Household Happiness Factor

Household debt is defined as the amount of money that all adults in the household owe financial institutions. It includes consumer debt and mortgage loans. With consumers constantly buying items on credit, it seems as though the world is starting to get into a huge consumer debt.



In Australia, Australian households have more debt compared to the size of the country’s economy than in any other world. As of the third quarter of 2015, it is now the world’s most indebted household sector relative to GDP. It has around $2 trillion in unconsolidated household debt relative to $1.6 trillion in GDP.

In Canada, reports showed that Canadians are ending 2015 with record-high debt and mid-2016, household debt is still growing. The Bank of Canada has expressed concerns about the elevated levels of household debt, which pose a potential risk to Canada’s financial stability in the event of a sharp economic downturn.

In Asia, China’s total debt is more than double of its gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015, and industry experts have expressed concerns that the debt linkages between the state and industry could be fatal. The country’s debt has increased to almost 250% of its GDP due to use of cheap credit to stimulate slowing growth, and releasing a massive debt-fuelled spending binge by consumers.

In Japan, it looks like the country is heading for a full-blown solvency crisis as the country runs out of local investors and may be forced to inflate away its debt in a desperate end-game. The Japanese economy is trapped in a vicious cycle of deflation and stagnation where escaping from this requires bold attempts on both monetary and fiscal fronts.

“We buy things to make us happy. And we succeed for only a short period of time. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.”

Consumerism is good to a certain extent as it helps in stimulating growth in the country. However, consumerism becomes excessive when it extends beyond what is needed. When we start consuming excessively beyond our income level, boundaries are removed.


Although cheap and easy credit allows us to obtain money to purchase more items. Does possessing more material goods result in increase in happiness?

A study shown by Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who has been studying the question of money and happiness for two decades, says that it might not necessarily be so. According to him, “We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a short period of time. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.”

“Buying more might cause unhappiness”

This refutes the basic assumption that we’ve been holding for ages. For example – when we spend money on a physical item – as opposed to an experience, the same physical item lasts longer and supposedly makes us happier for a longer period of time as compared to a one-off experience like a concert or vacation.

In fact, buying more items might be the cause of our unhappiness. Gilovich suggests that instead of buying the latest iPhone or the latest BMW, you’ll get more happiness spending money on experiences like going to art exhibits, doing outdoor activities, learning a new skill, or traveling.

One study conducted by Gilovich showed that if people have an experience they say negatively impacted their happiness, once they have the chance to talk about it, their assessment of that experience goes up.

He attributes this to the fact that something that might have been stressful or scary in the past can become a funny story to tell at a party or be looked back on as an invaluable character-building experience.

Sharing experiences can also help us connect with others more than sharing our thoughts about our material belongings. For instance, you’re more likely to feel a connection with someone who has also taken a trip to Bali than someone who also just bought a 4K TV.

Furthermore, when we buy material goods and items, new items are exciting to us at the beginning. But over time we start to adapt to them and a vicious cycle of buying goods and items in a bid to maintain that feeling of happiness occurs.

Gilovich’s research has huge implications for individuals who want to maximize their happiness return on their financial ‘investments’, for employers who want to have a happier workforce, and policy-makers who want to have happy citizens.

If we are to take this research to heart, it means that we should not only have a shift in how individuals spend their discretionary income, but also place an emphasis on employers giving paid vacation and governments taking care of recreational spaces.

In other words, before you start spending credit on those shoes or gadget, think to yourself, do I really need this? If the answer is yes, then think of ways where you won’t need to spend money or borrow credit to get that item. Because ultimately, with the technology that’s available to us and how connected we are, we can find access to what we need before having to spend money we don’t have and create debt we may not be able to pay off.

“Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Sharing Economy in Diverse Places

In many places, people tend to overlook that doing business is a given right. To own a start-up, to be able to legally operate one, as well as find business partners without having to resort to underground or illicit methods in doing so are all taken for granted.

In most countries, sharing economy start-ups fall in between the grey area of semi-legal to being governed by unclear laws, regulations and jurisdictions.

In others, most, if not all businesses are banned or made illegal due to strict property laws (Cuba for example, where property cannot be sold) and sharing businesses as a result pop up to feed growing hospitality and tourism industries.


The two main sectors affected by such developments in the legal landscape are also the biggest by far, ride-sharing and home-sharing or property-sharing. These are sometimes not strictly speaking, sharing economy start-ups, but they do fall under that category.

A point to note is that while the sharing economy has its roots in a non-profit driven model, to operate in a market driven economy and to deal with costs, start-ups have adapted their business model to generate some form of revenue to keep their costs covered.

