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AsiaIsGreen and Green Future Solutions 7 September , 2007

Posted by eugene in 1 Respect Life & Renew Bond, 2 Improve Awareness & Knowledge, 3 Practise 3 “Rs”, 4 Spread Message & Influence Others, 5 Support Local Initiatives & Groups, 6 Use Rights as Citizens & Consumers.
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AsiaIsGreen (AIG) is a brand new online green resource guide for Singapore and Asia, created by Green Future Solutions (GFS). GFS is a Singapore-registered business founded by Eugene Tay (that’s me) and provides consultancy services to help its customers:

  • Find practical ways of reducing the waste of energy, water and material
  • Develop business strategies for going green
  • Conduct small-scale environmental projects

We have been working on the website for the past two months and we think we are ready for its live testing. We are still new so do join us on this learning journey to create a green future at www.AsiaIsGreen.com.

We understand that Asia faces great challenges in protecting its environment as it develops economically. The people in Asia are beginning to be aware of their impacts on the environment and they wish for economic prosperity without harming the planet. Is it possible to see a future where Asia is green?

We do not hope that Asia is green and we have given up that hope because when hope dies, action begins. We have decided to take action to create a future where Asia is green and AIG is our small contribution towards that future. A green future for Asia is not a dream but a responsibility to Nature and our children.

AIG provides a wide range of resources for you to increase your awareness and understanding of the environment in Singapore and Asia, and to inspire you to take action. AIG is not only for Asians but for everyone around the world who wish to see a greener Asia. A green future for the world would be impossible without the participation of Asia.

We acknowledge that there are people in Asia who will not have access to AIG or who cannot afford the products and services shown in AIG. We do not pretend to have all the answers in AIG to create a green future for Asia. But we know that we have to take action now with whatever limited resources available. Learn more. Take action. Spread the message. Do what we can.

Check out AsiaIsGreen now.

Six things we can do to protect the environment 6 June , 2007

Posted by eugene in 4 Spread Message & Influence Others, 6 Use Rights as Citizens & Consumers.
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My letter was published in today’s online ST Forum. The content is almost the same as what was written in my original letter. The one published by Today yesterday made more changes and have a funny title.

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WORLD Environment Day is celebrated globally today with activities and events to remind us of our impact on the environment and also the things we can do to improve and protect the environment.

Everyone can do something for the environment. For a start, we could consider the six steps described below.

Click here to read the full article

 

The Green Spirit 5 June , 2007

Posted by eugene in 4 Spread Message & Influence Others, 6 Use Rights as Citizens & Consumers.
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My letter to Today was published on 5 Jun. It’s a summary of my ebook and I thought it would be good to share it with newspaper readers on World Environment Day.

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World Environment Day is marked globally today, with activities to remind us of our impact on the environment and also what we can do to improve and protect it. Everyone can do something. For a start, we could consider these six steps:

One: Respect life and renew our bond with nature. Without respect for nature and its biodiversity, there will be no desire to protect them.

Click here to read the full article

 

Making Green Messages Stick 27 May , 2007

Posted by eugene in 4 Spread Message & Influence Others.
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The book, Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath is worth reading, especially for those who are interested in making environmental or green messages stick. How do we get more people to know more about the environment and take action? How do we get people interested and remember the messages that we advocate?

One interesting concept from the book is about the Curse of Knowledge. Quoting from the book, “This is the Curse of Knowledge. Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create our listeners’ state of mind.”

This is so true for environmentalists and greenies. Sometimes we can’t understand why people and companies don’t get our message; why they continue to engage in activities that harm the environment. We forget to put ourselves in their shoes and refuse to understand their state of mind and why they do what they do. We need to understand their mindset first and then formulate our messages to make it stick and spread.

To make ideas stick, the authors shared 6 principles:

1. Simplicity: What is the core idea?

2. Unexpectedness: How do we generate interest and curiosity?

3. Concreteness: How do we make it clear?

4. Credibility: How do we make people believe?

5. Emotions: How do we make them care?

6. Stories: How do we get them to take action?

Keep this 6 principles in mind when you create your next green message or campaign. Make it stick!

