia. While the ban of plastic bags was a common practice in other developed countries, not everyone took it well in Malaysia. The reaction towards this ban was also quite different. People were more willing to pay extra 20 cents to have the plastic bag for convenience. Since the ban was in place, the consumption of plastic bags for rubbish bins increased as well. The reason behind this was because many people used to recycle the plastic bags as waste bags but now they need to purchase as they can’t recycle the plastic bags anymore. While implementing ban for plastic bag had a good objective behind it, I think we should have also offered suggestions for solutions to the possible problems that comes with it. It is also important to educate why the ban of plastic bag is needed and how people can change their lifestyle to adapt to this new regulation. Alternative materials should be ready to act as substitute to plastic bags and we have to make it accessible for people to obtain them. Perhaps a short and long term campaign should have taken place so that it creates a sense of responsibility and encouragement for people to adhere to the new change in regulation. The objective of the ban is definitely a good effort but we could definitely improve more of creating awareness and getting more people to willingly pledge to the ban rather than enforce it to them.

With all the readings I did while in Budapest, it occured to me tht although we do have people fighting for the environment in Malaysia, it is not enough. It is not only protecting wildlife but also in our daily lifestyle. Although it is not easy, we could try to slowly change by constantly educating ourselves. Businesses and large organizations play an important role in shaping the lifestyle of our community too. It is so important to create awareness where possible and to learn about sustainability whenever we can.

when exam strikes

It’s exam season now for university students like me so pretty much everything is described as one word: stress. The only comfort to this is that, it’s my final hurdle and I should give my best (or perhaps I just want to be done with finals already). Because it’s the exam season, you tend to get so much inspiration (read as: distractions) and as for me, I’ve probably spend more time reading on environmental articles, environment NGOs in Malaysia and even constructing ideas on how WWF Malaysia can improve on their work. I’ve also had few thoughts about cancer, which I will share soon but today I will be talking a bit about fast fashion industry.

For those of you who’ve never heard of fast fashion before, it’s basically a contemporary word retailers use to describe the constant rapid exchange in trends to meet the growing demand of consumers. Fast fashion are usually collection from Fashion Week presented for different seasons but with emphasis in certain aspect of production which is often the price factor. Also known as “supermarket” market, fast fashion is a manufacturing model developed to adopt quick response towards the growing and ever-changing demand of consumers in the industry. Some examples of the large retailers include H&M, Zara, Primark and Topshop. Ever since fast fashion is adopted in the market, clothing consumption have been on the rise globally. Competition and cheap prices contribute to the drastic increase level of consumption, making clothing easier to be replaced without too much opportunity cost. Fast fashion, without any doubt have boosted the economy of some countries particularly the third world countries. Many of the large retailers manufacture and produce their clothing line from countries such as Morocco, India, China, Indonesia and Malaysia too. Textile production and job opportunities have been growing to meet demands in the fashion industry as well and this has helped many of the people to be out from the poverty cycle.

While this has definitely bring some benefit to the economy, we cannot ignore the fact that this is also one of the main contributor to pollution nowadays. Not only that the level of wastage increased but manufacturing processes are also polluting the environment. On top of that, to produce at cheap prices retailers take advantage of the cheap raw materials in the third world countries and this include the labors that work in the production sector. There have been many cases where retailers fail to abide rules regarding labors and have been accused to be overworking the workers. This has caused many sustainable clothing line to enter the market with objective of producing ethical and sustainable clothes for people. More and more awareness campaigns have been done to educate consumers the impact of fast fashion. Some of the famous tagline includes ‘who made your clothes’ and ‘you are what you wear’. Even companies are starting to acknowledge that consumers now are shifting their demand from just fashion to ethical fashion. A few brands have introduced their own CSR activity to promote sustainable clothing, for example H&M Conscious, Monsoon, FatFace and Monki. Independent sustainable clothing line such as WoolAndTheGang, People Tree UK and GatherandSee are getting more attention from consumers with their sustainable efforts. My personal favourite is WoolandTheGang and their project on using unwanted clothes to become recycled yarns for knitting and crochet purpose.

So I did a bit of research on sustainable clothing in Malaysia and found a lack of awareness about clothing consumption. While this is understandable because in Malaysia we push forward on fashion marketing to boost the economy, it is also important to realize the impact of excess and irresponsible fashion consumption. One of the ways we can help lessen the impact is to recycle instead of throwing away our unwanted clothes. We can recreate clothes as well as there are many DIY projects online these days. There are also many ways to recycle – put it in a recycling bin, give away to those who needs clothes (charity organisations, homeless people etc etc) or sell it as second hand products. You can transform your unwanted clothes to many things such as cushion covers, material lining, table cloth or can even use it to wipe dry your plates !

I know to be honest it’s a lot easier to dump it to the bin once you’re bored of your clothes and have it replaced with new ones but let’s take a few extra minutes before coming to that decision and think of how you can use the clothes in other ways beside throwing it away. It helps to think about those people who work really hard to meet your constant demand in fashion. Before going on a shopping spree, you could go through your wardrobe to see what you have, what you need and what you might put away so that you don’t purchase only to realize later that you’ve already got similar style.

