Thursday, 27 August 2015

Perfect Working Holiday for Booklovers

Credit: The Open Book

Booklovers rejoice, as we’ve got the perfect working holiday for you! The travel destination? Wigtown, Scotland’s National Book Town.

A listing on Airbnb, The Open Book is a bookshop with an apartment above that enables you to manage the bookshop for a week or two while paying a minimal fee for your stay, as The Open Book is a non-profit. The residency programme was created by The Wigtown Festival Company to celebrate bookshops and encourage education in running independent bookshops.

If you’re planning to travel light, no worries, as a laptop and Wi-Fi will be provided should you want to connect with the outside world during your stay. Bicycles are also available if you wish to explore the National Book Town’s breathtaking scenery, such as Galloway, ancient woodlands, castles, whisky distillery, nature preserves and farms.

New to the town? Fret not, as there is a team of volunteers to make sure your stay is free of hassle, and a bookseller will be there too to offer you an orientation. Sounds an ace holiday idea, no? Seriously, nothing beats manning a bookshop by the sea! 

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Conscientious Consumption in Hong Kong

Credit: A Boy Named Sue

So here are two things we didn’t know for sure until last week: (1) our current system allows pretty much every corporation to externalise both environmental and social costs; and (2) when you took the externalised costs into effect, essentially none of the industries is actually making a profit. So yes, what you suspected for quite a while is now official. And do you know what we can do to change this collective level of hypocrisy that’s sweet-talking us into believing our money is invested in a sustainable future while it isn’t? Support brands that are making actual social and environmental effort, and who are being transparent about it.

A Boy Named Sue is an ace brand to start with. With its vision conceptualised at a faux French café in Hong Kong in 2012, A Boy Named Sue is the brainchild of Sam Wong, a Parsons NY graduate with a degree in fashion and sustainable design, and Tania Reinert-Shchelkanovtseva, a London School of Economics and Political Science graduate who was looking for a solution to Hong Kong’s pollution problems. Called ‘cool clothes with a conscience’, the brand’s garments are sourced from all over the world, by designers and brands that are committed to upcycling, ethical business practices, and natural, toxic-free manufacturing process.

Similarly, PhatRice is an online shopping platform that showcases designers and brands that are known for their social and environmental initiatives, such as Portovelo, which is dedicated to combating child poverty by seasonal partnerships with charity organisations, who in turn benefit from consumers’ purchase of Portovelo’s shoes; Shark Savers, which is on a mission to save sharks and mantas through building awareness and education, and sales of its eco-leather card holders; and Handsome Co, Hong Kong’s own design consultancy that upcycles discarded parts of old taxis into new products.

For the home, consider Bamboa, a brand and resident in PMQ that carries products made from locally harvested bamboo, made by local communities throughout Asia. A fan of yoga? Make your mindful pursuit an environmentally conscious one too by supporting A Day with Fé’s eco luxe yoga pants, composed of recycled polyamide such as fishing nets. Meanwhile, outdoorsy types will love’s outwear and sportswear, made from used or wasted fabrics, as the brand strives for zero environmental damage and wastage while implementing fair trade practices.

There really isn’t a dearth of options when it comes to conscientious consumption in Hong Kong, so go explore! 

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Get Your Parcel Delivered by Your Neighbour’s Car

Credit: Roadie

You’d be no stranger to the Uber affair in Hong Kong lately. Whatever your stance in this issue, this article is not about passenger-carrying Uber or Lyft or the likes, but the cargo version of Uber, more like.

Meet Roadie, an app that claims to be the first neighbour-to-neighbour shipping network, created by a man called Marc Gorlin, who thinks that the cargo space of your car can be put to better use by helping to deliver something that needs to go in the same direction that you’re going. The way Roadie works is simple: you take a photo of the item that you want delivered (as long as it fits into a car or truck), put in details about the location of the item, and Roadie will provide registered users who are going to that direction and willing to help out. By delivering the item, the Roadie (registered user who does the delivery) gets paid a fee which can be used to cover the cost of gas for the trip, even though he/she is going to that direction anyway.

There’s also an eco-friendly side to Roadie too, as now that it is delivered in a car, it doesn’t really need packaging. “We say your cargo can ride commando,” said Gorlin. “It actually can – it’s not going to have to bounce through four trucks and an airplane to get there. It’s going to sit in a blanket safely in my backseat. You’re reducing packaging materials by at least 80%.”  

How does the idea sound to you, Hongkongers? Perhaps not too useful for those living on outlying islands like Lamma Island, where delivery from the city is almost non-existent?

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Let Kids be Kids

Credit: Upworthy,

Do you remember how life was like as a kindergartener? I do, vaguely. It was the most fancy-free time of my life to be honest, not having a care about the world, homework was minimal and in the form of colouring sheets if any; Friday was invariably play day so we were allowed to get up and down on slides and run around until tea time. I don’t think kids these days would believe what I say though, for they seem to be robbed of their childhood what with the pressure on their parents’ shoulders, which is passed on to these little humans who have only just managed to walk in a balanced manner.

I do not have kids. One of the gazillion reasons being the expectations schools and society have on children these days: from kindergarten onwards they are pushed beyond their limits to fare well academically, so much so that they are deprived of the right to be children – roll in the sand, chase after each other for no apparent reasons, and play according to their own schedule. Educators and parents alike seem to have lost sight on what is best for children.

Fortunately enough, there are educators behind the Fuji Kindergarten outside Tokyo, whose desire for children to be children materialised by the design executed by Tokyo-based firm Tezuka Architects. Put simply, the Fuji Kindergarten is an endless playground, with trees growing right through classrooms. The school is especially designed as a circle and the roof as a giant ring of playground to let kids run around literally forever, until they have had enough of it. With the light structure that is the kindergarten built around a big tree, kids are encouraged to climb up to the classroom if they wish. Oh, and there is a water sink in each classroom to foster the children version of water-cooler talk.

To quote the principal: “I don’t train them (children). We leave them on top of the roof, like sheep, and they will keep running.” And that is precisely the kind of school life a kindergartener deserves.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Park Your Dogs While You Shop

Credit: The Barking Garage

We’ve heard enough of negligent dog parents who leave their pups in overheated cars as they shop in air-conditioned malls. It’s heartbreaking to say the least, and if we’re honest, to have to make laws to forbid dog parents from doing so is the least we want to face about the ugly side of humanity.

Thankfully enough, there are always people coming up with solutions to prevent something tragic from happening, as a result of the parents’ thoughtlessness, such as IKEA’s dog park, and recently, The Barking Garage, a company created by an Austin woman called Mary Traverse, who is a chiropractor for both humans and dogs. By converting a bright yellow car hauler into a temporary doggie day care, The Barking Garage is now up and running, opening between 10am and 6pm on Saturday, 11am and 4pm on Sunday, at the Gateway Shopping Center at the corner of US 183 and N Capital of TX Highway (loop 360) in Austin, Texas. Inside the car hauler are individual kennels, ensuring safety and comfort of the pups in the climate-controlled facility, attended by one of their dog-loving associates. The kennel rental rates are hourly, with a half-hour minimum and 15-minute increments.

While we’re happy that someone like Mary has stepped up to save the pups from the heat, we still can’t quite understand why anyone would bring their pups to where they aren’t allowed inside. Why not leave the pups at home anyway?