a continuous chain.

Today was one of those hectic days with so many people to catch up with and running errands in between everything. I drove to a few places today and as usual, traffic’s always bad especially now the weather has gone gloomy most afternoons. So while I was carefully driving the car, making sure I don’t accidentally ‘make’ an accident, my mind was wandering about my favorite topic ; sustainable living and it sort of started with me being thirsty in the car but I forgot to bring my water bottle today. I made a mental note to always bring a bottle with me wherever I go. This is so that I can avoid purchasing plastic bottles repeatedly. But then, because I’ll be away from home for the next 3 weeks, staying in a dormitory of sorts I started thinking how is it that bringing one bottle of water is enough? I probably or most likely will need to purchase plastic bottles and even stock them up (what a nightmare!). It’s different when I am at home, I can boil the water and refill the bottle as much as I want.

But what if I’m at a place that doesn’t have such electrical facilities? The tap water in Malaysia is clean, but is it safe for consumption?

I am not entirely sure about that but even if it claims to be, I prefer to be on the safe side and boil the water first usually. This means that even if I want to reduce plastic bottles consumption, I may not be able to do so under certain circumstances. It’s similar like how we preach about reducing the usage of air condition, but you know very well that most of the offices and buildings are air conditioned the whole day, some even until at night which is definitely more than the daily air condition usage in an average household. Also, at the same time we can’t tell those buildings to turn off the air condition because how will they circulate air in the buildings?

You can’t have your employees in suits and blazers in an enclosed office with no air condition. Its not easy, especially if the buildings are huge. So, in cases like this they have no choice but to use airconds.

Then, what? Do we tell ourselves its okay because we can’t help it?

At the same time preaching to others about reducing the usage of air condition? It is difficult and I do agree pushing forward the concept of sustainable living is not easy and some might even say its impossible because of situations like this. It’s good that we spread words about reduce usage so we contribute less to environmental problems but a bigger solution is needed in the long run and it has to be feasible.

A main concern on the long run innovation is change. Some might be afraid of change, or its probably not a good investment for them in terms of monetary point of view. For example, if you want a to drive a green car, you need to change your existing car with a new one and that’s not something everyone can afford to do. Lets say a household has 3 cars and these are bought within a time span of 10 years. For them to change their existing cars to green ones will require them another 10 years or more since its new technology, therefore more expensive. That itself is a big question mark of when will we fully shift towards a greener lifestyle. But then, what happens with the old cars? Do they send it to the junkyard for scrap metals? Some of the components of the cars will go to waste landfill.

If every household does the same thing, evolving to a green environment may cause the landfill to be overcrowded, pushing the need to create more landfills for waste. By then, we need to be ready by creating an efficient waste management efforts if we don’t want to lose more lands to fill it with just toxic waste. It is indeed a major concern especially when it comes to properties and development. There has to be a balance of reusing the existing technologies with the new green technologies. While it is great to encourage reduction of consumption that contributes to pollution, we also need to come up with solutions for the longer run.

Coming back to my earlier remark about water bottle, we could look into supplying clean and hygienic water so that even tap water is okay for us to drink. It may have started in Malaysia, but there are many factors that needs to be taken into account when you talk about clean and hygienic water. Its not just about the filtration but the condition of the pipeline, the condition of the water when it comes out from our taps at home. I’m sure Malaysia is progressing towards that, though this is still a main factor as to why people consume plastic bottles daily. So it’s not just about reducing plastic bottle consumption by bringing our own bottles but also finding ways for us to have access to water without the need to purchase it off the shelves. We also need to think about the shift to using our own bottles, what happens then to the plastic bottles that have been produced? Do we just discard them and if that is the case then how do we intend to do it without further harming the environment? Do we put it to good use for other things or reproduce it to create something else?

There are so many factors that need to be taken into account when we touch the subject on sustainable living and development. I’ve only used plastic bottles as an example here but what about plastic toys, how do we allow usage of air condition without polluting the environment? I doubt companies would want to put in fans in their sky high buildings, especially those where the workplace requires them to wear suits daily. What about the components we use to build houses? Houses today are not made of wood which is easily reused and recycled, so then there’s a question about how do we minimize waste in that perspective. Even fashion is a contribution towards environmental pollution which I did a specific post on how it affects the environment. We can’t replace everything to achieve sustainability because then we’ll have new problems on where to dump all this waste now.