A piece of clothing is not just represented by price anymore, but also every aspect that is involved in creating that piece to be on your clothing rack.

Plastic .

Continuing from my previous post on sustainable living, I thought that maybe I would put up more posts about environmental issues and how we as the main users of this planet can work together to sustain it for our future kids ! This time round, I’ll talk about plastics. When the word plastic pops in my mind, a few words came up as there are lots and lots of different kinds of plastics and they are all combinations of different components. It’s also not rocket science as most of us know that plastic is one of the largest contributory factor to the pollution sector. While this is a fact known by millions of people, many are still producing their goods with the use of plastic because it’s affordable and convenient.

Now, let’s narrow down to one type of plastic; water bottles.  Water bottles use billions of plastic annually to store mineral water, sweet drinks, carbonated drinks etc etc and the amount of plastic bottles we consumed daily is probably a significant number which leads us to having to recycle as many bottles as we can so that we won’t add up to the pile in the land waste. More and more countries are slowly providing recycling bins and making it easily accessible and available so people can opt to put it in the recycling bin rather than normal waste bin. But we are still facing problems where the number of people recycling water bottles is not enough as compared to the number of water bottles consumed. People know the potential issue a plastic bottle brings if not properly recycled but sometimes they decide to just throw it away in a waste bin because it makes life easier, more convenient and less hassle. This is also probably because we don’t see firsthand the problems caused by plastics on a large scale of consumption.

To tackle this problem, there’s only one solution to it – awareness. We must educate ourselves, the people around us and the society of the potential damage plastic can bring to our planet. It’s one thing to implement regulations, tell people to recycle, provide recycling bins but it is another thing to educate the society, to provide understanding and necessary knowledge so people realize the importance of a simple act. Young children should be taught about preserving the environment in school so that they could be innovative and tackle the environmental issues with creative solutions when they grow older. When we do something that we are obligated to do, it is always easier to do it if we know the reason behind it and for this particular matter, it’s good to understand fully the effect of plastic consumption. I came across a video produced by Ted Ed on plastic bottles which is fairly easy to understand and it is animated too, so that’s a huge plus point there. Take a look at it with your family and friends, it could be during weekend time with your kids, taking a break from studies or in between work. The video is only about 4 minutes which is not long. I think I shower even longer than that so there’s not really an excuse to not watch it.

 

Now that you’ve watched it , please please at least be more curious about it and take recycling of plastic seriously (as serious as revising for exams !). There’s a catch when iy comes to recycling plastics. Not all plastics are being recycled. Yes, I said it right, it wasn’t a typo. Read it again. The recycle symbol on the container is called resin code which is used to separate the type those plastics are made of. So, even when you recycle there is another hurdle we have to fix – providing market to recycle those plastics. Often, not all plastic categories are taken in for recycling because of the lack in demand and market for it. The products will be separated according to the plastic categories and then what can be recycled is taken away for recycling process. What happens to the leftovers then? They get delivered to the land waste and the cycle of pollution starts again from there. Therefore, apart from recycling plastic, there is another principle that you have to live by when it comes to protecting the environment which is reduce the consumption. That way, the amount of plastic produced from that category will reduce too! But, well if it’s essential and you need it maybe you can take a different approach like writing a letter to the company and provide feedback/suggestions about their production.

codeee

The plastic recycle chart that is used globally for further understanding.

The keyword to this issue is to recycle as much as you can and to reduce the usage of plastic in your daily lives. Here are 3 easy steps you can follow for your day to day lifestyle:

  1. Going out? Bring a water bottle with you. It’s better if you can purchase a bottle container and refill it whenever you’re going out.
  2. Recycle the water bottles once you’ve used it. Prepare a separate bin for plastic bottles so it’s easier for you to collect them together for recycling.
  3. DIY ! Recreate and redecorate your house with plastic bottles. There are lots of creative ideas on Pinterest, interesting enough to make it as a weekend project with family.

I personally love number 3 as plastic bottles can be used for many creative projects! I hope that you will all do your part and recycle as much as you can, spread the awareness to the people around you and be more attentive in protecting the environment. We may not be able to eliminate the problem just yet, but together we can reduce and contain the issue from further damage.

Have a nice weekend and hope your weekend is as sunny as mine (although I’m practically drowned with books to read)!

sustainable clothes; time to convert

Sustainable clothing – I am almost 99.9% sure that most of you have heard of these words before. The trend have been on the rise over the last few years especially when more iconic people are taking part in this trend. But what is sustainable clothing all about? There are some people out there that owns environmental-friendly clothing because it’s the in thing, because famous people do it etc etc and while it’s good they’re supporting these initiatives it’s also important to understand the whole concept behind owning and maintaining a sustainable wardrobe.

