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Yes, We Want You To Panic

Imagine holding something you love the most. Just that, this item is now slowly burning in front of your eyes and being destroyed bit by bit. What do you do? Watch it burn or put out the fire? This is not a false alarm. This is a reality as highlighted by Greta Thunberg on what exactly is happening to the Earth – our one and only home.

You might be thinking: “Not again, another article to remind us of climate change.”

But yes, as with all the thousands of articles being shared about the drastic impact of climate change, we are compelled to do the same. We simply want to let you know that there is no time to waste. The longer we wait, the shorter the time we have to salvage the situation.

If you are not convinced about the occurrence of climate change, here are some figures for you to reflect and to crunch on:

The list goes on and on. Just do a simple google search and you will find many other statistics and data about the damaged we have done to our natural habitat.

Most of us have this conception that because Singapore is in a safe location, free from natural disasters, we might be in the sweet lucky spot.

Unfortunately, the effects of climate change on Singapore is more evident than we thought. Try to recall when was the last time your family or friends complained that it was hot. Probably, just several hours ago. In recent years, days when maximum temperatures exceed 34 deg C and nights when minimum temperatures exceed 26 deg C have been more frequent. 

The last and most severe climate impact Singapore faces in the next 50 years and beyond is sea level rise. This is caused by thermal expansion of seawater volume and from melting land ice. The average sea level around Singapore’s coasts has risen steadily at a rate of between 1.2mm and 1.7mm per year and is projected to increase to about 1m by 2100.

Do not ignore the tell-tale signs.

Maybe it is slightly too much to take in for you. Maybe you feel powerless in the grand scheme of things. Maybe you feel like giving up because of the negativity revolving climate change.

But, have faith.

Have faith that when we come together as a whole, we are able to make a change. Have faith that there are still millions of people out there who care for the earth and is doing their best to conserve it. Have faith that the new age of changemakers will drive the remedy and slow down our harmful effects on earth.

With that faith, transform it into actions. As we continue to live on the earth, we still have the time and chance to care and make a difference. All you need to do is take a step and do SOMETHING. Every step however big or small contributes in their own way that you might not be able to see now, but will definitely help in the future. As Anne Marie Bonneau said “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”

Given that this is such an urgent situation, you should not even be hesitating on whether your action will make an impact but instead, you should consider how big of an impact can your action contribute to the earth.

How to start? Here are our suggestions:

  1. Reflect and re-evaluate on your current lifestyle habits
  2. Identify which areas you can make changes to lead a more sustainable lifestyle
  3. Make a commitment to make those changes
  4. Come out with a plan or schedule on the changes you wish to make
  5. Ensure you stick to this commitment and document down the change
  6. Take the next step, do more and go further

So yes, we want you to panic. We want you to wake up from this dream that everything is going to be okay. We want you to make a change. We want you to take action. We want you to realise that you need to make a change NOW.

Sustainable Living

Being an Environmentally Conscious Pet Owner

We love pets. Who wouldn’t?

Singapore’s pet population is projected to hit 824,000 pets in 2016, according to statistics from Euromonitor International.  The Federation Cynologique Internationale also reported that Singaporeans own over 62,000 dogs in 2017. With that in mind, how we clean up after our pets or even the treats we feed them, will have a sizable impact on the environment. Many green practices that have become our good habits can also be applied to our pets as well, so why not take a step further by taking care of the environment while taking care of your pet?

There are many ways we can reduce our carbon “paw-print”, and here are just to name a few:

 

Tip 1: Reusable wipes

If you use wet wipes to clean your pet or to clean up a mess they made, it’s time to switch to an eco-friendly alternative! One method would be to simply use a reusable cloth, which can be washed after every use. You can use towels that are not used anymore, or even cut up old clothes. Not to mention, it can help you save a lot of money in the long-run! Another method would be to switch to more eco-friendly wet wipes, such as Cloversoft’s non-toxic wet wipes that are made from 100% unbleached bamboo pulp.

 

Tip 2: Using what you can to pick up poop

Often, the waste that we create can be out of our control. Sometimes, it is because the items we buy are already pre-packaged, such as the vegetables found in supermarkets, which come in clear plastic bags. This plastic cannot be recycled and end up as waste in our bins. If waste like these is unavoidable, what we can do is to reuse them!

You can use these items to pick up your pet’s poop. Alternatively, you can even use big leaves that you find, and simply slide them under your pet when he/she is about to poop! As long as you wrap it up nicely (so the smell doesn’t spread after throwing the poop), almost anything can be used!

 

Tip 3: Turn to eco-friendly toys, accessories and treats

If you enjoy spoiling your pet with toys and treats, how about turning to eco-friendly alternatives?

