Monthly Archives

June 2019

Sustainable Living

Tips to Reduce Your Travel Footprint

Ask my friends, and all of them would tell you that I am an avid traveller – I jump at every opportunity to experience different countries, and nothing gets me more excited than being at the airport, looking up at the big digital signboards and eagerly checking for my gate number.

However, the more I travelled, the more I started to realise how much waste I was generating on each holiday, ranging from simple things like single-use plastics to the massive carbon emissions generated by taking flights. So, if you’re an eco-conscious traveller like me, here are some tips for more sustainable travel.

 

Don’t print documents or tickets unless absolutely necessary

In the digital day and age, it is hardly ever required of you to have a physical ticket or boarding pass anymore. So, why not save yourself the hassle and simply save the e-ticket onto your phone? If you use an iPhone, you can even save your boarding passes and e-tickets onto your Apple Wallet for quick and easy access.

While not printing your ticket might seem like just a small action that doesn’t make much of a difference, imagine how much paper waste we would save if everyone simply skipped the physical tickets!

 

Carbon offset your flight

Did you know that because planes fly high in the atmosphere, their carbon emissions add more to the greenhouse effect than normal carbon emissions on the ground? One way you can help to reduce this impact is by carbon offsetting your flight. In simpler terms, carbon offsetting is a voluntary carbon tax, where you opt to pay to “make up” for the emissions of your flight.

Some airlines have their own carbon offset schemes, where customers simply opt to pay an extra fee while buying their air tickets. However, if your airline does not offer that option, you can choose to donate to different types of offset projects.

There are two main types of offset projects you can choose from – forestry projects and energy projects. Forestry projects channel their funds mainly into preventing deforestation or replanting new trees on cleared land. These trees then act as a carbon sink and absorb the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Meanwhile, energy projects use the money to invest in renewable energy or more energy-efficient products in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

To carbon offset your flight, you can use a carbon footprint calculator to find out the amount you need to pay to exactly offset your carbon emissions (you have the option to pay more if you want!). After which simply choose an offset project that you feel strongly for to donate to! Gold Standard is one of the most widely recommended websites to choose your offset scheme from.

 

Pack your own reusables kit

I’ll be the first to admit that saying no to the convenience of single-use plastics becomes harder when you are on holiday, especially if you are always out and about. However, packing your own little zero-waste kit in a separate little bag helps. Your kit should contain all of the basics: tote bags, reusable utensils (make sure they’re made of wood/bamboo, else you’ll have to give them up at customs!), a water bottle, and food container(s). This way, as you are leaving your accommodation for a full day of activity, you can simply grab your kit and go!

Something that is also worth the mention is that many airlines have now phased out single-use plastics on flights. Some examples of such airlines include Singapore Airlines, Qantas (which operated the first ever zero-waste flight), Delta, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines,  Etihad Airways, and many more. However, it’s always safer to bring your own set of reusables just in case!

 

Stay at homes instead of hotels

I’m sure that many of us have noticed that hotels use lots of single-use products, from their toiletries to their bedroom slippers to the bottled beverages you find in your minibar. Furthermore, staying in hotels means that your bedsheets are laundered and changed every day even if they don’t need to be. With the rise of homeowners renting out their houses for travellers on websites like Airbnb, it has become much easier for us to opt for homestays instead.

However, if you do need to stay in a hotel, make sure to hang your ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door when you head out to avoid the unnecessary changing of your bedsheets. Most hotels these days also have signs in their rooms that tell you what you need to do if you don’t want them to wash your bath towels or change the sheets.

To make your hotel stays more sustainable, you can also pack your own toiletries to avoid using the single-use ones provided by the hotel. Even though they are free, try not to drink the bottled water provided in your minibar – bring along your handy refillable water bottle instead! Feel free to check out this list to find out which countries have potable water that you can drink straight from the tap.

 

Walk as much as possible, or take public transport

When you are on vacation, it is easy to give in to the temptation of hailing a cab or renting a car. However, not only does taking public transport help you save on costs, it also produces significantly less greenhouse gas emissions. So, try to stay near a bus or train station on your holiday – it’ll make your life a whole lot easier!

If your destination is of walking distance, opt to walk instead. Not only does it result in zero emissions,  you’ll also be able to get in some extra exercise for the day too!

 

All in all, while generating waste while we travel is more or less inevitable, we can always take steps to lessen our environmental impact even while exploring the world. We hope that the above tips have shown you that there are plenty of ways we can experience what the world has to offer while still taking steps to conserve our planet. Here’s to more sustainable travels ahead!

Others

 8 Things You Might Not Know About Our Landfill

A few months ago, The Sustainability Project, together with Green Nudge, organized a trip to Semakau Landfill to learn more about the island, the technology used for landfilling, the process of treatment of our trash, plans for the future and even witness the amount of space we have left for our waste.