First, let’s talk about the difference between normal clothing and the eco-friendly clothing line. Eco clothing are made of natural fabric that are non toxic and less polluting in their production, use and disposal. It’s not just about how the clothes are made but also the way the materials of the clothes are processed. For example, as we all know cotton is a primary material in clothing production. To create an environmental-friendly clothing, organic cotton – where synthetic pesticides, genetically modified seeds and man-made fertilizers are not used in the production, replace the standard ones making it more sustainable and ‘greener’ in the production of the clothing. These agricultural practices are healthier than production of conventional cotton which contributes to all kinds of pollution, especially water and land. When talking about eco-friendly clothing, it can also mean the use of recycled fabric and other waste. For example, the world has found a way to create textile using leftover hulls from soybean production. It’s not only helping to reduce waste but it is also biodegradable.

The objective of sustainable clothing is not limited to the production of the clothes, but it involves other factors as well such as ensuring that the materials used for clothing production is organic and ‘green’, does not involve exploitative labor practices and the materials adhere ‘green’ farming method.

Now that we’ve covered the concept of sustainable clothing, the next step is to understand the other objective of this concept. The idea in creating sustainable clothing is primarily to reduce pollution and waste generated from clothing production. The one important factor to sustainability is our wardrobe lifestyle. It’s not really helpful if you buy sustainable clothing but then keep on throwing them away in the bin after wearing it a few times. We want to reduce waste and that’s just as important as wearing sustainable clothes. So, here’s some tips that you can practice for your wardrobe lifestyle (I’m sure nobody expects you to have a wardrobe malfunction either!).

Say the magic word over and over again until it sticks to your heart and brains:

“Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”

I know it’s not easy, especially when the new Summer collection is too gorgeous you can’t resist or you have a theme dinner and you need to buy something new for the theme. But then, there’s always a way around it and these 3 magic words will help you save the environment and not have a wardrobe malfunction, a win win situation!

  1. Before purchasing your clothes, always think of at least 5 different ways you can style it. This is so that you can easily match it with other clothes and have a new look for it.
  2. Don’t buy too many clothes with the same/similar design. For example, if the trend now is off-shoulder tops, you don’t need to change your whole tops to off-shoulder ones. Maybe one or two is good enough or even better, DIY your current top to an off-shoulder!
  3. Ask yourself if you’re going to wear it before you buy because sometimes it may look good on the models, but it might not be your style. This way, you’ll not only reduce consumption but you get to save some money.
  4. Secondhand clothing! I’m not sure if you’re the kind that wears secondhand clothes but trust me they’re not bad at all. You might need to do some searching but hey, at least it’s a bargain. This is especially useful if you’re planning to wear the clothes only once or twice.
  5. Take good care of your clothes. Why? This is so, when you’re bored or want to have a change of style you can easily recycle it and give away the clothes. There are two ways to this, either donate it to a charity or you can sell it.
  6. Or you can learn to DIY and be a self-claimed fashion designer for yourself. That way you can have a change of wardrobe without hurting your bank account too much.
  7. Quality over quantity – it may be a bit pricey, but a good quality clothes can last you a long time. And don’t get me wrong, quality does not equal to expensive. There are good quality clothes out there that are just as affordable, maybe even cheaper. So do your research before purchasing.

These tips apply to all kinds of clothing consumption. I know the tricky bit when you are trying to convert your wardrobe to a sustainable one is definitely the price. My first time checking out a sustainable clothing company, I had a hard time processing the price of a T-shirt. I was planning to change my wardrobe but when I saw the price, I immediately closed the website. The price is no joke especially for a student like me. But that doesn’t mean you can’t change to ‘green’ clothing. It might take a while and you probably won’t be able to convert your whole wardrobe, but slowly you can build your sustainable wardrobe. It doesn’t just mean that you have to own ‘green’ clothes, it also mean that you practice those 3 magic words up there. So, don’t let the price stop you from creating your own sustainable wardrobe. Owning sustainable clothing is just one part of it, you can also help reduce consumption through recycling and reusing your clothes.

As a consumer, you have the power to demand for better practices in the fashion industry. If we support more and more sustainable clothing company, this will help them stabilize in the industry. High demand will shift other fashion companies direction and before you know it, more and more companies will practice the same concept. That’s what we want to achieve- a change in lifestyle that starts with our wardrobe. While we’re constantly battling between price value and ethics, there must also be a long term outlook in the industry. We might generate short term profits but in the long run, when resources are heavily polluted it will be too late to do damage control and the industry will spend more money trying to sustain the environment. There must be a balance between the short and long term outlook.

Now, time to change my wardrobe! It’s Earth Day today and I hope while many of you are celebrating the efforts and achievements we had so far in fighting climate change, we must also realize that the battle is not yet done. We are a long way to go from achieving sustainable lifestyle and this only means that we have to work even harder in creating awareness, making people realize that the environment is just as important as the economy or politics of a country. It’s probably even more important because environment is not a country thing, its a global thing.