There are many pet accessories and toys that can be found online, and they are often made from recycled or plant-based materials. Alternatively, consider upcycling your old clothes and turn them into new toys! Check out this link for some inspirations!

As for treats, consider giving them small portions of fresh fruits or vegetables, or even baking/cooking treats from scratch! These options are much healthier for your pet and they will still love eating them equally. However, please do proper research on exactly what your pet can/cannot eat.

 

It can sometimes get a little tiring to take care of our pets, but they are a lifetime commitment and we should never compromise their well-being. The same applies to take care of Mother Earth! Green practices are often less convenient but every small step will go a long way into improving her well-being. Try tying more environmentally-friendly habits into the different aspects of our daily lives and the caring of your pets is somewhere you can start!  If you happen to have any other tips, how about sharing them with us? 🙂

Green Talk

Interview with UglyFood

With a mission to “maximise the value of food resources and to offer healthy and delectable food products”, UglyFood was started out with the aim of preventing wastage of ugly food while providing nutritious food at affordable prices.

Curious as to how and why they started out and what their future plans are? Read the full interview as answered by their team!

What inspired you to start UglyFood?

Pei Shan, the founder of UglyFood and a SUTD-SMU Double Degree Programme graduate, developed an interest in food four years ago when her grandmother was stricken with cancer. In hopes that fruits and vegetables would alleviate her grandmother’s health condition, she started reading about healthier food choices, such as fruit and vegetables and learned how to make different fruits and vegetable juices.

Upon stumbling across a video on Facebook about global food wastage, she then gathered a team to look into the issue of unnecessary food wastage in Singapore. With her experience in making healthy foods and the awareness that food waste is avoidable and is present in Singapore, she decided to start a social enterprise, UglyFood.

Can you tell us a few challenges you faced when launching UglyFood in Singapore?

When we first started, we faced multiple challenges. One was the need to understand the food licenses required by the authorities for selling at Farmers’ Markets, retail stores and what not. Another was the sourcing for food that might otherwise go to waste. It took time and effort to reach out to partners and communicate what we do to them.

Since the launch of the organisation, what is the general response from the public?

We had good sales from the public during farmers’ markets at various locations. There are a few corporations and customers that purchased our signature cold-pressed juice series in bulk for their employees and family. Recently, we collaborated with another social enterprise, Bettr Barista, to have our products in their store!

Can you share with us a few statistics on the impact of UglyFood since it has been launched?

Since launch, Uglyfood has saved 7,384 fruits and vegetables.

For those who are interested in getting involved with UglyFood, can you share 2 to 3 quick and easy steps to get started?

If you are interested to purchase our products or engage our services for events, meetings or educational booths, do email us at hello@uglyfood.com.sg .

If you are interested to collaborate on crazy ideas or volunteer with us, feel free to drop us a message on our facebook page or our website!

What is the main goal for UglyFood and what actions will be taken to achieve that goal?

The main goal for Uglyfood is to accelerate the minimization of the impact of food wastage on the rapidly deteriorating health of our planet and the reduction of food-related poor health outcomes. Uglyfood hopes to continue to improve our business model to increase our sales as well as expand our product line to cater to more markets and in so doing, reduce more food that would otherwise go to waste and provide more choices for people who wish to eat healthier foods!

What are some of your future plans for the organisation?

UglyFood intends to expand our product range and increase the number of flavours for existing products. We will seek opportunities to work with the special needs community to assist us in the manufacturing of our products.

Sustainable Living

Top 3 Most Useful Zero Waste Christmas Products

This is the season for Christmas shopping! Christmas is finally around the corner! But wait a minute. Have you ever wondered if your presents will be used by the recipient or stowed into the recesses of their home? This Christmas, why not choose something practical and useful, knowing it will be used for the long run? Give your loved one the gift of sustainability!

Here are 3 practical zero waste products that everyone can cherish and are ideal to inspire the start of a zero-waste journey:

 

Beeswax Wraps

If you’ve always wanted to incorporate zero-waste goods into the lives of others but don’t know how to, beeswax wraps are the perfect item to start! They are the ultimate zero-waste must have.

Made of 4 ingredients – cotton cloth, beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin – beeswax wraps are a perfect substitute for plastic cling wrap. Reusable for a year, it means you will not have to spend another day cursing that you forgot to buy cling wrap again. You can finally say goodbye to spending money on purchasing something which keeps running out and is damaging to the environment.

Using Beeswax is a bit like going back in time to find out that our ancestors did it better than us. Beeswax wraps weres invented long ago by the ancient Egyptians. Back then, they had to be creative without our present luxury of refrigerators. Moving forward a few centuries later, we have all but forgotten this natural means of preserving food. Instead, we have begun a deep reliance on cling wrap, a synthetic material that brings more harms than good.

