Monday, 27 October 2014

Star Trek: The Green Frontier

We have been taught by world leaders and stakeholders on how to be environmentally friendly.

We know the choices we can make.

We know such sacrifices are for the future of mankind.

But are we doing enough?

Our world is littered with cities that ‘excels’ in energy and resource consumption. These concrete jungles will forever more remain on our landscapes as either standing structures or rubble (Fig. 1). Even with a green lifestyle, can mankind truly erase the stigma of environmental degradation from our very homes?

There is perhaps hope with the innovation of green homes (Fig. 2). A green home is designed to be environmentally-friendly and sustainable as it provides better energy and resource conservation while using materials derived with environmentally friendly means (Roberts, 2003).

One such green home stands out from the rest, and that is...

The Earthship!

Made by EarthshipBiotecturethis home is completely self-sufficient. It harnesses energy from the sun and wind. Water is mainly provided by rain and greywater. Food are also home-grown (Video 1) (Reynolds, 2014)

Video 1: Earthships

Recyclable materials are also used to make Earthships, like tyres and bottles. By using 15,000 tyres to make Earthships while the UK is burning 40 million old tyres per annum, Earthship can provide an alternative to our saily disposal patterns by advocating recycling of usable materials.

Unfortunately, this architecture is impossible for Singapore. With land constraints, we simply cannot welcome Earthships.  This is a pretty sad, as Singapore is often a role model to the world in more ways than one, and we have to accept the fact that Singapore cannot become one in this area.

However, while we may leave such fancy developments to larger countries, Singapore can perhaps pursue development of green buildings that are multi-storeyed to suit our needs. Like vertical farms! 

If there’s a will, there will always be a way for everyone to play their part in sustainable living.

And this is most probably my last post on Change-Up. With that, I hope that I have brought you on a short journey of enlightenment on sustainable living, and that you may now continue your part in preserving our future. 

Godspeed everyone.

Literature Cited

Reynolds, M. (2014, September 11). Earthship systems. Retrieved from Earthship biotecture:
Roberts, J. (2003). Good Green Homes. Layton, Utah, U.S.A.: Gibbs Smith.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Bins, Bulbs, and Shower Timers: On the ‘Techno-Ethics’ of Sustainable Living. Kersty Hobson (2006)

Hey everyone! Do you remember the last time you were informed of environmental slogans/policies or used something environmentally friendly? Was that policy or your own action more impactful and memorable?

My post today will be about an article by Hobson:

In this article, Hobson discusses the reliance that sustainable consumption has on the material world. She noticed the phenomenon of anti-consumerism consumerism, where eco-modernisation and new knowledge increased people's consumption of more energy and resource efficient goods as an alternative to conventional consumption that harms the environment.

Using the Australian Conservation Foundation's 'Greenhome' programme (Fig. 1) as a case study, Hobson investigated how their workshops on topics like waste and water aimed to change people's affiliations with daily products such that they will have more environmentally friendly practices. This subtle approach was adopted to mitigate the unpopularity of pervasive environmentalism.

Introducing objects like recycling bins often lead to eco-friendly outcomes such as increased recycling efforts as it necessitates people to change their habits (Fig. 2). However, without objects to guide them, practices like water conservation fall short on improvement. It is thus possible that ethics are developed from the physical surroundings of an individual rather than educational values. 

Fig. 2 The inclination to practice more environmental friendliness with environmental products at hand. (source:

Although this is a limit to sustainable lifestyle promotion, materialism still has a successful side. Hobson noted that people placed more significance on the environment with their lives revolving around eco-friendly obejcts. While this is not the outcome that environmentalists desire, I feel that human nature is not something advocates should compete with but rather adapt towards such that the same goal is reached.

While critics have lamented the reliance of society on technology as goods are becoming a prerequisite to sustainable changes, I agree with Hobson that more research is needed to evaluate this observation. Furthermore, practices will naturally differ across multiple regions and religions. In countries with stronger family-oriented values and lesser materialism, values could prove more persuasive than goods in promoting sustainable lifestyles.

