Save the Sea Turtles!

30th June 2020 by Rebecca Bisset 4 Min ReadThe breeding season for sea turtles is between April and October each year, and many of the resort islands around Singapore are focused on making sure that the eggs are protected and the baby turtles make it safely into the sea. The turtle population has been decreasing because the eggs are seen as an expensive delicacy. Apart from humans really not needing to eat more than they already do, all creatures have their role to play and turtles are a very important ‘balancer’ in the sea ecosystem.There are a few things we can do to help them survive in the sea, and we can definitely help keep them safe when on land. We asked the team at Telunas Resorts a few turtle questions and how humans can help. You can also read up on their own turtle protection programme too.  What kind of sea turtles can you find around this area?Indonesia: According to profauna.net, in the world, there are seven sea turtle species, six of which live in Indonesia. They are the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), flatback sea turtle (Natator depressus) and loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta).Malaysia: Malaysia is blessed with four marine turtle species out of seven known in the world – the green, hawksbill, olive ridley and leatherback turtles. (WWF)Singapore: The hawksbill and green turtles are the most commonly sighted sea turtles in Singapore. (NParks)These are the species seen most commonly at Telunas as well.Turtle TriviaThey can lay up to 100 and more eggs at a time and pregnant sea turtles will most likely go back to the same beach where they hatched (NOAA).Flatbacks can lay about 50 eggs while hawksbills can lay over 200 eggs at a time. Sea turtles can nest multiple times per season – “an average of between 2 to 8 nests per season.” (conserveturtles.org)What can humans do to help them?From NOAA:Use reusable water bottles, plastic bags, straws, etc. All these things can and will end up in the oceans, often harming sea turtles (they can mistake plastic for food, choking themselves or even getting entangled in plastic).If you fish, be mindful about fishing gear or fishing lines that you leave behind in the ocean. Take your trash and broken gear home with you and dispose of it correctly.Participate in ocean clean-ups. Be mindful of the trash you leave behind when you go to the beach and pick up any trash you see on beaches that could be harmful not just to sea turtles, but other marine animals. Balloons also very often end up in oceans; try avoiding the use of balloons.Fill in holes and knock down sandcastles before you leave the beach – they can become obstacles for sea turtles trying to reach the beach for nesting season. The same goes for any beach equipment: chairs, umbrellas, etc.Keep beaches dark (especially areas you know are prone to be visited by sea turtles). Bright lights are disorienting for sea turtles and they can discourage the turtles from coming to the beach to nest.Keep a safe distance from sea turtles if you meet them (in the sea or on the beach)! Don’t try to touch or feed them ESPECIALLY if they are nesting or hatching!Reduce the amount of harmful chemicals that you use in daily life. Find eco-friendly and biodegradable solutions.Why are turtles important in the sea ecosystem?According to seeturtles.org, sea turtles are a “keystone species,” which means that they play a very important role in influencing their environment and other species. They help keep population numbers in check. For example, leatherbacks eat jellyfish (jellyfish eat larval fish, meaning that there will be less fish that grow into maturity) and hawksbills eat sponges in the coral reefs (sponges can outgrow the corals and eventually kill the reef).Sea turtle nesting seasons themselves are a great source of food and nutrients for the ecosystem and other species: Eggs and hatchlings that don’t survive provide lots of nutrients for surrounding vegetation on the beaches. Birds, fish, mammals like raccoons and others rely on plentiful hatchlings to survive during nesting season.”Sea turtles are grazers, so they feed on the seagrass. Grazing on seagrass keeps the seagrass beds healthy, which also benefits the ecosystem because seagrass stores carbon and produces oxygen. Can visitors see the turtles at Telunas, when and how?Telunas Resorts proudly hosts hawksbill sea turtles. We have built a small make-shift hatchery to make sure a new generation of baby turtles safely reach the oceans every year. Nesting season usually occurs around April to November and we usually invite guests to partake in releasing them into the ocean. Due to the uncertainty of how many nests are successfully laid and how many eggs actually hatch from each batch, we can’t guarantee or schedule when we release the hatchlings.What are the survival rates of baby turtles once they’re in the sea?According to the NOAA: On the beach, hatchlings must escape natural predators like birds, crabs, and monitor lizards to make it to the sea. Once in the water, hatchlings are consumed by seabirds and fish. Few survive to adulthood, with estimates ranging from one in 1,000 to one in 10,000.What other eco-initiatives does Telunas have?As a company, Telunas has worked to become more mindful of our plastic consumption. We have worked to drastically reduce the amount of single-use plastics on our property and have found ways to continue with operations without them. For example, our trash cans have been redesigned so they don’t need plastic liners. We’ve found ways of wrapping and transporting items with reusable bags. We’ve significantly reduced our availability of disposable water bottles on our property. We sweep the beach multiple times each day to collect and extract rubbish from marine ecosystems, and we invite guests to participate in scheduled rubbish clean-up activities. Read our round-up for more information on resorts and short breaks from Singapore.

Racism in America: What’s the answer?