Cling wrap is made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). It is non-recyclable and non-renewable. The use of PVC creates multiple problems for our earth. Its production is not only carbon intensive but also pollutive. Furthermore, PVC’s non-biodegradable nature means that they will end up in our landfills after just one single use.

On the other hand, beeswax wrap has a much shorter lifespan. Because the shorter the lifespan, the better it is for the environment! Not only is it both biodegradable and compostable, but it can also be used many times!

Is it any different from cling wrap? Not at all! Just wrap your unfinished/untouched/ food and voila! It will keep it fresh. But do take note of, beeswax wraps cannot be used to wrap hot items and raw meat/fish/seafood. Do remember to take care of your beeswax and it will thank you by lasting longer! Clean it with a damp cloth after every use or just rinse it with cold water. Then, let it air dry and it can be reused hooray!

 

Stasher Bags

We are not going to lie; the Stasher bag is amazing. It has so many uses, and we are always discovering new ways to use them. It is a simple silicone bag that is literally safe for anything – dishwasher, freezer, oven and even the microwave. You can reuse it endlessly, so it’s here for a long time.

Stasher bag is suitable to freeze bananas for your morning smoothie, to use as a snack bag, store fruit (pretty perfect for sliced watermelon) etc. You can even use it for your toiletries when travelling. It is perfect for the tired you lugging around multiple bags of leakable products. As it is equipped with a Pinch-loc™ seal, it will not leak.

Not convinced? Check out this article which lists all the uses of a stasher bag!

But you get the jazz, there’s no way this bag is going to be forgotten in a cupboard. Because once you stash(er) it, you can’t go back! Also, washing the Stasher bag is easy. Simply fill the bag a 1/4th of the way with warm water and soap and giving shake it or using a brush can help too!

 

Bamboo Toothbrush

This is the one everyone actually needs. Unless for some obscure reasons you don’t brush your teeth…

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that our continuous toothbrush consumption actually harms Mother Earth. For most of us, we use plastic and non-recyclable toothbrushes. Little did you realize that all of your plastic toothbrushes are going to live a longer life than your whole family.
Kind of sad right? But you can do a little something for the future generations and for Mama Nature, by replacing your plastic toothbrush with a bamboo toothbrush.

Bamboo is a miracle product, it is so handy that they have even made a school out of it in Bali. Not cool enough? PANDAS eat bamboo, and if pandas are eating it then bamboo is life. (But please be reassured that the bamboo harvested for our toothbrush does not affect the pandas in any way!) Oh, and did we mention bamboo absorbs large amounts of carbon too?

You will definitely be making a substantial switch in your life.  After your bristles have been worn out, do remember to pluck them out and compost the bamboo handle.

 

Sustainable Living

Your New Best Friend – Menstrual Cup

Menstrual cup. A word that is no longer an unknown concept to most women in Singapore. A word that to this day is still a topic that most of us shy away from. A word that possesses potentially great power to contribute to the conservation to the environment.

We recently sat down with Pritha, founder of the Soul Cup, to share with us her experience of incorporating the menstrual cup into her life. Pritha’s experience with menstrual cups started about 5 years back – when it was not much heard of in Singapore. After seeing an advertisement for menstrual cups in 2013, she had it shipped from the US. As she was travelling around India and South East Asia for work, she was willing to try anything that would make her period more comfortable. Since then, she became a menstrual cup ambassador, working to spread the message and awareness of the menstrual cup and making it more accessible to women in Singapore.

While there are many reasons to “cup-vert”, here are a few of Pritha’s personal favourite reasons:

1. You Do Not Feel Anything and You Can Do Anything You Want With It

The most commonly asked question about a menstrual cup is, “Don’t you feel it in your body?”. Believe it or not, the answer is no! As the menstrual cup only comes in contact with the area free of sensory nerves, there is little to no feeling when you are wearing it. Sometimes, you might even forget that you are wearing it, unlike the usual pads that hang beneath you. But do remember to give the cups a wash, no matter any circumstances, before using them.

Furthermore, wearing sanitary pads limits your movement and activities. You cannot swim and it feels uncomfortable playing nearly any sport. Menstrual cups, on the other hand, give you the liberty to swim, do yoga, play sports and do whatever you are comfortable doing on your periods.

2. Free of Chemicals!

Most pads and tampons use toxic and harmful chemicals for absorption. Certain tests reveal that high absorbent pads may contain dioxins, synthetic fibres and petrochemical additives. Chlorine bleach is also often used to give pads and tampons the super “white and clean” look. So, it is might not the wisest choice to use these items for your intimates.  A menstrual cup is made of medical grade silicone which is relatively more inert and doesn’t react with your body.

