Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Shame On Who?

What happened at 9:25pm, 28 July 2015: dozens of students stormed the conference room at University of Hong Kong (HKU) where a closed-door meeting of the HKU Council was held and arrived at the decision to defer the appointment of a new pro-vice chancellor, after it was deferred last month. From the live news, we could see that as Billy Fung Jing-en, President of HKU’s student union, re-entered the conference room after a bathroom break, the students, previously protesting outside the conference room, also followed him into the room, and that’s how the chaos unfolded. Disruption to the meeting began as the students shouted “Shame on you!” at the council members. Amidst the chaos created by the students, Dr Lo Chung-mau, one of the HKU Council members who supported the deferral, was seen collapsing on the ground, the cause of his collapse is unclear, however. Students were heard calling Dr Lo’s collapse a fake flop, telling him to play football for Manchester United, some even threw in obscenities.

Besieged by the students, Dr Lo and the other council members were told by Yvonne Leung Lai-kwok, former President of HKU’s student union, that a path could be opened up for Dr Lo to leave the conference room for medical assistance, if all Council members went back to their seats, and provided no council members made an attempt to ‘escape’ the conference room.  What Leung also added was an appeal for the journalists to leave the conference room. In the end, council members Dr Lo and Ayesha Mcpherson were sent to the hospital, but not before one of the ambulances was barricaded by the students, and plastic water bottles hurled at Dr Lo.

While the causes of Dr Lo’s collapse remains unclear, the fact that the students prioritised their appeal (the revisit of the decision to defer appointment of pro-vice chancellor) over the wellbeing of a person goes on to show the younger generations’ fast dwindling respect for other people. And since when has disruptive behavior become the norm, the way to get your message across? It certainly brings back memories of the National Education protest and the Occupy Central sit-in: disrupt orders, not make compromises to seek mutual agreement, when you come across something that displeases you.

If I get to ask the students one question, it would be: Will you happily back down if the HKU Council appoints the pro-vice chancellor right now, except that that person won’t be Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun, as has been recommended for the post? Would that be political interference no more? That the students seem hung up about the appointment of Professor Johannes Chan, the rationale largely unknown, does boggle the mind.  

When asked about the chaos caused by the students at the council meeting, Billy Fung was quoted as saying, there isn’t anywhere the students can’t go at the university, because the university belongs to the students. What Billy Fung might have thought of as a witty excuse is really a statement that defies common sense. Think about this: Does it mean I can just walk into a random stranger’s home in Hong Kong because Hong Kong belongs to all Hongkongers? The reality that increasingly eludes young people these days is that there is law and order in society. What this means is, just because you are upset or dissatisfied about something doesn’t give you the right to breach law and order with impunity, such as illegally blocking major motorways or breaking into closed-door meetings uninvited. So widely glorified and yet so pathetic is such disruptive and rogue behaviour, with a disregard for other people’s rights and lack of intention to seek common grounds, among young adults these days.

For a person supposedly equipped with tertiary education, one would expect a more civilised way of engagement than a forced shut-in of council members who were verbally abused by students, not to mention their meeting adjourned because the students were displeased with the decision. The future of Hong Kong is fairly worrying, if these students are the leaders of our future.

Turning Food Waste into Nutritional Powder

Credit: Fast Coexist

Sorry to be talking about food waste again, but it IS a big issue, an ironic one at that too, with approximately 791 million people in developing countries going hungry while those in developed countries dump hundreds of thousands of tonnes of food waste into the landfill on a daily basis. The good news, however, is that individuals and organisations worldwide are increasingly devising ways to tackle the problem, not least by turning food that is intended for the landfill into something useful.

A Swedish startup, for instance, is drying fruits that are about to go bad into a nutritional powder called FoPo, which can be mixed with water or sprinkled on yoghurt or ice cream. According to Kent Ngo, one of the founders of FoPo, the shelf life of fruits can be extended from two weeks up to two years simply by drying them. Incidentally, the drying process can retain between 30% and 80% of the original nutritional value, and the fact that the fruits are now in powder form means easier logistics – they can be shipped to people living in hunger in parts of the world. Also, refrigeration, which could be an issue due to lack of electricity supply in developing countries, is not necessary for the fruits, now in powder form.

