Thursday, March 21, 2013

Singapore – the Greenest City on Earth!

Here are the top 11 reasons why Singapore has quickly become known as one of the world’s Greenest Countries.

1. Little red dot, big green city.
The development of Singapore as a Garden City was a vision put forward by former Prime Minister (and now Minister Mentor) Lee Kuan Yew way back in 1968, just after Singapore’s independence, to integrate the environment with urban development and soften the effects of a concrete jungle. Now, there are trees along every road and parks in every estate. The government ensures that the greenery is well looked after, keeping the city healthy.

2. Minimal Wastage.
Singapore literally does not waste a single drop of water if it can be helped. Through the marvels of modern desalination technologies and more than a little desperation (Singapore imports less than half the population's water from Malaysia with agreements set to expire in 2061), this little patch of land recycles and conserves almost all rainfall and water reserves (including non-potable waste water) to produce NeWater, a high-purity H2O that can be used for industrial development and even drinking. Gross but true.

3. Plug in, Drive out.
Until the brainy science types can figure out safe hydrogen energy or cold fusion, electric power is still the most viable and cleanest green energy source to drive cars and assorted motor vehicles. Ever heard of Greenlots? They're an island-wide network of power stations for electric vehicles to plug in and recharge which run off the national power infrastructure. Not to be outdone, there are now solar Greenlots being tested which draw their power from the sun -- not a bad idea for a tropical sunny island!

4. Hopping on the hybrid wagon.
It's not just the passenger vehicles that are going electric, a whole bevy of vehicles are jumping on the eco-friendly bandwagon. Cab operator Prime Taxis has put on the roads 30 cabs that run on petrol and electric power, while hybrid buses which use a combination of diesel and battery power and consume use up to 30 percent less fuel are on trial now as well. On the industrial front, Singapore-based ST Kinetics has launched the world's first commercially ready Hybrid Hydraulic Drive (HHD) enhanced port prime mover (PPM) which captures and re-uses the energy normally lost from braking, using a hybrid system that can be easily adapted to other commercial machines such as tractors, heavy trucks and excavators.

5. Paid to go green.
From cars to weddings, Singaporeans are subsidized to do the right thing. Mitsubishi is bringing in up to 50 i-MiEV electric cars for use in the $20 million three-year study to test the infrastructure needed to keep them running here. The Japanese car maker will sell the cars for between S$80,000 and S$90,000, lower than the S$160,000 estimated retail price, if you're willing to take part in the study. And if you're getting hitched, the National Park Board (NParks) will give you a nice 20 percent discount for venues at the HortPark in Alexandra Road. The catch -- couples have to show NParks that they have taken at least eight environmentally-friendly measures for their wedding. These include using recycled paper for their wedding stationary, holding the ceremony at non air-conditioned venues and using a hybrid car for their bridal car.

6. The longest green campaign. Ever.
The Clean and Green Singapore (CGS) campaign has been kicking around for close to two decades now and it's one of the longest in the island's history. It was formerly known as "Clean and Green Week" before it went full steam into a year-long campaign and morphed into simply Clean and Green Singapore in 2007, with regular events, activities and community projects all over the country all the time. Now that's what we call a sustainable effort.

7. Children are the future.
Not to be outdone by CGS, Green Singapore 2050 (GS2050) is a community platform for youngsters to express their concerns about environmental issues, and think of solutions to them. Why 2050? It's because these youths will be the ones to inherit and run the country in 2050, and hopefully solve the world's problems. GS2050 runs environmental surveys, forums for discussions and projects aimed at solving real issues.

8. Gardens by the Bay
Stretching over 54 hectares, the Gardens provide the public with shade, shelter and a steady source of rain water as well as a cluster of green conservatories.

9. Stay cool, look good.
The Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, besides its mission to be the "biomedical hub of Asia," is one of the great examples of green design and environmentally conscious construction while still architecturally beautiful. The use of sustainable design elements such as the eight-story glass atrium that provides vertical circulation to the whole building and ceramic tiles which contain titanium dioxide (a material which keeps maintenance down and withstands tropical mold) earned the building Green Mark certification. But it's not a singular building that's eco-conscious -- the massive Resorts World Sentosa also won an award from the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) for integrating sustainable building concepts into the master design of its development.

10. Glam Eco Ambassadors.
Green Kampong is a eco-community started by supermodel and MTV VJ turned eco-activist Nadya Hutagalung and a group of like-minded earth angels, including former magazine publisher Holman Chin, capital investor Desmond Koh and Green Drinks Singapore founder Olivia Choong. Now that's a good-looking bunch of people that's saving the world in style.

11. We all want to save the world
Ultimately, we all want to be green. From bringing your own shopping bags and eco movements and groups that are popping up everywhere, Singaporeans are genuinely aware of the need to be earth-friendly and save its resources. A recent survey by the National Environment Agency (NEA) showed an overwhelming number (87.2 percent) of Singaporeans who are willing to adopt a clean and green lifestyle. A Kelly Services study revealed that over 90 per cent of people working in Singapore said they are more likely to work for an organization that is ethically and socially responsible, while nine out of 10 teens in another survey are concerned about protecting the environment, with 96 percent agreeing that it's their responsibility to take care of Mother Earth.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cooking Oil Fuels Flights!

The same oil that fried up your lunch may also be powering your next flight to Europe.
Dutch airline KLM has begun powering some commercial flights on an eco-friendly fuel mix that includes 25% cooking oil and 75% jet fuel. The specially fuelled Boeing 777 flights will be tested on 25 roundtrip transatlantic flights between New York’s JFK and Amsterdam’s Schiphol every Thursday over the next six months.