3. Easy to Clean like ABC

How to wash your menstrual cups? Well, it is done in 1 to 2 simple steps!

As your body fluids do not stick easily to the cups, they can be washed out with water. Flush the cup with water down into the toilet or the shower and you are good to use it again.

If you are emptying and reinserting your menstrual cup in a public toilet, you can clean it with some water (just carry a small bottle) or special menstrual cup wipes or clean toilet paper before reinserting it.

4. Killing Two Birds in One Stone – Benefits the Environment and Your Pocket

A menstrual cup is reusable and hence you need to buy just 1 and you can use it for up to 10 years. Not only do you no longer have to pay for every period, but you also reduce waste that goes directly into the . Given that you use a menstrual cup for 10 years, you could save over thousands of pads / tampons from going into landfill and you can do the math on how much money that saves you over 10 years. Savings are definitely much more than the initial investment in the menstrual cup!

 

Convinced to become a cup-vert now? Soul Cup is giving you a special discount of $5 off your menstrual cup purchase. Simply head over to the website here and key in the code SUSTAIN5 for your discount. If you have more questions about the menstrual cup, head over to our Facebook page and drop us a message! We love answering all your questions, no matter how basic or silly they may seem.

 

Sustainable Living

Your Guide to Purchasing Reusable Straw

A worldwide war has been declared against an item that no one considered about its harm previously. Plastic. An evident movement has been taking place both locally and internationally with bans against it. In our little red dots, numerous cafés have stopped serving with straws and other F&Bs have put a ban on them. Hence, sparking a new revolution – Reusable straws.

The term reusable straw is no longer a stranger to us. They come in many forms and materials – bamboo, stainless steel, glass and silicon. It is also evident that due to the demand of these straws, the number of organisations selling reusable straw in Singapore has been growing exponentially over the past few months. With a price range from as low as $1 to as high as $13, your quest for a straw can be easily fulfilled.

But hold that thought! Do you really need that straw? Is it a want or a need? Which straw should you get? Just before you purchase it, here are some things to take into consideration before buying your first one!

 

Is it a need or a want? Think twice before purchasing.

The claim on whether the purchase of a reusable straw is a hype may or may not be true. Hence, the best action to do as a consumer is to evaluate the reason for purchasing the straw and to educate yourself on why you need a straw. Straws are usually used by various groups such as those with sensitive teeth, children, the disabled or those who do not wish to stain their teeth by liquids such as coffee or tea. Most of the time, using a straw is not necessary unless you are drinking thicker liquids (etc milkshake, fruit juice) or drinks with toppings in them (etc bubble tea, fruit tea).

 

It is an investment. You are making a commitment.

Once you have gotten the straw, you need to be aware that it is a lifelong commitment that you have taken. Take a straw as a pet. You need to take care of it, maintain it, bring it out and clean it for many years, most likely even a lifetime. The worse thing to do it probably to abandon it after a few months or years.

The production of a reusable straw requires more resources as compared to a plastic straw. Hence, it will be contradictory if you purchase one and do not commit to using it as the number of resources extracted to produce that reusable straw might actually cause more harm than using a plastic straw.

So, if you do not foresee yourself putting in that amount of effort, then maybe you would like to put that reusable straw down.

 

Educate yourself! Know the variation available in the market and their features.

So which straw should you get? With the large variety available in the market, it is difficult to make a decision sometimes. Each straw has their pros and cons and we shall explain them based on our understanding!

Bamboo straw:

These are the 100% natural option which is biodegradable and compostable. They are kid friendly as well! But do take note that in order to clean them, you need to boil them with vinegar water on a monthly basis. Sometimes, due to Singapore’s humidity, these straws are prone to growing mould easily. Hence, do make sure you keep them dry after washing!

Borosilicate glass straw:

Maintenance and hygiene are not much of an issue for these straws. When you are washing them, you can see the interior of the straws which help you to identify any dirt or remnants. Borosilicate glass is also known for being lightweight and can withstand hot and cold temperatures. However, taking into consideration that it is glass, there is still the possibility of them breaking if you are ever careless!

Stainless Steel straw:

These straws do not have any issue in terms of hygiene or durability. For cleaning, you just have to wash them with a cleaning brush. In terms of durability, they are not expected to break.

As a consumer, do note on the quality of the stainless steel that you are purchasing. One of the most common stainless steel grade is 304 or otherwise known as 18/8 (which contains 18 percent chromium and 8 percent nickel). 304 can withstand corrosion from most oxidizing acids and its durability makes it easy to sanitize. It is commonly used kitchen and food applications; in buildings, décor, and site furnishings.