The founding students from Lund University in Sweden will be piloting FoPo this summer in the Philippines, where an enormous amount of food grown is wasted because of poor storage and transport. Who knows, food in powder form could be the food of the future if we’re to live sustainably. 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Taste Your Way Around Hong Kong

Credit: Hong Kong Foodie

It goes without saying that Hong Kong is a heaven for foodies with the plethora of cuisines that it offers – and at reasonable prices too. Yet its great culinary diversity available at numerous establishments also means that Hong Kong can really confuse first-timers to the city, especially those with limited time to roam the city – you’d want to get the best bang for your buck, naturally. This is where Hong Kong Foodie comes in handy.

Led by a team of adventurous, uncompromising and professional Foodie Guides, Hong Kong Foodie’s walking tours are designed to take participants off the beaten path for some of the city’s favourite, longest-standing eateries to eat like a local. The 12-pax Central and Sheung Wan Foodie Tour, for instance, will whisk you off to six locations for food and drink tastings at 2:15pm on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, and charges HKD720 per adult or HKD520 per child aged between five and 14. But the tour is more than just about stuffing your face – the guide will also take you through historical architectures in that part of Hong Kong. The Sham Shui Po and Tai Po Market foodie tours, meanwhile, will entice you with even more down-to-earth tastes of Hong Kong.

So yep, it’s really about walking and munching around the city. And seriously, why not?

Friday, 24 July 2015

Getaway and Have a Taste of Minimalist Living

Credit: Getaway

To a local Hongkonger, a ‘tiny house’ may not carry much of a positive connotation, considering that much of the city live in shoebox-sized apartments as a result of land scarcity and astronomical property prices. Yet with an increasing awareness on the benefits of minimalist living, tiny houses have recently acquired a rather different status worldwide, and start-ups like Getaway are opening up opportunities to interested individuals for a taste of minimalist living.

Launched at Harvard’s Innovation Lab, Getaway offers the chance to try living in a tiny house for a night or a weekend with its 160-square-foot, off-grid tiny house in the woods near Boston, before people make up their mind on whether they really want to live in a tiny house. The houses will be placed on land leased from local landowners, who don’t get to earn much from their land otherwise. The house, mind, is not built into the ground but rather a mobile home that is complete with solar power and composting toilets, and can be assembled in an hour, or driven away, leaving zero traces behind, when needs be. With their location completely secluded in the natural setting, equipped with comfortable beds, propane stove, and accessible just two hours’ drive from the city, these houses offer a great getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city – start campfires under the stars with freshcut firewood, or bike in the woods if you wish. Getaway also makes sure it is a sustainable business too, by investing money from you into the locals whose land makes Getaway possible.

So, what do you reckon? 

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The Pot Calling…


Upon coming home the other night, amidst the familiar chaos left behind by the cats during the day, I noticed something unusual: a pair of black Nike Roshe Run. I don’t mean predominantly black, but 100%, inside-out black. The pair that the boyfriend especially custom-made with NikeLab, out of his love of all things black, and his frustration that the blackest Nike Roshe Run would still come with a white rubber sole.

I can’t help but wonder if it’s this same penchant for the colour black that led the owner of Kettle Black to create a black menu, showcasing black ingredients the likes of squid ink, black garlic, charcoal bread and black truffles. You’ll sure be amazed by the Kettle Black Fried Chicken (HKD68) that look like charcoal pieces but are in fact fried with homemade charcoal-breadcrumb. The onion soup (HKD68) is also given a twist and presented with a black charcoal toast, layered with mozzarella and foie gras. A more filling option will be the foie gras and Wagyu burgers (HKD148) sandwiched with charcoal buns, served with fries and kimchi sauce. For that perfect beverage to wash down the food, get a bottle of the New Zealand-brewed Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black beer (HKD75).

So yep, a black-themed fare has just opened in the city, in case you’re stuck for outlets to get your black fix. 