The subject is so vast that every day you learn something new and every day you realize that the more you focus on it, the more you can tell how the issues are all linked together and therefore, the problem solving needs to be done by looking at the whole chain, moving together towards a bigger solution simultaneously rather than focusing on just one part of the big issue. I do applaud Malaysia’s initiative on the 2018 budget to set aside fund for research in sustainable development and their participation with other countries in tackling climate change and other environmental problems. I do hope that in tackling environmental problems, our creation not only leads to replacement of something better but also finding a conducive way to shift our existing products to a greener technology without having to replace it all together and of course reducing and reusing what we have which is one way that is commonly practiced by individuals so we can help lessen the problems on environment we deal daily.  The shift between creation, innovation and reduction needs to move together in order for us to make an actual impact in making sustainable living something more than just an ideal concept.

And on a side note, don’t ever think that as an individual you cannot bring about an impact. You can by utilizing the different platforms available and it’s not impossible. What truly matters is you taking the first step to educate yourselves about your surrounding, opening your eyes to the problems that are right in front of your eyes and actually doing something about it. Ignorance is always easier but we can’t just ignore the bad things that happens in our own home.

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our eyes, do they really see?

A brief summary of how I started my day today – woke up, made breakfast, helped dad take care of his pets then went to try out body massage at this shop run by the Malaysian Association for the Blind.

It was, I would say a pretty ordinary day except it wasn’t. Instead, it’s an eye-opening experience for me with a mixture of realization and self-reflection later on.

I went in the shop, was greeted by a man and nothing was out of ordinary until the person who was in charge of massaging me came in. I automatically knew she was blind because her eyes was not focusing on me but she was so friendly, greeted me with a smile and even made small talks. It’s all normal until she started massaging and what hit me first was, wow this is actually really good. She put in just the right amount of pressure during the massage and gave extra attention to areas where the body is tense. Not once she made me feel uncomfortable and touched me inappropriately, in fact I feel that she knew what exactly she was doing which totally amazed me. So while I was really feeling relaxed I was also thinking how amazing it is that another human being who doesn’t have all five senses unlike us, can still move and do things perfectly. I’ve been to a few massage spa throughout my life and I started this since young so I’ve experienced quite a few different kinds of massage and spa treatments. I’ve had only one that I was really satisfied with so far and now that I’ve discovered this place, it became my new favorite.

It’s surprising isn’t it?

You come in with a skeptical mind, thinking how are they even going to massage you if they have no sight? What if they touched wrongly or pressed too hard? All kinds of imagination comes to mind mainly caused by fear about their imperfection.

Then they do it and prove you wrong.

I started becoming curious about them, their lifestyle and how they cope with everything. After I was done, I went to the counter to pay and I saw the person who massaged me was sitting in front of the cashier and smiling at me. She told me the price and while I was taking out the money, I kept on thinking how do I pay her? Do I tell her which note is which or what? Afraid that they don’t know how to determine what notes I was giving, I took out the exact amount and paid her while repeating the amount to her just to reconfirm. I saw her fingers feeling the notes slightly for a while and then she nodded saying her thanks. I walked out of the shop, feeling dazzled. How on earth did she know if that was the right amount? What if someone gave more or less? I told this to my mum and she said that our notes have patterns on it so disabled people can determine the amount of the notes.

That bit of information smacked right at my face and I felt ashamed instantly. How is it that in my whole life, from the moment I learned how to count to the day when I first held my first pocket money in the form of notes up til now which would sum up quite a few years of using and having my own money, did I not know this fact?

Was I really that ignorant and clueless? Ashamed was one word to put it.

But also realization about my limited interaction with disabled people which would have caused me to be ignorant of things like this. Not once did I ask myself how are the disabled people adapting to the environment. It made me see the importance of educating ourselves beyond what we learn academically in school. I also realized how important is it to understand what it actually means to live in a community.

As part of the community, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves about the people we live together and that includes a wide range of spectrum such as the disabled, gifted, elderly, children, youth and even adults. And this sort of education should be in our school syllabus because where and when else should we start if not at school. It makes our children understand better the people they live with and starting early means that our children will grow up to be more aware of the needs of the people, not just the majority. The lady who massaged me told that she took a Grab instead of the train to work and I was so impressed how these people are adapting so well despite the challenges they have to face.

It was my first real-life experience talking to someone without sight and listening to her stories was so humbling for me. I’m used to seeing disabled people by the streets in the city, as they beg for some extra coins we have in our pockets and it was something I see often it just made me feel indifferent about the whole situation. But this, seeing and talking to her was definitely an eye-opening humbling experience. It got me realizing that we should learn about them, about the difficulties they have to face and how we can ease their challenges and include their needs when one day, we become leaders and we are the one providing services to the community.

