carbon footprint

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this is a topic very close to my heart. even more so as a parent, especially when you want your kids to live in a safe world. Amidst all the parenting tips that you read about, we would need to know a little more about the environment around us and how it may affect us at the end of the day.

Last month, it was all about the haze. It was all the rage, both popularity and emotionally. The haze had been around for as long as I remembered, during the June, July period. We would get a couple of mildly hazey days and that was it. But two years ago, it got ridiculously bad. So bad that driving visibility was bad. And then, everyone started stocking up on masks and air purifiers, and we learnt about how PSI levels are measured.

This year was just as bad. Daddy Ting still didn’t think much about air purifiers, so we didn’t get one. But thankfully, THANKFULLY, there were N95 masks that could fit the kids and made affordable cos they were made in Singapore. Our very own homebrand leh! So thank you Innospark.

So what can we do on our end, to educate our children and ourselves to look after nature?

I knew about the concept of recycling, back when they started the campaign in Singapore. Remember the frog, in the Clean and Green campaign back in the 90s’? I would consciously recycle when I was outside, not so when we were at home.

Recycle. Reduce. Reuse

Recycle. Reduce. Reuse

And then came Captain Planet, ‘he’s our hero! Gonna take pollution down to zero!”. As a primary school kid, I had a mad epiphany. I worried about the air that we would breathe in the future. Cue crazy kid (i.e., me) that saved some bags of air in her small know, just in case the air got bad. Or there was no air left. Yar, weird logic. But hah! I would be totally cool if it did happen, cos I would have those measly bags of clean air to breathe in.

go planeteers!

go planeteers!

Anyhoos. Then I got to Tasmania in 2004 and that was the turning point for me. The air in Tasmania was so clean, crisp and awesome. Winter air..omg. It was freezing in winter, but hey, it is clean cold winter air. Each time I came back home, I would be greeted with gluggy humid air. I would eventually start looking forward to the clean burst of wind as I stepped off the plane onto the tarmac.

Recycling, for me, went into overdrive, cos there are actually bins for people to recycle the plastic, paper and metals, and another bin for regular rubbish. This is regardless of whether you lived on landed property or in apartments. Of course the lifestyle in Australia and Singapore differ drastically. There aren’t a lot of apartments in Australia, and even then, they don’t have chutes like Singapore does. Rubbish had to be separated and then taken into the respective bins. Very troublesome but I liked the idea of it!

When we got to Perth, the recycling went up another notch with…composting! The place we were renting had a huge backyard and I wanted to give composting a shot. Every veggie & fruit scrap was saved for the compost heap. It was a huge science lesson for me, watching the food scraps breakdown and boosting the soil with blood and bone. I would scour around the backyard for slater bugs to help with the composting. Each time we mowed the backyard, the mowed grass would go into the compost heap. When fully composted, the heap had no smell, just soil and broken down fruit and veggie scrap. The result was a rich earthy kind of soil. I loved running my hands through the soil mixed with fresh compost. Sometimes we would get new seedlings cos of the seeds that we tossed in as well! During summer, we had heaps of rockmelon seedlings haha. But darn..none of those bore fruit.

growing veggies in the backyard in Perth

growing veggies in the backyard in Perth

We would use recyclable bags for our shopping. I would indulge in the then-boyfriend in the occasional use of plastic bags as we needed some bags for rubbish and cat litter. The office that I worked in would purchase garbage bin bags. Waah..totally cannot justify paying for a plastic bag to throw my rubbish in! *auntie mode on*. I had a colleague to managed to keep his rubbish to the barest minimum and not use plastic bags AT ALL. Everything and anything that could be recyclable was recycled. And what was left went into newspapers and into the bin. He has 4 kids and they were mostly on reusable diapers! Wah..I think super hard for me to even attain that. We used reusable diapers with Ollie for 2 years. It would take us a month to finish a pack of diapers. With QT, we cut down a lot on the reusable diapers due to sanity reasons (the rinsing was driving me nuts). I could see how disposable diapers were adding to the landfills. Then again, using reusable diapers may not be for everyone, especially when the child goes to infant care/child care.

first set of bumwear

first set of bumwear

I came back to Singapore..hoping to be able to maintain the lifestyle I enjoyed so much in Australia. Unfortunately, it is a little hard. Composting is a little difficult when they attract pests so easily. The best I could do now is to have a carton in corner of the kitchen and put recyclables in the box, then taking it down to the recycling bin when it is full. I fervently use recyclable bags. And this morning, I was thinking about recycling when I was packing the marketing. Which sparked off this post. Haha.

I use recyclable bags for groceries bought at the wet market. We have heaps of those bags that we got from shows, or from shops who give their customers recyclable bags for their purchases. But uhh, the stall owners still put all the meat and seafood into plastic bags before handing them to me. The veggie stall knows about my bags so they will ask for it! When I come back from the market, I sort the meats into portions, and then put them into clean plastic bags bought from the store. I know! Ironic right?? Save bags only to use new bags to store meat. WTH. So I decided to try something today. My cupboards are full of empty containers (uhh, auntie habit, another story, another day). I would pack the meats into these containers (makes my freezer look tidier too!) instead of bags.

There is more awareness about recycling, and people are more educated about the things they use and what goes into what they are using. These days, we are talking about sustainability, organic, biodegradable, eco-friendly. RCs organise a monthly recycling program where residents are rewarded with daily groceries like biscuits, tinned sardines and even rice, for bringing their recyclables in. It makes it really attractive to the older residents! Initially, I used to do it for the rewards. My parents and in laws even jumped in on it by contributing. However, I figured, recycling should be everyone’s responsibility. Let someone else learn about it via the rewards.

