Why ban plastic bags?

Reusable bags are great v.s. disposable plastic bags any day if only solely for the reason that they are so much better looking than those ugly flimsy disposable bags 😉

But other than that shallow reason, there are some very important reasons why single use plastic bags need to become an exception instead of the rule as they are today

History of the disposable plastic bag

Plastic bags were invented in 1950, almost 60 years ago. That’s basically one generation.  What did our grandparents use then, we wonder?  Surely even back then they needed to buy things and bring them home?  Back then though, when people wanted to buy something they either carried them in their hands, or they had shopping baskets or wrapped their shoppings in pieces of cloth.  Yes, it required some mindfulness – as in “today I’m going grocery shopping, better grab that basket”, but it meant a whole lot less rubbish and packaging.

Nowadays we take plastic bags without a second thought. We expect them to be available.  Even to carry something that would fit in a purse or pocket already on hand, we still want to put that single product (already packaged in its own layers of plastic) into that tiny plastic bag that will be thrown away the instant we get home.

What is the real cost of this plastic bag addiction?  It’s something we think of as “free” and something we think shops and restaurants should provide – but is it really “Free”? Or are we just deluding ourselves for the sake of convenience?

The cost of making a plastic bag.

The world consumes 500 billion to 1 trillion disposable plastic bags every year.  It takes about 60 – 120 million barrels of oil to make those plastic bags (not to mention transporting those bags from the manufacturing plant to the shops).  We’re already facing a global oil shortage, and removing that oil from the Earth extracts a heavy price from the environment (and consequently our ability to live comfortably on this planet).  Imagine how much longer we could enjoy this plalnet simply by using less disposable items (that includes disposable bags and bottles).

And disposable plastic bags aren’t really free. They cost stores real money, which is worked into products sold by the supermarket.  Retailers in the USA collectively spent USD4 billion a year on disposable plastic bags alone!!!  You as the consumer do actually pay to purchase them, it’s just another hidden cost.

The cost of disposing of that disposable plastic bag.

Most disposable plastic bagsare thrown away after a single or two time use (i.e. once to take your shopping home and once to collect rubbish before throwing).

That’s on average a 10 – 15 minute actual carrying time (seeing as Malaysians use cars, so we’re talking about carrying from the shop to our car and then car to our home) for something that’s going to take an estimate of 500 to 1,000 years (yes you read that right) to decompose in a landfill.

How many plastic bags can the world take?  As it is, after 60 odd years of disposable plastic bag use (at accelerated levels in recent years no less), the world is already bursting with rubbish.  Soon, the world really will be one big rubbish dump, with a few humans desperately scavenging through landfill after landfill hoping to find something non-toxic enough to live on.

Deadly plastic bags

Plastic bags are a huge killer.  They look innocuous and you’d think humans would declare plastic bags their best friends at their rate of use, but plastic bags are responsible for the deaths of :

– 10,000 sea turtle and other marine animal deaths every year (sea animals swallow the bags which then expand in their stomachs preventing any nutrition from being absorbed into the stomach.  Eventually the animal dies, their bodies decompose and the unharmed & undecomposed plastic bag is released back into the sea to kill another day!)

– Birds and other land animals get entangled in plastic bags, are unable to escape and die of starvation or strangulation

– Discarded bags clog up drains and waterways, which leads to flooding and pools of water in which bacteria and mosquitos will happily breed.

Even after plastic bags do decompose, they don’t simply disappear into nothing.  They break down into small toxic particles, that are believed to leach into the soil and interfere with moisture distribution.

But how many plastic bags do we really use ?

Think about your personal habits with shopping.  Do you buy lunch to takeaway? In most likelihood you will be given a polystyrene box in a small red plastic bag that barely can contain the polystyrene box.  Go grocery shopping? We rarely fill up those disposable plastic bags because they are so flimsy, so a single person might take 5 or 6 of those a week.  Buy a pair of shoes, go to the pharmacy?  Pick up the latest magazine or book at the bookshop?  Bag, bag, bag, bag.

Imagine how much waste you personally can reduce by just carrying a small lightweight reusable bag around with you.

Later topics

Too much to say in one postfuture related topics :

– Cheap Reusable shopping bags – greenwashing ?