I’m an American, but for more than seven years now, I’ve been living in Singapore. Right now, watching from the other side of the globe, I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed of what’s happening in my country, ashamed of the racism, ashamed of the hate.As a child, there were things I knew. I had brown hair. I was tall. I had big feet. And I was an American. I wasn’t a fan of my feet, but I was always fiercely proud of my nationality. I wore red, white and blue on the Fourth of July. I devoured American history. I cried every time I sang “The Star Spangled Banner.” And when I traveled, I was always proud to say, “I am American”, knowing there were so many others in the world who wanted to be American, too.I’m not sure that’s true anymore.  Racism in my youthGrowing up in Texas, I never saw myself as a white American. I was just American. And I didn’t think of my other friends as anything else besides American like me. Then again, I didn’t really have that many friends who weren’t white like me. The whites, blacks and browns didn’t really mix too much, though I was too young to realize why. Racism existed. It’s always existed, but I didn’t see it. I didn’t know because I was white. I’m sure my friends of other races knew about racism at a very early age. They must have. They face it every day.As I got older, I began to hear people say things that troubled me, even people I knew and loved. I was shocked when my cousin told me a story about our grandmother who was perhaps the nicest person to ever walk this planet. They were at the grocery store and my cousin said “Hi” to a kid she knew from high school. Grandmother pulled her aside and said, “Nice white girls don’t talk to negro boys in public.” Thankfully, my cousin didn’t listen to her and continued to be friends with the boy. Still, the whole thing shocked and infuriated us both. We were both stunned and it took us a long while to reconcile how such a lovely and kind soul could say something so hateful. Of course, our grandmother was raised in a different time, with her own mother being born in the South during the Civil War, an American war all about racism. It didn’t excuse her actions, but perhaps explained them.I really began to understand racism when I moved to New York and made friends from all races and religions. I heard their stories about things that had happened to them growing up. And I started to really pay attention to the slight digs — and bigger ones, too — in a different way. Then the racial incidents started to stack up — and I started to speak out. Of course, my understanding of racism in no way compares to how a person of colour understands racism. And therein lies the problem. The current protestsThe continuing violence is also hard for many to understand, but it’s not just about the incredibly disturbing death of George Floyd. No. It’s also about Eric Garner. Philando Castile. Michael Brown. Alton Sterling, Delrawn Small and so many more. Sadly, the list of unarmed black men who have brutally died at the hands of the police is far longer than these few names.These protests aren’t simply about one man’s death. Rather, they are about 400 years of pent up resentment and anger. After the events this week, an African American friend, Kat van Zutphen, wrote a powerful text that left me sitting in stunned silence. When I asked her about it, she shared more, including a poem she wrote which hit me hard and it made me think a bit deeperKat is in true pain as are many of my black friends and this incident is somehow worse for them than others that have gone before. It’s a pain that goes to her core. This horrific murder was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Those who have been wronged have found their voice. Couple that with the cabin fever, unemployment and fear caused by COVID-19 and you have a country gone seemingly crazy. And let’s remember that people of colour in the US have been far harder hit than whites by the pandemic, both medically and financially. The situation was a powder keg just waiting to go off. Who’s to blame for the violence?My friends back home have witnessed some of the protests. They say the day-time protests are different than protests that have gone before. It’s not just blacks marching in anger. Rather, the daytime protests are peaceful with people from all races marching side by side for justice and that makes my heart happy. Whites are also speaking out, standing shoulder to shoulder.But at night things sour and violence erupts.To me, this doesn’t feel like the riots of before, usually isolated to one city. I personally suspect that there are opportunists taking advantage of the situation, fuelled by lost jobs and anger. And don’t be fooled: it’s not just blacks who are looting and burning cars. Several of my journalist friends have witnessed whites doing awful things, too — then blaming the blacks. And please note that all those protesting are not rioting. Most are peacefully asking for change and justice. Unfortunately, all it takes is the actions of a few to make the whole cause look bad, to turn opinion.The sad thing is these riots are actually having the opposite effect of what they want to accomplish. Prior to the violence, people could clearly see that the policeman who killed George Floyd had done something terribly wrong. But now, people watching the riots are growing less sympathetic to their cause. Stores are having to board up, fearful of being looted, slowing the economy even more after COVID-19 has already wreaked havoc with 40 million people unemployed. And the fear of a second wave of COVID-19 because of all the mingling during the protests is there, too.Like I said, I’m not so sure people want to be American any more.The police and racismYou can’t talk about what’s happening now without also talking about the actions of the police. Of course, not all police officers are racist and horrible. A generalisation like that is the same as generalising that black people are all violently rioting. I have family members who are police officers and I know they aren’t racist. And there have been many police officers across the US taking a knee in support of the protestors. Some are even hugging the protestors. For those officers on the front lines, I can only imagine how frightening it is to be a police officer — particularly a white officer — in the middle of these incredibly angry crowds. I also saw an amazing image of a chain of black people protecting a white officer separated from the other officers. There is definitely still good in America.But we must acknowledge the violence on both sides – and there have been some truly horrendous actions by the police over the years, including this week. This violence is not only against the rioters, but journalists, too. Police shot a rubber bullet at a journalist in Minneapolis. She’s now permanently blind in one eye. Another friend of mine covering the Minneapolis riots had his camera bashed with a nightstick. A CNN reporter was arrested while