Planting Our Green Future

loading SK Tanjong Tokong students sprucing up their urban garden.

Suburbs are rooting for a healthier environment.

Global warming is real. Human progress over the past centuries has steadily led to the decline of the environment, measured through the quality of water, air and soil, UV exposure, disease, climate change and other direct and indirect impacts on our well-being.

The severity of the problem is not readily acknowledged by the public; lifestyles and daily routines still revolve around modern comforts.

But encouragingly, more and more businesses are reinvesting their profits into social and environmental causes. These social enterprises are fast growing due to larger concerns over the detrimental effects of urbanisation, over-population and over-development. France passed a law in 2015 banning supermarkets from spoiling or destroying unsold food, instead channelling these to charities. The International Peace Cafe in Bristol, the UK, aims to set up cafes across the city to show “how much we have in common by getting together over food”. Brewbird in London provides ex-convicts with training as baristas and bakers, as well as in customer service and management.

SK Tanjong Tokong students tending to the Growing Heritage structure at Straits Green.

Here at home, the Think Green initiative by Eastern & Oriental (E&O) began as a pilot project in 2013, working with 120 students from three primary schools – SK Tanjong Tokong, SK (T) Azad and SK (C) Hun Bin. Currently, this programme includes monthly educational workshops with SMK Tanjong Tokong, and monthly early childhood garden sessions with Tadis Ar-Rasyiddin pre-schoolers and children from SK Pendidikan Khas Persekutuan Pulau Pinang.

There is a food garden, located at Straits Green’s four-acre Playground-By-The-Sea public park, which consists of an organic compost bay, keyhole mulch bed and galvanised raised beds that the students have built. “Our community education programme aims to nurture and inculcate eco-consciousness, healthy living and community spirit through a food garden,” says Ann Tan, Strategy Communications Senior Manager of E&O’s Penang Group.

Participating students of the Think Green programme maintain the food garden. As it evolves, the students will also co-create and build new garden features. Green waste from Straits Green is composted at the Think Green site and used at the food garden to grow vegetables. All signage in the garden are painted by the children and residents in the area.

In January 2015 Think Green organised its first Think Green Pop-Up Booth event at Straits Quay, which saw the participation of 150 students from four schools within the Tanjong Tokong vicinity. Forty students from SK Tanjung Tokong demonstrated to their peers from SK (T) Azad, SK (C) Hun Bin, Tadis Ar-Rasyiddin and the public how to recycle self-watering planters and propagate herbs. The event showed that the students’ confidence and motivation may be all it takes to make a difference in their community if given a peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing platform. This programme was later extended to become part of Occupy Beach Street 2016.

The Natural Farming team headed by NV Subbarrow from the Consumers Association of Penang helps run many of the activities at Straits Green. Landscapers working at Straits Green are also constantly engaging the public by giving training in organic composting and fertilising. Nova Nelson, a sustainable community project designer from, helps design the space and develop community programmes for Think Green.

The positive practices promoted by Think Green have also been adopted by some residents of the Ariza Home Owners’ Association (AHOA) and Seri Tanjung Pinang’s Quayside Management. This community has started their own composting site and two brick herb patches in the residents’ common area.

On March 4, a Think Green Treasure Hunt held at the Straits Green public park saw 81 students from nearby schools taking part. “Over the years, participating students learnt about composting, garden design and care, building raised beds, growing food, herb appreciation, urban gardening, natural farming and making DIY planters,” says Tan.

Students having fun during the Think Green Treasure Hunt.

SK Tanjong Tokong students planting mangrove saplings at Sungai Acheh, Nibong Tebal.

Community Compost

Credit must be given to many Tanjung Bungah residents who are determined to keep the suburb filled with trees. Planting activities are carried out throughout the year with the Village Development and Security Committees (JKKKs) in the area and also the Penang Island City Council.

Among the favourite plants which have been planted so far are hibiscus and bougainvillea trees. “These are easy to grow and can withstand our hot weather. When they bloom, the whole area will look very pretty,” says Lim Siew Hock, chairperson for JKKK Jalan Gajah. “We plant them near Tesco Seri Tanjung Pinang and along Jalan Tanjung Tokong, and we also gave some plants to the Tanjung Tokong police station.”

JKKK Jalan Gajah also manages Tanjung Bungah’s recycling centre at Tanjung Park, where fruit peel enzymes are manufactured and sold at RM2 per 500ml bottle at green and organic fairs such as the Penang International Green Carnival. According to Lim, all fruit peel may be used to make the enzyme, but the most common ones found at Tanjung Park are banana, lemongrass, pineapple, coconut, watermelon and papaya peel.

There are 16 1,000-litre containers at the Tanjong Park recycling centre, which was launched in 2013. Lim oversees its operations and maintenance with the help of committee members. “Fruit enzymes are environmentally friendly – they clear clogged drains and can also act as a mosquito repellent. Some people also use the enzymes to wash their hair, or add a few drops to wash their clothes, mop the floor and even wash their utensils,” says Lim. She also teaches the public how to make enzymes through talks and workshops.

After all, small efforts are all it takes to create a greener, healthier environment. Every little bit helps.

Those who would like to find out more about enzymes can contact Lim Siew Hock at +6012 406 5212.

Carolyn Khor is a pluviophile who enjoys a good book alongside an aromatic cup of coffee. A music teacher by profession, she was also a contributor to MSN, the Penang Green Council and many other online and print publications.

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