– Is Paper really better than Plastic?

– Countries that have banned disposable plastic bags and why Malaysia should follow suit

Standing up for what you think is right

So recently there has been a comment by a random passerby (not a customer) that Tiny Tapir has been involved in some drama in the past.

What with the Envirosax drama, and previously there was a misunderstanding with a customer in the early days (we’ve since made up – you know who you are!), plus the blog about cheap v.s. expensive diapers, I suppose we have had a bit of drama on the blog.

But in hindsight, I really would not have done anything different in the past.

When a person has an opinion, or a moral standing, when they see something not quite right, yes, you can choose to ignore it and walk on.  You can bitch and bitch about it in the background with other parties but say nothing about it publicly, and actually DO nothing about it for fear of repurcussions to yourself.   You can continue to let other people be misinformed.

Maybe people will say I am kay-poh or arrogant or jealous for saying what I honestly think and putting out information I feel is more accurate.

But if I were not the kind of person to say what I thought and who feels strongly about injustice or wrong-doing, then I would not have started Tiny Tapir.

Tiny Tapir was started out of a desire to provide an avenue to promote small businesses over large ones, out of a desire to deal with issues I feel strongly about (poverty, the environment, our health, fair labor practices and the increasing homogenous commoditization of products everywhere).  If I were the kind of person to feel strongly about those issues, isn’t it natural that I would feel strongly about other issues too?

When I think of whether to say something (that I know might generate drama), I always come back to the same few quotes :

“Injustice is relatively easy to bear. What stings is justice.” – Henry Louis Mencke

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

Perhaps though, I need to remember the following more often instead :

“Maturity is : the ability to bear an injustice without wanting to get even” – Abigail Van Buren

And focus on bigger issues instead.

What’s with the sudden silence?

S’been quiet around here, but rest assured many little things are going on behind the scenes here at Tiny Tapir.

We’re working out a lot of kinks and processes to hopefully make things go a lot smoother in the future (without as much running around like headless chickens)…

A few things on the drawing board :

  • Our wholesale / distribution program is being revamped with a lot of exciting and beloved products coming out in a big way
  • We’re 95% complete on our stock organization and moving upstairs at the Bungalow@Damai – which leaves the whole of downstairs for use by the Doodlebug Girls
  • Soon we’ll be ready to hold workshops, support groups and other events upstairs at the Bungalow@Damai – if you have any class / subject suggestions, or if you’re looking for a nice, clean, cozy venue in the middle of town, do contact us
  • A few new product are in the planning stages (we promise they’re not just family related products, for those of you who aren’t parents)
  • The Parenthood Fair in Midvalley is coming up in August 2009 – there will be lots of bargains to be had there!

So please do bear with us, we’re getting there!

Domain name scams

Tread Carefully. If you own a website and your own domain name, watch out for this particular scam.

You’ll get an email from a company saying someone is trying to register the domain names for example “www.tinytapir.cn , http://www.tinytapir.hk ” etc etc. The email we got was like this :

Dear President/CEO,

We are WEST Holdings Company Ltd. We are a professional domain name registration organization in Hong Kong, which is mainly responsible for domain name registration and dispute. We have some points need to confirm with your company on your company’s intellectual property right on Internet.

On Mar., 31 ,2009, we have received an application form on domain name registration from a so called “Enflame Holdings Limited” . They put forward to register the following domain names:
tinytapir.cn
tinytapir.com.cn
tinytapir.tw
tinytapir.com.tw
tinytapir.hk
tinytapir.us
tinytapir.asia
tinytapir.de
Wireless Brand Keyword

During our preliminary investigation, we found that these domain names’ keyword is identical with your trademark. So we intend to confirm with you if your company consigned them to register through us. If you do not have any idea about this company and has no affiliation with them, we doubt they have other motivation. Now we have postponed this issue and have not proceeded their registration. In order to deal with this issue better, please make sure to let your relevant director deliver the confirmation with written version to us as soon as possible.

PS:If you are not in charge of this matter,please transfer this email to appropriate dept..

Best Regards,

At first I thought it was legit so I just wrote back :

Dear Jessica,

This company is not consigned by us or known to us or affiliated to us .