live on the air. He happened to also be black.Where does this racism come from? Hate is passed on from generation to generation, plain and simple. Years ago, I was a producer for Sally Jesse Raphael, a talk show that always had these ridiculously salacious topics. One particular show about racism really unnerved me. A  two-year-old toddler on the show screamed, “I hate niggers. I wish they were all dead.” The audience gasped. The toddler’s mom then yelled, “You tell ‘em, baby”, obviously proud of her little hate-filled child. That little kid still haunts me — to have so much hate at such a young age is unfathomable. The only way she could have learned to hate that much was from her parents.As I see it, Trump has also given the haters a voice. Trump has made it okay to say hateful things because he says hateful things, too. People may have felt these things before, but they kept it to themselves. It’s almost like, because the President can be hateful, the public can be, too. I always strongly disliked Trump, but I knew who he was. What’s hit me hardest about this period of time is that people I thought I knew well are also spewing hate. My morning Facebook feed is like a civics lesson; some supporting the protests, some upset by them. Not all Trump supporters are racist, absolutely not. But those who are seem to now feel it’s okay to say awful things publicly. Thankfully, most of my friends are upset by the racism. Of that, I am grateful.It’s not necessarily that racism is worse now, only that it’s more openly displayed and the resulting violence is worse. When these incidents happened under Obama, a calm and collected African American president called for restraint and people listened. This time, there’s no calming voice. For a while, it seemed like America was on its way to less racism. We had a black president. Though to be fair, it’s likely Obama being president stirred the racists’ feelings of hate. Somebody told me they heard a wealthy, older white man say, “The white man is down now” after Obama was elected. Trump just fanned the fire. And stunts like tear-gassing a crowd so Trump can then stand on the front steps of a church with a Bible in his hand for a photo op doesn’t help the situation at all.So what’s the solution to racism in the US? Talking. Open discourse. Sharing. The racism horrors of this week actually may be the start of something good. There might be a silver lining to all this. How? Because after all this violence, there will be a reckoning. There has to be. What is happening is too big to ignore. We will have to talk. We have to face an ugly reality that has been a part of America’s makeup for centuries. Hopefully, the discussion can begin. Maybe, just maybe, the country can begin to heal. We’ve come a long way from Civil War, a long way from desegregation. Yet we still have a helluva uphill climb ahead.But where do we start? Yes, we need to take a long, hard look at our police departments, but it goes beyond that. We need to acknowledge what the other is feeling, accepting our differences and finding our commonalities. We don’t need to be colour-blind. We need to be colour-accepting. The most important thing my mother taught me was, “You can find something to like about everybody if you just look hard enough.” We as a nation need to look at people who are different from us and find something to like. Maybe it’s something as stupid as liking the same kind of ice cream. But it’s a start. As my friend told me, stereotypes are for the lazy. Don’t be lazy. Get to know people and be an ambassador for your own race and religion. My father grew up in the South. In WWII, he was stationed with white men. As an adult, he worked only with white people. So he never really knew any black people at all. He was a bigot in some ways, though not maliciously so; he didn’t spew hate. Rather, he just didn’t know anybody black and he believed the stereotypes. All that changed when my mother died and I moved him to an assisted living in New Jersey. His two best friends there were black and Jewish. All it took was making new friends to start his heart down an amazing journey. And then my brother married a Latina woman. My dad loved her dearly. All to say, my father grew and learned to think very differently all because of relationships he made. If a man in his late 70s can take that journey, so can we all.What can we each do about racism?At first glance, it seems like I can’t do much from Singapore, but I can actually. I can speak out. I can say something when I see something. I can let my friends of different colours know I see them as people. I can teach my children to be accepting. I will never understand the struggle of my black friends fully, but I can let them know I stand with them in solidarity. And I can work at being more aware every day. In his book, How to be an Antiracist, Ibram Kendi argues that to reject racism is insufficient — rather, one must practice antiracism, which demands “persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism and regular self-examination.” I’m in.Of course, this is all easy for me to say as a privileged white woman living in Singapore. And I admit, I’m not always perfectly anti-racist. I was one of only two white people in a room when each of the OJ Simpson verdicts came back. For the first criminal trial, I was in a television studio. When the verdict came back in the civil trial, I was a reporter in a bar with my Hispanic cameraman. Both times, I felt very white and uncomfortable. And a black mob once tried to turn over my satellite truck in Newark, New Jersey. Again, I was scared. But I fought the feeling of fear and hate and in each instance listened to what the angry people said — and I learned something.I believe we all need to start small and find commonalities. All of us hurt when someone we love hurts. All of us want what’s best for our children. And just about everybody likes ice cream. If nothing else, start there. Find something in common and try to change your corner of the world through understanding.  Final wordI still cry when I sing “The Star Spangled Banner”, but for different reasons now. I still love my country, but I mourn it, too. From the other side of the globe, I see it the way others see it now. Yet I also see glimmers of hope. White and black are marching arm in arm. That is good. I know the great American spirit will rise again and out of these ashes will come a new understanding. The riots are awful, but at least in the US, we are allowed into protest. We can speak out. And we can remember that our differences are what made our country great. Like a phoenix, America will rise. We will continue the long journey of battling racism and grow. This, I know. And I will once again be proud to say, “I am an American.”This graphic video by the New York Times gives a minute-by-minute account of George Floyd’s death.Want to learn more? Read our article about the perks of a multicultural society. Looking for books to delve deeper? Here are some suggestions.

