Friday, August 8, 2014

Eco Kids Column: Keeping Cool In The Heatwave

Eco Kids Column, Pencinta Alam Sept 2014

Keeping Cool In The Heatwave
By Wong Ee Lynn

The recurring hot and dry season can be a source of discomfort and frustration for many. Some people complain that they are unable to sleep at night without an air-conditioning unit in their bedrooms. If you are one of those people, you may want to consider these tips to help you keep cool:

If you do not have an air-conditioned bedroom:
1. Keep the house shut tight during the day. Don't let in unwanted heat and humidity. Open up the windows to ventilate at night either naturally or with fans. 
2. Install awnings on windows to provide shade.
3. Plant trees for shade around the house, especially as ‘sun-breakers’ outside windows.
4. Install window shades or mini-blinds. Mini-blinds can reduce solar heat gain by 40-50%.  
5. Have a cold shower or a cold drink before bed to help bring your temperature down.

If you do have an air-conditioning unit in your home:
1. We hope it is a high-efficiency air conditioner with Energy Star ratings!
2. Do not use a dehumidifier at the same time your air conditioner is operating. The dehumidifier will increase the cooling load and force the air conditioner to work harder. 
3. To reduce energy wastage, seal all air conditioner ducts.
4. Keep the thermostat set at 23 degrees Celsius or higher if using ceiling fans. Don't air-condition unused rooms.
5. Maintain your air conditioners properly to maximise efficiency. Clean the filters every month if you use it frequently. Normal dust build-up can reduce airflow by 1% per week.
6. Provide shade for your room air conditioner, or the outside half of your central air conditioner if at all possible. This will increase the unit's efficiency by 5 - 10%.
7. Consider sharing an air-conditioned sleeping space with your parents or siblings to reduce the need to use an air-conditioner in more than one room. 
8. Use the timer to switch your air-conditioner off after 1-2 hours, when the room is sufficiently cool and you are already asleep. Keep your fan on to ventilate the room. The room should be able to remain cool until morning. 
9. Switch on the air-conditioner only after you have entered the room. Don't keep an air-conditioner running if there is no-one in the room. Always switch it off when the room is sufficiently cool, and do not keep it running longer than is necessary. 

Here is a DIY Project called a 'Poor Man's Air-Conditioning Unit', which has proven popular with students and renters! The best thing is that it uses items you already have, or items that would otherwise be recycled or discarded. 
You need:
1. 2 or more beverage bottles. Fill with water and freeze. 
2. A table or standing fan.
3. Boxes, step stools or books to bring the bottles to the same height as the fan blades.
4. Trays or plastic takeout containers.

1. Freeze the bottles of water way ahead of time. The bigger the bottle of water, the longer the cooling effect will last. The trouble, however, is that not many people have the room to fit 2 large 1.5 litre soda bottles in their freezer! The cooling effect of 0.5 litre bottles like the ones in the picture will last at least for an hour.
2. Use the boxes, books or stepping stools to bring the bottles up to the height of the fan blades. Place the bottles upright in front of the fan so that the wind will blow through the column of frozen water bottles.
3. Put the bottles standing upright in the trays or takeout containers to capture the condensation and stop the water from damaging books and furniture.
4. Switch the fan on and allow the wind to blow through the column of frozen water bottles and at you. In the morning, remember to put the bottles back into the freezer so that they will have time to freeze and you will be able to use them again the following night.

Stay cool, use energy and resources wisely and tread gently on the good Earth!

Collaborative Consumption and an introduction to the Green Living Little Free Library

Green Living Column for Pencinta Alam Sept 2014

By Wong Ee Lynn

As individuals concerned about the environment, many of us are aware of the adverse environmental impact of excessive consumerism. At the same time, we also realise that increased economic prosperity since the middle of the 20th century means that we are often surrounded by an abundance of assets. Many of us acquire or possess items that are infrequently used -- such as electric drills, power washers, holiday homes, books that are read only once and toys and bicycles that are outgrown. 

As communities become more aware of this abundance of assets, many initiatives have been set up around the world by organisations and individuals to share such assets. The advantages of a sharing economy, also known as collaborative consumption or a collaborative economy, are that it reduces the impact of consumerism on the environment (i.e. reduced need for materials extraction, production, consumption and disposal), saves money and resources, and connects individuals and communities. 

Examples of collaborative consumption include the following:
1. Community edible gardens where residents and volunteers grow fruits, herbs and vegetables in a public space and enjoy the harvest together;
2. Community co-operatives, secondhand sales, and jumble sales; 
3. Peer-lending programmes and borrowing shops, such as this one in Berlin;
4. Car-sharing and bike-sharing programmes
5. Couchsurfing and vacation rental initiatives such as AirBnB;
6. Homeschooling cooperatives and childcare services such as daycare and preschool cooperatives run by parents;
7. Little Free Libraries that do away with traditional membership and book return rules.

The Green Living SIG recently set up a Little Free Library outside the Malaysian Nature Society Headquarters at JKR 641, Jalan Kelantan, Federal Hill to advance the cause of collaborative consumption and also to share reading materials. It is located in the porch, outside the front door, right by the mailbox.

The rules of the Little Free Library are as follows:
1. No due dates, deadlines, recording system or membership system.
2. No opening hours or closing times. Just drop by the porch, pick a book or two, and leave other books for others to enjoy. The night watchman will be around to ensure that people don't hog all the books or clear the entire bookcase! (P/S: A coffee or a kind word for the night watchman would be nice)
3. Feel free to donate any books or magazines, and spread the word.
4. You can decide to return the book you took, donate another book in its stead, donate the book you took to a worthy cause, or keep it if you really love it. This is a non-profit collaborative consumption initiative, so please don't destroy, discard or sell the books from the Little Free Library!

We wish you many happy hours of reading and hope you will drop by to take and exchange books. We also welcome suggestions for future collaborative consumption ideas (e.g. A community edible garden outside the MNS HQ? A Facebook Collaborative Consumption group offering pre-loved assets for sale/rental/barter/borrowing?), so please email us at or leave a post on the MNS Green Living Facebook group with your fantastic ideas, and we promise you we will try to discuss and consider each one!