Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Eco Christmas Tree Challenge


By Wong Ee Lynn

The lives of humans are so closely intertwined with trees and nature that we frequently observe a festive holiday by bringing a tree into our homes. People decorate their homes with pine trees and other evergreens at Christmas, banana plants during the Tamil New Year and cherry blossoms and pussywillows during the Chinese New Year. However, in environmentally aware times, many people are beginning to realise that chopping down live pine trees or putting up plastic Christmas trees are wasteful practices. Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, you may be asked to help in putting up a tree in your classroom or an organisation that you belong to, for the purpose of spreading holiday cheer. 

How do you then come up with a Christmas tree that is within budget, not destructive to the environment, and not made of wasteful plastic parts that are not durable?  Here are five alternative Christmas trees created by friends of Green Living over the last two Christmases:

The boys of Kelab Alami Tanjung Kupang created this minimalistic Christmas tree in the porch of their club coordinator, Serina. It sure looked beautiful when all lit up! Kitty seems to approve, too.

The management team in MingChien's office created this geek chic Christmas tree which is made of LED string lights and unwanted CDs.

Rushan Abdul Rahman created this cheerful and space-saving two-dimensional tree out of paper to stick on his apartment glass sliding door. 

Green Living coordinator Ee Lynn made this tree out of discarded CDs, mismatched ornaments and a star-shaped cookie cutter.

Serina Rahman received some help from friends to make this illuminated tree out of discarded plastic bottles.

Now here's the challenge. Eco Kids and Green Living wants YOU to try  your hand at making an alternative Eco Christmas Tree. It can be a decorated potted plant, a tree made out of recycled materials or a regular tree decorated with handmade ornaments repurposed from discarded objects -- there really are no limits to your creativity! The guidelines are as follows:

(1) Create a Christmas tree out of alternative, discarded or environmentally-friendly materials. You should ideally use whatever you have at hand and not have to go out to buy materials.
(2) Your Christmas tree should be reusable, recyclable or compostable. 
(3) It doesn't have to be a Christmas tree. You can tweak it to fit any celebration or festival you want, be it Deepavali, Hari Raya, New Year's Eve or even a birthday.
(4) Take a photo of your Christmas tree and upload it to Green Living's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/389934284359934/?fref=ts. If you are not on Facebook, email it to us at gl.mnselangor@yahoo.com. The title of the email should be: "Eco Christmas Tree Challenge".
(5) Include a short description of what the tree is made of and how you built it. You can post or attach more than one photo. 
(6) This challenge is open only to those aged 18 years and below and residing in Malaysia. If you are above 18 or living outside Malaysia, you may post a photo of your tree to our Facebook Wall but you are not entitled to compete for a prize. Please include your name and age with your entry if via Facebook (we will contact you via private message if we need your details). If you are sending a photo via email, please include your name, age, address and contact number in your email. 
(7) Entries will be graded based on their adherence to the principles of the 3Rs (reducing, reusing and recycling), energy efficiency, other environmental merits and creativity.  
(8) The closing date for this challenge is 15 January 2013.
(9) The top 3 entries will be announced in the MNS newsletter and Green Living Facebook page at the end of January 2013. Prizewinners will be contacted to collect their prizes.

Year-End Staycation Ideas


By Wong Ee Lynn

The end of the year is approaching, and for many, this is a time to clear their annual leave days or just take time off to be with their families, particularly school-going children who are on their year-end semester break.

The word "staycation" is a combination of "stay" and "vacation", and describes a vacation at home or near your home and within the same state or area. Staycations are getting more and more popular for environmental and economic reasons. These are some of the advantages of staycations over travelling abroad:
(i) Less stressful -- Let's face it. Not many of us enjoy the hassle of having to with travel insurance, missing luggage, delayed flights and other disappointments.
(ii) Less expensive, but better for the local economy, especially if you are creating opportunities for local and indigenous communities.
(iii) Less travel and less fuel usage.
(iv) Less consumption, less waste and no excuses to buy tacky souvenirs for everyone back at the office.
(v) It may cultivate greater interest in and awareness of the local environment

A staycation can be more than just another day spent on housework and taking care of bills and errands. Here are several ideas on how those of us who live in or around the Klang Valley can make our staycations more meaningful and memorable:


Facebook groups such as Project Revive and Sampah Masyarakat  periodically organise community cleanup projects as well as cleanliness awareness programmes. A local community group, Hawksbill EcoClub, organises periodic volunteer programmes for the Turtle Conservation and Information Centre at Pantai Padang Kemunting, Masjid Tanah, Melaka. Their latest call for volunteers on 24th November is for manpower to bathe the turtles, clean the turtle holding pond (for turtles pending release into the sea) and clean the hatchery. Keep in touch with these groups via social media to find out when their next project or campaign will be, so you can have a really worthwhile reason for going to the beach or park. MNS may also welcome the assistance of volunteers, particularly if you have special skills such as graphic design, photography, editing or organising to share.