 

You got your straw! Now, onto the next step.

Your sustainable lifestyle does not just stop at straws but instead starts from it. Now that you have replaced the small plastic item in your life, look at other areas that you can make simple changes. For example, making the effort to bring your bottle in addition to bringing your straw. A simple action does help a lot one way or another!

The most impactful plastic switch of all might actually be plastic bags, with Singapore plastic addiction no longer being something in secret. Find small and simple ways to reduce your overall consumption of disposable and help Mother Earth by being a conscious consumer! Trust us, the future generation will thank you for that 😉

Sustainable Living

How to be a Zero Waste Book Lover

As a bibliomaniac, we know the struggle faced while trying to lead a zero-waste lifestyle. To desire to be able to read as many books as you wish to and at the same time, lead a sustainable lifestyle. To resist the urge of purchasing that new book to add into your ever-growing collection of book.

But fret not! Here are some tips on how to be sustainable while being able to gobble those books like no one’s business! (Based on our own experiences 😉 )

 

Go back to the basics – Borrow

The very first step we all can do is simply to borrow books! Head down to your nearest public library and browse through the wide selection it has to offer. With 27 public libraries spread across Singapore, these are easily accessible to all of us! If you are a student, head over to your school library and enjoy the resources you can tap on.

Besides borrowing from the library, you can borrow from your friends or family members!

 

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure – Preloved Books

Preloved books are another considerate way to prevent books from going into the landfills. In Singapore, there are so many platforms that allow you to purchase second-hand books. These books are usually in good condition and come at very affordable prices, ranging from $5 to $10!

For physical shops, you can check out:

  • Bookwhale: A newly launched online marketplace that makes buying and selling pre-loved books easy! They provide a scan-to-list method and direct shipping services to readers for a much better experience. In addition, they have teamed up with various cafes to place a collection of books in which you can take, donate or swap.
  • Bras Basah Complex: There are at least 3 -4 shops dedicated to selling pre-loved books!
  • Carousell: Needless to say, we are well aware that carousell has a wide range of preloved books waiting for you to bring them home!
  • Dignity Mama Stall: An initiative of Project Dignity Pte Ltd for youths with special needs, Dignity Mama Stall allow mum to co-work with their children and equips youth with the skills to run and manage a stall. All of the pre-loved books sold are donated, sorted and priced reasonably to generate income.

 

Swap them all!

Swapping is the new buying. Besides borrowing and purchasing, why not do a book swap? Swap your personal collections with others and also get a glimpse into their personal collections.

Some books swapping groups in Singapore include:

  • Books & Beer: One of the most established book swaps in Singapore, Books & Beer has been around since June 2011. Book swaps are organised once every two months and typically takes place over three hours during a weekend, at a centrally-located F&B venue. While the swop is on-going, attendees will typically purchase a drink or two, engage in conversation with new friends, read a new book they’ve picked up…
  • The Book Swap Club: Primarily a book-swapping group, this club might engage in some form of socialising while swapping and maybe even discuss the books we intend to exchange. It will not be like other book/reading clubs where you get together to discuss a particular book, but it’s meant for you to refresh your library with other books you have not read. They meet every 2 months at a convenient location, usually in town after work.
  • Facebook Group (Singapore Books Free Used Buy Sell Swap Exchange Fiction NonFiction): With about 500 members on board, this Facebook Group is a platform for you to swap, sell, exchange any types of books!

 

Go Digital

As much as we are heading towards a digital society, you can participate too with books! But before you purchase a Kindle or any other forms of e-reader, do think twice!  According to one life-cycle analysis of printed books versus e-readers, the energy, water, and raw materials needed to make a single e-reader is equal to that of 40-to-50 books. In terms of the effect on the climate, the emissions created by a single e-reader are equal to roughly 100 books.   Hence, only if you are very sure that you are an avid reader, then go ahead and get that e-reader.

An alternative? Why not borrow e-books from the National Library? Did you know, NLB ebooks can be browsed and searched via eReads? Each book can be borrowed for a period of about 21 days. Not only does it save you the money from spending on an e-reader, it also allows you to enjoy a wide range of books!

 

Know of any other ways to be a sustainable book lover? Share them with us!

Sustainable Living

A Peek Into Veganism

The ‘V’ word – a word so sensitive or controversial. A lifestyle that was previously labelled extreme, entirely alien, preachy and associated with hippies, is now being viewed with a more positive lens and becoming more commonplace in society. Yes, you guessed it right, this ‘V’ word stands for Vegan.