Helping migrant workers during COVID-19

24th April 2020 by Melinda Murphy 3 Min ReadWant to know how to help Singapore’s migrant workers through the COVID-19 crisis? Here we meet DIPA SWAMINATHAN, the Singaporean woman behind one organisation that’s been supporting migrant workers for years — even more so now in this crisis. And then learn what you can do to pitch in to help yourself. There’s a lot to be done as nearly one in five people living in Singapore is a migrant worker, with 300,000 of them living in the dorms.Tell us about the organisation you founded.It’s Raining Raincoats started in 2015. I was doing bits here and there on my own to support the migrant workers. A Facebook post in a now-defunct group went a bit viral and the Singaporean Kindness Movement encouraged me to create an official organisation to support migrant workers. At the time, my suggestion was to carry around disposable raincoats and give them to migrant workers as they’re often caught in the rain without one. When the government asked me for a name, I came up with “It’s Raining Raincoats.” Now, we do a lot more than just raincoats.What’s the mission of the organisation?It’s a simple mission: support migrant workers. We try to do whatever it takes to do that, short of legal representation. No worker who comes to us in need goes away without help. We’ve been successful because we’ve come up with fairly simple, innovative and imaginative ways residents can reach out to migrant workers in need.You have a big job as the Assistant Counsel General at Singtel. How do you have time to do this too?I’m hooked. I get such satisfaction when we get these heart-warming messages from the migrant workers saying things such as, “Thank you. I was so hungry. Your gift meant a lot. God bless you”. It’s an empowering feeling knowing I can help somebody. Yes, it takes a lot out of me to do all this, but it also energises me. I wake up every morning buzzing with ideas, limited only by my time to give. It also helps that I have an amazing team supporting me.How does It’s Raining Raincoats help migrant workers?In normal times, we run several drives for migrant workers throughout the year. For example, at Deepavali, we do drive-by pizza drop-offs. At Christmas, we make sure every worker gets a gift, even if it’s something small such as Tiger Balm that the worker can use. Each gift is wrapped with a handwritten note. We have 30 to 40 collection points across the country for that. We also run a year-round activity, collecting unsold food from designated Starbucks outlets, four times a week, all year long. That obviously is suspended now, but we always need help with these types of ongoing things and we will continue to need help, long after the crisis has passed.Do you need volunteers?We have been very fortunate with lots people reaching out to help the migrant workers during this crisis. In fact, the number of volunteers has swollen, doubling in size from our normal ranks and we now have about 500 people on our roster. Managing them all becomes a whole separate problem for an all-volunteer group. My hope is that we keep some of these amazing volunteers after the current crisis is over. There will be a lot of clean up from this such as workers not being paid; people too weak to work; breadwinners who no longer have jobs; figuring out where do they go and more. This will not abate soon – our worry is that this crisis will not disappear overnight.How can somebody help the migrant workers now?The best way to help just now is for a person to come to us with a fully-formed and executed idea. Once you tell us what you’ve done, we can then help with the last-mile assistance, meaning we can help you get your collection to the workers in need.For example, you can self-organise a drive in your condo, at your school, within an organisation or amongst friends. Once you have everything collected, we can help get it there. Normally, we accept pre-loved items, but just now, we need to be careful not to inadvertently bring germs to the migrant workers so all items must be new.If you look on our Facebook page, you can see what’s needed, but items to help pass the time such as games, puzzles and cards, old phones in working condition, data top-up cards, books and magazines in their language, and snacks are always appreciated. It’s better to give smaller amounts in bigger quantities so we can spread the joy. For example, give five $10 data top-up cards rather than one $50 card. The government is providing Wi-Fi for these workers, but there is always more needed.For more information about It’s Raining Raincoats, check out their Facebook page.Here are more ideas about how to give back during the COVID-19 crisis.

Know your birds!

7th February 2020 by Expat Living 4 Min ReadEven if bird watching is not your thing, there are some interesting and beautiful birds in Singapore. Most of them don’t hang around the CBD much, but they are out there. Here’s seven types for you to get to know for when you spot one.Oriental Pied HornbillThis large black-and-white bird lives high in tree canopies, mostly on Pulau Ubin and near Changi. Its trademark bill has a knob on top known as a casque, made of honeycombed tissue. The bird’s loud call has been described as a cross between a cackling witch and a monkey! Hornbills mostly eat fruit and small critters such as lizards. Unfortunately, this beauty is listed as critically endangered.Did you know? The male hornbill helps to seal the female into a suitable hole in a tree, leaving only a slit for slipping food in, protecting the chicks until they’re strong enough to leave the nest. Javan MynahThe most common bird in Singapore was brought to Singapore as a pet in the 1920s.Now? You can find them everywhere – to the point that some people hate them. The early bird gets the worm, and mynahs get up early to scavenge insects, fruit and leftover human food and hawker scraps. They can be aggressive about food, boldly working an area as a group.Did you know? Researchers believe the prevalence of the mynah may be contributing to the decline of other Singapore bird numbers. Black-naped OrioleYou can recognise this stunner by its bright yellow colour with black on its wings and over its eyes – like a masked crusader. They’re fun to watch, too. Courtship is like a chase scene from a Tom Cruise movie, taking place at high speeds with the male in hot pursuit of the female. Their songs can be melodious and beautiful; at other times, they sound more like a cat. And, like cats, they chase other birds and often raid their nests. Did you know? This oriole has been featured on Singapore currency in the past. Little EgretThough these are Singapore’s smallest egrets, they make a sound more like a big turkey. The species faces no threat of extinction, maybe because of their cool hunting technique: they stalk prey in shallow water, often running with raised wings or shuffling their feet to get small fish moving. On land, they do the same thing to snag an occasional reptile or insect.Did you know? You can find them in wetland areas, often in flocks.Asian Glossy StarlingEver been on Orchard around sunset and heard what feels like millions of birds chirping all at once? Those are starlings. They’re kind of lazy (or smart maybe?), nesting in manmade spots such as abandoned buildings, before congregating in trees or on high wires for their nightly party. They often swallow fruit whole, helping to distribute seeds. Did you know? On first sight, they look black, but they’re actually an iridescent green, with red eyes. Olive-backed SunbirdThese beautiful small yellow songbirds are common in Singapore and really share the load when it comes to child-rearing. Together, they build a cool, flask-shaped nest where the female will lay one or two blue-green eggs. After the chicks hatch, both the male and female bring them food.Did you know? You can tell the male apart from the female as he has a beautiful blue breast.Coppersmith BarbetThese multi-coloured beauties are related to woodpeckers and are quite common in Singapore. If you’re lucky, you can find a pair who are courting, a process that involves an entire dance routine, with singing, puffing the throat, bobbing the head, flicking the tail and more.Did you know? They didn’t get their name for their copper-coloured heads, but rather because their call sounds like a coppersmith striking a hammer. KingfishersThere are two stunning but rare kingfishers found in Singapore. The first is the blue-eared kingfisher with its striking royal blue body and copper-coloured undercarriage. And then there’s the oriental dwarf kingfisher that you can sometimes spot in the winter. This little guy looks like he flew through a Holi festival as he’s covered with so many beautiful, bright colours.Did you know? Singapore is home to a total of eight different types of kingfisher.Want to learn more and even hear what these birds sound like? Check out singaporebirds.com. There’s also a helpful free app for iPhones called “Birds of Singapore”.This article first appeared in the February 2020 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!