As such, some have evolved completely from a non-profit driven model to a for profit sharing startup model. While revenue is needed to cover costs, profits should not be the be all and end all goal of sharing start-ups, and many would do well to remember that.

One country to look at where an organic model of the sharing economy has taken root for some years due to an eclectic mix of factors is Cuba. Yes, surprisingly, it’s Cuba.

Cuba has a slow but very steady growing tourism industry, with tourism bringing in hard cash in the form of US dollars and Euros. In Cuba, the monthly government salary is about 10 US dollars a month, with the local Cuban currency being worth a lot less on the international market.


However, since buying and selling property is not permitted in Cuba, as well as development and refurbishment of existing hotels and other residential properties is quite difficult due to the embargo, enterprising Cubans have turned to renting out their houses and villas in a sharing economy style arrangement for profit.

One night at a Cuban villa, paid in US dollars, or the local equivalent can be a monthly salary and more for a Cuban homeowner. The way this is done is simple – the owners of the house get people who usually guide tourists around at the airport to recommend them their rooms, or villas, as well as distributing their business cards to any potential customers.

Casa particular (Spanish for “private house”) is a phrase meaning private accommodation or private homestays in Cuba. As a result of more government action, Cubans are now also allowed to rent out their rooms to tourists. 

Casa Particulars

The difference between an Airbnb apartment and a casa particular is simple – you rent a room online via Airbnb, you get the keys, the owner shows you the house, and then you stay there. It’s a transaction.

Casa particulars however, have their owners still living in them alongside you in an actual sharing arrangement. As such, you can ask them where to visit, or request breakfast or dinner cooked for you at a agreed rate. Perhaps, this is what sharing should have been?

This is not to suggest that the sharing economy should be limited, or that it should be kept small scale and not be able to scale up. But the fact still remains that the sharing economy at its core is meant to serve a very human need – to be able to distribute resources efficiently while putting people in touch with other people, not acting as a platform for just transactions, but also for the human connection.

Ride-sharing done different

A great example of another start-up going back to the sharing economy roots is based in Austin, Texas. Now, if you remember correctly – America is a hot battleground for the two largest ride-sharing app start-ups in the world, Uber and Lyft. However, both companies have been stopped dead in their tracks in Austin Texas, as the saying goes, because the town ain’t big enough for the both of them.

Austin, Texas is really large, it’s just that the city has rules limiting and regulating ridesharing companies. Now, this rule isn’t so much related to worker welfare, or pay at all, but rather was about identification and private data concerning drivers.

Due to this, both Uber and Lyft have stopped operating in the city till now.

Enter RideAustin, a not-for-profit app that follows the regulations as well as has a heart for the local poor and needy. RideAustin has the feature for riders to round up their fares to the next dollar, with the difference in the actual amount and rounded up amount being donated to a charity of the rider’s choice.

There’s also another interesting feature that deals with the revenue and finance side of things – Uber is famous for its surge pricing model, and it’s a model that people think of when they hear of the sharing economy. However, RideAustin has made it entirely optional. Riders who pay the surge pricing of course, get first pick of rides, but riders can also choose to wait it out in the virtual queue of people waiting for a ride.

So far – RideAustin starts all their operations in June, having already had the support of local companies who have prepaid for rides along with donations from private locals to fund this venture.

Perhaps, this time, David will beat Goliath again?


A Tale of Two Sharing Cities: Amsterdam and Taipei

Amsterdam and Taipei are two very different cities. One is located in the liberal heart of Western Europe, while the other sits at the edge of the ocean, and is an Asian city with a very different culture.

Taipei is known for its modernity, it’s food and temperate climate, as well as its geography and unique culture which sets it apart from it’s larger neighbour China. Amsterdam known for its nightlife, its extensive canal system, historic architecture and “coffee-shops” as well as its vibrant culture and as a melting pot of ethnicities and people.

Amsterdam Sharing City

Sharing culture is growing steadily, and becoming an accepted and preferred way of life.

Both however, share a very common factor:

The sharing culture is growing steadily, and becoming an accepted and preferred way of life, and led not only by the government, but with business and civic partners leading the way as well.


Taking a look at Amsterdam, it has been on the cusp of becoming the regions sharing city capital for some years, with sharing start-ups leading the way. Since February 2nd, Amsterdam has officially captured the title of Europe’s first sharing city. This has only been possible due to government participation and effort, as well as sharing start-ups in the city and other normal businesses as well.

This collaborative effort to tackle issues and opportunities faced and presented by becoming a sharing city was only possible with the efforts of all actors involved. The prize? A more socially connected city – as well as a more efficient and enterprising economic landscape for both start-ups, businesses and customers.

