Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Are Your Floors Pesticide Free?

Just because you don't use pesticides, doesn't mean that your home is free of them. Think about it, if your friend has been walking across treated lawns all day and then parades around your home all shoe-laden, he or she could be tracking in trace amounts of pesticides. Furthermore, the people who owned your home before you could have sprayed their gardens, and years later, you could end up with residual amounts of poison on your floors.

A recently conducted study, the first of its kind, aimed to generate data on pesticide residue in homes. The study surveyed occupants on their pesticide use and other housing factors. The findings? We have "measurable" levels of contamination in our homes.

While this is nothing to freak right out about, it is an opportunity to develop awareness. The pesticide levels were low overall, but the insecticide levels were high enough to warrant concerns about potential exposure.

Pesticides that were removed from the market several years ago, were found on floors during this study. If pesticides and insecticides are powerful enough to withstand harsh weather elements, kill pests, and remain in your home for years, is it really something you want to expose your families to?

Here are some tips for keeping pesticides off your floors.

Take off your shoes before entering the home.
Don't use pesticides.
Steer clear of topical flea medications that contain tetrachlorvinphos and other carbamates.
Prevent the flow of moisture as this will prevent pests and thus eliminating the need for pesticides.

Pesticides threaten your health and the health of the environment. It's becoming increasingly important that we reduce or eliminate our use of these toxic chemicals. With these simple tips, you can start today in the place it is most important: your home.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

PM Lee says Singapore's challenge is sustaining the environment long-term

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said Singapore's challenge is to sustain the environment as the city grows.

Speaking at the opening of Singapore’s largest water reclamation plant in Changi on Tuesday, Mr Lee said that to do so, the country must take a long-term view, prepare well ahead and align efforts across the government.

The launch of the Changi Water Reclamation Plant is another milestone in Singapore's overall strategy towards sustainable development. Not only does the plant treat used water, it is also a feedstock for large scale production of NEWater.

Mr Lee said Singapore's basic attitude has been that environmental sustainability is not incompatible with economic development. He added: "But far from degrading our environment, we have improved it. Singapore has become a clean and green city with a high quality living environment."

"Singaporeans enjoy fresh air, clean water and good public health, and almost half the island is covered with greenery, parks and nature areas."

But challenges on how to sustain the environment remain, which is why Singapore has set up an Inter-Ministerial Committee (on Sustainable Development) to develop a blueprint for a sustainable future. "Community action is especially important, because we need everyone to play an active role," said Mr Lee.

"I am glad Singaporeans took an active interest in developing our Blueprint and come forward with many ideas and suggestions to improve our living environment. I hope Singaporeans will continue to contribute.

"Achieving sustainable development will call for each one of us to make an effort, to give our ideas and to adjust our lifestyles. Our Blueprint is meant to be an evolving and living concept.

"As we understand the sustainable challenge better, and as technology improves, we will continue to test out new solutions and push for higher standards."

Mr Lee said that to break new ground in sustainable development, cities will require a combination of far-sighted planning, sustained investment in infrastructure and breakthroughs in technology. Hence, he said Singapore is keen to promote an international exchange of ideas on this.

Mr Lee added that Singapore's experience has shown that cities can overcome environmental and developmental changes by setting long-term goals and working consistently towards achieving them.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

How to make your wedding more eco-friendly

With the wedding season just around the corner, there are many ways to make a wedding in Singapore more eco-friendly....there are some simple and inexpensive ways to make a wedding more environmentally friendly.

One of the things to consider when planning a wedding is to reduce fuel emissions used by guests and the cost of the venue rentals by holding the ceremony and reception in one place. There are many venues in Singapore that offer both hotel services and services for both outdoor and indoor ceremony locations and receptions.

If that is not possible, consider getting a shuttle bus for the guests from the ceremony to the reception or carpool in hybrid vehicles.

There are also facilities that promote environmental preservation that can be rented out for special events. They can reduce the amount of water they use and other utilities on yoru big day.

When it comes to brides, they can consider wearing gowns made of natural fabrics or wear a used gown.

With photography, consider going with a photographer who keeps photos digital and only prints out the photos that are wanted. It's possible, they won’t actually send you a proof book. You can go online.

And with your honeymoon, consider planning an eco-travel honeymoon. Eco-travel agents can be found online and can meet anyone’s needs such as hiking, lounging on a beach, or strolling through a museum. You don’t have to go on a cruise or do something that is going to harm the environment producing carbon emissions.