Go plastic-free in Singapore

8th January 2020 by Michaela Bisset 2 Min ReadIt’s difficult to go completely plastic-free but trying to reduce single-use plastic should be a priority. Most of us know to say no to straws or take-away cutlery, but let’s look at some long-term solutions. Here are some tips for beginners and products available in Singapore to make your transition go smoothly – and, dare we say, stylishly too!For eating and drinkingDaCool Insulated Lunch Container – stainless-steel vacuum bento lunch box for kids and adults, with spoonReusable Travel Utensils Cutlery Set – includes chopsticks!Ezprogear Stainless Steel Travel Tumbler Vacuum Insulated MugStainless Steel Straws – including ones for bubble tea, yum!Hydro Cell Stainless Steel Water Bottle with StrawFor shoppingMost of us have moved from countries that have already banned plastic bags and are now used to bringing our own. However, it’s not just the bags at the end of the check-out we need to think of. It’s also the smaller ones like bags for vegetables, fruit and generally any unnecessarily wrapped objects.Try bulk food shopping – places like Scoop or The Source are great options as you can bring your own jars and glass bottles, and fill them up. And don’t forget to bring these produce bags! For the bathroomEco-Friendly Bamboo Toothbrush Set – four engraved toothbrushes, bamboo travel case and charcoal bamboo dental flossEthique Eco-Friendly Deodorant Bar – check out their other products, like shampoo, conditioner and makeup remover barsBamboo Organic Reusable Makeup Remover Pads, Makeup Flawless Blending Sponge, Cotton Laundry Bag – washable and eco-friendly pads and soft, latex-free sponges for all skin typesWeishi Nostalgic Long-handle Butterfly Open Double Edge Safety RazorBamboo Toothbrush Set for Kids – four biodegradable toothbrushes and two panda suction toothbrush holdersSaalt Soft Menstrual Cup – super soft, flexible and sensitive cup; can be worn for 12 hoursWowe Natural Biodegradable Peace Silk Dental Floss – with mint-flavoured wax and refillable stainless steel containerSuperBee Eco Set – plastic-free set including beeswax wrap, bamboo toothbrush, produce bags, bamboo straws with coconut bristle brush and toothpaste tabsFor more helpful tips, head to our Living in Singapore section.

How to go plastic-free in Singapore

8th January 2020 by Michaela Bisset 2 Min ReadIt’s difficult to go plastic-free but trying to reduce single-use plastic should be a priority. Most of us know to say no to straws or take-away cutlery, but let’s look at some long-term solutions. Here are some tips for beginners and products available in Singapore to make your transition go smoothly – and, dare we say, stylishly too!For eating and drinkingDaCool Insulated Lunch Container – stainless-steel vacuum bento lunch box for kids and adults, with spoonReusable Travel Utensils Cutlery Set – includes chopsticks!Ezprogear Stainless Steel Travel Tumbler Vacuum Insulated MugStainless Steel Straws – including ones for bubble tea, yum!Hydro Cell Stainless Steel Water Bottle with StrawFor shoppingMost of us have moved from countries that have already banned plastic bags and are now used to bringing our own. However, it’s not just the bags at the end of the check-out we need to think of. It’s also the smaller ones like bags for vegetables, fruits and generally any unnecessarily wrapped objects.Try bulk food shopping – places like Scoop or The Source are great options as you can bring your own jars and glass bottles, and fill them up. And don’t forget to bring these produce bags! For the bathroomEco-Friendly Bamboo Toothbrush Set – four engraved toothbrushes, bamboo travel case and charcoal bamboo dental flossEthique Eco-Friendly Deodorant Bar – check out their other products, like shampoo, conditioner and makeup remover barsBamboo Organic Reusable Makeup Remover Pads, Makeup Flawless Blending Sponge, Cotton Laundry Bag – washable and eco-friendly pads and soft, latex-free sponges for all skin typesWeishi Nostalgic Long-handle Butterfly Open Double Edge Safety RazorBamboo Toothbrush Set for Kids – four biodegradable toothbrushes and two panda suction toothbrush holdersSaalt Soft Menstrual Cup – super soft, flexible and sensitive cup; can be worn for 12 hoursWowe Natural Biodegradable Peace Silk Dental Floss – with mint-flavoured wax and refillable stainless steel containerSuperBee Eco Set – plastic-free set including beeswax wrap, bamboo toothbrush, produce bags, bamboo straws with coconut bristle brush and toothpaste tabsFor more helpful tips, head to our Living in Singapore section.