I feel that disabled people should be given a chance at jobs just like any of us. They should be given the opportunity to enter schools like other children, not opting for a special school and separate them from the rest because reality is, these people will be entering the outside world when they’re older and we should not be ignorant about it. It is not in our place to limit their potential but it’s our duty to help them nourish their potentials just like how we nurture and polish our youth.

As leaders, if we are to provide for the community it also means providing for everyone.

That means giving access to facilities that are user-friendly. We can’t have bus stops by the roadside of a highway because would that really be safe and accessible for everyone? The bus stops in towns should all have at least some shade and seats and a clear walkway so even people with wheelchairs are able to go to the bus stops. We can’t just give excuses like ‘there’s taxi, it’s better if they use a taxi’ because when providing the facilities, the choice isn’t ours to make who we want to provide it to. And these are just some of the concerns about the welfare of our community that we don’t see and emphasize enough.

Which is why I feel it’s so important to educate ourselves on these issues. That way, we’ll be more aware of our surrounding and understand why certain things are the way it is. So, yes it’s time to be more community-oriented and be more educated about the community we live in.

 

p/s: The structure of my content in this post may not be organized I’m not sure if you even understand what is it I’m rambling about but the urge to type this down was so strong I just poured everything out straight from my thoughts so they are, I must admit a bit messy but I hope you do get my point. 

Nature calls.

My first trip to something as close as calling it a zoo visit was the Sunway Lagoon animal park back in high school. I remembered going to the park in Sentosa Island when it first opened but did not recall much about it except the pink dolphin show. It was the ‘not so’ huge cage belonged to two tigers that got me hooked as I passed by to enter Sunway Lagoon theme park. It was my first life experience being close to a wild animal, fascinating yet wrong in so many ways. The tigers are beautiful creatures, I figured what was shown on TV were indeed true and more I was a mix of excitement and awe to see something real and right in front of my eyes. But, a part of me was curious about the whole picture.

Why is the tiger so quiet and lazy?

How do people feed them?

Aren’t tigers supposed to be running around?

Growing up in the city, I don’t have the luxury of seeing animals as often as I liked and because my hometown is also a city, I don’t have that countryside home to go back to during the holidays. What I knew was limited to the information I obtain from books and what I see on TV. So, it was a bit odd to see two passive tigers in Sunway Lagoon right in the middle of an urban place. So many questions popped in my mind and I was telling myself over and over again this is not how it is based on the TV shows I watched before this.

It was since then I started having interest in animal protection, specifically tigers. I loved them when I was young, I love them still but now that I’m older I learned there’s so much more about them, especially the importance of protecting instead of using them as a profit-making tool. Because tigers were the animal that first got me into thinking about animal protection, it’s only natural that they hold a special place in my heart. I wouldn’t call myself an environmentalist or an eco warrior, but I do believe in the cause and all the efforts to protect nature. I didn’t start acting on it though until only recently. In fact, it was back in college when I visited Malaysia’s National Zoo for the first time in my life and while I left feeling dazed about seeing them in such close proximity, the feeling that it’s all wrong became stronger.

Even then, I wasn’t too sure what I could even do.

I know I couldn’t go out there and be a volunteer to protect them or physically participate in movements as I was restricted by many rules at home. I read and keep on reading and on days where the news reported animal abuse or yet another death caused by humans I can’t help feeling disturbed and helpless. The urge to help was boiling but I didn’t know what to do, where to start, who to talk to or how do I even help.

I believe that many of us would feel the same way, especially when we weren’t exposed to animal protection awareness campaigns , organizations or education about it.

It was when I studied in the UK that I saw ways I could help and contribute within my capabilities. I started reaching out through fundraising activities, hoping that with the little amount that I collect, I would create a ripple effect in instilling awareness among my friends and family. Raising money was a way I could help and it’s something I enjoy doing too so I focused on that, putting whatever experience I had to good use and hoped that it would have eased the struggles of volunteers in the front line who actually go out of their way to protect the nature.

Along the fundraising journey, I also realized many other things about the effort to protect and conserve our environment. I think it’s easier to give up than fight for the cause because often, you meet a dead end or you hardly see any actual impact. There are so many barriers it almost feels like it’s impossible.

You’re not only going against people who sees the environment as a mean to make profit but also tradition and culture.