One unusual idea, suggested is holding the ceremony near water and, instead of leaving in a limo, leaving the ceremony in a canoe!

With d├ęcor, try using soy candles, which burn cleaner and longer and spills are much easier to clean up. Also, natural elements such as branches and river rocks.

For invitations, the paper can be made of high-recycled content or from alternative fiber such as hemp or bamboo. They are really unique in how you can get tons of textures, colours and designs. You can really customize it and also the same price than going with your normal invitations, so why not?

Flower arrangements can be done with wildflowers. And those planning a wedding can ask their florist about donating the flowers to facilities such as hospitals.

Hiring local vendors and entertainment cuts down on travel and carbon emissions. Also acoustic musicians can cut down on electricity.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

S'pore teams to compete in Shell Eco-marathon Asia 2010

Shell today invited students in Singapore, as well as others in the region, to build the most fuel-efficient cars to compete at the inaugural Shell Eco-marathon (SEM) Asia 2010.

The competition challenges student teams to design and build energy-efficient vehicles that travel the farthest distance using the least amount of fuel.

To-date, at least seven teams from various Singapore educational institutions have expressed interest to take part in SEM Asia 2010. A few have already started designing their cars ahead of next year's race.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) was the first institution in Asia to send a team to SEM Europe in 2007.

This year, it was joined by other teams in Singapore from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) at the 25th SEM Europe.

The NUS team made headlines with their hydrogen fuel cell-powered car. It came in an impressive fifth out of 57 teams in the Urban Concept category with just one shot at the final run.

Zhang Wei Sheng, a third-year engineering student from NUS, said his team is looking forward to take part in the SEM again next year in Kuala Lumpur.

The event will be held at the Sepang International Circuit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from July 9-10, 2010.

Registration for SEM Asia 2010 will open on July 16 this year and 10 qualified 'early birds' will receive a further subsidy if they register and make it to the race next year.

Mavis Kuek, General Manager for External Affairs & Communications, Shell Companies in Singapore, said, "Holding the Shell Eco-marathon in Asia will enable more students in the region to showcase their technology, creativity and innovation by challenging them to design and build vehicles that will go the farthest using the least amount of energy."

Open to high schools, colleges, universities and technical institutes, SEM challenges student teams to put their innovations to the test in two vehicle categories: Prototype - futuristic, streamlined vehicles focused on maximising fuel efficiency through innovative design elements; and Urban Concept - focused on more roadworthy fuel-efficient vehicles.

For both categories, teams can use any of the following fuels to power their vehicles: Conventional fuels such as diesel, gasoline and LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) or alternative fuels such as fuel cells/hydrogen, bio-fuel, solar and gas-to-liquid.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Eco Lovers

Green consciousness is starting to sneak into the bedroom, too, and with good reason. After all, sex is about as natural as you can get. Why taint it with toxins? Here are ecofriendly options:

1. Share a shower or bath: Showering or taking a bath together saves water, and it's really fun. But don't make it a marathon, or you'll defeat the water savings of a two-for-one soak. Clean and caress each other with with unscented castile soap, or ones scented with 100 percent organic essential oils.

2. Go for natural candlelight: People like to see each other a little bit. Naked bodies tend to look much better in its soft, warm glow. Although, most candles on the market are petroleum-based and scented with fake fragrances that often contain chemicals linked to allergies, asthma, hormone disruption and even cancer. So use natural beeswax candles or ones made with soy and scented with essential oils.

3. Mix your own tasty body paste: Instead of buying packaged, processed body paint, whip up a yummy potion. Try mixing confectionars' sugar and water into a paste and adding a little finely ground lavender, often found in the bulk food section in natural food stores. If lavender's not your thing, mix in a little vanilla for tasty body candy :)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Top Green Celeb No. # 002 - Leonardo DiCaprio

The guy known simply as "Leo" to hordes of fans is at once patron saint for green celebs and a passionate, committed, educated environmental activist. With worthwhile green accomplishments too numerous to list — from global warming documentaries to green charities to producing Greensburg for Planet Green and starring in films condemning conflict diamonds — one of the original "eco-celebs" is still one of the most active (and best).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tesla CEO: Gas should cost $10 per gallon

"I'm anti-tax, but I'm pro-carbon tax," Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk said onstage at the Wired Business Conference here Monday--a remark that prompted interviewer and Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson to quip that he was a "true Silicon Valley libertarian."