How to help Australia’s fire crisis

6th January 2020 by Expat Living 2 Min ReadAustralia is barely a third of the way through summer, so the bushfires that are raging across the country are, sadly, unlikely to disappear any time soon. And they may just get much worse. That’s saying something, too, because already an area 70 times the size of Singapore has been destroyed, with over 20 human lives lost, along with hundreds of millions of animals. Some reports suggest that as many as 25,000 koalas may have perished in the fires.At Expat Living, we not only have loads of Aussie readers, but several Aussie team members. Our hearts go out to all of them and any of their family and friends who may be affected. (One of our editors has personal friends who’ve evacuated their home twice in recent weeks, with serious fires coming within 500 metres of the front door – they are among the very lucky ones.)The good news is that anyone can put their hand up to help fight the problem, even from overseas. Here are just a few of the key organisations, with links for helping donate.Also, locally, Carrotsticks & Cravings is holding fundraising lunches – for more information, see their Facebook page.Australian Red CrossClick here to support people at evacuation centres and recovery hubs, provide emergency assistance, support volunteers, cover essential costs, and help with cash grants to people who have lost homes in the bushfires.NSW Rural Fire ServiceDonations made here can directly benefit volunteer firefighters and assist the service as it conducts community activities including fundraising through door-knocks, letterbox drops and functions.WIRES Wildlife RescueAs we’ve mentioned, it’s not just people who are affected by the bushfire disaster. The impact on animal populations has been devastating. Donations to WIRES will assist with the rescue and care of native animals in the immediate instance, plus their ongoing protection and preservation.VIC Bushfire Disaster AppealOne hundred percent of donated funds to this appeal go directly to communities in need. Those living outside Australia should email the Community Enterprise Foundation at: [email protected] for assistance.South Australian Country Fire ServiceKangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia has been hit particularly hard. Find out how to offer donations to help people and animals in need here, along with general disaster recovery for the state.The Salvation ArmyThe Salvation Army offers financial assistance, support services, information and advice to those impacted by the bushfires. Find contact details for enquiries and donations here.Finally, you can keep up to date with rolling news services like this one.[embedded content]

Environment News – keeping up to date!

14th October 2019 by Melinda Murphy 3 Min ReadKeeping up to date with Mother Nature should be a high priority for all of us. The world is always in a state of change, but we can do our bit to protect the unwanted changes. Recycling and reusing where we can and making sure to limit our carbon footprint should be basics. Here’s a bit of what’s been going on recently in our beautiful world.Mourning a GlacierIceland held the world’s first ever funeral for a glacier in August. The Okjökull glacier was the first in the country to be lost to climate change after the warmest July ever on record. Scientists fear all the island’s hundreds of other glaciers will be gone by 2200 as about 11 billion tonnes of ice per year are melting currently. Good News for CoralA scientific breakthrough at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa could potentially save America’s Barrier Reef, the third-largest reef in the world, which lies just off the Florida Keys. The project made history when a group of coral reproduced two days in a row for the first time in a lab setting. Being able to grow coral in a lab is good news as a disease is wiping out pillar coral in the reef. Who knows? Maybe the process can save all at-risk reefs. Trouble for the Earth’s LungsBrazil declared a state of emergency in August over the number of fires in the region, most of them in the Amazon. More than 74,000 fires have been detected by Brazil’s space research centre. That’s an 85 percent increase from 2018. The fires are so bad that smoke completely darkened the skies in August over São Paolo, 2,700km away. The fires were caused by humans, either accidentally or deliberately. The Amazon produces more than 20 percent of the world’s oxygen so these fires could potentially have a global effect. Farewell to an Icon?Giraffes may not be around for your grandchildren to see. Two subspecies have been added to the critically endangered red list for the first time. Giraffe numbers plummeted by a staggering 40 percent in the last three decades, with less than 100,000 remaining today. Loss of habitat and poaching are two big causes for the dramatic slide towards extinction. Gift for BumblebeesHolland has covered hundreds of bus stops in Utrecht with plants as a way to support the honeybee population. The roofs, which are primarily covered in sedum, also capture dust and rainwater. (They also look pretty cool!) The honeybee population is in danger globally because of insecticides. See more in our Environment section!This article first appeared in the October 2019 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue.

