the price of being green

A blog post has been circulating on facebook, written by a guy who went to the supermarket and was reminded by the young cashier to bring his own bag in the future, and that all the environment problems that we now face are because his generation didn’t do enough to ‘save’ the earth. Of course he refuted by talking about his generation’s way of life with fewer energy-wasting appliances, re-filling old bottles and walking to work instead of driving cars that emit too much toxic fumes etc.

here is the post if you are interested to read: http://gaasedal.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/anyone-over-the-age-of-35-should-read-this-as-i-copied-this-from-a-friends-status/

I must admit I am not much of a ‘greenie’, but I try to do what I can by reusing plastic bottles, printing on both sides of the paper, doing my 10-year series assessment books 2 to 3 times before my A’ levels, using the ‘weak’ flush option if I am just peeing (altho my husband complains I always leave toilet paper floating in the bowl), and I try not to waste food by eating my son’s leftovers, and my friends’ leftovers if we eat out.

Living in a high rise apartment in Singapore most of my life, it was a way of life to throw all types of trash down a long rubbish chute with little care of the noise of glass bottles splintering into a million pieces down 24 storeys, or any notion of recycling plastic or glass items. Most people I know cannot sleep without air conditioning, otherwise you end up drenching your bedsheets with sweat because of the 80% humidity. Almost everyone owns a car despite the efficient and extensive public transport system, costly road tolls and parking fees. Shopping is the 2nd favourite past-time of Singaporeans, and most hardly worn clothes or old models of iphones or electrical appliances can be easily disposed of when the ‘garang-guni’ or ‘rag and bone’ man comes by and takes them away for you. He even pays you a token fee, usually $0.50 to $5 for your junk.

Switzerland must be one of the top ten countries that puts great importance on energy saving efforts, research into using cleaner fuels, recycling and keeping the environment clean and green. Afterall, what is Switzerland without their creamy snow-capped mountains and cows running carefree-ly on luscious green fields. This year, the ruling party with their proposals to reduce the number of foreigners moving into Switzerland lost their majority stake to a new party with a serious green agenda.

I find sometimes being green comes with a price. And it doesn’t need to be monetary.

Our town council hands out a yearly calendar listing the schedule for the collection of cardboards (usually once every 2 months), newspapers (once every month), and Christmas tree and other plant waste. For our apartment, the rubbish truck only comes once a week to take our trash away. Those with young kids would know how quickly your rubbish bag gets filled up with soiled nappies and milk cartons. We usually store all the stinky soiled nappies on the balcony, that is why the balcony, with an awesome view of those creamy snow-capped mountains is hardly used. Each 35-litre rubbish bag costs about chf 2, and if you leave your trash out much earlier than the stipulated day of the week, you run the risk of your trashbag being ripped open by deranged dogs or crazy pent-up youths; or civic-minded neighbours reporting you to the authority after they’ve rummaged through your smelly compost and found some form of identification like a letter with your name, or a soiled nappy, especially if you are the only family with kids. (they fail to realise some older adults use nappies too). My husband use to do a secret run in the middle of the night to throw bags of soiled nappies into the public waste bins opposite our house along the lake. I think someone must have found out what he did and changed the bins to ones with a very narrow opening.

Every Saturday morning begins with a 3-min drive down the road to the recycling area to dispose of our brown, white, green glass bottles and plastic containers.

We had a family outing last Saturday morning to The Big Dump to dispose of some large wooden crate boards and chunky styroform pieces. My husband bought me a massage chair from Singapore and it was delivered in a huge wooden crate. Thankfully we got the help of 5 muscly friends over New Year’s to carry the chair up 3 storeys of stairs and into our bedroom. The massage chair weighs 120 kg, but together with the wooden box it came in, it weighed 200kg. (This is to give you some idea how heavy the wooden boards that I have to help my husband put on top of my little Audi S3 were).

Going to the Dump is quite the experience. We were the 2nd last car to drive in, (it closes at 1130 am on Saturday and we arrived at 1115am), and there was still a long queue of cars waiting to go to the Dump. All the cars have to park in designated lots and wait for the dumpster guy to come and assess the amount and type of rubbish you are disposing. We were told our rubbish cost chf 50 (!!!??!!!), and that we have to carry them to the dumping containers all by ourselves. I thought to myself, why are we being penalised for disposing our rubbish???

We left our son in the car backseat and planned the best way to hold the wooden boards without getting any splinters into our palms or getting poked in the eye by the few sharp nails sticking out from the sides. I was cussing and telling myself if we were in Singapore, we could easily hire a truckload of bangladeshi workers (and this is not a joke) and pay them peanuts to take away the wood pieces. I dragged the boards, along with whatever shred of dignity I have left, up the flight of stairs and do a clumsy toss/swing of the rubbish into the dumping containers. There was a lady with full-on dark grey eyeshadow, dirty-blond pigtails and thick gloves ploughing through all the rubbish to see if there are any knick knacks she could savage. I suspect she comes here quite often.

I don’t know if I will live long enough to see the reward of my back-breaking efforts. Perhaps the end of the world will come soon and the alps will be flattened to the ground when they get hit by an alien fireball. The Swiss’ costly efforts in building artificial lakes on the mountains to pump out artificial snow would all go down the drain then. Or maybe we will all die from breathing the toxic fumes from smelly nappies.

