When Your Trash Saves Lives

Buddhist Tzu-Chi Recycling Centre at Taman Lumba Kuda, Penang
Buddhist Tzu-Chi Recycling Centre at Taman Lumba Kuda, Penang

While I try to have a variety of topics in our business blog, I am also that anal sort (yes, slap me) who wants a blog post that is befitting of a business blog, one that’s thoughtful and not written just because I have to spit something out on the blog.
That is certainly not my style.
Which is why sometimes, just sometimes, I have too many things and topics to write about but not enough time to do so. Ah… the bane of 21st century living!
Buddhist Tzu-Chi Recycling Centre at Taman Lumba Kuda, Penang
A separate kitchen/pantry for volunteers to take a rest and have a snack or tea

But this blog allows me to ramble along – knowing that friends like you will forgive me if I ramble too much and get too “cheong hei”.
A few months ago, our  Taman Sri Nibong Residents’ Association hosted a short briefing by at the clubhouse for the volunteers of The Buddhist Tzu-Chi Merits Society.
Buddhist Tzu-Chi Recycling Centre at Taman Lumba Kuda, Penang
A bunch of us from Taman Sri Nibong visited to get a better idea what the centre does

To cut a long story short, the Tzu-Chi folks are proposing to convert an old, abandoned food court in our taman into a recycling waste sorting centre. It is by no means an easy or cheap endeavour.
It means taking up the entire food court area of 10,000 square feet and doing what’s needed to make it into a place where residents can come, drop off their recyclables and get an education about reducing the wastefulness of our daily lives.
Buddhist Tzu-Chi Recycling Centre at Taman Lumba Kuda, Penang
Different categories of recyclables waiting for manual processing

And they need to pay a fee to MPPP to use this abandoned food court.
Now what’s interesting is this – the money generated from recycling will be used to fund the Tzu-Chi Dialysis Centres (they have one in Gottlieb Road and another in Butterworth and they have plans to build another centre by next year). Tzu-Chi Dialysis centres are free for kidney patients. Yes, that’s right. Free.
Recycling areas clearly labelled
Recycling areas clearly labelled

Like all communities, you will get people who are downright rude and negative about change. Any change.
Anything is to be feared even before they hear why it’s needed.
The thing that plays in their heads is that tune they choose to hear.
Volunteers comprising elderly folks sorting out the different papers
Volunteers comprising elderly folks sorting out the different papers

And funnily, even another well-known social organization started joining the fray, saying that THEY should be given the priority to manage and turn the the abandoned food court into a library and community centre.
This organization which shall be unnamed (because it will certainly shame some people who’ve always associated this organization with good community work) had the cheek to say that they want to give back to the community here. They had 2 years to raise the funds to do something but never did. Not until Tzu-Chi came along and said they wanted to do something. All of a sudden, this other group felt threatened!
The recycling centre brings senior citizens together to contribute to their community
The recycling centre brings senior citizens together to contribute to their community

Anyway, I think many of them felt afraid that a Buddhist a.k.a religious group was coming into Taman Sri Nibong. All the silly comments from some residents just makes me feel that religion makes us all suspicious of each other.
Donated computers and monitors to be refurbished and shipped to Myanmar for a second lease of life
Donated computers and monitors to be refurbished and shipped to Myanmar for a second lease of life

That aside, Nic and I had to go see for ourselves a real working Tzu-Chi recycling centre in Taman Lumba Kuda. A bunch of us residents turned up on a Saturday afternoon to listen and understand how the recycling centre handles its waste as well as re-educate the people about recycling.
A thriving garden in the Tzu Chi recycling centre
A thriving garden in the Tzu Chi recycling centre

We saw a pleasant, quiet and green environment where volunteers silently sorted out the different piles of recyclables. Even with the paper category, there’s white paper and coloured paper. Above all, it was clean.
Tzu Chi recycling centre penang
Another angle of the garden

They even grew a garden around the recycling centre. It resembled quiet, restive area for communities to mingle, talk to each other and help sort and re-bundle trash.
Tzu Chi recycling centre penang
Here's a water garden!

They even accept old PCs and clothes. The PCs will be refurbished and sent to Myanmar. Many internal parts of the PC can be reused.
Tzu Chi recycling centre penang
Vegetable garden within the Tzu Chi recycling centre

The key to Tzu-Chi is education. They start with cultivating that spirit in all that they do. And unlike most Chinese organizations, theirs is done with style. Have you noticed how beautifully elegant Tzu Chi books and packaging are?  I am often delighted at their products because they do pay attention to design.
[Update: Here’s something to cheer about. After all the hullabaloo, Tzu-Chi managed to get approval from MPPP and the relevant authorities to rent and convert the old Medan Selera into its recycling centre. They fenced it up  and by 18 November (yes, this Sunday), the Tzu-Chi Recycling Centre in Taman Sri Nibong will be operational. Please support this centre with your recyclables.]

Tzu Chi recycling centre penang
What you cannot recycle!

