Bring Your Own Utensils (BYOU)

February 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Insights

byouHow many disposable forks, spoons and chopsticks do you throw away each year? Let’s assume that a person throws away a pair of disposable utensils each week, which means that 104 utensils are disposed annually and if everyone in Singapore does the same, this result in the disposal of about 500,000,000 utensils in Singapore each year.

If you are using disposable utensils, you are wasting oil, cutting trees, burning waste and causing global warming. You can stop this today. Start by using your own reusable forks, spoons and chopsticks when you eat out. Bring Your Own Utensils.

To help you BYOU, we are offering reusable utensils for sale and you can choose from the different designs here.

Wrap Your Christmas Gift With Cloth

December 19, 2008 by  
Filed under Insights

Do you want to wrap your Christmas gift in an eco-friendly way? Furoshiki is a Japanese traditional wrapping cloth which is used in a creative and stylish way to wrap gifts and things. Watch how you can wrap your Christmas gifts Furoshiki-style.


The wrapping cloth can be reused or can be part of the gift too. You can use a Furoshiki cloth or any suitable scarf, tablecloth or used fabric. This idea is from the RecycleNow website.

Design and Make Sustainable Products

December 8, 2008 by  
Filed under Reduce

Designers and manufacturers can design and make sustainable products and packaging that are durable and non-toxic, use less materials and resources during its entire life cycle, and can be reused, repaired or recycled.

To eliminate the concept of waste means to design things – products, packaging and systems – from the very beginning in the understanding that waste does not exist. – Jonathon Porritt, Capitalism as if the World Matters

Several sustainable design and product principles have been developed over the years and we look at some of them below:

  1. Biomimicry
  2. Cradle to Cradle
  3. Design for the Environment
  4. Life Cycle Assessment
  5. The Natural Step
  6. Other Resources

If you’re a designer or manufacturer, learn and adopt these sustainable principles in your product or packaging.

1. Biomimicry

Biomimicry is a new science and design principle developed by Janine Benyus, the author of Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, and the President of The Biomimicry Institute. Biomimicry is about learning from nature and studying what works in nature, and then imitating these best ideas, designs and processes to solve our problems.

Learn more from this 24-min TED video by Janine Benyus on the 12 sustainable design ideas from nature.


You can also check out Ask Nature, a free open source database by The Biomimicry Institute, where architects, designers and engineers can search for nature’s best solutions and bio-inspired products, and network with the biomimicry community.

2. Cradle to Cradle

William McDonough and Michael Braungart wrote the book, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, which popularised the new cradle to cradle sustainable design principles. In their explanation:

Cradle to Cradle Design offers a clear alternative, a framework in which the safe, regenerative productivity of nature provides models for wholly positive human designs. Working from this perspective, we do not aim to be less bad. Instead, our design assignment is to create a world of interdependent natural and human systems powered by the sun in which safe, healthful materials flow in regenerative cycles, elegantly and equitably deployed for the benefit of all.

Within this framework, every material is designed to provide a wide spectrum of renewable assets. After a useful life as a healthful product, cradle-to-cradle materials are designed to replenish the earth with safe, fecund matter or to supply high quality technical resources for the next generation of products. When materials and products are created specifically for use within these closed-loop cycles – the flow of biological materials through nature’s nutrient cycles and the circulation of industrial materials from producer to customer to producer – businesses can realize both enormous short-term growth and enduring prosperity. As well, we can begin to re-design the very foundations of industry, creating systems that purify air, land and water; use current solar income and generate no toxic waste; use only safe, healthful, regenerative materials; and whose benefits enhance all life.

Learn more about Cradle to Cradle design from the MBDC website or William McDonough’s website. You can also learn about the wisdom of designing Cradle to Cradle from this 20-min TED video by William McDonough.



3. Design for the Environment

Design for the Environment (DfE) is simply an approach taken by companies to make business decisions that consider environmental impacts. Some call it eco-design or just green design.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) started the Design for the Environment Program in the 1990s and has been working with industries to integrate health and environmental considerations in business decisions. Learn more from the DfE website.

4. Life Cycle Assessment

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a methodological tool that applies life cycle thinking and assesses the environmental aspects and impacts associated with a product, process, or service. LCA estimates the environmental impacts resulting from all stages in the product life cycle, from raw material extraction, production, transportation, usage to disposal.

Learn more about LCA from the European Platform on LCA and the USEPA website, or about the Life Cycle Initiative from the UNEP website. If you wish to apply life cycle assessment for your product and need help, check with the Sustainable Manufacturing Centre at the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech).

5. The Natural Step

The Natural Step Framework is developed by Dr Karl-Henrik Robèrt and is a strategic decision making and comprehensive planning model, based on systems thinking and using the four basic sustainability principles to guide individuals and organisations. The Four Principles of Sustainability state that:

To become a sustainable society we must…

1. eliminate our contribution to the progressive buildup of substances extracted from the Earth’s crust (for example, heavy metals and fossil fuels)

2. eliminate our contribution to the progressive buildup of chemicals and compounds produced by society (for example, dioxins, PCBs, and DDT )

3. eliminate our contribution to the progressive physical degradation and destruction of nature and natural processes (for example, over harvesting forests and paving over critical wildlife habitat); and

4. eliminate our contribution to conditions that undermine people’s capacity to meet their basic human needs (for example, unsafe working conditions and not enough pay to live on).