Gasoline "should probably be $10" per gallon, said onetime PayPal co-founder Musk, who is also attempting to make sending satellites into space cheaper with a start-up called SpaceX. "I'm not paying for the true cost of gasoline at the pump...since nobody's explicitly paying for the CO2 capacity of the oceans and atmospheres, it's getting consumed. We will pay for it down the road, but we are sort of ignoring it for now."

Musk's company has put out the Tesla Roadster, a pricey sports car that runs exclusively on electric power. On the way is the Model S, a more affordable sedan. Separate from the technology, Tesla has gained a reputation for financial difficulties and corporate bickering. Earlier this month, former CEO Martin Eberhard sued Musk and the company for libel and breach of contract.

Musk's rash attitude and devotion to cutting-edge innovation has constructed him as a figure less than willing to compromise. He didn't sound too satisfied, for example, with the level of innovation in the Toyota Prius, the car that is practically synonymous with environmental consciousness in the auto industry.

"A Prius is not a true hybrid, really," he said. (A plug-in Prius is on the way.) "The current Prius is like, 2 percent electric. It's a gasoline car with slightly better mileage."

That said, Tesla shines quite a bit brighter due to the utter disarray of the U.S. auto industry, with major automakers falling into bankruptcy and Detroit in a continuing downward spiral.

Surprisingly, Musk seems to believe that Detroit will survive. "I think it'll probably be a healthier place. This has been somewhat cathartic. Maybe, I think, maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but I think this will be a cathartic experience," Musk said. "I think GM and Ford, maybe not Chrysler, but GM and Ford will come out of this healthier...and more competitive."

He wants Tesla to be part of that, obviously.

"I'd like to take up some of the manufacturing plants," he said. "When the mess gets sorted out I'd like to have a conversation with whoever's in charge."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Panasonic pledges eco conscious commitment

Last Friday saw a Japanese company (hopefully, not the last) articulate its green commitment to the Asia-Pacific region outside of Japan....
Panasonic's pledge will see it kicking off eco awareness programs, eco-friendly products and carbon emission initiatives in Asia Pacific, before it looks to the West. Why Asia Pacific? Simply because most of the company's factories are in this region, said Panasonic's pragmatic managing executive officer Ikuo Miyamoto who takes the JR train and bus to work as an example to his subordinates.

Even rarer yet, the media was given clear deadlines on when Panasonic's undertakings for the region will come to fruition. We were told that by 2010, all its manufacturing operations in Asia Pacific will cut CO2 emissions by 240,000 tons, or about a 30 percent drop from 2006 levels.

Eco ideas factories will each be set up in Singapore first, followed by Malaysia and Thailand. These will be model factories embodying the company's eco ideas strategy. And by 2012, 80 percent of its Asia-Pacific sales will come from environmentally friendly, energy- and water-efficient and long-lasting products. Among these will be inverter fridges now out in stores, tilted drum washers for reduced water usage and more energy-efficient fluorescent lamps. Too bad we didn't get to see or try out its lithium-ion-powered bicycle.

But when asked if Panasonic was working with Asia's Governments on green incentives similar to Japan and elsewhere in the world, Miyamoto was unable to comment. In Japan, to boost spending as part of its economic stimulus, the Government has an incentive program aimed at encouraging consumers to buy energy-efficient electronics and appliances.

One can only hope that with more green initiatives by companies like Panasonic, Governments in Asia will be prompted to think along similar lines not just for the economy, but for the consumer as well.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Waste Management crushed by solar trash cans

Who knew America's mayors were so interested in trash?

Garbage removal heavyweight Waste Management announced this week at the U.S. Conference of Mayors that it will distribute BigBelly Solar's solar-powered trash compactor in North America.

Waste Management expects to sell them to municipal governments and other organizations responsible for garbage at public places, such as sports venues. Fifteen of the BigBelly Solar units are installed at a retail center adjacent to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., home of the New England Patriots. Numerous cities and towns in the U.S. have also purchased them.

The BigBelly Solar compactors look like a typical street-side trash can except they are outfitted with solar panels on the top. The solar panel powers a motor that crushes the trash, which means that pick-ups can be done less often. The newest versions of the compactors are now network-equipped to send a signal when they are full.

The compactors themselves are made from recycled materials and work in areas that don't receive direct sunlight, said Richard Kennelly, vice president of marketing for BigBelly Solar, in a statement.