Location: G/F, 198 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
Phone: +852 3628 2238
Opening Hours: 8am to 11pm (Monday to Saturday), 11am to 11pm (Sunday)

Monday, 20 July 2015

Adopt, Don’t Buy

Credit: SCMP

I’ve always loved dogs as a child. And while my parents weren’t entirely ‘struggling’ with finance, we were neither so well-off to afford a pet dog in our household, adoption was the only financially viable option. I remember visiting the small, dimly lit office of the then-RSPCA on Princess Margaret Road one Sunday. Dad told us that we were going to see if there was any chance we could adopt a dog. As a primary school pupil I was na├»ve enough to think that we could just bring home a dog on that day, so imagine the excitement I could barely contain. But my dream was soon shattered, as the soft-spoken officer said he would put us on a waiting list – with the size of our apartment, we were deemed suitable for a small dog, and like all animal shelters, it’s always the mid-sized or bigger dogs that are harder to be adopted. We hadn’t a clue how long we would have to wait, nor was the officer able to promise anything. The uncertainty was too much for me, and I was on the verge of crying.
I can’t remember the exact length of time in between, but my life changed forever on the day when I, then a primary three pupil, performed as a member of the school choir on graduation day. My family came to see my performance and when I met them outside the hall afterwards, my sister was flinging her arms and legs, asking if I’d seen her lipping the ‘good news’ for me. Of course I couldn’t see that from so far up the stage, but that didn’t matter anymore, because RSPCA called to say that they had our dog. It turned out dad had made a visit to the RSPCA before the graduation ceremony, and was given two options of adoptable dogs: one an extremely friendly and energetic mid-sized terrier-mix, and the other an older Yorkshire terrier that was a bit mangy and wouldn’t come out from the corner of the kennel. The terrier-mix was so friendly that he had paw prints all over my dad’s suit pants in a minute, but dad reckoned it was best for us to start with a smaller dog first.

We named the Yorkie Jimmy. We were told that he was four years old, but looking back he might have been older than that, and his age was tweaked to make the grumpy dog more adoptable. We were soon able to tell that Jimmy’s previous owner must have trained him very well: Jimmy would never pee in the home, not until we took him for a walk twice a day, and if he really couldn’t hold it, he would release himself inside the bathtub. He would never wander too far from us either, and he made sure to be there offering consolation whenever my sister and I fought over something silly. From his initial shyness and withdrawn character, we knew street life had taken its psychological toll, and physical toll too, from the bit of his ear that was bitten off. But Jimmy soon warmed up to us and embraced us as his family. He would be waiting by the door around 15 minutes before dad was due to be home from work every evening, and he once barked three mongrels away to protect dad on one of the evening walks, when dad was still devising an escape plan with Jimmy. Jimmy had brought us so much joy till the end, and we can easily be one of those who testify to the fact that rescued dogs repay your love by heaps and bounds.

We’ve had two more Yorkies after Jimmy. Jesper was given to us by a distant relative who only discovered their son’s allergy to animal hair after buying the adorable puppy, and Toffee was adopted from an animal rescue organisation who took over the poor girl after she was abandoned by a puppy mill. She was eight years old then. Toffee’s story broke our hearts: she was kept in a cage for much of her eight years of life, with no space to roam (which explains her deformed paws and why she doesn’t like to go for a walk), and was injected with so much medication that her skin became extremely sensitive. She would be on all fours at the smallest movement from us, but inheriting the dog’s virtue of living in the moment also means that she soon put her painful past behind her, and learnt to take all the love we were so ready to give her.

In case you’re wondering why I’m babbling about my family’s love of dogs, it’s because I’ve come across an SCMP feature on ‘The Hidden Plight of Production-line Pets’. That breeders are “churning out puppies like factory items” is no news, not since the 1980s, when the majority of Hongkongers have achieved such a level of affluence that enables them the luxury of a pet dog. And then all hell broke loose: with profits and profits alone in mind (the luxury pet trade is estimated to be worth HKD18 million a year), breeders would “keep animals in cages, stacked one on top of another, usually in small flats with no opportunity to exercise. They’ll be sitting in their own excrement.” according to Amanda Whitfort, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong, who is advocating to have the city’s animal welfare laws updated. It surely doesn’t help that there are loopholes in the city’s animal trading legislation, and lax enforcement means breeders still get to inflict cruelty on animals with impunity. Perhaps not surprisingly, while animal cruelty could result in three years of imprisonment and a fine of HKD200,000, sentences have been rather lenient so far. With the combination of the pet trade’s commodification of animals and irresponsible pet ownership, an estimated 5,000 dogs are euthanised by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department every year. That is heart-wrenching to say the least.