During which, we certainly learnt a lot about Semakau! It was truly an eye-opening experience. Visiting where our trash is dumped allows for a greater understanding of the need to reduce our waste and hence, reinforces the need to slowly embrace a low-waste lifestyle.

If you had yet been to Semakau, here are 7 things you might not know about our landfill!

 

It’s 7km long and made up of 2 islands

Semakau Landfill is an island located south of Singapore. In order to get there, one would have to take a 45-minute ferry from Marina South Pier Ferry Terminal.  A rock bund, stretching over 7km long encloses a part of the sea off Pulau Semakau and Pulau Seking, creating the space for the landfill. According to the National Environment Agency, the bund is lined with an impermeable membrane and a layer of marine clay, ensuring that leachate* from the refuse is contained in the landfill.

*Leachate is the bacteria-filled liquid that usually collects at the bottom of your garbage can. It’s a pollutant that is often found in garbage tips.

 

It used to be inhabited!

A newspaper article featuring Pulau Seking  from 10 Oct 1983

 Before Semakau Island and Seking Island became a landfill, it was home to roughly 100 people.  Houses on these islands were built on stilts and villagers were subsistence fishermen, catching fish at the nearby coral reefs. There was even a community centre, police post and a primary school on the islands.  In 1987, these people were moved out of Semakau and Seking and resettled in HDB flats in order for Semakau Island to be built.

There is little to no information on the lives of these people. Hence, it is difficult to access the possible implications of this resettlement. I would personally think that it was difficult for these fishermen to get a proper job upon resettlement and I wonder if they have successfully integrated into the Singaporean society. It is a pity that no light was shed on their lives and whether or not they continued to thrive on the mainland, or if their lives were significantly changed upon moving to the city is a great unknown!

 

It’s surrounded by a super massive seawall!

As previously mentioned, Semakau Landfill is actually made up of both Seking and Semakau Islands that have been made into one by building bunds. Bunds are actually seawalls that go all the way down to the sea bed. This is also the reason for Semakau’s odd shape. The seawalls go down to the shallowest part of the sea bed, roughly 20m deep. An impermeable geo-membrane is used to line the walls, preventing the ash or leachate from seeping out.

A mangrove was also planted at an area outside of the seawalls. Before placing the geomembrane, most of the plants persistent, and they tried again, planting 400,000 saplings with the help of volunteers. Today, the lush mangrove is an indicator that the water outside of the seawalls is clean.

 

Dumping Ground

Picture from The Smart Local 

In the past, the island was split into various cells. However, after half of the island was full, Singapore’s previous Minister for Environment, Vivian Balakrishnan decided that to save money, a floating platform was to be used instead of building sea walls (for trucks to empty the ashes into the cells) to section off the areas.

Now, Trucks carry the ashes to the dumpsite and go onto a floating platform (which moves as sections are filled). Overflowing water moves into pipes located on the sides of the sea walls. The water is pumped to the water treatment plant located on the island before it is pumped back out into the sea. Once full of ash, the pipes are closed off before cells are filled with clay, soil, seeds and insect eggs. This allows it to be covered in green.

You can see this dumping in action in this video by Nas Daily on youtube!

 

They found supposedly extinct coral reef.

Image of coral reef taken from The Straits Times

In order to use a cell, fishes are removed by employing individuals to fish out as many fishes as they can over the course of a year. In addition, divers were employed to remove coral reefs. These coral reefs are placed in a Marine Park located in Sisters islands. During this, they found 1,408 types of coral and 4 of them were coral reefs that were thought to be extinct.

To this day, not all fishes have been fished out, so fishes eventually die due to the toxicity of the ashes. In addition, one has to think if moving the corals was actually a good conservation effort, or if moving them out of their natural habitat is against conservation.

 

It’s more than just a place to dump ashes.

NTU Ried on Semakau Island 

 
There are also fish farms around the island. One of them is on land, a small place where fish fries are grown. And another, where fish is bred and grown to be sold locally. There is also a solar and natural energy plant by NTU REID!

 

It’s running out of space!

When it opened in 1991, it was predicted that Semakau will be able to hold Singapore’s incinerated waste till 2045. However, since 1999 and with globalization, more trash is generated daily. This is because more items are imported, meaning more packaging waste is also brought into Singapore. Now, Semakau is expected to be full by 2035. Because of this, NEA and MEWR are now campaigning for Singaporeans to go Zero-Waste and encouraging Singaporeans to minimize their waste.

 

The most expensive road in Singapore 

The building of Semakau Landfill cost the government a total of SGD600 million. Thus, roads on Semakau (Which are the top of the sea walls), have been dubbed, “The Most Expensive Road in Singapore’. Due to its hefty price tag, expanding Semakau or even building a new landfill is the last thing the Singapore government wants to do in the near future. Henceforth, the Singapore government is now trying to change consumer behaviour…but is it too late?

 

With that said, why not learn all of these things firsthand? We will be organizing another trip to Semakau Landfill soon! So keep your eyes peeled!