As Amsterdam has a local government (as compared to some countries with only federal or country-wide governments) , easing and changing rules and regulations to make the city more friendly to sharing start-ups as well as initiatives is easier. They have also been the world first in developing regulations for AirBnB rental transactions – a key concern amongst locals worldwide.


Bikes in Amsterdam

The sharing economy in Amsterdam is not only confined to home-sharing or ride-sharing, but also includes borrowing platforms, which connects people who need stuff to people who can lend it, much like the libraries of things we covered in a previous article.

It must be understood that while Amsterdam still has some headway to make, bigger businesses like banks and insurance companies in Amsterdam are also looking at how they can utilize the sharing community and the power of collaborative consumption to make the city a more connected, liveable space.

On the other side of the world, in Taiwan and the city of Taipei, the issue of liveability – traffic congestion as well as pollution is a major headache in many Asian metropolises. Regardless of wealth, the amount of cars on roads only increases pollution, and with the ever increasing costs of owning a car, city officials are hard pressed to look for alternative.

The solutions to these problems have been many, and some have worked, and some haven’t. Some countries have banned cars with starting even numbers on their licence plates on even numbered days, and conversely, for starting odd numbered cars on odd numbered days. Others, have imposed fines and heavy tolls for cars entering certain areas at certain times to lower traffic congestion, or raised the cost of a car to astronomically high prices for licences or taxes to limit the number of car owners.

All of these have met with some limited success, to one degree or another. But to take people away from cars doesn’t solve the main problem, that people need transportation that is affordable, yet available and if possible, environmentally friendly.


Enter Taipei’s solution. Taiwanese have always ridden bikes, and they have a culture of bike riding, since their temperature and climate is moderate enough to allow for it.

The Taiwanese have taken it a step further, with the YouBike system, as it is called in English, and informally known as the Taipei bike sharing system.Youbike-Taipei11

The simplicity of the model combined with the availability and widespread use of the bikes are what makes this project an ongoing and longstanding success.

For NT$10, one time users can use the bikes as well as people who buy an EasyCard (a wireless payment card used for public transport). What’s more, EasyCard users get the first 30 minutes ride free to encourage the use of the bikes.

Of course, the EasyCard costs about NT$100 which is roughly USD$3 to purchase. As for non EasyCard holders, every 30 minutes of use costs roughly just USD$0.31! The popularity of the system is attested by the empty stands which hold these bikes – the locals use them so much that they are empty most of the time!

In addition to being affordable as well as being widely distributed, as they can be found outside underground train station exits, as well as busy interchanges and transit points, bikes are given leeway and a special path on most roads in the city as well.

The local government, of course, encourages the use of these bikes, as well as creating regulations to create a safe environment for people who use the bikes.

Again, public and civic cooperation along with business partnerships go a long way to furthering the sharing economy and culture across the globe. Without such cooperation, initiatives are less likely to succeed.

Sharing City Seoul

Seoul – capital of South Korea, a gleaming metropolis set in Asia, a modern city, and now, with government initiatives, Asia’s first sharing city.

Let’s look at why Seoul has seen the need to become a sharing city.

Seoul declared itself as sharing city

seoul_sharing_cityTheir Sharing City Initiative defines itself by stating its overall vision as a “city that solves urban problems by facilitating people to share idle products, time, information and space”.

Why does Seoul need sharing though? The constraints of living in an urban metropolis has changed the living environments and landscape over the years, putting constraints on both natural and human resources, such as space, leading to the need to utilize resources as efficiently as possible.

To understand why Seoul needs sharing in the first place, let’s look at the history of Korea, Seoul, and the Korean people.

“Sharing is the way of life
for sustainable tomorrow”

South Korea is a very traditional country, and a very traditional Asian society that focuses on the family as a core societal unit, with elders and age being venerated and respected, and it is also a very patriarchal society as a whole.

South Korea came out of their war with North Korea devastated with few natural resources and an enemy at the border. After which, rapid industrialization and modernization followed by years of growth marked it as one of the four Asian tigers.

“The youth were particularly affected by the increased inequality”

In this rapid period of growth, the traditionally closeted and conservative chaebols (Korean: 재벌), or family businesses dominated the economy, and as years passed, higher costs of living, increased income inequality and slowed growth has led to an modern urban metropolis with a lack in community spirit.

The youth were particularly affected, as the lack of growth and job opportunities has affected their ability to live in bigger cities like Seoul.

The purpose of this sharing initiative then, is two-fold.

  1. To make cities more affordable and liveable for everyone,
  2. To foster a sense of community lost in an urban metropolis, to make a place to feel at home with friends.