Nobody likes to see wild animals in captivity. But sometimes there just isn't a better alternative or permanent solution in the event of wild animals confiscated from or surrendered by private owners, private zoos, circuses and petting zoos, where they are likely to have been born and raised in captivity. A good way of helping wildlife and understanding the challenges involved in operating, managing and funding wildlife facilities would be to volunteer at Zoo Negara, where you will be able to do hands-on work to create a safe, clean and healthy environment for the animals and be involved in enrichment programmes to stimulate the animals and encourage them to engage in natural behaviour such as foraging and hunting. To be a Zoo Volunteer, you need to be at the Zoo by 8 a.m. and be prepared to work until 4 p.m. Bring your own food and drinking water. To register, you need to contact the Education Department at education@zoonegaramalaysia.my at least a day in advance. The registration form is available at http://www.zoonegaramalaysia.my/education/pdf/volunteerprogramme.pdf, or you can register when you arrive. You must arrive at the Zoo on the designated day before 8.00 a.m. If you are driving, do try to park at the staff parking area or neighbouring residential area to avoid having to pay a hefty parking fee to the car park concessionaire. Enter the Zoo from Gate 3 and ask the Security personnel to direct you to the Education Office. Inform the Education officer on duty that you are here to volunteer and submit your registration form.


Are you an animal lover who is unable to adopt an animal due to family or work commitments or the fact that you live in a high-rise? Or do you already have a companion animal but feel sorry for other animals who have not found their permanent homes? You can help our local animal shelters, SPCA Selangor or PAWS by contributing your time and energy. Either register through their respective websites or come visit the shelters yourself. Weekends are a good time because there is then a greater likelihood of meeting other volunteers there who will be able to guide you and assist you. You will be able to assist in bathing and tickwashing dogs, applying medicine on minor injuries such as scratches and eye infections, cleaning the animals' living quarters and preparing food. Alternatively, you can also assist during their fundraising and educational campaigns and events. The sight of shelter animals may initially make you sad, but remember that your inaction and sorrow can't help them, only your direct action can.


Have you always wanted to donate blood, but were afraid that you may be too tired to go back to work or carry out your usual activities immediately after? A staycation is a good time to recuperate and rest after donating blood. The National Blood Centre in Jalan Tun Razak welcomes blood donors and has a high standard of care. For more information, you can call them up at 03 - 2693 3888 or visit their website at http://www.pdn.gov.my/. Just be sure you are in good health, have had at least 6 hours of sleep and have had a good meal before donating blood.


There are many local natural attractions you may not have visited yet. Green lungs such as Bukit Gasing Forest Park, Kota Damansara Community Forest and Lembah Kiara Recreational Park have much to offer cyclists, trekkers, birders and nature-lovers. If you are willing to drive out a little further, the Kuala Selangor Nature Park, which is managed by MNS, is an ideal destination for a daytrip or a short stay (the chalets have been recently renovated), and you may also be able to squeeze in a visit to Bukit Malawati to see the lighthouse and silver-leaf monkeys.


It is surprising how many KL-ites have yet to visit KL Tower, Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve or the Petronas Twin Towers Skybridge. Take a day off to take the LRT or bus to the city centre and explore all the sites that a tourist would. A fun way to enter KL Tower would be to take the alternative jungle path across the road from the Dang Wangi LRT station, along the fence of the Handicraft Centre. Go through the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve up the hill and across the little rope bridge to the park at the foot of KL Tower. There are also many museums you can visit in KL, including the National Museum, National Art Gallery, Telekom Museum, Maybank Numismatic Museum and the Philately Museum in Dayabumi. A walk in Little India (Brickfields) or Chinatown (Petaling Street) may also create opportunities for interesting experiences that you would normally not have time for in the course of rushing through these places to run errands. 

Do you have other great staycation ideas? We would love to hear from you at gl.mnselangor@yahoo.com

(Zoo Volunteers, image credit: Meiyi Leong and Ju Lienne Seet.)