One other form of recycling, which never occurred to me until this year, was to reduce food wastage. After watching this video, I realised that we were wasting quite a fair bit of food. Grocery shopping is usually done almost weekly, depending on the quantity and type of groceries to buy. I usually bought enough meat for two weeks, and then veggies on a almost weekly basis. Some veggies last longer, some veggies wilt before the week is up, even in the vegetable compartment in the fridge. So, sometimes I end up chucking veggies cos they have wilted or rotted at some point. Argh. These days, I buy lesser than required, meal plan a little more and there is less veggie wastage! I am still working hard on this aspect, we could save so much more money!

But buffets…argh, so hard to resist. Makes me wonder where all the food goes if it is not finished at the end of service.

Global warming is a very real issue, and I really want to do more! So far, what we have been able to do in our HDB flat:

– recycle items like paper, plastic and metal. Plastic items like milk jugs (milk residue rinsed off), plastic food containers (washed), plastic egg trays & yoghurt tubs. Metal items like canned drinks (rinsed) and canned food (rinsed). Juice cartons are recyclable too. And I do rinse the juice residue out of the carton before throwing. When recyclables contain food, it is harder to recycle them, thus reducing the effort to recycle. So where possible, I will rinse them. Yes, water is also chargeable. However, water is also recyclable. Tough on that one, but to me, the charge is negligible. (take a shorter time to shower! =P)

– use of recyclable bags for all our grocery and wet market shopping (easier to carry too!)

– we tried growing our own vegetables like capsicum & cherry tomatoes, and herbs like rosemary, basil and mint. Let’s just say..apartment gardening is harder than backyard gardening. But doable!

when the apartment gardening was more successful...

when the apartment gardening was more successful…

– reusing some of the recyclables. We’ve cut milk jugs into half and used the bottom half to store Duplo blocks, as a mini trash bin for the table. We turned yoghurt tubs into coin banks. We reuse plastic containers (those with a red lid) for storing cookies. Reused some plastic food containers to store food in the freezer (no reheating).

Plastic recycled & reused

Plastic recycled & reused

– buy products that offer refill packs. The refill packs are not recyclable, however by using a refill pack, there is lesser space taken up in the garbage pile, so effectively using up lesser landfills. Flattening your tetra packs, UHT milk packs does help as well.

flatten your tetra packs

flatten your tetra packs

– bringing own container when going to the hawker to pack food. This is a little tricky cos more often than not, the decision to eat out is..when you are out. Haha. For me, if I know I want to buy take away food (a decision made at home and will be taking away to bring home to eat), I will try to bring my own container and get the hawker to pack. And the hawker are happy to oblige! We have done it with kway chap and I think we get more ingredients lor. Plus point is you don’t have to find a container to store leftovers! Just dish out with ease (if I might add) and keep the rest in the said container. WIN.

tabao containers from home

tabao containers from home

– finding electrical appliances that has a better energy star rating so we don’t use up that much electricity. It is hard to tell a toddler why he needs to switch the TV off because he is not watching it, or why we could just open the window, and not switch on the aircon just because he is feeling hot.

– the boys and I take the public transport a lot. Or if we cab, we try to carpool. It saves you some money, and lesser emissions on the road too!

You can read up more about recycling in Singapore, and what works and not from here. To be frank, it is not easy to recycle. You don’t want to attract pests in your home, you don’t want the hassle of having to rinse, and recyclables will take up space. And the bin is so far away. But every little bit counts. Any step to reducing our carbon footprint, is a step to caring for mother nature. Ollie is starting to understand a little more about recycling so hopefully he is instilled with the values!

I hope that when the kids are older, the world is still the same place that we have enjoyed and lived in.

Hope the post has inspired some of you to start reducing your carbon footprint! =)

Category: Daily

9 comments on “carbon footprint

  1. Well done you! Yes, it is definitely harder to recycle in Singapore compared to Australia. Some retailers has started charging for plastic bags in Oz. In Singapore, I take many recycled bags whenever I go grocery shopping too. But the check-out ladies would still put the things inside plastic bags to be placed into my recycle bags! I think people’s mindset has to shift. Many still think they can’t do much as individuals and therefore, doesn’t make an effort. Sigh!

  2. You know, I’ve so many obento boxes but never think about using them to da-bao the food back. I should make more good use of them this way 🙂

    P.S. I really like your Milo box! So old school 😛

    Ai @ Sakura Haruka

  3. Phew, seems like I’m doing my part cos I’m cloth diapering the twins! Reduce waste and I get to save 🙂 have to learn how to do apartment gardening from you, I want to grow my own basil n mint too!

  4. Excellent tips on recycling and I am a big fan of doing it. Usually I always go for a glass bottles and container as easily recycle them again and again. Yes diapers are a big trash with kids, so I most of the time try to go the traditional way of training with shorts.

  5. Yes!!! Cloth diapering rocks and I too am a hoarder of plastic containers and use them for all sorts of things! But I do wish it was easier to recycle here. So many things apart from paper/plastic/glass can be recycled and it’s a shame that there isn’t a place for these things to go.

  6. Thank you for the recycling tips.
    I only know “reduce, reuse and recycle” from the kids’ curriculum, but am always lazy to follow up.

    Parents need to lead by example before, kids (and Singapore) can be more receptive to recycling.

    Cheers, Andy

  7. Great work with your green living tips and I must admit I’m the worst person when come to helping keep our environment a better place. Must start playing my little parts too. Plastic containers for packing food seems like a good start.

  8. Our family has been trying to reduce the carbon footprint by reducing the amount of energy we use at home. I like to do crafts using recycle materials too. Thank you for sharing!

  9. I’ve actually had quite a bit of success growing vegetables on my balcony, especially with cherry tomatoes, which I wrote about here: Now we are growing capsicums (got a handful of fruits, like these: and chilli. So do press on! I like your ideas for using recyclables too.