Monthly Archives: July 2011

12 Aims of Making Tourism Sustainable

The World Tourism Organization (WTO) declared in 1988 that sustainable tourism is [1]

“envisaged as leading to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems.”

Making Tourism More Sustainable

The twelve aims for making tourism sustainable were described in “Making Tourism More Sustainable: A Guide for Policy Makers” as [2]:

  1. Economic Viability: To ensure the viability and competitiveness of tourism destinations and enterprises, so that they are able to continue to prosper and deliver benefits in the long term.
  2. Local Prosperity: To maximize the contribution of tourism to the economic prosperity of the host destination, including the proportion of visitor spending that is retained locally.
  3. Employment Quality: To strengthen the number and quality of local jobs created and supported by tourism, including the level of pay, conditions of service and availability to all without discrimination by gender, race, disability or in other ways.
  4. Social Equity: To seek a widespread and fair distribution of economic and social benefits from tourism throughout the recipient community, including improving opportunities, income and services available to the poor.
  5. Visitor Fulfillment: To provide a safe, satisfying and fulfilling experience for visitors, available to all without discrimination by gender, race, disability, or in other ways.
  6. Local Control: To engage and empower local communities in planning and decision making about the management and future development of tourism in their area, in consultation with other stakeholders.
  7. Community Well-being: To maintain and strengthen the quality of life in local communities, including social structures and access to resources, amenities and life support systems, avoiding any form of social degradation or exploitation.
  8. Cultural Richness: To respect and enhance the historic heritage, authentic culture, traditions, and distinctiveness of host communities.
  9. Physical Integrity: To maintain and enhance the quality of landscapes, both urban and rural, and avoid the physical and visual degradation of the environment.
  10. Biological Diversity: To support the conservation of natural areas, habitats, and wildlife, and minimize damage to them.
  11. Resource Efficiency: To minimize the use of scarce and non renewable resources in the development and operation of tourism facilities and services.
  12. Environmental Purity: To minimize the pollution of air, water, and land and the generation of waste by tourism enterprises and visitors.

It can be conclude that “making tourism sustainable” or “sustainable tourism” is the drive to make every tourism business and traveler ecologically and culturally sensitive by building environmental awareness and practice into all aspects of the travel product and its consumption.

Three aspects of sustainability

Three main aspects usually mean that we do “sustainable” activities or the activity in the same or similar way for the indefinite future (sustainable in time):

Environmentally – the activity minimizes any damage to the environment and ideally tries to benefit the environment in a positive way (through protection and conservation).

Socially and culturally – the activity does not harm, and may revitalize the social structure or culture of the community where it is located.

 Economic – the activity does not simply begin and then rapidly die because of bad business practices; it continues to contribute to the economic well-being of the local community. A sustainable business should benefit its owners, its employees, and its neighbors.

The principles of sustainability, can be applied to any type of tourism – mass or specialty; city, beach, or wilderness; large or small. They also can be applied to all sectors of the tourist industry: lodging, tours, agencies, ground operators, guiding, and transport.

Ecotourism is one kind of sustainable tourism, based on nature, and usually following the principles of sustainability.


Article excerpted from



Vegan Cake Recipe: Blueberry Apple Crumble Cake

Vegan Cake Recipe: Blueberry Apple Crumble Cake

A common misconception about eating vegan is that guilty pleasure foods, like decadent desserts, are out. That couldn’t be more untrue! This vegan cake recipe proves that you can have your (vegan) cake and eat it, too.

Vegan Blueberry Apple Crumble Cake


  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup organic canola oil
  • 1/4 cup almond or peanut butter
  • 1 cup raw sugar
  • 4 tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 1 large apple, sliced

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Oil and flour a medium-sized cake pan.
  2. In a large bowl, stir the blueberries with the oats, chopped almonds, flour, soda, and salt.
  3. In another bowl, mash your bananas with the canola oil, almond butter, ground flax, vanilla and sugar. Add apple slices and blueberry mixture to banana mixture and stir just until moistened.
  4. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and top it off with some homemade granola and a few extra sprinkles of sugar. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Recipe excerpted from

All revved up: Futuristic electric cars make debut on track in eco-marathon

Petrolheads flocking to the British Grand Prix this weekend can get all revved up at this stunning line of new electric cars ahead of their trip to Silverstone.