Fighting food waste in Singapore

Ever wonder what happens to all that food left over from a hotel buffet? Here’s how one entrepreneur is using technology to solve the problem of food waste in Singapore.An idea for changeIt all came about when PRESTON WONG, in his final year of the graduate law programme at the National University of Singapore at the time, witnessed his family throwing away consumable but expiring food from the fridge. It was then that Preston hatched the idea of a mobile app that could reallocate surplus food.After much research, he learnt that food wastage in Singapore amounted to an astonishing 800,000 tons or more a year. And, while there were charities working to reduce food wastage, he felt a solution involving technology could create greater impact. In 2016, Preston began exploring the idea of an app with his co-founder, Kenneth Ham, who, at the time, was a computer science undergraduate. After a year of market research and development, the two launched the free app in 2017. It was Singapore’s first mobile reservation platform for surplus food, encouraging consumers and businesses to “treat food as treasure”. Their company became one of the pioneer start-ups in the budding surplus food space, says Preston, Treatsure’s CEO.Of course, it was a challenge convincing businesses to come on board initially. Those more traditionally inclined toward throwing away food were mostly focused on taking care of their core businesses rather than food wastage.“At the same time,” says Preston, “those businesses who were more receptive thought it was an innovative idea and, of course, felt that perhaps it was time they used technology to increase their reach while at the same time doing some good.”Buffet-in-a-boxIn 2018, Preston and his team created the takeaway “buffet-in-a-box” concept with the goal of helping hotels reduce wastage. App users can purchase takeaway boxes during the last 30 to 60 minutes of a hotel’s buffet mealtime, filling each box with their preferred foods from the buffet line for just $10 – a proposition that strikes a “winwin” for everyone, says Preston.“Buffets are normally a strictly dine-in affair for most hotels. But, this is the first time in the Asia Pacific region that customers are allowed to take away buffet items.”Five hotels initially came on board, with Grand Hyatt Singapore being the first partner hotel of the bunch. No surprise there. The Grand Hyatt has been instrumental in Singapore’s sustainability movement as far back as 2010. That’s when it began managing food waste at the source by reducing the total number of suppliers and focusing on sustainably sourced ingredients. Additionally, the hotel uses a food waste plant to convert 1,000kg of daily food waste into pathogen-free organic fertilisers. These are then used at the property’s green spaces. “We are a 677-room hotel with 16 event venues and five restaurants generating over 5,000 meals daily. We recognised early on that there is a massive opportunity for us to do good for the environment and the community we operate in if we can better manage our food waste,” says Chef LUCAS GLANVILLE, Grand Hyatt’s Director of Culinary Operations. “It’s very heartening and encouraging to see start-ups such as Treatsure stepping up to this responsibility as well. We do not see this cannibalising our business in any way. Rather, it’s an opportunity to provide better value to diners – whether they’re dining late after work or simply looking for the best deal – while better managing our edible leftovers.”Growing interestOther hotels soon followed suit, including Novotel Singapore on Stevens and Mercure on Stevens. Both hotels have weighed food waste since last year in an effort to stay aware of the amount being prepared. They’re also constantly looking for like-minded partners to find solutions for food waste, says KEVIN BOSSINO. Kevin is Vice President of Operations for Accor Singapore and GM of Novotel and Mercure on Stevens Road.“Including Treatsure into our ecosystem benefits all stakeholders in both hotels. For our guests, we provide a value-for-money buffet-in-a-box concept in three restaurants; for the hotel, we reduce the amount of food that goes to waste,” he says. There are four other Accor properties in Singapore that also use Treatsure to redistribute spare food that’s still perfectly safe for consumption: Swissotel The Stamford, Fairmont Singapore, Novotel Clarke Quay and Ibis Novena. In fact, the concept has proven so effective that Accor is looking to expand the use of the tool within its hotels internationally, says VERONIQUE AUGIER NEL, Director of Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility (Asia Pacific) for Accor. Food waste has risen by 40 percent in the last decade. Veronique says that Accor is pledging to reduce this by 30 percent before 2021.Hotel Jen Tanglin and Hotel Jen at Orchardgateway are also Treatsure partners, both committed to sustainability and growing public awareness of the impact of food waste in Singapore. The hotels, part of the Shangri-La Hotel Group, see the partnership with Treatsure as the perfect opportunity to “leverage the power of technology to tackle the topic of excess food from buffet spreads.” So far, reception of the buffet-in-a-box concept has been positive, with thousands of boxes sold in the last few months, says Preston. “This is a saving of thousands of portions of food!”He says he sees a number of regular customers, particularly when they work or live nearby one of the hotels. Many customers don’t have time to cook, he says, so they grab a buffet-in-a-box for themselves and even their families, as multiple boxes can be purchased per person.Here’s how it worksThe customer checks the app to see when the partner restaurants are serving buffet meals that day. The restaurants listed in the app will “light up” depending on whether they’re open. After clicking on the desired restaurant, a meal can be “reserved” during the last hour of the buffet. The user then has 25 minutes to get to the restaurant to redeem the meal. Alternatively, they can walk into the restaurant to redeem on the spot. However, this option carries the risk of getting there only to find there are no more boxes available, as each buffet limits the number of boxes taken away each day.Whether the customer redeems on the spot or reserves in advance, he or she will scan a QR code at the outlet before making payment at the restaurant in person. The customer is then given a “Treatsure box” to fill with the food items of his or her choice. (Note: some hotels have exclusions on raw seafood, sushi, cheese and other items for safety reasons.)What’s next?Preston says the Treatsure team is seeing a lot of curiosity from the public – Singaporean and expat alike. In fact, many expats download the app when they arrive, because sustainability is part of their home country culture.In addition to the recently added option of purchasing surplus or “ugly” fruits and vegetables through the app and having them delivered, Preston says that Treatsure has just starting reallocating other surplus products with shelf lives such as dairy products, potato chips and sauces. The company also recently partnered with Unpackt, Singapore’s first zero-waste packaging grocery store. Treatsure has a display shelf of surplus goods there for users to grab and go at the store’s Tanjong Pagar and Thomson outlets.“Supermarkets won’t take items if they have an expiry date within a certain number of months,” he says. “They often reject the items and send them back to the suppliers. We’re trying to step into that problem, rescuing the items with short life spans.”App users can also expect expansion to more hotel locations across Singapore, an increased number of hotel partners, and more suppliers with diverse products.Additionally, the Treatsure team is looking to “drive meaningful change in terms of packaging”. In the future, it hopes to replace the disposable (yet biodegradable) takeaway boxes that are used now with reusable containers. In the meantime, fine-tuning the app remains a priority, says Preston. “Development is still ongoing and it’s still quite new. We’re going to continue to improve the product as we go, based on user feedback.”The Treatsure app is available for download from the App Store and Google Play. For more details, visit treatsure.co. Like this? Read more in our Wine and Dine sectionNew nibbles: Where to dine this month20 fantastic halal restaurants to tryWork in the CBD? Here are some business district bitesThis article first appeared in the August 2019 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!