Global Warming Scenarios 19 April , 2007

Posted by eugene in 4 Spread Message & Influence Others.
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No
Global Warming

Global
Warming

Action

No
Regrets

Pat
On The Back

No
Action

Happily
Ever After

Reap And Sow

For those who do not believe in global warming, is it possible for them to still take action? What if we don’t presume that global warming is happening? Can we take action by looking at different scenarios and then decide what to do?

Let us imagine four scenarios in the future as shown in the table above. The horizontal axis indicate whether global warming is happening in the future and the vertical axis indicate whether early action was taken to mitigate the effects of global warming.

Scenario One is called “Happily Ever After” where there is no global warming and no action taken. The skeptics were right and there is no global warming. No money was spent to implement useless plans to tackle climate change. Everyone lived happily ever after.

Scenario Two is called “Pat On The Back” where there is global warming and action was taken. Global warming is happening but with less impact because we took early preventive actions. Money was spent but it turned out to be a good investment. We are able to cope with climate changes and make necessary adjustments to our lifestyles. We gave ourselves a pat on the back for doing what was necessary and right. It was not easy but we managed to pull through.

Scenario Three is called “No Regrets” where there is no global warming and action was taken. The scientists were wrong and global warming did not threaten us. Money was spent to implement preventive plans which was not needed. Skeptics lambasted, “We told you so, money was wasted. The money could be used to save lives in developing countries”.

But believers of global warming retorted, “Yes, you’re right on hindsight that there is no global warming. Money was spent but that did not go to waste. The money was spent on making our buildings and transportation system more effective and efficient. The money was spent on developing alternative energy and reliance on oil was reduced. The money was spent on protecting trees and natural habitats.”

According to the Stern Review Report, the annual global cost of reducing total greenhouse gases emissions to three quarters of current levels is estimated at $134 billion per year in 2015 or $930 billion per year in 2050 (1% of GDP in 2050). According to the UN Millennium Development Goals, the estimated total cost of meeting all the millennium development goals in all countries is $189 billion in 2015.

The world GDP in 2005 is $44,384 billion (World Bank). According to Worldwatch Institute’s Vital Signs: the world military expenditures in 2004 is $1,024 billion; the global advertising expenditures is $570 billion in 2005. There is money to help the people in developing countries and also reduce the impacts of global warming. We are not short of money, we are short of political willpower, foresight and spending the money in the right areas.

Scenario Four is called “Reap And Sow” where there is global warming and no action was taken. We see the impacts of global warming and climate change, now everyone believes. But it’s too late, we reap what we sow.

So, which scenarios would happen? Let’s forget about whether global warming is real for the time being. If we take action, we either have no regrets or we can pat ourselves on the back in the future. Nothing much to lose or everything to gain. If we don’t take action, we either live happily ever after or reap what we sow. Everything to gain or everything to lose. What’s your choice?

Green Ocean Strategy 7 April , 2007

Posted by eugene in 4 Spread Message & Influence Others.
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More companies are starting to be environmentally conscious. I’m not only referring to companies implementing an environmental managment system and getting itself ISO 14001 certified, it’s about companies planning and doing their business with the environment in mind first. I refer to companies doing that as adopting the “Green Ocean Strategy”, rephrasing from the popular book, Blue Ocean Strategy, by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. The blue ocean strategy is about creating opportunities from unexplored markets and making the competition irrelevant.

The green ocean strategy (GOS) refers to creating opportunities from environmental risks and pressures, environmental awareness among consumers, and environmental design, marketing and technologies. It is not just about companies carrying on with their business and taking care of the environment, it is more about companies taking care of the environment as their business and making profits along the way. As Starbucks would say, it is not serving coffee to customers, it is serving customers with coffee. Or Sam Walton of Wal-Mart would say, profits are a by-product of good service. Some examples of GOS include General Electric’s Ecomagination and Honda’s Environmentology.

Singapore will be hosting the Global Business Summit for the Environment (B4E) from 19 – 20 April. B4E is an international conference on business and the environment, and “aims to highlight the environmental challenges facing global business today and share strategies and best practices for corporate environmental responsibility”. Hope that companies will gain insights from this conference and exercise their environmental responsibility. If companies don’t adopt the GOS, they would likely become irrelevant in the near future.