The exclusive distribution deal with Waste Management is a big win for Needham, Mass.-based BigBelly Solar which was started a few years ago and quickly found receptive customers in city mayors in Boston, Philadelphia, and other places.

The company raised an additional $3.2 million from undisclosed investors, according to an SEC filing made public last month.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Great Green Gifts for Father's Day

For many, dear ol' Dad is the toughest person to find that perfect gift for. But this Father's Day doesn't have to be spent agonizing over what the first man in your life actually wants. Even if you decide you really must buy him something new this year, rest assured that you have an every-growing array of great green gift options.

1. A traditional gift favorite for dad is socks, so why not pick out something that has style and conversation, as well as conservation, value? Sustainably harvested bamboo is super soft, itch-free, ultra-breathable and naturally antibacterial.

2. For the man on the move, why not get him a backpack, messenger bag or beach tote that does more than just hold stuff? Designs can include thin solar panels, which allow the wearer to charge up iPods, cell phones and other devices from the sun.

3. Most people know how important it is to stay hydrated, especially when the weather's hot or during physical activity. However, many of us too often go thirsty or pick up unhealthy sugared sodas because we didn't think ahead. Give your dad some motivation for rehydration with the cool stainless steel water bottles from Klean Kanteen. The Space Age bottles promote reuse, last a long time, and avoid the issue of potentially harmful breakdown products that may leach from plastics.

4. Spend some quality time with your old man on the beach, in a park or even in your backyard by tossing around a recycled Frisbee. The iconic toy was first invented by “recycling” old pie tins, but familiar models have long been made of conventional plastic.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

BLOG 100!!

It's 100th post, so to celebrate we're looking at the 100 wealthiest eco entrepeneurs. The global rich are going green as never before. This first Sunday Times Green Rich List (May 2009) shows that the enthusiasm among the world’s wealthiest for investments in areas as diverse as electric cars, solar power and geothermal energy is unaffected by the recession.

1 Warren Buffett USA £27bn Wind power

2 Bill Gates USA £26bn Renewable fuel

3 Ingvar Kamprad Sweden £22bn Renewable energy

4 Marcel Brenninkmeijer Holland £19bn Natural power

5 Mukesh Ambani India £15bn Life sciences

6 Michael Bloomberg USA £14.4bn Natural energy

7 Michael Otto Germany £13.2bn Green products

8 Paul Allen USA £11.5bn Natural fuels

9 Donald Bren USA £8.2bn Environmental research

10= Sergey Brin USA £7.5bn Green energy

10= Larry Page USA £7.5bn Green energy

Full list at;
http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/specials/article5816774.ece

Monday, June 8, 2009

Singapore Government to invest in Green Research Program

On Friday, the Singapore government announced that it will launch an Environment Technology Research Program worth of 15 million Singapore dollars (about 10 million U.S. dollars), in bid to build up technological competencies in waste management and to support a growing ecosystem of companies and researchers undertaking clean environment research and development.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Subaru to sell electric Stella next month in Japan

Japan always gets the latest tech developments before the rest of the world, a fact reaffirmed by Subaru's move to sell an electric car this July in, you guessed it, Japan. This battery electric vehicle, built on Subaru's Stella mini car, doesn't sound particularly impressive from its specifications, but Subaru is the first major automaker bringing an electric car to market this decade, preceding the likes of Mitsubishi and Nissan in their efforts.

The Stella EV stores electricity in a lithium ion battery pack, powering a 47 kilowatt motor. Range is only about 56 miles, with a top speed of 62 mph. Subaru claims a recharge time of 15 minutes at a quick charging station, or 5 hours at a 200 volt AC outlet, which are typical numbers for current technology.

Subaru plans on selling just 170 units of the electric Stella from late July until March 2010, the end of its financial year. Price is set at 4,725,000 yen, equal to about $49,000 at current exchange rates. Buyers will get a subsidy of about $14,300, according to Subaru's press release.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Eco-city to seek incentives

The Tianjin eco-city needs to offer 'special incentives' to continue its good progress in attracting foreign investments amid the global economic crisis, Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan said on Wednesday.
The Sino-Singapore joint venture, which has already drawn significant projects in its initial phase, is applying for Beijing's approval to offer special terms to companies setting up shop in the eco-city.

This will help to offset 'the higher costs' of starting operations in an eco-friendly environment, Mr Mah told reporters after a meeting with the Singapore-Tianjin eco-city committee.