Yours truly is not going to let this end of a sad note, so the good news is a bill is expected to be put to the LegCo, after its summer break, to amend the animal trading law, so that the fine for illegal trading of animals will be raised from HKD2,000 to HKD10,000, and the penalty for breaking animal licensing laws will be a fine raised from HKD1,000 to HK$50,000. While such an amendment is more than welcome (not least because it’s long overdue), the best way to curb pet trade, such as puppy milling and kitty milling, is to adopt instead of buying pets. Here’s a list of organisations that go to lengths to rescue animals from the street or from the breeders, as well as to ensure the rescued animals will find a loving, caring home.

Lifelong Animal Protection Charity (LAP)
Hong Kong Dog Rescue
Hong Kong Animal Adoption Centre
Hong Kong Alley Cat Watch
Society for Abandoned Animals
Lamma Animal Welfare Centre
Kirsten’s Zoo

Friday, 17 July 2015

Come On, Hong Kong, You Can Do Better for the Elephants

Credit: SCMP

Not so long ago, yours truly happened upon a shop in Sheung Wan that claimed to sell ivory products from the trunks of mammoths. None of that made sense. Mammoth? And brazenly selling ivory products in broad daylight, when the city is believed to have illegalised both import and export of ivory without a licence 25 years ago? Ah, but then the owner probably has a licence, though why the licence was even issued is beyond me.

That the murder of elephants for their ivory is pushing many species towards extinction is a no-brainer, and it certainly boggles the mind that a city as civilised as Hong Kong is yet to join the global bandwagon in banning, once and for all, the trade of ivory. As if that isn’t embarrassing enough, Esmond Martin, one of the leading ivory researchers, has pointed out that “No other city surveyed has so many pieces of ivory on sale as Hong Kong.” The reason is simple: the lower taxes in Hong Kong make it cheaper to buy here, with tens of thousands of people crossing the border each year to buy ivory, according to SCMP.

The situation with the world’s elephants is alarming to say the least. To quote Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants, an organisation dedicated to securing a future for elephants and sustaining the beauty and ecological integrity of the places they live, “Africa’s elephants are in crisis, with 100,000 killed for their ivory in just three years between 2010 and 2012. Without better controls on Hong Kong’s shops and borders the ivory trade in the territory will continue to represent a major threat to survival of the species.” Yet in response, an agriculture department spokesman said, “There is no evidence showing that Hong Kong’s legal ivory trade contributes to the poaching of elephants in Africa or provides a cover for the laundering of smuggled illegal ivory. In fact, Hong Kong is not a destination for illegal ivory.”

I feel you if your blood is boiling too. What the agriculture department spokesman doesn't understand is that wherever there is demand, there will be supply. The point to consider for the agriculture department is perhaps: why is ivory trade still legal in Hong Kong, when the facts are pointing at the drastic decrease in elephant population worldwide, as a result of ivory trade. 

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Waste Not

Credit: SCMP

First it was the quote by Caribbean Chan Miu-yu, CEO of Food Angel, and then it was the story in the City section of 15 July’s SCMP that again alarmed me on the sheer amount of food waste Hong Kongers produce on a daily basis. According to Caribbean Chan, Hong Kong records around 3,600 tonnes of food waste every day but food rescue and assistance programme Food Angel can only rescue four tonnes max a day.

With the organic waste treatment facilities’ construction planned, with an expected capacity to treat 200 tonnes of food waste a day by 2016, recycling source-separated organic waste generated from the commercial and industrial sectors (mostly food waste) into useful products, we can only hope that this will truly be effective in lessening the stress on the city’s existing landfills, and turning Hong Kongers’ wasteful consumption habit into something useful. But let’s not forget, the most efficient way to combat food waste is always prevention and reduction at source.

But until then, we have NGOs and non-profits the likes of Food Angle and Feeding Hong Kong to thank, for collecting and redistributing surplus food to the people and organisations in need. Food Angel, for instance, collects raw ingredients from suppliers, supermarkets and wet markets, and prepares them into meals. It is currently providing 6,000 meals a day to low-income families with young children and homeless people, a huge jump from 30 meals a day when it was launched in 2011. With just a smidgen of our daily food waste sufficient to serve 6,000 meals, it goes on to show just how much food we dump into the landfills – good-quality food that is perfectly fine to eat. What it also shows is the failure of the government’s FoodWise campaign in an attempt to educate the public on purchasing less food.  