In conclusion, the future presents several avenues which environmentalists can exact change and they must have situational awareness when developing plans to improve sustainability.

Literature Cited

Hobson, K. (2006, November 21). Bins, Bulbs, and Shower Timers: On the ‘Techno-Ethics’ of Sustainable Living. Ethics, Policy & Environment: A Journal of Philosophy & Geography, 9(3), 317-336. doi:10.1080/13668790600902375

Friday, 17 October 2014

Every drop counts

Hello guys. Today's post is about a nightmare task I had from school...

Our engineering module required of us to complete a project that entailed developing a greywater system to recycle greywater. And boy oh boy was this project ENORMOUS!

Through the course of the project, I gathered that few Singaporeans are aware of greywater recycling. As such I decided to share relevant information to get people interested.

Greywater is defined as discharges from laundry, toilets and kitchen sinks. Using ingredients like gravel, sand and activated carbon, a typical greywater recycling system can treat greywater to be usable for activities like watering plants and carwashing (Fig. 1). 

Fig. 1 Overview of a typical system installed in a household (source:

So why is this important to us?

We know that Singapore has one of the highest rainfall in the world. However, water scarcity is still a major concern. Singapore lacks natural water resources and our water sustainability reduces during dry periods.

Therefore, the greywater system is one way to prepare for possible water crisis since it recycles water that we usually flush away unnecessarily.

The complexity of the system differs depending on how clean the owner desires the water to be. Intrinsic systems are often more complex as they are installed into a household (Video 1).

Video 1

On the other hand, simple and yet beautiful greywater systems which my group set up only require basic materials. Recyclable materials like plastic bottles and cloth can contain the same ingredients and be fully functional (Fig. 2). However, greywater must be manually poured into this system and this could be a huge turn-off for Singaporeans.

Fig. 2 Simple set-up of the Greywater Recycling System containing one layer of gravel, sand, weeds planted in soil and activated carbon with cloth holding each layer in place. Photo taken on 14 October

Both systems are tedious to set up and the benefit of recycling one’s water is not financially visible with water being affordable in Singapore. However, I believe that every little drop should be fully used so that Singapore's water consumption per capita can drop to 140 litres before the target year of 2030 set by PUB (PUB, 2014).

So go forth and make one for yourself to help save some water today!

Literature Cited

PUB, Public Utilities Board (2014, June 10). Conserve. Overview. Retrieved from PUB, Singapore's national water agency:

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Beacons of light, towards a future bright

What's up guys! Do you know of the legacy of Sir Thomas Edison?

If you do not, I need you to check what's up your ceiling or any street post along the road. What do you see?

Yes! The light bulb! Have you been en-light-ened?

Light bulbs provides us with light 24/7 (Fig. 1). Even without sunlight, shaded interiors of buildings can be sufficiently lit for us to operate comfortably.

However, is the burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity truly necessary for lighting during the day?

After yet another blackout, Brazilian mechanic Alfredo Moser started toying with the idea of using water to refract sunlight into dark rooms (Zobel, 2013). This brought forth the Solar Bottle Bulb, which consists of a large bottle (~1.5L) filled with water and bleach (to prevent algal growth) (Fig. 2). 

This invention sparked the Liter of Light movement led by Illac Diaz, director of MyShelter Foundation in the Philippines, to benefit local communities which lack electricity using this innovation (Video 1) (Orangefix, 2014).

Video 1: A Liter of Light *Official Version*

Another similar invention is the light tube. Light tubes, or light pipes, are layered with highly reflective materials and can direct sunrays into the interior of buildings (Fig. 4). The Zero Energy Building in Singapore is one of many prominent infrastructures in the world which uses this innovation to save on electricity during the day to achieve 0 net energy consumption (Fig. 3) (BCA, 2014).

Fig. 4 How the light tube works (source:

The Liter of Light is already furthering plans in more countries. With less electrical consumption, the environmental impact of these countries will be reduced. And currently, light tubes are only used in a few buildings in developed countries. Clearly there is much room to develop in the future. 