My husband told me the last time he went to the Dump to dispose of our old furniture when we were moving house, a group of scavengers cheered loudly as one guy waved something in the air.

The lucky guy had found a stash of porn DVDs in one of the bags in the containers.

Well, at least the videos would get a new lease of life in someone’s bedroom.

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Nope, the New Year is not here yet…

Well, that’s according to the Chinese lunar calendar anyway. The Chinese New Year falls on the 23rd of Jan this year and we will be flying to Australia to celebrate this important holiday with my husband’s family.

I used to take these festivities for granted. More often than not, it simply meant having extra public holidays and that it is time for me to book my getaway to Phuket or Krabi! To anywhere in the world actually. As long as there is no loud flute/cymbals/drums/more clanging cymbals-New Year tunes playing in shopping malls and elevators. (this reminds me of the time when my husband, my 2-month old son and I were stuck in the Singapore Flyer and had to endure almost 7 hours of Christmas jingles playing over the intercom. Did I mention it was a TECHNO soundtrack that was playing in ‘loop’??!!)

Chinese New Year is typically the one time in the year you get to see ALL your relatives who never fail to ask whether you have a boyfriend, when you are getting married, when you are having kids; or compare with one another how well their kids are doing in school. In my primary and secondary school days, it was the best opportunity for my mum to hassle my relatives on my behalf to buy a raffle for my school’s never-ending fundraising drives.

I was in Singapore last year over the Chinese New Year period and met up with my cousins and ex school mates. Many of us have kids now, and the festivities seem to take on new meaning when you become a parent. I must say, kids relish in the celebrations the most. They get to stay up late on the eve of Chinese New Year because the later you stay up, the longer your parents will live – that’s according to tradition. They also get to feast on many goodies like pineapple tarts, loveletters (rolled up thin sweet wafer biscuits) and bak kwa (bbq sweet meat), and receive red packets filled with money from the adults.

Seeing our extended families come together to exchange well-wishes and the new generation of my cousins’ kids, nieces and nephews playing together, the culturally-jaded (and over-exposed to western media) me is just starting to realise how much our cultural heritage defines our identity, even if we don’t speak our mother tongue fluently or can hardly remember how to write our names in Chinese characters.

Yes, sometimes it takes living away from people similar to you in culture and language to make you cherish these traditions, and to want to teach your kids about them.

We will be having a Chinese New Year reunion lunch with a few other Singaporean families this weekend. We will be having steamboat, or what the Swiss would call, Chinoise fondue, where you dip all types of meats and vegetables into a tasty broth. Singaporeans favorite pasttime is eating, and I know we will be eating from lunch ’til dinner, and have many bottles of the spiciest chilli sauce on hand.

To get into the festive mood, Timmy and I decided to make some Chinese New Year decorations. We made some goldfish with paper plates and colored paper. To the Chinese, goldfish symbolises good luck and fortune. Hope the New Year brings more blessings to our family!

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Writing (and keeping) New Year’s resolutions

 

After 2 busy weeks of partying, traveling and basically, stuffing myself silly with Christmas and New Year goodies, I finally found some quiet time to think (the operating word here is ‘think’) about my new year resolutions. I have never been good at writing yearly goals. Never thought it was necessary. I don’t even write ‘to-do’ lists or shopping lists. Maybe that’s why I always spend too much money on groceries. It’s not like I never tried to, I even bought fancy notepads, diaries and a nice coloured pen to encourage myself to create more structure in my life. I recall writing new year resolutions once, that was last year – to read at least 10 classics in 2011. I am proud to say I achieved that in the first 2 months of 2011, that was mainly because I was back in Perth in January to visit relatives. With scorching-hot 40 degree days during the time we were there, there was nothing better than hiding in bed and reading. Erm… plus, I got some children’s versions of classic stories like Alice in Wonderland.

I found some interesting and funny new year resolutions on the internet. Most people seem to have the same goals – Quit a bad habit like smoking, drinking, biting toenails and not washing hands after going to the loo. There are also quite a few altruistic ones like working with neglected children (my own), starting a dubious charity to raise funds for a boob job and finding world peace. I think the top goal on everyone’s list is to lose weight.

If you are still scratching your head to think of good resolutions to make, here are some that might inspire you…

  • I will no longer waste my time relieving the past, instead I will spend it worrying about the future.
  • I will not bore my boss with the same excuse for taking leaves. I will think of some more new excuses.
  • I will do less laundry and use more deodorant.
  • I will avoid taking a bath whenever possible and conserve more water.
  • I resolve to work with neglected children — my own.
  • I will not tell the same story at every get together.
  • I won’t worry so much.
  • I will stop considering other people’s feelings when they so obviously don’t consider mine
  • Spend less than $1825 for coffee at Starbucks this year.
  • Claim all my pets as dependents on my taxes
  • Watch more cute and cuddly kitten videos on Youtube
  • Start using Facebook for something other than Farmville and stupid quizzes

I find that the key to losing weight is setting concrete targets like…

  1. Start smoking to lose weight
  2. Gain enough weight to get on The Biggest Loser
  3. Lose weight by living on the moon
  4. Find a more accurate scale
  5. Stop buttering your doughnuts
  6. Eat more fruit… snacks

Have a happy 2012 everyone!