One company that adopted The Natural Step (TNS) was IKEA. In 1990, IKEA adopted The Natural Step as the basis of its environmental policy and plan, and used the TNS principles to change its products and services. More info and resources about The Natural Step can be found at The Natural Step website.

6. Other Resources

We love MUJI products for their simplicity – Simple is Beautiful. The design of MUJI products is natural and simple. The manufacturing processes of MUJI products are simplified and unnecessary steps are eliminated. MUJI product packaging are also simple, plain and uniform. All these steps help to reduce waste and costs, giving consumers good quality products at lower prices. If retailers learn from MUJI and simplify their materials, processes and packaging, imagine the waste that can be eliminated.

Buy and Use Only What You Need

December 8, 2008 by  
Filed under Reduce

In modern society, overconsumption and wastage of resources seem to be a norm. We buy more than what is necessary, use and waste more material, water and electricity than needed, and throw away more waste.

We tend to change our material belongings constantly to suit the current fashion and trend, leaving behind a trail of “old-fashioned” waste. These “old” waste are thrown away although some could still be in good condition.

The Idea of Sufficiency

It is time to ask ourselves whether we should practise “sufficiency” in our consumption. Sufficiency means that as we do more and more of an activity, there will be a state when we feel a sense of enough and too much, and we know it’s time to stop.

In other words: Buy only what we need; Use only what we need; Take only what we need. As Paul Ekins explains in the book, Capitalism as if the World Matters:

In a society devoted to ever-greater consumption, it is hard not to identify sufficiency with notions of sacrifice, of ‘doing without’ or ‘giving things up’. Such identifications are, however, misplaced. Certainly, sufficiency implies relatively modest consumption and simplicity in personal lifestyle. But these are not motivated by abstract aestheticism or self-denial, but arise from a perception that sufficiency in consumption permits a greater emphasis to be placed on other aspects of human experience, which are actually more personally rewarding and fulfilling than consumption.

We have to recognise that there are other things to pursue in life besides buying, consuming and discarding; things that are more important like relationships, health and happiness. Don’t end up like the rats in this video:



Always remember the idea of sufficiency and ask yourself whether you need to buy or use something in the first place. Buy only what you need. Use only what you need.

Some examples of thinking in terms of sufficiency:

Don’t be a Slave to the Latest Fashion

We have a choice. We can choose what we want. There is no need to follow the latest fashion and keep on changing our clothing and accessories to suit the new style.

Fashion changes frequently so that companies can keep on selling new things to consumers. Don’t be a slave to the latest fashion and to the companies that promote excessive consumerism and false obsolescence.

Be clear with what you want and stick to your style regardless of the ever changing fashion trends. If you change less, you buy less. And if you buy, we recommend clothing and accessories that are classic and simple in style. We like simplicity, they never go out of fashion.

Avoid Changing Your Handphone Frequently

In 2006, the number of handphone subscribers in Singapore is about 4.6 million, which means that each person in Singapore probably own at least one handphone. The rate of change of handphones is fast and we know of people who change their handphones every few months so that they can have the latest model with better functions and features. If each person change their handphone once a year, we would end up with 4.6 million old handphones that are usually sold as secondhand phones locally and overseas, or disposed of.

There is no need to keep changing your handphone to the latest model if your current one is still working fine. The frequent changing of handphones results in more resources being used to make new ones and also increases the disposal of the old handphones.

Eliminate the Excessive Use of Paper

December 8, 2008 by  
Filed under Reduce

In Singapore, paper is one of the most common type of waste and about 1.26 million tonnes of paper waste was generated in 2013. We need to eliminate the excessive use of paper and try to reduce paper waste where possible.

Cutting down on our use of paper will lead to a smaller environmental impact from paper production, such as less energy and water consumption, less pollution, and less destruction of forests and their biodiversity.

There are many ways to reduce the use of paper in the office and at home. Here’s a few examples:

  1. Avoid Printing Emails and Web Pages
  2. Use Email Instead of Fax
  3. Print and Photocopy on Both Sides of the Paper
  4. Switch to Electronic Invoicing
  5. Reuse Old Envelopes for Internal Mail
  6. Go Paperless with Electronic Bills and Statements
  7. Avoid Printing ATM Receipts
  8. Reduce Junk Mail
  9. Submit Your Annual Income Tax Return Online
  10. Use Cloth for Cleaning Instead of Paper Towels
  11. Read Newspapers and Magazines Online

1. Avoid Printing Emails and Web Pages

Avoid printing emails and web pages unnecessarily. Instead, archive your emails and bookmark your web pages for easy reference. If you need to print web pages often, you can adjust your page and printer settings to minimise the number of pages before printing, for example, reducing the margins for your page or printing 2 pages on a piece of paper. You can also explore the use of software such as GreenPrint to reduce the printing of unwanted pages and images.

Have you come across an email signature with a tree logo and the words “Please consider the environment before printing this email”? This is a good way to remind the email recipient to think first before printing. Learn more about this signature and how to add it to your email.

2. Use Email Instead of Fax

Use email instead of fax for sending documents. Just attach the document as a word or pdf file in your email. Or you can scan the document and attach it in your email. If you really need to use the fax, avoid using a cover page. Read more

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