In the last 3 years, there has been a 600% increase in the number of people who identify as a vegan in the U.S and in the UK, this figure was at 350%. For this little red dot, Veganism is growing as well. Singapore currently ranks 6th on the Happy Cow app for the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, with 40 fully vegan restaurants and 590 vegan/ vegetarian-friendly places!

So, what does being vegan actually mean? There is a difference between a vegan lifestyle and a vegan diet. A vegan diet is a plant-based diet, one which excludes the consumption of any animal product and byproduct. This includes meat, eggs, dairy products and honey. On the other hand, a vegan lifestyle is all-encompassing and includes living compassionately not just through one’s diet, but also by not supporting animal cruelty in the purchase of any product.

By now, many questions will probably have popped up in your mind: What can you even eat? Where do you get your protein? Isn’t it expensive? Isn’t hard to become vegan?  Well, here are some of the most commonly asked questions being answered by our writer, Jasmine Hussain!

What can you eat?

As a vegan, there is an abundance of food that you can eat! This is a huge common misconception that people have about the vegan diet. Once they hear the words ‘no meat’, a blank appears in their heads and they are presented with the toughest challenge of having to think of what other than a salad can vegans eat.

Rice, potatoes, pasta, beans, nuts, fruits, vegetables, legumes, pulses – the supermarket is your oyster! (perhaps inappropriate for a vegan). Going vegan does not mean having to give up all your favourite foods. Think of any dish and you can probably find a vegan recipe for it online. You’ll even find new favourite foods when you go vegan!

Your options are limitless when it comes to vegan food and if you do live in Singapore, it’s basically vegan paradise.

Where do you get your protein?

Contrary to popular belief, being protein deficient is really only seen in people who are malnutrition or people who are suffering from a calorie deficit. All plant foods have protein and there is no need to go out of your way to find ‘sources’ of protein. When it comes to greens, spinach, broccoli, kale and even peas are great sources of protein. Nuts, seeds, legumes e.g. chickpeas, lentils, beans, tofu, tempeh and even oats are excellent sources of protein. Even fruits have protein! I can go on for ages, but I’m just making the point that you will never miss out on protein when you go vegan.

Isn’t it expensive?

No, it is not. Do not be fooled by all the superfoods out there, which many restaurants, cafes and YouTubers use in preparing their vegan meals. There is no need for you to buy quinoa, chia seeds, coconut oil, cold-pressed juices or acai powder. In fact, being vegan is often much cheaper than adopting an omnivore’s diet because a plant-based diet consisting mostly of fruits, vegetables and grains cost less than one that incorporates meat. You can lead an equally healthy vegan diet and get in all your daily nutritional requirements without all these expensive superfoods.

Meat substitutes and dairy-free products such as nut milks and yoghurts, and soy-based cheese are more expensive than your regular meat and dairy products, however, these are not necessary items for one’s pantry. These are the products often used in restaurants and cafes trying to appeal to the consumer market with their unique and creative vegan dishes, which explains why vegan restaurants or cafes are often more expensive.

On a more positive note, prices for these products are in fact falling due to the rising demand for vegan products and the fact that more people are adopting a vegan diet. Hooray!

Don’t you miss eating meat?

For me, not at all. I don’t miss meat, not one bit. This was because I felt too strongly about my values and beliefs and couldn’t possibly bear the idea of having to eat meat ever again knowing how harmful it was to the environment and to the animals. When eating out, I will always search for the menu online and check if there are any vegan options available. When there aren’t any obvious options, I will then look for options that I can make vegan.

For example, when going to a pizza place, just ask for a pizza without cheese and a whole bunch of vegetables on it (mushrooms, pineapple, spinach, peppers etc., these are all ingredients that the pizzeria already has), of course first making sure that the base has no dairy, which is usually the case. Small changes like this could easily make many non-vegan dishes vegan and if you are not sure about it, simply call the restaurant in advance and ask if there is something they can do. More often that not, they will be more than willing to help. In the rare case that there is absolutely nothing for you to eat, don’t ever feel shy about bringing your own food to the restaurant after letting them know your reasons why (this has never happened in my experience), or simply ask your friend or family to change the location of the restaurant.

Isn’t it hard to become vegan?

It has been just short of three years of my journey as a vegan and it has been a truly exciting and inspiring one. I have become the most compassionate version of myself, my skin has never been so clear (cutting out dairy really helps) and food has just become so much more exciting because vegan cuisine is remarkably experimental and creative and you can honestly find a vegan version of every food item on the market – well in my experience at least.