For example, when I visited Phuket I was so difficult to convince my family not to go to the elephant show because their argument was that it’s part of the culture and so many other people go as well. There’s also the other side of the argument that elephants and the people there have a long history of relationship. The Thai people worships elephants and take good care of them according to the history and bond they have between them for centuries. But there are also cases where the animals are abused while in training. I would say that it is probably a similar case to how our farmers use buffalo to plough their plantation field. Back in those days elephants too were used as a mode of transportation in Thailand.

The concern here is that today, some people are abusive towards their animals and we don’t have to use wild animals such as elephants or tigers, it can even be our pets.

So, yes despite only exploring a small part of this fight, I find myself giving up many times, defeated in arguments and it was almost useless when majority’s voice was not on my side.

But this also made me realize that the cause of this issue is mostly due to lack of awareness. Education in this area is not enough, it’s probably out there but it’s not reaching to everyone in the community. We read an article today about an animal being abused or a forest burned down due to the impossible hot weather in some area but it stops there for us. We would be sorry, feel sad about what happen, wished things didn’t turn out that way, we got angry and frustrated, grumbled to our friends about what we read in the article but we weren’t taught on what we can do to stop it from happening again. We don’t see ourselves being involved more than just reading it and that, I believe is where education comes in. When we educate ourselves about our surroundings, about our rights, our law and country we also learn how we, as part of a bigger society could act on situations like this. We may not realize that we were being ignorant which is why education and awareness in this area is very much needed to be emphasized and instilled.

Which is why, despite seeing more dead ends than impacts I still want to fight with those who believe in this cause. Because I feel that it’s a responsibility we carry as part of the society. Creating an environment that is livable, isn’t that something that involves us the primary users of Earth? How we manage it reflects our ability to remain in existence and I think that duty lies in everyone. I know I can’t do much, but I also know that continuously changing, educating and improving our lifestyle will eventually lead to bigger impact.

I started from the most famous organization that’s available in almost every country which is WWF. But there are also many non-profit environmental organizations that we could refer to. Some do research work, some focus on certain areas such as government policies and many other specifications. Here are some websites I usually check to get updates on environmental issues and learn more about the nature in my country.

Sometimes, we are aware of all the environmental issues happening around us. Social media and the news update us regularly. But it is taking that next step is what’s important here. Most of the time, we don’t know what we can do. Believe me, we can do so much more if we take one step further. You can change what you are angry about. Work within your capabilities. Just because you can’t go down to the field or be at the front line to protect nature, that doesn’t mean you are not capable of contributing to the cause.

We can’t all be farmers or fishermen. Some need to be seller, some as buyers and many more. Only then the economy will be moving forward. This concept applies to this cause as well. You could be working in terms of changing policies, becoming an eco ranger, promotes recycling, a trendsetter for green lifestyle and many more other options. You just need to act on it. It may be late as we have so much to work on, but it’s never too late and you’ll never know what you can achieve unless you try.

So try, and bring positive changes. You can play a role in this too.

 

p/s: I’m already all pumped up about crowdfunding for my tigers. Hopefully I will have the time as I wish to make it an annual affair rather than just a one time thing. Hope this write up will make you explore on how you can personally contribute to this cause too 🙂

this skin of mine

When talking about skincare, mine has always been very difficult to manage. I used to have lots of scars due to allergic reaction which I wasn’t aware of for 5 years because I thought it was pimple breakouts instead. I was also very cautious with the type of food and drinks I take. Everything has to be less/no sugar and I ration my chocolate/ice cream intakes because I was afraid that it would cause more breakouts. I’ve also tried a few skincare products, from Clean & Clear, Garnier, Laneige, Clinique, Innisfree and Dermatologica while I was growing up. My daily skincare regime is the usual 3 step process; cleanser, toner and then moisturizer. Once or twice a week I would alternate between oil control mask and pore minimizer mask. I only use scrub cleanser when necessary because it makes my skin feel a bit too raw after. My skin type is a combination of dry and oily along the T-zone so it gets extra oily on my nose and forehead during the day. I also have a typically fair complexion that is slightly on the pale side. Which also means, if I don’t get enough sleep it’ll make my skin looks terrible, like as if my skin is not healthy and the dark circles will be very obvious. My scars are usually visible and it takes a while before the marks start to go away. By the time old marks are almost gone, new ones come out which is annoying, really.