It is not possible to keep bloating the public sector with more jobs to achieve this, nor is it possible in the capitalistic model to keep exploiting and utilizing already overstretched and shrinking finite resources such as space.

“The idea behind the sharing city is to utilize existing facilities, resources with new practices centred around trust”

However, this isn’t going to be free bonanza of sharing – it is a pragmatic approach to the constraints of the city. It is a pragmatic approach to a very real problem, of more tourists, having less places to stay, less people having places to stay, not enough parking lots, not enough books and crayons for needy children; the list goes on.

Over 60 Sharing Services are encouraged by the government in Seoul:

Seoul Sharing Services


Tourists – the city is actively encouraging tourists to stay at local B&B’s or rent empty rooms within a house for their stay in Seoul.  As with the lack of apartments to stay in – the cost of living has a factor to play in this as well as trust. In a very economy driven city like Seoul, most times, apartments stand empty not because there are no landlords leasing the out, it is because prices are too high.

Businesses – the aim of the project is to allow organizations and entities also to participate in the project, with a motivational sum of a 9 million Won ($7,700* USD) project grant, as long as the organization or entity has its service activities in the city of Seoul.

The city also goes further by listing several areas and laws that need to be acted upon that prohibit or make the sharing economy harder to operate.

Transportation – Article 81 of Passenger Transport Service Act, eases the ban on the usage of private vehicles for commercial public transport! This is easy to understand, since the popularity of ride sharing services is well know, as is the alleviation of traffic congestion due to the lowered number of cars on the road.

Taxation – Article 50 of the Restriction of Special Local Taxation Act, to exempt taxes on religious organizations when they share facilities with the public. This is interesting, especially since it could promote social cohesion and dialogue between different generations and sub-cultures within Korean society.

Food Industry – Article 37 of the Food Sanitation Act  eases regulations when dealing with restaurants who share their space with the public.

As for the other areas, they call for new regulations in the areas of Insurance and Construction, with Insurance being vague, and construction calling for the use of sharing practices in the design of new buildings.

It remains to be seen if the Korean government at large will be able to implement these practices and actions quickly enough to cope with the changing urban landscape and societal attitudes. However, the proposals and measured outlined in their document bears hope for a better, more sharing, and caring Seoul.
*KRW to USD rate as of May 7, 2016

Renewable Energy in Germany by Citizen Action

Often, renewable energy generation seems to be a pipe dream. Far away, expensive and only available to governments and extremely wealthy individuals.


However, this is a myth. Just a quick search online will yield a vast trove of results for consumer appliances powered by solar energy and wind energy, and even more tutorials on how to install renewable energy sources.

This is not an uncommon phenomenon, but when talking about mass scale industrial renewable energy generation – there are few projects to be seen available for the common layman.


There are many types of renewal energy generation for the consumer, including:

Solar energy, using PV or photo-voltaic cells which convert sunlight into electrical energy. Solar cells currently operate at about 15%-25% maximum efficiency, meaning that only up to 25% of the sunlight that falls on a photo-voltaic cell is converted to energy. The 25% figure, is achieved only in lab tests, in real life actual usage, it usually falls to 20% maximum. As expected, PV cells can only be deployed in areas with sunlight, and the stronger the sunlight, the better. On top of that, solar energy farms need a massive area to capture sunlight to produce a reasonable amount of electricity to justify its cost.

Another form of solar energy is based off mirrors and a steam turbine. Multiple mirrors focus the sun’s rays on a boiler tank painted in black. This heat collected by the multiple mirrors focussing the sun’s rays on it causes the water to vaporize into steam, which then turns the turbines connected to the boiler tank and generates electrical energy.

Wind energy, usually through wind turbines, which use the kinetic energy of moving air to turn fan blades, which then turn a generator, generating an electrical current.

Hydroelectric energy, this form uses the gravitational potential of elevated water that was lifted from the oceans by sunlight. It is not strictly speaking renewable since all reservoirs eventually fill up and require very expensive excavation to become useful again. At this time, most of the available locations for hydroelectric dams are already used in the developed world.

And the not-so-well known source wave energy. Wave energy generators operate using a combination of hydraulic systems and floats to harness the kinetic energy of underwater currents.

The waves force a series of floats to bob up and down. These floats are connected via a hydraulic system to generate more force upon the floats being pushed up, and then the hydraulic system turns gears connected to series or one turbine, dependent of the configuration of the station.

Due to the complex nature, as well as the relatively new development stage it is in, and selective sites in which this kind of station can be deployed, it is uncommon to see consumers using these for renewable energy generation.