What I'm Growing In My Garden

I’m quite pleased that my garden (little though it may be) is growing quite well, thanks to the rich compost I make. (In case you want to make some compost of your own, you can read about the composting method, that a very gungho couple from Bukit Mertajam taught me.)
It’s been a little more than a year since I started to use compost for my own plants and herbs and I can tell you, there is a BIG (pardon the pun) difference with regular soil. Compost is full of nutrients and plants love it!
Here are some photos I took just this morning – I’m already in the Chinese New Year mood so I decided to take it easy and show you what I like to do when I am not busy with website design projects or doing business writing or networking or going out.
Besides cooking which I love (I think I like experimenting with food), I enjoy pottering about the garden, watching my plants grow. It’s quite fulfilling to see something growing from a seed – and I have had much success growing plants from seeds or cuttings (thankfully). I do know some people who can’t seem to grow anything or rear anything. Unlike Midas with his golden touch, certain people have poisonous touches, killing plants with their vibes.
At the moment, I’m satisfied that my little roselle sapling (is it a sapling or a baby plant) actually has roselle fruit! Look at the photo below. It is about 4 inches tall but it is mighty cute with a single roselle bud. I grew this from seeds which I saved after I made roselle syrup. Roselle is one of those plants which need a lot more publicity because it can be grown in Malaysia and it is full of vitamins and tastes better than the sugary-rich Ribena.
roselle plant, roselle fruit
The next plant or sapling which I am quite pleased with are my markisa plants (also grown from seeds, after I ate most of the markisa or passionfruit which I so adore). Nic isn’t too keen on passionfruit as it’s a tart fruit.
I figured I could grow the fruits I like to eat so this was one of those experiments. Passionfruit seems to be making a comeback now as I see lots of fresh passionfruits sold in the Lip Sin market. The flowers of this fruit tree are gorgeous, I am told, and a little research online confirms this. However this passionfruit is a climber vine sort so I have yet to find out how to let the little ones climb and where! I cannot wait when it fruits!
markisa, passion fruit,
The next plant which I really love is pokok kemuning. For the longest time I didn’t know what it was called because Nic calls it by its Mandarin name “chit lee xiang” (roughly translated, “seven mile fragrance”). But a search and some garden blog scrutinising later and I found out it is called Murraya Paniculata.
Like most plants with nondescript tiny white flowers, it needs an added ‘feature’ to get the bees and butterflies excited (and come over and help them pollinate!). That is why Murraya Paniculata has an enticing fragrance, one so heady I swoon (in a good way of course).

Murraya paniculata, pokok kemuning
Murraya paniculata is a sun-loving shrub and grows well in pots or in the ground

The tiny white flowers are five-petaled, with each petal curved back. Their fragrance gets released as the days grow into nights and I can tell you, it’s an unbelievable aroma, coming from smallish white flowers like the kemuning.
When I was in HK last year, one particular white flower caught my ‘nose’ too. The osmanthus plants I saw grew in the HK Botanical Garden – the plants were grown around the bird cages where their delicate aroma masked the stink of the birds. I thought this was a splendid idea. When I came back, I was dismayed to know that our tropical weather did not bode well for the temperate osmanthus. Luckily I got to know about the Murraya and it is as good as the osmanthus! The Murraya can be grown as hedges, in the ground, or in pots (like what we’ve done). It loves the sun so anywhere which gets the sun is good place to position your dark-green plant.
By the way, the city of Gui Lin in China is named after the osmanthus. In Mandarin, the osmanthus is called “gui hwa”. Osmanthus flowers are also used in TCM; its dried flowers are steeped as a tea. I have seen dried osmanthus flowers sold by local herbalists to promote beautiful skin.
Here’s a photo of the fruit of the Murraya. The fruits are oval-shaped green berries when unripe but become attractively orange when they ripen. As with all plants, they entice birds to come eat their berries and help spread the murraya seeds far and wide. My mom-in-law grows saplings easily from these seeds back in Kuching. You can do the same too by plucking the ripened berries and putting them into separate pots to help them grow.
Murraya paniculata berries or kemuning fruits
Ripe Murraya paniculata berries which can easily grow if planted

Since this post is quite long, come back for the next post of what else I’m growing in my garden and why!
Do you have a garden? What do YOU grow in your garden? It doesn’t have to be a garden at all. When I was in my old apartment, all I had was a tiny balcony. Even so, I had pots and pots of plants. I believe all of us derive great pleasure from seeing things grow and progress. Plants are one of the easiest and when they grow well, we get the added benefit of seeing their flowers or inhaling their fragrance.
So tell me, what are you growing right now?

5 Easy Ways to Green Your Lifestyle

This is my 250th post since 2005. 😉
And today is also World Environment Day.
On reflection, I think I am a good environmentalist. Nic and I have made the environment one of those causes that we support heartily.
JOIN MNS & MAKE YOUR MONEY WORK
Starting last year, I became an MNS member so that I could channel some money towards Mother Nature especially to safekeep what we currently have. I’ve also learnt so much from the monthly MNS newsletters.
This morning, I read about bats in the June MNS newsletter (I have a tendency to read while having breakfast). Pahang is one of the best places on earth to see a variety of bats (which are mammals by the way). We have about 65 species of bats. The other place which comes close with some 50 species is the French Guyana. See the things you learn about Malaysia when you support a local cause? I encourage you to join as an MNS member – if only to know that your money is going towards saving endangered animals. Do good for only RM6 a day. I am sure your latte costs much more than that.

Read more5 Easy Ways to Green Your Lifestyle