Banning the bag!

Plastic bags are a super convenient short-term solution that are used across many aspects of daily life, but what about their long-term effect on the planet?We’ve just had Plastic Free July, a global movement to encourage people around the world to stop using plastic. And it got us here at Expat Living thinking about our own use of plastic materials. So, we made a change when we were told the laminate of the front cover wasn’t bio-degradable. Now? The entire magazine is completely recyclable. And it feels good.How about you; what can you do to help? Well, you could start by refusing single-use plastic bags. Why? Because the world uses five trillion of them a year! That’s 160,000 for every second, or 700 a year for every single person on the planet. Truth be told, your own plastic bag usage may well be closer to double the 700, as there are plenty of people around the world who don’t use any at all. Wealthier countries tend to use more. Granted, those numbers aren’t exact. In fact, nobody seems to be able to really keep track of how many bags are being produced and used. But even the most conservative figures, those published by the Earth Policy Institute, suggest that two million bags are used per minute. Worse yet, according to environmental resource The World Counts, only one percent of these bags are recycled.Ouch. That’s bad. You know it’s bad. I mean, we can all list the things that are terrible about plastic bags: harm to animals, contamination of food supplies, global warming and so much more. You know all this. You must – the message is everywhere you turn.Places with bag bansThankfully, the world is finally listening. As of last July, 127 countries have banned or taxed bags, according to the United Nations. And it seems everybody is getting on the bandwagon; even an Al Qaeda-backed terrorist group reportedly banned plastic shopping bags last summer as “a serious threat to the wellbeing of humans and animals alike.” Wow. They’ll blow up people, but won’t use a plastic bag – seems a bit ironic.Bangladesh was the first country to completely ban bags – way back in 2002. But it is Africa, perhaps surprisingly, that has the most countries (34) adopting bag-related regulations, some of which are pretty tough, too. Kenya is particularly punitive: plastic bag manufacturers, importers, distributors and users face fines of up to US$38,000 or four years in jail.But do these bans work? Sometimes. Denmark was the first to pass a plastic bag tax, in 1993. Now? Each person living there uses just four bags a year. Some studies show that, while shopping bag use declines after legislation is passed, the sales of trash bags climbs. Kenya has even seen bag “cartels” pop up: people who smuggle in plastic bags from neighbouring Uganda and Tanzania. Crazy, right? And, of course, the folks who make the plastic bags are doing all they can to fight these bans. After all, they’ve made a ton of money since this convenient product exploded on the scene post-World War II. Plastic bags are such a part of life now. It’s hard to imagine that it wasn’t until the 1970s that they gained popularity. Action at homeThe United States is the worst offender with only a few states banning or limiting use. Shockingly, Singapore, which is such a green nation, has no plastic bag regulations in place.The good news is that people here are starting to do something. For starters, there’s an organisation called Bring Your Own (Singapore). Its basic mission is to work with retailers to offer incentives to customers to bring their own reusable bags, bottles or containers. As of May 2019, it had 632 outlets from 82 brands participating.In July, Bring Your Own took things one step further by targeting a specific industry, launching the Bread Without Bags campaign. The idea was to encourage bakeries across Singapore to give incentives to their customers to bring their own bags. And it was successful, too. Well over 20 bakeries, including the likes of Maison Kayser and Keong Saik Bakery, as well as shopping centres such as Takashimaya and City Square Mall participated. (Want to get involved yourself? Check out byosingapore.com.)It’s a good start, but we can do more. Don’t wait for a law or a tax. Just take it upon yourself and do the right thing. Bring your own bags. Stop using plastic ones. Help save the planet. It’s that simple. Did you know?The amount of petroleum it takes to produce one plastic bag could drive a car eleven metres. A plastic bag is used for an average of 12 minutes.Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris most found in coastal clean-ups.If we joined all the plastic bags in the world together, they would circumnavigate the globe 4,200 times.If just one person used recycled plastic bags over their lifetime, they would be removing 22,000 plastic bags from the environment.For more helpful tips, head to our Environment section.Our drowning planet10 wild animals you can spot in SingaporeWomen can use 9,600 tampons in a lifetime – here’s an alternative This article first appeared in the August 2019 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!