The leftover waste oil comes from restaurants in Louisiana, where it’s used to fry up cracklins, catfish and other Cajun treats before being refined to fuel the flights. Though some say the fuel smells like fast food, the cooking oil is safe for powering jumbo jets and provides exactly the same flying experience. Even better, it reduces carbon emissions by up to 80%.

KLM has been offering biofuel-powered flights for years, with its first demonstration flight fuelled by a mix of 50% biofuel made from camelina (an oily member of the mustard family) in November 2009.

In the near term, it’s more likely cooking oil will by frying up your French fries and falafels rather than fuelling your flight. That’s because biofuels made from recycled cooking oil are expensive – about $10 per gallon, or roughly three times the price of regular jet fuel – largely due to the costs of refining and preparing the oil for use on jumbo jets.

Most recycled cooking oil today is used to power diesel trucks or mixed with home heating fuel, a simpler conversion process. One innovative company, Grease Lightning, based in New York City, has been purchasing used cooking oil from local restaurants to convert into biodiesel fuel since 2011. And several Boston hotels, including the Saunders Hotel, Lenox Hotel, and Ramada Inn Boston, are using recycled vegetable oil to fuel their laundry trucks and hotel shuttle buses.

Although the sustainability of these alternative biofuels makes it an environmentally friendly option for progressive airlines, widespread adoption of recycled cooking oil requires that usage spreads, making the fuel more affordable for budget-strapped airlines. The air travel community is hoping for financial support from the governments where major airlines are based in the form of subsidies, research grants and tax benefits.

“A lot still has to happen before biofuel will be available on a large scale and for it to be economically competitive in relation to fossil-fuel kerosene,” KLM said in a statement. “We cannot achieve this alone. We absolutely need the commitment and support of all the relevant parties: business, government and society.”

Resourcefulness and creativity of mankind is astonishing; who knows what we will come up with next?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Earth Hour Around the World!

This year Earth Hour, the world’s largest movement for the planet, will take place on Saturday, March 23 at 8:30 p.m. in time zones throughout the world. Organised by the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), Earth Hour started in Sydney, Australia in 2007 aiming to highlight humanity’s impact on the natural environment. It has since blossomed into an international event. As in previous years, Earth Hour 2013 will see lights being switched off all over the world whether in households or at national monuments, but since its inception, Earth Hour has become much more than just switching off the lights for 60 minutes. Earth Hour now encompasses over 7,000 cities and towns in 152 different countries involving hundreds of millions of participants across seven continents.

As international recognition and observance of Earth Hour’s ‘One hour to save the planet’ campaigns has grown, so the number of on-the-ground activities which Earth Hour and the WWF are involved in has mushroomed across seven continents.


In Uganda work on establishing the first Earth Hour Forest has started. As part of a fight to counter the 6,000 hectares (about 15,000 acres) of deforestation that occurs in Uganda every month, WWF Uganda has identified almost 2,700 hectares (6700 acres) of deforested land and has set about replanting it with half a million trees indigenous to Uganda as part of the Earth Hour 2013 campaign.

Latin America

In Argentina, local Earth Hour organisers mobilised thousands of volunteers in support of a Senate Bill to make Banco Burwood (or Burdwood), a vast area lying to the south of the Falkland Islands – Islas Malvinas — the biggest Marine Protected Area in the country.

North America

During Earth Hour 2012 in the USA, around 35,000 Girls Scouts participated in the Save Energy Project, installing 132,141 energy efficient light bulbs across the United States. This resulted in a saving of 75,392,654 pounds (almost 34,000 tons) of CO2 emissions, the equivalent of planting about 2950 hectares (7,286 acres) of trees per year, given the estimated lifetime of the energy efficient bulbs.


In Indonesia, the ‘Ini Aksiku! Mana Aksimu?’ campaign has used social media platform Twitter to mobilise 30 Indonesian cities, and not just for Earth Hour itself. ‘Ini Aksiku! Mana Aksimu?’ translates as 'This is my action! What is yours?' and has raised awareness of human factors affecting the environment. Thousands are now involved, each taking their own actions in a multitude of different ways to reduce their environment impact.


At the Earth Hour 2013 launch, CEO Andy Ridley highlighted action being taken in Russia as a result of Earth Hour campaigning.

“Last December, the Russian parliament passed a long-awaited law to protect the country’s seas from oil pollution, after the voices of 120,000 Russians were presented to the government during our I Will If You Will campaign for Earth Hour 2012,” he said.

Protected ancient forests in Russia

For 2013, preserving Russian forests are again to the fore. WWF’s Earth Hour in Russia aims to sign up 100,000 Russians to petition for changes in current forest legislation. If the campaign succeeds, a ban on industrial logging would come into force in an area of Russia equal to twice the size of France. The effect would be to bring protected status to 18% of all Russian forests.

Those campaigns and results are but a few examples of what can be achieved both small scale and large scale across the globe. As Ridley said,
“These outcomes both evidence the power of our collective action and the potential for future outcomes for the environment, generated by hundreds of millions of people coming together as part of the Earth Hour movement. People from all walks of life, from all nations around the world, are the lifeblood of the Earth Hour interconnected global community. They have proven time and time again that if you believe in something strongly enough, you can achieve amazing things. These stories aren’t unique, this is happening all over the world.”

As Earth Hour has demonstrated since 2006, a simple leitmotif of flicking a switch for 60 minutes can have enormous repercussions. From small beginnings, Earth Hour has raised awareness that small actions do matter and can, collectively, make an impact. The real test for Earth Hour and the WWF is to capitalise on that 60 minutes of awareness so that it becomes second nature, not just for 60 minutes each March, but every second of every day throughout the year.