How to be an environmentalist at home, the land of plastic dragons #1 【Starting with a “bang”】

Today is the unofficial last day of the lunar new year celebration. The fireworks have been deafening.
You’d think people would think twice before lighting up a whole bunch of fire crackers when the AQI (air quality index) is indicating hazardous air quality.
Here is the air quality of the whole country at 6pm on the last day of Year of the Monkey. The darker the colour, the worse the pollution, people who are elderly or ill are advised to reduce outdoor activities when AQI approaches the orange level. Go figure what dark scarlet means…
After billions of dollars of fireworks and firecrackers…
Here is the air quality at 2pm on the first day of Year of the Chicken.
Correlation rarely gets clearer or scarier than that.
Cities like SH that had restricted fireworks saw a drastic reduction of PM2.5 during this time of the year. As high as 90% reduction of PM2.5 from before the ban. On the contrary, BJ is one of the cities that hadn’t put a ban on it(even though restricting measures were taken at some degree, i.e. limit firecracker sales to a 10 day period) and the PM 2.5 concentration went up 800% on New Year’s eve.
To be fair, it could be worse.
As I was told by a local, it was much worse in the past years. To the extent that you couldn’t tell the sound of exploding fireworks apart. It just sounded like waves of thunderstorms due to the sheer amount of explosives bursting out of their red paper packaging into SOx, NOx and PM2.5.
Why are people so keen on letting things explode at the dawn of new year?
Interesting folklore: Vicious monsters called “nian” (same word as “year”) would come to the villages and do all sorts of violent things on new year’s eves. The loud noise from firecrackers supposedly possesses the power to scare them away.
Hence the tradition to let off at least a whole bundle of firecrackers.
Fascinating custom no? Not less justifiable than chopping down nice big trees to put presents under for Christmas.
It only becomes a problem when factoring in the magnitude.
CN’s eternal struggle when it comes to environmental issues.
It’s sad to let the traditions go.
I empathise with those who had to suffer through “Chunyun” (Spring Festival travel rush) just to get home for a traditional holiday.
Even worse when the absent of festive celebrations only brings a few days of less-than-catastrophic air.
It does seem so trivial in the face of an entire winter season of smothering smog.
The silver lining is, I do see flickering signs of improvement.
More on that later.

MEP reports…


How PM2.5 could make you die early

Due to the ever harsher cen& sor* ship at home, I’m learning from past mistakes and avoiding as many sensitive words as I can manage. This includes country (especially mine) and city names, and basically anything with direct political implications…

Vegan recipes for lazy people

I’m not a cooking enthusiast, but I do prefer making my own food to eating out. And I do my best to avoid fast food, processed food and complex carbohydrates… oh and I mostly cook vegan. 

It’s not as difficult as it sounds. 

Besides, with the modern western food system being so heavy on sugar and processed, it’s good to have some positive constraints against all the unhealthy fake food options.

20-30 mins is probably my daily cooking time for 2 or 3 meals. And here are some things I often make. 

  • Pumpkin soup

Basic: one pumpkin and a veggie broth cube. Boil. You can’t go wrong…

Can replace pumpkin with whatever squash.

If you are on a low carb diet and don’t want bread to go with the soup, add pre-soaked lentils to the soup. 

  • Chili beans

Bell peppers cut to small pieces, cook in canned tomato (very healthy food contrary to intuition), add canned kidney beans or black beans.

Fancier version would be adding onions, cilantro or hot peppers…

  • Spinach soup

Spinach (frozen or fresh), lots of them plus soup seasoning.

  • Potato and mushroom stew

Self-explanatory enough? 
Additionally tips: 

Eat according to the season (ex: more root veggies in the winter).

Eat local.

Avoid beef and diary as much as possible. This is mostly an environmental thing as cows are craaaazy methane emitters. 

Activate Your Metrics: Lessons from Leaders on Leveraging Environmental Data for Sustainability

The last of my Sustainable Brands 2016 Copenhagen blog posts. This is probably one of my favorite sessions that demonstrated how LCA can be used for real impact in the business environment with cases from big brands.

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No more plastic wraps in your kitchen! 

Plastic has become one of the most utilized materials since the 20th century. Its lightweight, durability and low cost has made it extremely useful to us, therefore we let it serve us in every aspect of life. However, the very properties that made plastic desirable also made it not only detrimental to the environment, but also eventually harmful to people’s wellbeing. The plastic soup in the ocean suffocates the marine life, and often ends up in the fish on our plates; moreover, extraction of fossil fuel (origin of plastic) causes greenhouse effect that makes our climate extreme and sea level rise.

We all know that it’s time to reconsider plastic’s role in our society, but the problem is: how can we live without the convenience it has accustomed us to for so long? Well, maybe if we could go back in time and get some inspirations from the people lived in the pre-plastic times…

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Eccentrade Hackathon: IT meets sustainability

If you are reading this blog, chances are you don’t live under a rock and are a relatively savvy internet user. Then maybe it’s safe to assume that you, just like me, have been feeling the necessity to learn some sort of “IT stuff” to adapt to the present and future digital economy. But I, for one have been long waiting for this urge of taking up a new learning challenge to reach its full power.

Well, the moment finally came for me…

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Mass Comm 101 for Environmentalists

After witnessing the surprising win of xenophobia powered Brexit and the unexpected uprising of the outright bigot Trump, many may wonder the same questions: “How the hell…?!”

After a period of frustration and anger, we should move beyond these emotions and further reflect upon these historical events. How did the common sense, in this day and age with all the information at people’s fingertips, get outnumber by…well, the majority of the crowd. I am not a political commentator but I do recognize the connection relevant to my cause of interest: Slow actions against climate change is another highlighted failure of reason, science and expert opinions against the public. Hence  I think sustainability professionals should take a lesson on mass communication.

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Circular Materials Conference #CircMatConf

A cool conference hosted by Nordic Publishing and Chalmers Competence Center Recycling right at Chalmers University, Gothenburg, Sweden.

The big takeaway in short: COMMUNICATION! Now it’s time to turn attention to really looking into details on how better communication can be done. First step could be: how to get a good overview of all the sectors in the entire economy/ sector/ city/ company in order to identify who should really start communicating with whom.

Here are some other interesting points from the talks and discussions in summary…

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