Appreciate you letting us know.

thank you,
Li

They quickly sent this back to me :

Dear li chan,

I am glad you contact me in time. If you have no relationship with them. According to our working experience, there are 2 possibilities:
1. Enflame Holdings Limited is a domain name investment company, they want to register these names before you and sell back to you to gain profits.
2. It may be a commercial method, Enflame Holdings Limited is consigned by your competitor to register, make your clients confused.

Because domain name takes open registration,Who register the domain name first, who will be the owner.this is international domain name registration principle.
As a domain name registration organization,we just have the obligation to inform you about the case,we have no right to refuse their application.
But because you are the trademark owner, so you will get the priority to register these domain names and keywords.

If you think their registration will confuse your clients and harm your profits, we can send a disputed application form to you and help you register these domains within dispute period,
this is the way to prevent domain name from grabbing.
Of course,if you don’t think their application will affect you, you can give up,we will finish the registration for Enflame Holdings Limited according to the rules.
Hope get your decision ASAP, so that we can handle the next step.

Best Regards,

I got to thinking “there are literally at least a hundred variations of domain names nowadays – what with .org , .tv , .com.my etc etc.  If I tried to register them all I’d go broke just maintaining the domain names!  Besides, I thought it might be a scam, after all, I’ve only got their word that someone is going to register those domain names.  And how in demand would “TinyTapir” be in China / HK anyway?  99% of the population there wouldn’t have a clue what a Tapir even is.

So I did not reply.

A few days later, this email arrived :

Dear li,

Please note,The dispute term is limited.I want to know what is your status of consideration? Your decision is much important to us.

If you haven’t made the decision, we will wait you for 2 days. But if you have already made a decision, please let me know it. And reply me at the first time seeing this letter.
Best Regards,

This actually made me even more suspicious, so I actually googled “Enflame Holdings Limited” to see if it was for real – no search results, leading me to think it was probably not real (usually “real” companies will at least have 1 or 2 listings in a directory).

No company? I was pretty sure it was a scam by that point so I did some more googling.

Looks like what these companies do is contact you, make you anxious about retaining your domain name, and get you to sign up with them to register all the domain name variations – at an inflated price.

If you really are worried about keeping your domain, your best bet is actually to go to a site like http://www.godaddy.com where registration and renewal is fairly cheap (well, when I researched it last year it was the cheapest and most reliable company for domain name registration and renewal).

But I think it’s not worth worry about.  After all, the most important domain name ends with “.com” and it’s what people remember and look for, so registering too many domain name variations is really just a waste of money.

New CD stores that make me go “hmmmm”

Recently there have been a whole crop of new cloth diapering stores that are opening up online. I say great! You know, as long as more people are hearing about and using cloth diapers, I really don’t care where they buy them from.

I love browsing the new sites and seeing what they offer, whether there’s anything new or interesting.

What I do mind are those new cloth diapering stores that try to sell their products by publicly  throwing mud at other online stores or their products.  I really think it’s rude and not very good business practice. I mean, if your brand of cloth diaper is so fantastic – you don’t need to mud-sling for it to be successful.  Gradually word will spread and more and more customers will refer friends to your site and then – voila! Success!  Is it really necessary to bring others down in order to pull yourself up?

Many of the new cloth diaper stores are now getting cloth diapers from factories in China or India, where the cost per diaper is extremely cheap (v.s. the cloth diaper stores from the last 2 years who got established branded cloth diapers from the USA or Australia or Singapore) .  Those factories try to copy the designs of the ‘established’ brands to varying degrees of success.  Yes, it’s possible that you will get a cloth diaper very cheap and it will be good for your baby, but it’s also possible it will be a dud. I discussed this earlier too.

The reason why imported cloth diapers (i.e. those made by WAHMs or even those made in China but are quality monitored and designed by “big” established cloth diaper brands) are so expensive is because it takes a lot of work to get a quality product.  Furthermore you pay for marketing, you pay for fair wages, you pay for shipping charges and you pay for brand assurance.

Yes, you can definitely buy a bunch of really cheap cloth diapers – but you seriously do get what you pay for.  Anyone who has seen a Rumparooz Microfiber insert for example knows what I mean. You just can’t compare that with the normal microfiber inserts you get with the cheaper generic China brands.