More than 1,000 engineering students and tutors across Asia showcased futuristic motors at the Shell-Eco Marathon in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The Asian leg of the annual contest, launched by the oil giant to inspire innovation in transport, pitted some of the brightest minds on the continent against each other on and off the track.


Knight Rider: This space-aged design by a team from Singapore's Ngee Ann Polytechnic caught the eye at Shell's Eco-Marathon
Knight Rider: This space-aged design by a team from Singapore’s Ngee Ann Polytechnic caught the eye at Shell’s Eco-Marathon

Hypnotising design: Team Innogen KMITL V.1 from Thailand drew an audience as they sped around the track

Hypnotising design: Team Innogen KMITL V.1 from Thailand drew an audience as they sped around the track

Teams were tasked to build and drive a vehicle that can travel the furthest distance on the least amount of fuel and lowest possible emissions.

Budding engineers, from universities across Asia, entered vehicles into two categories – either prototype or urban concept – at Kuala Lumpur’s Sepang International Circuit.


Fast as lightning: Malaysia's Mekamethan Govendarajoo squeezes into his helmet-like car Engineers from from Dhurakij Pundit University in Thailand inspect their bubble-shaped design
 Fast as lightning: Malaysia’s Mekamethan Govendarajoo squeezes into his helmet-like car, whilst right, engineers from from Dhurakij Pundit University in Thailand inspect their bubble-shaped design

They then sped around the track in either the electric class, using hydrogen fuel cells, solar and plug in battery power sources, or the internal combustion class, for gasoline and diesel.

Drivers were forced to attain an average speed of at least 15mph over a distance of 10 miles.

On-track: Eco-racers from across Asia lined up before their green marathon

On-track: Eco-racers from across Asia lined up before their green marathon

The teams pulled out all the stops with their futuristic designs and colourful paint work including flames, lightning bolts, paint blobs and squiggles.

One car looked like a cross between a spaceship and David Hasselhoff’s heavily modified Pontiac Trans Am from Knight Rider.


It's a belter: The Ayuthaya Technical Commercial College in Thailand showcased their conveyer belt-like design

It’s a belter: The Ayuthaya Technical Commercial College in Thailand showcased their conveyer belt-like design


The design by Singapore’s Ngee Ann Polytechnic was a dead ringer for the Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT) – with its black body paint, tinted windows and sharp angles.

Another car, by a team from Thailand’s Ayuthaya Technical College, appeared to have a conveyer belt on top.

Painting the track: Team NUS Urban Concept from Singapore during day three of the competition
Painting the track: Team NUS Urban Concept from Singapore during day three of the competition

Green machine: Donmuang Technical College's three-wheeled eco-car
Green machine: Donmuang Technical College’s three-wheeled eco-car

Jump for joy: Team Luk Jao Mae Khlong Prapa from Thailand's Dhurakij Pundit University celebrate after their victory
Jump for joy: Team Luk Jao Mae Khlong Prapa from Thailand’s Dhurakij Pundit University celebrate after their victory

Lampang Rajaphat Universtiy from Thailand parade their space-age car
Lampang Rajaphat Universtiy from Thailand parade their space-age car

Yellow submarine: This wacky design from Kong Thabbok Upatham Changkal Kho So Tho Bo School in Thailand looked like it belonged underwater
Yellow submarine: This wacky design from Kong Thabbok Upatham Changkal Kho So Tho Bo School in Thailand looked like it belonged underwater

This driver from Malaysia pushes his vintage creation to the maximum Kuala Lumpur's Sepang International Circuit
This driver from Malaysia pushes his vintage creation to the maximum Kuala Lumpur’s Sepang International Circuit

Behind the wheel: A racer from Pakistan shows off his sleek motor during the Shell Eco-marathon
Behind the wheel: A racer from Pakistan shows off his sleek motor during the Shell Eco-marathon

Green power: A driver from the Polytechnic State of Pontianak in Indonesia just fits inside his team's innovative design

Green power: A driver from the Polytechnic State of Pontianak in Indonesia just fits inside his team’s innovative design


Article excerpted from

Natural and organic, for real?