Discrediting the government’s effort is not my intention here, for we do need to be reminded, constantly, against food waste. But what Hong Kong lacks, compared to other more conservation-conscious countries, is conservation education that is actually included in the mainstream curriculum. Children need to be educated on the environmental impact their consumption habits have on this planet for them to grow into responsible, conscientious adults that would think twice before buying plastic bottled water, or leaving food uneaten. It may be a good idea too to let your children have a grasp of the hard work that goes into growing food, and Green Queen does a list of organic farms in Hong Kong from which you can choose from. 

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

It’s Your Turn to be Pampered, Elephants

Credit: ElephantsWorld

Let’s hope this post is not going to make you cry like a banshee like it did me before I even started typing away. Getting you blubbering is certainly not my intention, it’s just that I reckon things like this is something we all need to know. So here we go.

Not sure if you’ve ever ridden on elephants while travelling in Thailand, yours truly didn’t, for she didn’t know if the elephants were duly rewarded for the hard work they did, day in, day out. And most of the time, they aren’t, not to mention the sheer level of abuse they’re put through at various kinds of businesses in Thailand (and the world over). In Thailand, specifically, approximately 100,000 elephants roamed in the country in 1900; today there are around 3,000 domestic and 2,000 in the wild. Whilst the elephants used to work closely with humans in the logging industry, the government’s ban on all logging activity in 1989, due to deforestation, has rendered many elephants ‘jobless’, and they were used to work in the tourism industry, such as trekking camps, circuses, and wandering the streets begging. Trekking camps pose great danger to the elephant’s health as, despite its size, the elephant’s back can hold up to just 100kg of load – imagine the load the elephants have to suffer when they carry the seat and passengers for 10 hours a day.

Fortunately – and this is where your faith in humanity is restored – some kind souls have founded the ElephantsWorld in 2008 as a retirement home for elephants that have been injured during their work, or are too old to continue with this type of work. Located 32km from the city of Kanchanaburi or 180km from Bangkok, the non-profit ElephantsWorld sees each of its 21 elephants assisted and cared for by volunteers, and houses are built for elephants that can’t bent their knees so that they can have a wall or pole to lean on to sleep.

Do consider a stay at ElephantsWorld and volunteer your help, such as walking the elephants in the forest (elephants sleep and eat in the forest in wet season) and bringing them back in the next day,cooking corn porridge for them, feeding them sticky rice balls and fruits and vegetables, as well as washing them in the river while giving them a good clean scrub. ElephantsWorld depends almost entirely on charity funding and visitors for revenue, so your visit matters more than you can imagine. Check out there different visit programmes, there’s bound to be one that suits your itinerary. And the best thing of all? You know you’ve helped instead of harmed these intelligent creatures by visiting ElephantsWorld! 

Friday, 10 July 2015

Peru Rewards Hikers with Spectacular Lodge

Credit: designboom, Natura Vive

There’s always a reason to go on a hike. Be it the breathtaking scenery, a breath of fresh air, or a walk down memory lane. And in Peru, the Natura Vive Skylodge is rewarding intrepid hikers with accommodation in one of the three transparent capsules that are 24 feet in length, eight feet in height and width, complete with four beds, a dining area, and a private bathroom that is separated from the bedroom with an insulated wall – only if you’re brave enough to climb 400 feet or hike a daunting trail using ziplines though.

Handcrafted with aerospace aluminium and weather-resistant polycarbonate, the suites, hanging off a cliff, come with six windows and four ventilation ducts that ensure comfort in the internal area, plus lighting system powered by solar panels. If you wish, you may draw the curtains on the dome for privacy from the curious gaze of your ‘neighbours’ – the passing condors. The semi-open toilet, incidentally, offers a view of the Peruvian landscape. And the fact that the lodge is located in the Sacred Valley of Cuzco means the view of the magnificent mystic valley is also complimentary. With the provision of fine-quality mattresses, cotton sheets, down pillows and quilts, you can rest assured that being in the wild doesn’t have to mean compromising on comfort.