Thus I hope that both inventions will be developed further globally since it can save many hours of electricity on sunny days. The reduction of electrical consumption will lead to lesser burning of fossil fuels, which will inevitably lead to a brighter future for us all (pun intended).

Literature Cited

BCA, B. &. (2014, September 31 ). Energy Production and Consumption. Retrieved from ZERO Energy Building:
Orangefix. (2014, August 14). Liter of Light: About Us. Retrieved from Liter of Light:
Zobel, G. (2013, August 12). BBC News Magazine. Retrieved from BBC:

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Ending the Rise of the Carnivore

HI! I hope you are hungry!

In a quest for healthier and environmentally-friendlier alternatives to meat-based diets, I discovered the existence of  soy-meat alternatives, the Portobello mushroom and the famous plant-based Mediterranean diet.

Soy-meat alternatives, or “meat analogs”, are generally produced with soy proteins or tofu as its base and combined with ingredients like vegetable proteins, and wheat gluten (Fig. 1). Soya’s prominence in food cultures rose when it was discovered to be the only natural source of isoflavones[1], along with many essential nutrients and numerous health benefits (Moţa, et al., 2007).

However, the biggest hurdle in lowering global meat consumption lies in meat-lovers having to forgo the unique flavour of authentic meat. That’s where the Portobello mushroom saves the day. As it is a fungi which possesses meaty flavours, it is used in various recipes including vegetarian burgers (Fig. 2) (TFN, 2014)!

Fig. 2 Delicious Portobello Mushroom Burger

Calls to reduce meat consumption also offers an opportunity to advocate the plant-based Mediterranean diet to the world (Fig. 3). Being healthy and delicious, this diet offers much incentives for meat lovers as meats are associated with chronic diseases.

Fig. 3 Delectable dishes based on the Mediterranean diet

This diet is plant-based (fruits, vegetables, beans and olive oil), with legumes (remember our friend soya?), fish and eggs replacing meat as the main protein source (Fig. 4). Due to observed longevity and low rates of chronic diseases in the Mediterranean regions, it has received much attention by health critics and researchers (Willett, et al., 1995).

Hopefully, such alternative diets can replace current unsustainable meat consumption. By encouraging consumption of plant proteins, environmental degradation can be reduced as plant-based agriculture has smaller carbon footprints. Our planet can then continue to comfortably support future healthy generations. 

After all, quoting the Roman poet Virgil, the greatest wealth is health.

[1] A natural chemical believed to be capable of preventing and treating cancer.

Literature Cited

Moţa, M., Gârgavu, S., Popa, S., Schiopu, S., Panduru, N. M., & Moţa, E. (2007). Soya--the medicine food product. Romanian Journal of Internal Medicine, 113-121.
TFN, Television Food Network (2014, April 26). Portobello Mushroom Recipes. Retrieved from Food Network:
Willett, W. C., Sacks, F., Trichopoulou, A., Drescher, G., Ferro-Luzzi, A., Helsing, E., & Trichopoulos, D. (1995). Mediterranean diet pyramid: a cultural model for healthy eating. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1402S-1406S.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Green marketing: legend, myth, farce or prophesy? Peattie, K., & Crane, A. (2005)

Hey everyone. I believe many of you would know about the Hallyu, aka Korean Wave (韩流/한류) (Fig. 1)!

However, many would be unaware of the Green-wave that ensued from the successful banning of aerosols containing chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). 

As such, my post today would be regarding an article by Peattie and Crane that discusses the journey of green marketing and its failure in promoting sustainability:

To further illustrate this discussion, I will be comparing and contrasting the successful Hallyu with the Green-wave. 

Green marketing can be defined as marketing of environmentally friendlier products. Its initial introduction sparked hasty pursuit by companies. Modified advertising plans were scrambled to ride on this green wave. Green goods production in USA increased by 114% within a year (Ottman, 1993)! This has resulted in much debacle.