In Germany, there are 3 main sources of energy. Traditional and more polluting coal fired plants, older nuclear powered plants, and lastly, renewable energy, which consist mainly of solar and wind power.

The German government decided along with the German public to close down the nuclear power plants following the Chernobyl power plant disaster – and then following that in modern times, the Fukushima power plant disaster.

They decided that they could not replace all the nuclear power plants with coal fired plants either, as it would only cause more issues with climate change. In the 2000’s, climate change came to the forefront of global attention, and with solar and wind technology catching up, Germany took the leap with the Energiewende in 2011.

Energiewende means energy transition, while others have used it to mean a green energy revolution. The term represents a change in the policy of managing energy through supply and demand commonly found in most markets, to a centralized to distribution model from smaller units. Such units include houses which produce and also supply energy back to the power grid.

The German Energiewende did not just come about in 2011. It is rooted in the anti-nuclear movement of the 1970’s.



In addition, Energiewende also encompasses the emphasis on efficiency in the production and distribution of power, as the faster and closer proximity to the supply and consumption sites of energy as well as increased energy saving measures boosts efficiency.

The policy was published in September 2011, about 6 months after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, only emphasizing how much the change to renewable energy was needed. It was finally passed and made into official policy in 2011.

Apart from green energy generation, the document also contains some very ambitious and important aspects. These include a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% by 2050, an increase in renewable energy generation to 60% of consumption nationally, as well as an increase in electric energy efficiency by 2050.

They key tenet of the Energiewende however has been citizen action and cooperation to feed into the energy grid. This action has led to the creation of energy cooperatives and citizen investors pooling their money and land to fund and construct renewable energy sources.

As a result, Germany’s share of renewable energy generation and usage has increased from around 5% in 1999 to 22.9% in 2012, reaching close to the OECD average of 18% usage of renewable energy.


Of course, these cooperatives not only fund and construct renewable energy sources such as wind turbines(as wind is the most common renewable energy resource in Germany) but they also take profits in a scheme where excess power is sold back to the grid. As a result, profits and power has been decentralized, creating a competitive market in which there are few large energy companies that have a large share in the renewable energy market.

This is only possible due to citizen action and cooperation leading to legislation reflected in the Energiewende policy which allows for a sustainable and realistic approach to the transition from fossil fuel generated energy to renewable energy.


Lendogram 1st Birthday!

This week is an important week for us at Lendogram as we officially turn ONE and I wanted to thank you all for being part of this community with us.


We’ve come a long way towards reaching our goal to make sharing easier than buying!

Over the last year, we’ve added some useful and time saving features to the Lendogram platform but the most exciting is the introduction of Groups: you can now create your own private group!

Think Your Own Library of Things with Friends lovethis

And it’s so easy to get started:

  1. Create your own group
  2. Invite your friends, family or co-workers
  3. Start sharing!

I hope Lendogram has created a bit more time and love in your life, sharing with your friends instead of spending time buying stuff we don’t really need all the time.

I love hearing y0ur stories and how you use Lendogram… Share with us a picture or your experiences on our Facebook page, Twitter or Instagram or respond to just in the comments below. 


Lendogram Team

Celebrate Earth, One Share at Time

As winter gives way to spring, and eventually summer, let’s reflect on how nature affects us all, and conversely, how we affect it.

The snow is melting, and the sun is getting stronger, and it’s time to enjoy the outdoors, maybe go camping – but what about all the equipment to setup camp? Should we buy  it all?


Let’s just take a look at the life cycle of a tent.

A tent is a simple structure made up of fabric and tent poles. In the old days, tents would probably be propped up by rope made from vegetable fibres such as hemp, and cloth made from felt, or wool or animal skin. All of this would be probably available from an area of 100 sq. km around where the tent would be setup. The downside is that it took more time, labour and energy to produce such materials due to the lack of industrial manufacturing facilities and technology.

The modern tent is an entirely different animal. The tent poles are made of metal, and if it’s a better quality tent, the poles will be made of aluminium. The fabric of the tent, can comprise of more than 10 different type of material, from polyester to high grade kevlar thread.

To simplify the process for making the tent poles:

  1. Metal needs to be mined out of the ground. During this process, if mining is done irresponsibly, run-off from toxic metals and chemicals used to extract the metal ore can pollute groundwater and affect local communities. Over time, this run-off will eventually seep into the water table, the underground reservoir of water, which farmers as well as surrounding communities also access for drinking and to water their crops.
  2. The metal ore then needs to be smelted. Done properly, air pollution is reduced to a minimum and metal is extracted efficiently from the ore. If the smelter is using polluting fuels to heat the smelter, air pollution occurs, as well as vast emissions of greenhouse gases. Most modern smelters and plants these days use induction heating, which sounds high tech but is surprisingly easy and simple to implement with magnets and electric currents.
  3. After the metal is processed, it is then sent to a factory to be manufactured and made into tent poles, shipped with the tent, and then sold to you.