However, I must say that my transition into veganism has been a rather smooth sailing because I had the advantage of moving away from home to an amazing city that is incredibly vegan friendly and to an environment where I had the privilege of cooking for myself and therefore not trouble my family to make adjustments for my diet.

At the same time, I am blessed with an amazing, supportive family that is proud of me for making this change and has never made me feel like I was being difficult for going vegan. They did question my decision initially, but only out of concern that I would not be able to get all the nutrients required to lead a healthy and balanced lifestyle. However, after doing research, I was able to confidently present my case of how I would be able to nourish myself well and even become healthier than I was before. Today, my family actually enjoys making vegan dishes for me at home and we enjoy exploring the countless number of vegan restaurants and cafes in Singapore.

As you can see, being vegan is not so bad after all! For those who want to try it out, the change does not have to be drastic, it could simply be in the form of meatless Mondays or simply swapping the dairy milk for a nut milk like soy milk in your oatmeals or cereals. There is so much inspiration online – YouTube, Pinterest or just Google for easy tips on how small changes could veganise your regular meals. Help make the world a better place by eating lower down on the food chain, after all, being vegan is the single biggest thing one can do to combat climate change.

To finish off, I must highlight that being vegan is not the only dietary change you can make to combat climate change. Eating lower down on the food chain does make an impact and this could simply be in the form of meat-free Mondays, or eating red meat only once a week. It is not feasible for everyone to become vegan, in fact, it is impossible. But if everyone played a part in making small dietary changes, this would without a doubt accumulate to a significant positive impact on our environment.

Green Talk

Interview with Treedots

Started out by Jiacai, Nicholas, and Tylor, Treedots was formed with the mission of minimising food waste. This is achieved through a self-sustaining ecosystem by aggregating F&B businesses on different points of the value chain. Hence, ensuring that there is no longer a need to dispose of perfectly edible food. Plus, did you know they are Asia first online outlet mall for food?

Curious as to how and why they started out and what their future plans are?

Read the full interview as answered by  Treedot’s COO, Nicholas!

 

TSP: What inspired you to start TreeDots?

N: All three founders in TreeDots have different reasons that pushed us to drop all our current jobs to begin TreeDots.

Personally, for me, I would say my main inspiration came from my trip to Europe where I noticed that there was always this corner in their local supermarts where food products are deeply discounted – we are talking about 50 pence a quarter leg kind of cheap here! After probing around a little more, I then noticed that these food products were all due to be thrown away in a matter of days and hence were discounted to clear them out before they finally become inedible. That really ignited the idea in my head, especially after I found out that the industry norm in Singapore is that 6 months before expiry is considered expired.

 

TSP: Can you tell us a few challenges you faced when launching TreeDots Singapore? 

N: I would say the toughest part at the start was getting people, especially the sellers, to realise that this is an issue. The F&B industry in Singapore/Asia is extremely traditional and comfortable in whatever they have been doing. Getting them to put aside resources to allocate such undesirables provides little additional value to their company. Thinking of a way to align their business needs with our social mission was thence vital to get this movement going, and the amount of resistance faced while doing so was incredible – one of our founders got spat on while pitching the idea, some called the cops on us for trespassing, etc. Buyers were unsure too and we had to constantly assure them, or think of new marketing strategies to further spread awareness that TreeDots products are perfectly good products too!

Of course, once that was out of the way, logistics then became our greatest concern. Breaking bulks into more consumable sizes means inventory, having specific delivery timings means proper scheduling…the entire operations plan was a nightmare and nothing could really be fixed at the start since we were all new to the F&B scene. It was only after when we truly understood the industry then we managed to set some standard operating procedures in place.

 

TSP: Since the launch of the organisation, what is the general response from the public?

N: I would say responses from the public had been pretty mixed thus far, we have gotten people who are totally against the entire idea and think that blemished products are inedible but we have also gotten people who are fully supportive of it and shop with us on a consistent basis. I would say, it will definitely take awhile and loads of educating before there would be widespread acceptance of TreeDots products. We do see huge support from all the various green communities in Singapore, trying hard together with us to promote the zero waste culture. A lot of work still needs to be done before we reach there!

 

TSP: Can you share with us a few statistics on the impact of TreeDots since it has been launched?

N: After just a short few months in operations, TreeDots had successfully saved more than a tonne of food products from going to the bin! We have also gotten more than 150 companies onboard to further our initiatives.

 

TSP: For those who are interested in getting involved with TreeDots, can you share 2 to 3 quick and easy steps to get started?

N: For businesses, simply drop an email to hello@thetreedots.com indicating if you would like to be a seller or buyer or both and we will get in touch with you!

As for all the other people out there, start by adopting a veggie box with us, it will be a little bundle of surprise at a very affordable price. Simply head over to https://www.thetreedots.com/ to start shopping with us!