Green Oscars 26 February , 2007

Posted by eugene in 4 Spread Message & Influence Others.
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This year’s Oscars has gone green, announced earlier by Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio. With the help of the Natural Resources Defense Council(NRDC), the 79th Annual Academy Awards has included several environmental initiatives such as offsetting carbon emissions, promoting recycling and reducing waste, and using recycled materials. Read the details here.

In addition, Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, won the Best Documentary Feature and Best Music (Song) awards. This reflect the growing momentum of the climate change issue and its acceptance by the mainstream and not just the greens.

Developing Green Universities 8 February , 2007

Posted by eugene in 4 Spread Message & Influence Others.
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Would like to share an essay that I wrote for the Asia and Pacific Student Essay Competition on Sustainable Development.

“The first aim of education should not be to prepare young people for careers, but to enable them to develop a respect for life.” – Norman Cousin 

To develop sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific, there is a need to engage the public (government), private (companies), and people (public, students and non-governmental organisations) sectors. As a university student, I feel that universities can play a major role in developing sustainable development and doing its part for the environment. In my essay, I will explore how we should develop green universities. Let me begin with some questions. 

What is a green university? To be green is to develop a respect for life and to protect the environment as described in The Earth Charter – “Recognize that all beings are interdependent and every form of life has value regardless of its worth to human beings” and “Accept that with the right to own, manage, and use natural resources comes the duty to prevent environmental harm and to protect the rights of people”. My idea of a green university is an environmentally friendly university with a strong green culture where management, staff, undergraduates, postgraduates and alumni are environmentally aware and do their best to reduce their impact on the environment, whether it is on campus or in their daily lives. After graduating, the alumni would still keep the environment in mind when making decisions at work and ensure that any projects would have no or minimal impact on the environment. 

Why should the university be green? Universities produce graduates such as government officials, architects, engineers, scientists, lawyers, businessmen and teachers. They hold key positions in society and their actions or behaviours influence more than others. Their decisions could affect the environment whether it is directly or indirectly, positive or negative, big or small. Furthermore, a university itself is a large institution with a big ecological footprint. Imagine its water and energy usage, the waste it generates, and the number of vehicles travelling through the campus. Therefore, the influence and impact of a university, its occupants and graduates on the environment are tremendous and far-reaching. As such, universities have a responsibility to be green. 

What are the benefits to the university? The obvious benefit is of course to the environment. For example, the university is able to reduce its consumption and wastage of resources, thus reducing its impact on the environment. Besides that, being a green university would enhance the reputation of the university and attract more foreign students. Also, the conscious use of resources would help to cut costs and keep expenses low. 

How does a university become green? To be a green university is not a simple task, the following are some recommendations that I hope would make the task easier. The recommendations should involve students playing a major role in the efforts to be a green university.  

First, develop an environmental policy in the context of a green university. The scope should identify all aspects of the university and the environmental impacts in terms of water and energy usage, and waste generated, and how to measure these impacts. This could be done through an environmental audit by existing staff in the environmental field or by students as a final-year project. This review process should aim to involve all the stakeholders where possible, including top management, staff, student representatives, alumni, suppliers, canteen and stall operators, etc. The draft policy after the review should be circulated to staff and students, and their feedback taken into consideration before finalising the environmental policy. The environmental policy is important in setting the direction and targets for the university. 

Second, ensure that the campus is environmentally friendly. The environmental audit done earlier would serve as a guide to identify aspects of the university that need to be rectified to ensure a more environmentally friendly campus. A good approach is to follow the 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (in order of sequence). Reduce by not creating the waste in the first place. This means good planning to prevent wastage, switching to more efficient equipment, using durable materials to prevent frequent wastage, etc. Reuse by using resources several times or for another purpose. This means buying reusable materials, sharing of equipment, etc. Recycle by not disposing the waste. This means setting up recycling bins for depositing waste such as paper, cans and printer cartridges or selling them to used item traders so that the waste can be sent for recycling. In addition, the university should encourage the use of innovative green technology and green design on campus. It could also be the first adopter of green technology and serve as a test-bedding site for new technologies that would benefit the environment. 