So here’s this amazing offer by Natura Vive, as if there aren’t enough reasons to entice you to book your flight to Peru.  

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Deal with Your Monthly the Eco-friendly Way

Credit: THINX, Fast Company

Sorry blokes, this is an exclusively female article but the story of this alternative to the menstrual pad is worth a read nonetheless. According to unofficial research, women on average spend approximately seven years on dealing with menstruation, assuming it starts at age 12 and ceases at 55. That’s a lot of time, not to mention the sheer amount of pads or tampons dumped into the landfill.
In an attempt to make the monthly less insufferable and more eco-friendly, sisters Radha Agrawal and Miki Agrawal and their friend Antonia Dunbar took matters in their own hands and created THINX, a period underwear that has won award and its own patented technology, and – more importantly – that keeps you clean and dry during those seven days every month. Despite its physical similarities to the normal knickers, THINX has all the qualities to keep you dry even when you’ve had a spill, fight bacteria with an invisible silver treatment, hold up to two tampons’ worth of liquid, and it is leak-resistant to make sure even your white pants are safe. The fact that THINX has a top layer that wicks all liquid into the super thin absorption layer right beneath it means that THINX can be worn all day long, without the need for a change during the day. What’s more, THINX comes in three different styles (thong, cheeky, hiphugger) with varying levels of absorbency and areas of protection, so as to ensure absolute peace of mind.

THINX’s eco-friendliness aside, this result of the founders’ three years’ worth of research is deserving of support because, as a brand, THINX is committed to breaking the taboo surrounding menstruation, through the reimagination of feminine hygiene products to provide support, comfort, confidence and peace of mind. Oh, and for every piece of THINX purchased, the company would donate seven pieces of recyclable pads, called the ‘Afripads’, to women in undeveloped countries to help lessen the pressure on insufficient resources. 

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

A Sweatshirt That’s Built to Last

Credit: The 30 Year Sweatshirt

Unless you’re frugal like my father, chances are that you have a seasonal change of clothes, partly to manifest that you’re in the trend instead of out, partly because of natural wear and tear. To quote my father, clothes and shoes and bags (a.k.a. his briefcase) shouldn’t require often changes if you pay enough attention to their maintenance. And he speaks as he finds, as a man that owns shirts, suits, and leather shoes that are over 10 years old and still in pristine condition.

Increasingly, people are coming to the realisation that my father is right. Of course they don’t know my father personally, but it’s the rationale that he upholds regarding consumption: spend only when necessary to conserve the earth’s resources and minimise our waste to the planet. And that is how The 30 Year Sweatshirt was born.

Currently pledging funds on kickstarter, The 30 Year Sweatshirt is the brainchild of UK menswear designer Tom Cridland, who believes the prevailing trend of built-in obsolescence – big fashion powerhouses’ practice of making their clothing fragile enough to get their customers to return and buy more – has to stop, because “our natural resources deserve a higher level of respect and so do you”. And so he embarked on the mission to prove that clothing can, and should, last a lifetime.
The 30 Year Sweatshirt, as it turns out, is made with Cridland’s partnership with a group of old school Portuguese craftsmen, who have been hand-making clothing since 1964, to create a premium knit crewneck sweatshirt that is made ethically with organic cotton, crafted out of luxury fabric from only the finest quality yarn, and backed with a 30-year guarantee. If you’re worried a sweatshirt that is built to last a lifetime will end up making you look naff, know that Cridland has made clothing for Leonardo Di Caprio, Ben Stiller, Stephen Fry, Hugh Grant, Robbie Williams, Nigel Olsson, Daniel Craig, just to name a few from the designer’s star-studded client list.

By supporting Cridland’s project you’ll also be supporting a change towards sustainable fashion, and you’ll be rewarded with the cutting out of GBP75 of pointless retail markups, so that your sweatshirt will be delivered to your door at just GBP55.

Onion, My Saviour

I’m probably going to sound like an onion marketer or sales agent, but do bear with me. So what happened is, for the past three months or so – the time we started have to turn on the air conditioner at all times due to the unbearable heat of Hong Kong’s unforgivingly hot summer – I’ve been woken by the desperate urge to cough, complicated with an extremely stuffy nose. The diabolical ‘routine’ took place at around 2am every night, and every time I’d have to go to the living room to unblock my nasal blockage, not really getting much sleep as the saga usually dies out at approximately 5am.