'There are some inherent costs here: higher green standards...and environment protection costs,' he said.

On top of this, the 50 billion yuan (S$10 billion) project is currently being built from scratch at Binhai New Area, 45km away from Tianjin's city centre.

But special incentives will help to offset such costs and concerns among investors, making the city competitive against other 'green' industrial parks in China and abroad vying for investors, he said.

Mr Mah did not specify what incentives he was referring to. But the usual incentives include tax breaks and subsidies on office rental.

The eco-city is looking to attract 10 billion yuan worth of investment this year, Mr Cui Guangzhi, vice-chairman of the eco-city administrative committee which plans and oversees the project, told state media Xinhua in March.

Mr Mah acknowledged that the economic crisis will have some impact on the eco-city and possibly even trigger 'some slowdown in investments'.

But the project has already 'made a lot of progress (in terms of) hardware' since its ground-breaking in September last year, he noted. It will now 'shift its focus to software development' like creating a place where people from all walks of life live in harmony with the environment.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Eco-Consciousness spreading in Delhi

One of the most difficult tasks in achieving a greener and more resource efficient life on planet Earth is changing inherent patterns or attitudes in each and everyone of us. Because it is the direct grand collective impact of our actions in regards to resource usage and consumption that will determine the future of Earth’s environment. Creating awareness and eco-consciousness is a critical first step in this. The Bhagidari of Delhi (India) Government, a citizen-government partnership initiative, has been making serious attempts at creating awareness amongst the citizens of Delhi regarding environment and pushing them towards more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

The Bhagidari (rooted in sharing and meaning partnership) was launched in December 1998 by Delhi government for citizens’ partnership in Governance. Though initially it started as a mechanism for allowing citizens and citizen bodies to voice their grievances, it has overtime it has evolved into a process with multiple stakeholder in Delhi’s governance including citizen groups, NGOs and the Government itself. It is the manner in which the Bhagidari, the partnership, is being leveraged to hone the eco-consciousness of the citizens, which is impressively striking. The school children in association with NGO’s have been spearheading the ‘Save Water’ campaign. Spreading the message and distributing pamphlets, educating people about the importance of conserving water to the numerous lanes and by-lanes of the city. And as they have canvassed through the streets of Delhi, the student volunteers also screened for simple water wastage incidents such as overflowing tanks, leaking water coolers and pleaded with the dwellers to get the leaks plugged.

Included in partnership, in Bhagidari, are the Resident Welfare Associations (RWA) from different regions of Delhi. RWAs are playing increasingly significant role in water conservation as well. In partnership with Delhi Jal (Water) Board (DJB), RWAs are getting involved in installation of Rain Water-Harvesting, replacing old water distribution pipes and de-silting of sewers. Just like the school children, RWA’s have also been instrumental in the impressing upon the citizens the need for conserving water as well as in providing simple tips for water conservation, like turning off the tap while shaving or using bucket for taking a bath instead of using a shower. Similarly under the “Save Energy” campaign, RWA’s have been helping out with finding faulty meters to avoid energy pilferage or help with replacement of low tension wires. Critically, also, educating people about benefits of using CFL bulbs instead of regular bulbs.

At the same time the Delhi government is advertising heavily to sharpen the people’s conciousness in a particular direction. Bill-boards that had always been an instrument of commercial advertising were serving as vehicles for greater social awareness. I have been wondering about the tremendous expense certain political parties must have incurred for their bill-board campaigns in recent parliamentary elections in India. But I am wondering more about the recent public awareness initiatives. On bill-boards – big or small, prominent roadside ones or tucked inside the bus-stops – Delhi government’s campaign for environment and planet’s precious resources looks valiant. I am sure it will provide much fodder to those minds that otherwise would not even have wandered in that direction: “I will not use the shower but bathe using bucket and mug” (Save Water campaign); “I will use CFLs” (Save Electricity campaign); “If I don’t use plastic bags, drains won’t get clogged and Delhi will be a cleaner city” (Save Our Environment campaign).

It is very hard to know how much of a dividend these awareness campaigns will yield and whether it will justify the outlay towards such advertising. But in a more fundamental sense, creation of awareness and change of behavior are really hard to achieve. Even limited success of these campaigns by changing inherent patterns or attitudes (in even a few people) could be a useful contribution. Hopefully these small steps will build towards a big march for improvements in our environment.