Third, build a green culture by spreading the green message such that everyone is aware of it. This is one of the hardest steps in building a green university. Students should play a main role in spreading the green message. In the book, The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell, he explores how a message can be spread and then tipped so that everyone is aware of it. There are some lessons that could be learned from his book – The Law of the Few, The Stickiness Factor, and The Power of Context. 

The Law of the Few says that a selected group of people are essential to spread a message. Students could be recruited to spread the green message but not just any student. We want students who know lots of people such as those involved in student groups or staying in hostels (Connectors); students who have good knowledge of environmental issues such as those in the environmental engineering, environmental management and geography courses (Mavens); and students who can promote and persuade others to adopt the green message such as those in the marketing and law courses (Salesmen). These selected groups of students would be in-charge of spreading the green message to their fellow students. With the support of the university management and staff, the students would organise innovative activities to spread the green message. 

The Stickiness Factor says that the content of a message should be personal and practical so that it can be remembered. The environmental policy should be made available to all students, and the green message should have clear, relevant and practical advices on what the students can do. For example, using both sides of the paper, recycling used paper and drink cans, switching off lights when leaving tutorial and lecture rooms, etc. State the benefits of a green university in terms of how the students can reduce impacts on the environment and cut costs, and the possible reduction in school fees, increased subsidies or more student welfare resulting from the cost reduction. It should be made clear to the students what they can do, how they can do it, and what benefits they can gain from their actions. 

The Power of Context says that a message may be tipped by small changes in context. Awareness on environmental issues and efforts to spread the green message can be incorporated into the context of the university education, which helps student understand that the environment is not something abstract and may be relevant to their daily lives or what they do in their future work. To increase environmental awareness, there could be compulsory courses on environmental awareness for first-year students, increased talks and seminars on the environment, and competitions for students to give suggestions on reducing wastage.  

Students could also be involved in spreading the green message through projects and case studies during their coursework. For example, Business students could be involved in projects to market the green message. Engineering students could be involved in projects to explore new environmental technology or improve the efficiency of existing equipment on campus. Science students could be involved in monitoring the ecology on campus and conducting surveys on environmental awareness. Arts and Social Sciences students could be involved in studies on the behaviour and psychology of green students, and how to increase participation in the green message. 

My last recommendation is for the university management to provide regular updates on the progress towards a green university and celebrate any success along the way with students and staff. This would help students and staff understand that their efforts can and will make a difference in improving the environment, and helping the university achieve the green university status. 

My vision is for universities in Asia and the Pacific to go green with environmentally friendly campuses, use of innovative green technologies and design, and a green culture apparent in its management, staff, students and alumni. Universities can and should go green because it is the responsibility of everyone to protect and improve the environment. 

“We are not going to be able to operate our Spaceship Earth successfully nor for much longer unless we see it as a whole spaceship and our fate as common. It has to be everybody or nobody.” – Buckminster Fuller

Zerofootprint: Black is the new green 16 December , 2006

Posted by eugene in 3 Practise 3 “Rs”, 4 Spread Message & Influence Others.
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Read this post from Treehugger. It’s about the electricity we waste by not switching our computers off at night. Every evening, I would switch off the 5 computers and 2 printers at the common area in my office before leaving. Sometimes this becomes a chore and I wish that someone would take up Treehugger’s challenge and make our computers smarter. But before that happens, do switch off your computer at night!

Giving Up Hope 24 November , 2006

Posted by eugene in 4 Spread Message & Influence Others, 5 Support Local Initiatives & Groups, 6 Use Rights as Citizens & Consumers.
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Giving up hope might not be a bad thing after all. According to Derrick Jensen, “A wonderful thing happens when you give up on hope, which is that you realize you never needed it in the first place. You realize that giving up on hope didn’t kill you. It didn’t even make you less effective. In fact it made you more effective, because you ceased relying on someone or something else to solve your problems …… and you just began doing whatever it takes to solve those problems yourself.”

Read Jensen’s article here.

Tomorrow’s Climate Today’s Challenge 3 October , 2006

Posted by eugene in 4 Spread Message & Influence Others.
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The title is a tagline from the Climate Change Communication Initiative led by Defra. They have another tagline, “Together this generation will tackle climate change”. I find both taglines simple and inspiring. Their website includes resources on how to get people to understand and tell the problem of climate change. There is also a 2-minute movie clip which is nicely done.