As for the fabric of the tent – most plastics and plastic based threads such as polyester, the most common material found in tent fabrics, are petroleum based products. The petroleum industry isn’t evil per-se, but it does have a bad track record of polluting the earth when it comes to drilling and pumping oil out of the ground, as well as transporting it.

The fact stands that for a simple thing like a tent, so much carbon emissions are produced in its production alone, not to mention the transportation, as well as the sales and advertising materials needed to market it to everyone.

When used for just one or two summers and then kept on the top shelf of the storage room, it’s value is wasted, and there are double carbon outputs when you throw it away after a few years maybe because a chipmunk chewed a hole in it to get to your food.

Most tents are kept for 10 years and are used 3-4 times during this time – and then thrown away. On average, you could use a tent for over 100 times before it’s beyond repairs.

Think about that for a moment – all that effort, all that labour and Earth’s resources going to waste.

You can spread that cost of carbon emissions through sharing!

And you will create goodwill amongst your friends and colleagues through the very same act of sharing, and they could share their stuff with you too!

Today this is possible and very convenient, just by using apps like Lendogram!  Your friends borrow your stuff, you borrow theirs. You save the earth, and so do they, and everyone saves money!

Of course, if you’re not an outdoors person, this can apply to other things too! Lendogram isn’t just about tents! Dresses, jewellery, video games, toys, books, and even air mattresses for your house guest, you can share all these and more with your friends and family!

Save the earth – one share at a time!
Lendogram ❤️


Earth Day 2016

With April 22nd drawing near, let us talk a little about Earth Day!

Did you know that the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, almost fifty years ago? Back then, it was a day proposed to honour peace and the Earth itself and it was celebrated on March 21st, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere.

However, the April 22nd Earth Day as we know it was originally a forum on the environment founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson. In fact, it was only after 1990 that Earth Day became an international event, increasing its previous coverage from just the United States.

The landmark Paris Agreement is due to be signed on Earth Day by more than 120 countries, including both the United States and China.

Just a short summary of the Paris Agreement: it is a global agreement to voluntarily drive down carbon pollution with the aims of maintaining or reducing global temperatures. It also aims to increase the capability of countries to adapt to climate change without threatening food production. What makes this a big deal is that these two countries are literally the world’s largest polluters, accounting for up to 40% of global carbon emissions. When we include other nations like India, Russia and Indonesia, we can account for more than half the world’s emissions of greenhouse gas. That is indeed extremely significant.

With this agreement signed and ratified, the U.S. and China have both demonstrated a willingness to move forward to a low carbon future.

The theme for Earth Day 2016 is “Trees for the Earth”, a call to start planting up to 7.8 million trees by 2020.


Trees help combat climate change by absorbing greenhouse gases, along with providing communities with food, energy and income.

Also, planting a tree is one of the most simple things we can do to save the Earth, no?

The world certainly agrees. Now, let’s take a look at some of the global efforts in contributing to Earth Day 2016.


In line with the main movement, Earth Day Canada has started a new campaign, #Rooting4Trees, which hopes to plant up to 25,000 trees.

They’re doing this by launching a new crowdfunding website and collecting pledges to support tree-planting projects across the country, as well as encouraging individuals to get their own hands dirty and plant their own trees, or to connect with local organisations to host community events.

What a good way to both demonstrate their commitment as well as celebrate Earth Day Canada’s own 25th anniversary at the same time!


Across the Pacific, Earth Day Tokyo 2016’s theme is “Be the Shift!”, with a focus on personal responsibility and a movement towards both a sustainable and peaceful society amidst the chaos of the world today.

With events such as an outdoor concert in a park, study sessions, as well as a candlelight memorial, Earth Day Tokyo hopes to raise awareness of environment degradation combined with a unique focus on world peace.


Meanwhile in South America, ENO (Environment Online) Brazil is conducting a tree-planting day as part of the ENO Treelympics, which is a global campaign that encourages –you guessed it- the planting of trees.

This campaign, mainly for students aged 6-18, encourages them to find suitable areas for planting native trees, with the aid of schools and municipalities. With the motto being CitiusPlusFortius, which roughly translates to faster, greater, stronger, it’s safe to say that they’re going all out.