Which isn’t to say you should stay away from generic China brands.  If you’re on a budget, if you are only going to be cloth diapering one child, if your child is close to potty learning, if the generic china brand happens to fit your child like a glove – go for it! It’s honestly a great way to cloth diaper for cheap.

But if you want a CD to last a long long long time and to absorb a LOT of liquid while still being trim – well, then you have to pay for it. Just like with any other product on the market, customers pay for quality.

So back to what I was originally trying to say. This new CD store I just saw, posted this on her About Me section :

new-cd-store

What?  Actually as far as I know all of the online cloth diapering shops here in Malaysia are owned and run by a single person.  I wasn’t even aware that there were “big guys” in the cloth diapering world. I think it’s sad that this new store owner thinks that the cloth diapering market in Malaysia is so toxic. I know for a fact it isn’t. I’m on good terms with at least three or four other online store owners and we all collaborate and talk to each other not infrequently so we can compare notes so to speak.  I really don’t think any of us are that much “bigger” than the other…

Except I guess The Baby Loft, but can’t really fault Audrey because her store really is too big for her to handle 100% of the customer service herself – but even there, when I bought something from her last year, it was Audrey I communicated directly with (and no, she didn’t know I was the Tiny Tapir store owner).

Definitely when you call Tiny Tapir, you will, 90% of the time, speak to the owner (i.e. me). Same goes I know for when you call Lil Danzell and I’m sure also Miabambina and all the other long time online CD stores. (OK i admit last 4 days my response time is really slow compared to before, but that’s because I’m overloaded with work as well as setting up the new Tiny Tapir Baby retail store).

So really, I’m perplexed… who are these Cloth Diaper store “big guys” and their staff, and how come I don’t know about them?!

Update on the Ampang Park Store

No, this isn’t an April Fool’s day prank  😛

The Ampang Park store is moving long and renovations are more or less completed. Here’s a couple of photos for you sneak peakers.

We’re starting to move the inventory in already so it’s very exciting. And we’ve hired our shop manager too 🙂 We think she’s lovely and hope you all will like her too!

I really don’t think I have enough of those drawers for the cloth diapers though…. LOL!!

ampang-park-empty_3

Through the middle of the shop

ampang-park-empty_2

Our cloth diaper drawers.

Our contractor did a great job and we’re pretty happy with the way it turned out. Just a few finishing touches and we’ll be completely ready to open!

Yes, we’re moving a lot slower than hoped, so I guess you can say we are more like the Tortoise than the Hare – hopefully our outcome is as good as it was for the Tortoise too.

It’s Earth Hour Today

Earth Hour is coming up later today (in precisely 11 hours i.e. at 8.30pm today).

It’s commendable that so many people are going to make the effort, but I still feel a little uneasy about it.  I haven’t really managed to put my finger on WHY exactly, but it just feels a little bit gimmicky to me.

Yes, it’s great if everyone switches off their non-essential lights for an hour, but there are 8,759 other hours in the year – what about those?

Suffice to say, even if a person keeps their lights on tonight from 8.30pm to 9.30pm, if, on every other day of the year they don’t use Air Conditioning unless absolutely necessary, unplug appliances when not in use, only on lights when there’s no sunlight coming in the window and uses an energy saver on their electricity box – they’re still doing more for sustaining our living conditions than someone who just turned their lights off for an hour.

Yes, I realize it’s for solidarity – to uplift everyone to be educated about the issues and maybe to think about what’s happening on our planet.

I just feel that the solution needs to be long term, small changes in our general practices (like not leaving lights on in office buildings after hours – what’s that about?!) which will have a greater impact.

There’s the fear that perhaps events like Earth Hour make it easier for someone to say “Well, I did my bit for the planet this year already” just by switching their lights off for an hour.

That said, Tiny Tapir will be at the CapSquare Earth Hour event today with a small stall, and participating in the fair and Walk of Hope that’s going on at CapSquare today.  It will definitely be a novelty dining and shopping in the dark!

There’s a RM10 fee to participate in the Walk of Hope but you do get free goodies (a tshirt and reusable bag – we haven’t seen it, but hopefully it’s not one of those ‘greenwash’ bags which pretend to be ‘green’ but break after a few uses), and all proceeds go towards WWF.

See you there!