Without contextualisation, misunderstanding of consumers’ demand, improper environmental incorporation and unreliable green claims followed (Peattie & Crane, 2005). Green developers lacked foresight, fallaciously prioritising improvements on the present instead of investing in future projects (King, 1985). Consequently, benefits of green products were obscure, garnering neither appeal nor trust. Companies were also accused of green-washing (Fig .2) (Peattie & Crane, 2005).

Contrariwise, Korean scriptwriters knew the elements that would attract massive audiences to dramas, entertaining viewers immensely while promoting actual Korean culture. Hallyu produced refreshing content like the famous ‘Running Man’, which has since became a long-running series (Fig. 3). Discovery of new talents by scouting agencies also facilitate continuation.

Fig.3 The overwhelming popularity of the unprecedented 'Running Man' series. (source:

Since the initial green spark could not burn on, is the disproportionate significance between this two waves then unexpected?

However, more environmental concerns surface with each passing day and there is a pressing need to revive the Green-wave and grow its market. Successful innovations like energy-saving lamps have started the ball rolling. The onus is now on future green companies to encompass all considerations in their plans and market its green product successfully.

Literature Cited

King, S. (1985). Has marketing failed, or was it never really tried? Journal of Marketing Management, 1-19.
Ottman, J. A. (1993). Green Marketing: Challenges & Opportunities. Chicago: NTC Business Books.
Peattie, K., & Crane, A. (2005). Green marketing: legend, myth, farce or prophesy? Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 357 - 370.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Rise of the Carnivore

Hey everyone!

I LOVE eating meat very much!

Some of the greatest food ever made are roast chicken, barbecued ribs, grilled steaks and BACON (does Fig. 1 make you drool?).

However, like many meat-lovers, I did not know that current meat consumption levels are unsustainable, thus contributing to environmental degradation.

To meet the same calorie requirements, a yearly meat-based diet would require 816kg of feed grains while a lactoovovegetarian diet only require 450kg of feed grains (Fig. 2) (Pimentel & Pimentel, 2003). Thus 37% of global crops are used as feed stock for farm animals (Rosen, 2000)

Fig. 2: Comparison of average meat and plant-based diets 

When one factors in every direct and indirect resource used, the environmental cost of meat production, particularly beef , is much higher than crops (de Vries & de Boer, 2009). With global consumption of meat increasing from 47 million tonnes in 1950 to 260 million tonnes in 2005 (Brown, 2006).

Furthermore, deforestation is heavily practised to gain more farm space and fuel this unsustainable consumption (Fig. 3). Should our precious forests be sacrificed just for us to eat more meat?

Fig. 3 Deforestation in the Amazon for cattle ranching (source:

Unsustainability also stems from increased meat consumption in developing nations due to the combination of rising wealth and the perception of meat as luxurious food. Meat consumption is projected to rise in developing nations by 107 million metric tonnes in 2020 (Delgado, 2003). This will only stress our world’s resources further.

Much water is also used in meat production. Such usage becomes dubious when one considers the water shortage faced by numerous third-world nations. If people simply reduced consumption, more water can perhaps be allocated to this countries. Thus developed nations should reduce meat consumption while developing nations should begin implementations to curb future demands.

But can we convince people to eat less meat? Are there alternatives to provide the same nutrition? Can we replace the unique taste of meat?

Stay tuned for more gastronomic information!

Literature Cited

Brown, L. R. (2006). Feeding Seven Billion Well. Plan B 2, 163-181.
de Vries, M., & de Boer, I. (2009). Comparing environmental impacts for livestock products: A review of life cycle assessments. Livestock Science, 1-11.
Delgado, C. L. (2003). Rising Consumption of Meat and Milk in Developing Countries Has Created A New Food Revolution. The Journal Of Nutrition, 3907S-3910S.
Matthews, E., & Hammond, A. (1999). Critical consumption trends and implications: degrading earth's ecosystems. . Washington D.C.: World Resource Institute (WRI).
Pimentel, M., & Pimentel, D. (2003). Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 660S-663S.
Rosen, C. (2000). World Resources 2000-2001, People and Ecosystems: The Fraying Web of Life. Washington D.C.: Elsevier Science.