It was only recently that my skin got better, once I figured that it was allergic reaction so I took the allergic pills when it gets itchy. But this is also mainly due to my shift towards using natural ingredient for my skincare regime. I haven’t totally shift all my products to natural ingredients but I’m slowly learning to make an alternative home based products that can replace my current skincare products. So these are what I used so far and it really works. I had a hard time believing when I was younger but I can now say that it works really well for my skin. I’m still figuring out a suitable natural ingredient cleanser because I’m using a milk based chemical cleanser for now so I’m not quite sure what’s the substitute for that. As for facial scrub wash, I’m still using the coconut and sea salt scrub from LUSH which makes my skin feel fresh every time after I use it. But since there’s no LUSH here in Malaysia (not that I know of), I’m planning to use sea salt, coconut oil, a bit of flour and peppermint oil as my scrub. To make this work, a base oil is needed and I opted for coconut oil because it’s easy to get. You can also use grapeseed oil, olive oil and many other base oil. Then you mix it with other ingredients such as the sea salt which will give a slightly rough texture and the flour to make it feel like paste instead of oil and the peppermint oil is what makes your skin feels fresh. Peppermint oil is good not only for skin but also for your scalp as it stimulates your skin and therefore encouraging hair growth and gives a radiant complexion. I do use that for my hair mask which mainly is a mixture of coconut, lavender and peppermint oil. It helps strengthen the hair and make it healthier too! Going back to my skincare, I use rose oil mixed with egg whites as face mask which I apply every two to three days. This combination really helps with my scars and oily face issues. The rose oil is generally popular for scar treatment and it has anti-aging properties so it’s really helpful if your skin has scars or wrinkles. The egg whites helps minimize the pores. My grandma used to say using the egg whites will make your skin feels like eggshells after. So it helps in giving you a smooth and soft skin texture. As for my toner and moisturizer, I usually wash my face clean with water followed by putting a few small drops of rose oil before I sleep every night. I’ve been doing that for a month now and my scars are not as visible and as much as it used to be. I feel better using my make ups as well because I don’t feel uncomfortable with my make up on after a few hours but I generally use very light make up to let the skin breathe.

There are so many natural products you can make or buy for your wellness. I’m looking into trying honey, sugar and coffee grounds as my main ingredients next. I was told that teatree oil really helps with acne problems. Aloe vera too, which is why it’s a good idea to plant your own aloe vera plant! Cinnamon and rosemary oil have lots of benefits as well. In terms of purchasing the essential oils, it may seem costly for some because it’s 100% extract organic oil so it’s only fair that it’s slightly pricey. But you don’t consume it as much as your usual products. I normally use about one or two droplets of oil in every mixture I make and even then you can tell that it’s quite strong from the smell of the oil itself. I know lots of small home based business do sell essential oils and some even make their own skincare so saves you all the trouble of researching and mixing it yourself! I haven’t fully explored the brands that sell essential oils but I know Tanamera, a local brand do sell these oils. They’re popular because lots of spa use their products so they have a wide range of products that you can browse through. The pricing is also not that bad, I would say it’s average. I bought my peppermint oil from Tanamera and I think for 15ml bottle it was about RM35, not more than RM40. But I would say that the price depends on the type of oil you choose. Some are generally more expensive because the process to extract is probably longer or harder. I got my lavender oil from Young Living, a product my friend introduced to me. It’s an overseas brand, made in US but it has a branch in Singapore and Malaysia if I’m not mistaken and the price was about RM100 for the 15ml bottle. The rose geranium oil is from a brand called Soul Shine, I think it’s from Australia but I bought it at Mediplex SDMC, a hospital in Subang Jaya. For 50ml, I paid about RM70-80, can’t remember the exact price but it’s within that range. I also got the coconut oil from Mediplex which was just RM17 and it’s fully organic too.

Basically, I’m just sharing this information with you especially those who have sensitive skin or wear heavy make up on daily basis. It’s a good idea to use some natural ingredient to take care of your wellbeing instead of the chemical products because they might have side effects or it’s not always easy to find one that’s suitable with your skin. I know and I can tell that it does help with my skin, which is sensitive to a lot of things and now I can even wear make up without getting that uncomfortable feeling on my skin! You can definitely try out more ingredients, mixtures as there are so many out there. Essential oils can also be used when you’re sick, your body, hair and even for massage. I really love the smell of rose geranium oil so when I want to distress myself, I put a few drops of it in a bowl of water and let it continuously heat up using candle in my room. It gives a sweet scent and help ease your sleeping difficulties.

Happy trying and hope this helps ! 🙂

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)

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.