Watch your waste line

Many of us love buffet meals and barbecue cookouts. Buffets that offer “eat-all-you-want for one fixed price” tempt us with a wide array of meats, sausages, seafood, tofu, noodles, vegetables and various other forms of protein and carbohydrates, which are unhealthy when taken to excess. To “get our money’s worth” we tend to gorge ourselves until full, and then stuff in another 20 per cent for good measure.

As for barbecues, the nightly feeding frenzies around barbecue pits in public parks and beside condominium swimming pools are evidence of more overeating. Serious overeating also takes place at hot pot or steamboat restaurants.

Wasting food

A lot of what we eat at buffets, barbecues and hot pot feasts is wasted. The body cannot use so much food eaten at one time and the excess is passed out as waste, or deposited as fat in the wrong places of our bodies, to the detriment of our health and appearance. Substantial amounts of leftovers are thrown away. It is said, and it is sad, that the amount of food wasted in affluent countries is enough to feed all the starving people in the less fortunate parts of the world.

Eating too much has led to a high incidence of obesity in developed countries, and obesity is associated with diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney and liver problems, and other medical problems increasingly common today. The sale of overly-sweetened beverages, “upsizing” of portions, and sheer human greed to want more than we need, are compounding the problem.

We have to learn how not to waste food. It is good that some bakeries and restaurants in Singapore and some other major cities donate their unsold food at the end of each day, to old folks’ homes, children’s homes and charitable organisations that feed the poor and needy. The food is still fresh and clean, and of good quality. But more needs to be done.

Wasting water

We also waste water. The drought of February 2014, which affected Singapore and parts of Malaysia, saw the water levels of ponds, lakes and reservoirs reaching very low levels. It drove home to us the message of how precious water really is.

 Water consumption in Singapore is about 150 litres per person per day. To put that in perspective, in semi-desert areas of the world, people survive on less than 5 litres per person per day. Obviously, we can cut down our water consumption by a large margin. Some 30 per cent of the water we use literally goes down the drain when we shower, and another 10 per cent is used at the sink when we wash our hands, face, kitchen utensils and so on. The figure goes up if we have to water the garden, lawn and house plants. We tend to leave the water running unnecessarily while we apply soap on our bodies or our hands, wash utensils, water plants and clean motor vehicles.

Turning off the tap would save many litres of water a day. Using a tumbler when we brush our teeth can save as much as 9 or 10 litres of water a day. Taking extra care to save water when we shower, and not soaking in the bathtub, can save dozens of litres. It is that simple. We should therefore teach our children and everyone at home to save water, and not to waste food.

It is wise to remind ourselves that food and water, and all the other resources of this earth, come from God. God has created and left for us various resources that are limited in amount, and they are precious gifts that are not to be wasted. We are seeing the rapid depletion of metals like copper, and fuel sources like petroleum reserves.

After Jesus fed the 5,000 men on the far side of the Sea of Galilee, there were many leftovers from the five barley loaves and two small fish He used to feed the multitude. So He said to His disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” (John 6:12, NIV) In so doing, Jesus set an example for His disciples, and for us, in not wasting – in this case, food.

Wasting materials

But it is not only food and water that are being wasted. Heavy usage of packaging, bottling and widespread use of plastics has resulted in huge amounts of trash needing to be disposed of every day.

These used to end up buried in landfills, but so much trash is being generated that many cities are running out of land to bury trash. Rubbish is being dumped into rivers and streams running through cities and towns, clogging waterways, and posing a health hazard to people living nearby. This is not a major problem in Singapore, but despite our good reputation as a country with less litter, we still see some floating litter on the Singapore River and other waterways, which needs to be regularly skimmed away.

With little land available for trash landfills, recycling is the obvious way to go. However, the recycling culture is still weak here and Singapore lags behind many developed countries. Cardboard boxes, bottles and empty aluminium cans are collected by retirees or people in need, who sell these items to earn some income, which are then recycled.

Trash collection companies also separate collected trash into piles of recyclable plastics, metals, glass, and other categories. Paper and other flammable materials are burnt to generate electricity. Rubble is reused to make cement blocks and mixed with asphalt and broken pieces of old roads to make new roads. Little goes to waste.

Many condominiums now have separate recycle bins for paper, bottles and others. But I was amused to hear of cases where the cleaners, out of ignorance, cleared out the separate bins and dumped everything into the same bin. Obviously, there needs to be better education and supervision of cleaners in the area of recycling.

Wasting time

With modern technology, there are now many more opportunities to waste time. We spend a great deal of time checking our e-mail, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and other accounts, and replying to the many messages that flow in each day. We have also become slaves to our mobile phones, at the beck and call of relatives, friends, bosses, subordinates, telemarketers and others, to a degree never seen before.

Hardly a week goes by without someone inviting me to play some fascinating and time-consuming online game. Having seen a few of my children becoming addicted to such games and computer games, which occupied them until the wee hours of the morning, my policy is to stay clear of such games. I have informed everyone of my policy, and life has been so much less stressful and more relaxed.

God has given us only so many days on this earth, and we should not waste any of the precious time we have left.

Reprinted with permission from IMPACT Magazine, Jun/Jul 2014, Vol. 38, No. 3.

Mickey Chiang –

has been blessed with six children and four grandchildren. He enjoys keeping in touch with family and friends.



Picture by PANYA KUANUN/