We also accept any voluntary help with us!

 

TSP: What is the main goal for TreeDots and what actions will be taken to achieve that goal?

N: Our short-term goal is really to reduce as much food waste as possible on a national scale, in order to do that we have to improve some algorithms on our end regarding product-matching so we are able to match our buyers and sellers to ensure a higher success in sales.

Long-term goal would definitely be to touch on every other waste out there and think of more ways to upcycle everything, this requires collaborations with other companies and more expansion!

 

TSP: What are some of your future plans for the organisation? 

N: We will be involved in more talks and events to further spread our mission and get people to buy such under-appreciated products. Of course, there are a lot of talks regarding potential collaborations ongoing at the moment, and one of them will be coming out soon!

Do follow our Instagram or Facebook page @thetreedots to stay updated on all our happenings!

Others

Why Embracing Ugly Food Reflects Your Inner Good

This is an article written by Yasira Yusoff from Food Unfiltered and edited by The Sustainability Project

“Make sure to pick the best-looking apple, all right?”

“If it’s bruised, it’s probably rotten on the inside!”

“It has spots so it must be bad…”

Are these phrases familiar to you? Well, growing up, we were taught that the best indicator of quality while picking our fruits and vegetables is their external appearance. Our mothers told us to avoid apples that had a dent in them, our fathers told us to stay far away from oddly-shaped carrots and our grandparents told us to throw out spotted mangoes. But what we weren’t told was that these blemishes are purely on the surface. Ugly food meant just that – ugly on the outside, but perfectly edible, nutritious and tasty on the inside.

As a result, this habit we picked up has developed into a bias that that has become second nature when it comes to grocery shopping and consuming food. We shy away from bruised produce at the supermarket and are quick to toss out any vegetable that looks less fresh. In a survey conducted among 243 Singaporeans aged 20 to 59 by the Food Unfiltered campaign, it was found that 68.1% of respondents were unwilling to purchase ugly food and 40.7% of respondents were unable to look past slight external flaws and consume ugly food. A greater cause for concern? It was found that even though 93.7% of respondents indicated they were environmentally conscious, almost two in five of them indicated they would continue to refuse ugly food — even after learning that doing so would help to reduce food waste.

Unfortunately, this prejudice we hold has contributed greatly to the issue of cosmetic filtering — the discarding of food that does not meet perceived or market standards. It not only occurs on the consumer level but has also has led retailers and suppliers to reject them from their stores. Ugly food is deemed as unfit for sale, so both retailers and suppliers much rather throw them out than waste resources to transport and store them appropriately. With this understanding, it is no surprise that 46% of all food produced globally does not make it from farm to fork due to imperfect appearances.

We hold misconceptions about ugly food — that they’re less fresh, less nutritious, less tasty and even pose health risks. But this is what we assume of them, solely due to their imperfect appearances. If we open up to ugly good, we can discover the inner good.

We know it’s hard to change our habits, but here are three easy ways to change your perceptions of ugly food and learn to love them:

Know the facts behind ugly food and their impact on the environment

Ugly food is simply any food that is perfectly edible but appears unappealing because they are odd-shaped, discoloured or slightly blemished. They are subjected to cosmetic filtering at every point of the supply chain and even worse, improper handling by consumer (yes, people like me and you!) is a common occurrence that renders the food unfit for sale.

Give ugly food a chance

Ugly food might be off-putting at first glance but if you pick them up and cut them open, you’ll discover that they’re no different on the inside from their perfect-looking counterparts. You’ll find that they are equally tasty and just as fresh as perfect-looking food. Don’t believe us? Check out our mini-series, Ugly Food: Fact Checked, to hear a nutritionist debunk myths about ugly food. At the core, we eat to get the nutrients we need to maintain our health and feel good, and ugly food does that just as well!

Transform ugly food

Surface blemishes can easily be removed by slicing off a bruised portion or removing discoloured skin. If we are using ugly food in meal preparation, skinning and slicing are common practices. Spotted fruits such as bananas can be used in baking and juicing instead — the spots actually indicate higher sugar content, which means you can replace the use of artificial sweeteners with some natural sugars. The bruised portion of vegetables can be cut off and the rest of the it puréed into soups.

At the end of the day, we only see what’s on our plate and not the raw ingredient. Challenge yourself to transform ugly food into something that’s beautiful when presented on the plate.

About Food Unfiltered

Food Unfiltered is an initiative that celebrates ugly food. Led by four final-year students from NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, it strives to reduce food waste by embracing the natural goodness of food, regardless of their external appearances.

For more information, please visit their Facebook Page and Instagram!