Across the Atlantic, in Rome, Earth Day Italy has collaborated with Schools of Rome and Retake Rome to create the Io CiTengo Prize. Translated to “I care about”, the award focuses on the love of one’s city, as well as imagining the future of the Earth.

The award also aims to draw attention to the themes of urban décor, care for your city, and green and common spaces.

Apparently, to win, you submit anything that demonstrates that love for your city is also love for your planet, environment, and fellow man. Anything from essays to artwork to projects are being accepted. How cool is that!

Hong Kong

Going east, the Hong Kong University’s Faculty of Science and Department of Earth Sciences has organised a talk and hands-on workshops for students.

With topics such as “buildings and urban ecology”, as well as “earth materials and their uses”, such a course would no doubt give these students a greater appreciation for the symbiotic nature humans and the earth have, as well as help them with their Earth Sciences class!

Abu Dhabi

Next, in Abu Dhabi, Kalidya Palace Rayhaan is organising its third annual “Battle of the Bottles” boat race, in which participants exercise their creativity and innovation to make boats out of recyclable materials such as plastic bottles.

Apart from that, a pageant would also be held where the best costumes made from recyclable and natural materials will be voted for by a panel of judges.

With such novel and stimulating activities, these participants would no doubt have a good time as well as walk away with more knowledge on how to save the Earth through recycling!


Lastly, down south in Australia, a small group of performers have put together a play to as their own contribution to Earth Day.

Dubbed “Mirror Pond”, it is a show that aims to raise awareness of the potential dangers caused by mining for unconventional gas, through the story of a young girl on a journey through the magical Land of Shalom. With the aid of two fairies, she regains the courage to return to her own land which is on the brink of environmental catastrophe.

With such a captivating storyline, as well as comedy provided by the two mischievous fair folk, it is safe to say that adults and children alike would both be entertained, in addition to being more enlightened about how mining irresponsibly for gas can destroy the environment.

So much love for our planet ❤️ 🌍

Tell us how are you planning to celebrate Earth Day in your community?

The Wealthy Poor

Ironic isn’t it? How can one be wealthy, yet poor?

Before you think that this is just another post on how society lacks values and morals while it’s so materially rich, read on.

We now are at an age of tremendous material wealth. If you don’t believe this statement, go out to your local mall. Go to the supermarket. look at the vast rows of food, clothes, makeup, consumer electronics and other products. Now, pick something up. Anything will do.

Ask yourself – was this grown or created within 5 miles of this supermarket?

Was it made by someone I know? Could I have made it by myself?

Most of these answers will probably be a resounding, hollow, no.

The question that begs us to answer it – How did we arrive here?

Through many years of mass industrialization, monoculture agriculture, globalization (not always a bad thing) and technological increases, we have made what kings and emperors ate in the medieval ages an everyday occurrence for most of us living in the developed world.

But why are we clad in the finery of kings and emperors, why do we eat like them, yet feel so poor? Was it because we made this system? Was it because we voted for it, rather, in our modern system of democracy, not with our votes at the ballot box, but with our wallets?

With our wallets, with our appetites, and with the things we consume.


Let’s take a look at free choice, consumption patterns, and who is actually responsible for all of this.

By the end of the 20th century, the world had largely recovered from the damage caused by the Second World War. With a lack of crises, threats, or in fact any major global trend or narrative, people started to pursue their own happiness. As a result, many people ended up pursuing creature comforts and the nebulous “good life” at the expense of true pleasure or their own self-defined satisfaction.

With mass production on the rise ever since the dawn of the 19th century (Industrial Revolution), products were now easily available to the common man.

What’s more, with the advent of online shops set up by both independent retailers and brand-name store chains trying to stay relevant, a world of products is now quite literally a few clicks away.

Just like that, the instant gratification offered by purchasing expensive or trendy items is now more than ever easier to obtain.

Ever heard of the term “fast fashion”? Well, it was created in response to the consumer demand for instant gratification. It’s a trend that utilizes quick and affordable manufacturing to cater to a large market at relatively lower prices.

The drawback, of course, is that it has contributed to pollution and poor working conditions in developing countries, in addition to placing an emphasis on very brief trends over classic and enduring styles.

However, the pursuit of happiness is not all there is to this story. As the individual affects the environment, the environment affects the individual. And the environment, especially for the millennials and beyond, looks especially daunting.

How does one even think of buying a house for themselves when property prices have been steadily on the rise, appreciating by 17% as compared to three years ago? Is it even possible to pay off one’s college debt when your tuition fees have increased by up to 25% as compared to ten years ago?

It is no wonder, then, that with the twin shadows of debt and an inability to secure individual housing looming over them, that the millennials have turned to chasing material comforts that are easier to secure, such as that shiny new phone or this new stylish shirt.