I’ve never had any nasal allergies so it goes without saying that I hadn’t an inkling whether an air purifier actually works. But we got one anyway, for a friend claims to have had similar symptoms but has been able to get undisrupted sleep once she got an air purifier. For a few days the air purifier seemed to save the day, and yet all of a sudden its effectiveness seemed to wear off as soon as its novelty. What we also tried was aromatherapy with peppermint but other than filling the apartment with refreshing scent, it was pretty much useless.

So last night, the boyfriend decided to take inspiration from his mother and use power of the onion. I’ve known of the bacteria-killing power of onion but I must have underestimated it in hindsight. We cut two onions in halves and put them under the bed, with one half right next to my pillow. And lo and behold, I woke up this morning, though not feeling like a Disney princess rising to birdsong, definitely more reinvigorated than I’d done in a long while, because I was able to sleep till the alarm was due to wake me.

Just my two cents. The onion doesn’t have to work for you, but at least for now, it is on my side. 

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The Mighty Lemon

Credit: Ecozine

So your truly has started a new routine of daily lemon water intake in the hope of well, staying healthy and ridding my body of toxins – regular consumption of lemon-infused water is believed to be effective in preventing formation of kidney stones. And by end of the day, I’d use the lemon slices to clean the flask that I use to contain the lemon-infused water with. Turns out there’s a whole lot more things you can do with lemon, such as an all-natural odour-remover.

With half a lemon and ½ cup of water, you can make a chemical-free odour-remover and cleaner for your microwave oven, for instance. All you need to do is to squeeze the lemon juice into the water, heat it up in the microwave until it boils, and let it sit for five minutes and let the steam do the work. To bring back the glimmer in silverware, mix lemon juice and baking soda (4:1) and wipe the silverware with the mixture or let the silverware sit in the solution for three minutes. Got sweat stains on your clothes? No matter, add ½ cup of lemon juice into the water during the rinse cycle of your laundry, and the clothes will come out of the tumbler all bright and smelling fresh. Apparently, you can unclog and freshen drains with ½ cup of baking soda, ½ cup of white vinegar, and one cup of lemon juice too by simply pouring the baking soda down the drain, followed by vinegar, and the lemon juice at last.

The health benefits and household uses of this amazing citrus fruit is abundant, go explore, and stay clean and healthy the natural way!

Friday, 3 July 2015

Recycling Food Waste into Soup

Credit: Kromkommer

Did you know about 3,200 tonnes of food is wasted and dumped into the landfills in Hong Kong every day? If that doesn’t appall you, know that 30% to 50% of all the food in the world goes to waste, while 1 billion are starved. What you may not know is that approximately 5% to 10% of fruits and vegetables are wasted because of their looks – yes, thanks to an obsolete EU legislation that restricted the sale of wonky vegetables. But as awareness of sustainable development picks up the world over, individuals and nations are devising ingenious or pragmatic ways to rescue food waste, as an attempt to conserve the earth’s resources and create a sustainable future. First there was France’s unprecedented ban of food waste in supermarkets, and then there’s this brand called Kromkommer.

Literally ‘crooked cucumber’ in Dutch, Kromkommer is a brand started by two girls, Jente and Lisanne, who, when attempting to seek solutions for major environmental issues such as climate change and food waste, started collecting fruits and vegetables that were dumped because they were too small, too big, too crooked, had a funny shape or were unsold at a local market. Like any conscientious individual the two realised something had to be done, and in 2014, they started a crowdfunding campaign to bring the wasted fruits and vegetables back to the consumer with their own soup line. The campaign proved a massive success and the soup, made with rescued vegetables, is available at over 50 stores throughout the Netherlands. In fact, it was so successful that they managed to raise sufficient awareness of food conservation to sell a whopping 6,300kg of crooked vegetables and fruits that otherwise would have been dumped.

As consumers we need to acknowledge the fact that most wonky vegetables and fruits are just as fresh and tasty, and perfectly good to be eaten as their better-looking counterparts. If, god forbid, you need a reason to conserve food, try growing some tomatoes on your window sill.