Monday, April 21, 2008

Asia's "greenest" city?

My announcement that there was a plastic bag for empty cans near the cooler was met by a chorus of "Wah! Gina - so green lah!" from our Singaporean friends at the BBQ. Green, for suggesting that we recycle our cans? Green for 1985 maybe.

But such is the sad state of affairs in Singapore, the "greenest" city in Asia. It is green by physical description, but by no means in its commitment to the environment, unfortunately. Though the rumblings of "going green" are present here as they seem to be everywhere now, Singapore is slow to respond. From what I understand, the sentiment here is that Singapore is a small country and therefore its "carbon footprint" must be small. But a recent study of impact on the environment ranked Singapore #22 out of the world. This, from a country that is 15 by 25 miles long.

In some ways, Singaporeans could seem like they are environmentally conscious - they rarely run air con at home, take cold showers and generally use cold water for everything, use public transport, reuse many items like plastic bags. But as a recent magazine article here pointed out, that's not green, it's cheap. They want to save money. Singaporeans like comfort and convenience as much as the next human. Maybe more.

I don't mean this to be an indictment against Singapore, but it's frustrating to try to be environmentally conscious in a country that doesn't seem to care. Though many stores now sell reusable bags, actually using them is a struggle not just because of the strange looks I get, but because Mustafa (where I do most of my shopping) won't let you. Since you can check out at any of the plethora of checkout counters there, they cinch your bags closed with plastic ties. Can't do that with reusable bags. Instead, I just nag them to put more items in one bag so I have fewer, which is tiring. They're resistant. And recycling? You have to go find it. There is a place near us that takes metal and glass, but we have to drive to find a place for paper and cardboard. There is no encouragement to use such facilities.

Hybrid cars have finally come to Singapore, though I believe you need about $50,000 US to purchase one. I've debated lately getting rid of my car, or going back to using public transport more often, but I confess, with homeschooling, my time is precious and the thought of doing so stresses me out. So here I am pointing my finger back at myself. I'll do my part to take cold, short showers, bring my reusable bags or recycle the plastic ones, not run my AC unless I'm dripping, recycle what I can, but the reality is, if the people around me aren't pushing me to do it, I'm afraid I'm tempted to go with the flow and keep sucking the earth dry.

In my dreams, I build a house that is as eco-friendly as possible, with solar panels and an incinerator for garbage, and anything else I can afford to do to make less of an impact. I'll admit this desire is new for me, so I'm far from being labeled green (except it seems by Singaporean standards). Any suggestions on what else we can do here to save the earth, I'm open.


Ryan said...

No seriously, you could get where you're going in half the time if you floor it everywhere. That's less time you'll be expelling CO2 into the air. That makes sense, right?

Gina Marie said...

That would be SUCH a great idea if not for the pesky issue of speed limits. I didn't think Singapore paid much attention to them, but the other day I got caught by a speed camera going 14 kilometers over the speed limit (they're rarely posted, in my defense). They sent me a letter and just gave me a warning but it could have been a $130 fine and 4 demerit points (24 points per year - if you lose them all you lose your license).

The Brinks Family said...

Ryan is so with you...he wants to get a windmill for our next home to generate energy. I just raise my eyebrows, but in time I will embrace this I am sure. His motivation is more about saving a buck and some what of a hobbie/sciemce experiment. Better a windmill than a race car!