This, combined with the twin desires for a better standard of living and a sense of belonging run rampant in the form of consumerism. When a generation cannot find the stability that is their own home, or financial independence, they turn to superficial wealth.

Such consumerism manifests in keeping up with fashion trends and a constant pressure to keep an eye out for the next hip thing. In short, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

But don’t let that get you down! The good news is that as we have created this beast, so we are the ones best suited to slay it.

No, I’m not asking all of you to become ascetics or hermits overnight.

However, what we can do is very simple.

First of all, the most basic step forward is to simply value quality over quantity. What’s the point of getting five clutch bags at ten dollars each when you could just invest in a single bag that’s both respectable and long-lasting. Over time, getting fewer things of higher quality saves money, especially when compared to the mind-set of “I’ll just buy it because it’s cheap!”

Secondly, is to ask questions about labour practices used to create what you are buying. Did your jeans come from a company that uses child labour or provides safe working conditions for its workers? Did the makers of your fancy shoes dump toxic waste straight into some village’s drinking water supply? Ethics is the way forward, and some concern for your fellow man would do well in creating a better world for all of us.

Thirdly and last of all, we should invest in ourselves more. We’re not talking about investing in mere material objects.

No, it’s about experiences and more meaningful relationships. Build up a well of life experiences and memories and make your friendships more meaningful. Don’t spend all your energy on buying new things or making new friends. Invest in stronger relationships with friends you already have and take care and mend your clothes. Grab a coffee with a friend for $5 and have an intimate conversation, we promise it will result in greater happiness that will last much longer than the $5 shirt you may buy at the store.

Perhaps those treasured recollections and that compassion you have fostered for your fellow man, as well as the care you have for yourself in not consuming more than you need, may be the wealth we need the most of all.

How to Travel Green!

Travelling is a luxury our ancestors way back before air travel and globalization didn’t have.

But, now we do have this luxury, and we should enjoy it to the fullest, albeit responsibly, and in an as environmentally friendly manner as possible.


I don’t mean walking everywhere and sleeping in tents, that plain takes away the fun of travelling doesn’t it? The point of travel is to experience new and exciting cultures, meet people from different countries and ways of life, as well as see places that don’t look like the scene from your office window of course!

There are two main items to pay attention to when traveling and trying to be environmentally friendly: first and foremost are responsible travel practices that pay attention to local needs. Simply, your actions should have a positive, not negative environmental impact, and likewise social impact and as much as possible, they should be environmentally (and economically) sustainable.

There is no point in participating in “green tours” that are neither economically sustainable nor socially responsible since they will eventually fold without having done any lasting impact on the community or site that they were supposed to protect or preserve.

The second item is more common, and more well known. It is basically the reduction of carbon emissions, or greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible during travelling. Today, we’ll speak more on this point, as greenhouse gas emissions are the number one cause of global warming. Of course, cheaper means of travel has allowed us to explore and see new places but also exacerbated the problem.

When in the planning stage for a trip, even for a short trip, it is important to cease and stop all energy consuming devices that carry on passively while you’re away. Any activities that also contribute to pollution that you will not use, are also recommended to be paused for the duration of your trip, until you come back.

Here are some examples to reduce your carbon footprint while you’re away:

  1. Cancel your daily newspaper delivery

  2. Change the schedule of your automatic heating system (save on your heating bill!),

  3. Power down your modem and WiFi. If you have phones and radios, you can also unplug all of these so that they don’t passively consume power while you’re gone.

Before you actually hit the road – watch what you’re putting into your backpack or luggage. The reasons for this is two-fold. One, you save costs, and energy on your part (especially if you’re backpacking) and two, you save on the total amount of carbon emissions due to the lighter load you carry.

PRO-TIP:  discard and recycle all packaging such as those cardboard boxes that adaptors and clothes come in, and bring laundry detergent and fewer clothes so you can wash your clothes and wear them again while traveling. Simply put, the less heavy you and your luggage are, the less fossil fuels have to be burnt to transport you to your destination.

The key principle here, if possible is to emit as little carbon emissions as possible per kilogram or unit of weight that is transported, including yourself.

There are several ways to do so. The first has already been mentioned – reduce your total weight, and pack light.

When at your destination, of course, remember to recycle as much as possible, and stay in accommodation that reduces their waste and greenhouse gas emissions too. At the accommodation too, regardless of whether it is with friends or family, and during your entire vacation, remember to minimize wastage of both energy and material goods. This again, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, as well as reducing the amount of waste generated during your stay.

Remember lastly – to enjoy yourself! Happy Holidays!