Cancer scares, rising allergies and global warming concerns are driving the boom for ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ personal care products. But how do consumers know if they are for real?

IT all started with a personal quest to source for Malaysian-made natural and biodegradable products for my family. For the past three years, more so after I became pregnant, I was adamant to steer clear of harmful chemicals commonly found in mass-market personal care and household cleaning products. Besides, we are trying our best to tread lightly on the already fragile environment.

I have no qualms about forking out a little more for imported natural or organic-certified products since Malaysia does not have the legislation or a local certifier that governs the manufacture or import of such items. Hence, products slapped with labels of accredited and internationally recognised certifiers such as Ecocert from France, BDIH Certified Natural Cosmetics Seal (Germany), NaTrue (Europe’s natural cosmetics industry lobby group) or USDA (US Department of Agriculture) do carry some weight and assurance. However, certifications have varying standards and loopholes, and are usually costly, which in turn trickle down to the price of the products.

So why not support local brands, certified or not? I found a small Selangor-based company that produces supposedly “100% pure natural ingredients” shampoo and body wash. The labels list the ingredients – mainly fruit extracts, foaming agents, natural chemicals derived from plants and natural preservatives. They also mention the nasties to avoid, like paraben, petrochemicals, artificial fragrance and sulphates. Good to know they are trying to educate the public. Plus, customers enjoy a discount if they bring back the original bottle for a refill.

Safer and better: Malaysian consumers are clamouring for organic and natural products, and some local companies are meeting that demand.

After two years of using the products, I have not experienced any side effects like skin irritation. But can I say for sure if the products are truly natural? Nope. And the brand distributor could not answer my questions either.

Peeling back the labels

How do consumers wrap their heads around labelling claims and the not-so-straightforward world of certifications? Even a chemistry geek who can decipher complex scientific names for product ingredients can’t tell if manufacturers are revealing everything.

In theory, the manufacturers have to abide by the Guidelines for Control of Cosmetic Products in Malaysia, issued by the National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau. But you download the form online, fill it and wait for your certificate of notification from the Health Ministry.

“This is where abuse can happen but this is similar to most countries around the world,” says Jonathan Horsley, marketing and export director of I-Green, a Kuala Lumpur-based company that manufactures organic-certified skincare for adults. “The enforcement for checking what is on product labels needs to be improved. But to be fair, this seems to be a problem faced more in the natural and organic realm.”

Another Kuala Lumpur-based natural skincare manufacturer adds: “No one’s really checking on us so it’s basically self-regulated.”

To some extent, certified organic products do provide some level of comfort and assurance, according to Amarjit Sahota, founder and director of London-based Organic Monitor, a research and training company focusing on ethical and sustainable industries.

Indochine Natural soaps being packed.

“Certified products give a guarantee to consumers that natural and organic personal care products do not contain potentially harmful substances,” says Sahota.

In Malaysia, I-Green is the first and only Malaysian company, so far, to receive Ecocert’s stamp of approval. Founded in France in 1991, Ecocert tests and certifies food products as well as cosmetics, detergents and textiles. They inspect about 70% of the organic food industry in France and up to 30% worldwide. Today the company has presence in 15 countries and conducts inspections in over 80 countries.

Briefly, Ecocert requires 95% of the ingredients in a product to be of natural origin and restricts what is allowed in the remaining 5%. And for a product to be labelled organic, 95% of the plant ingredients must be of certified organic origin.

“All of our products are 100% free from petrochemicals but we are allowed to add carefully selected safe and mild preservatives like potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate (derived from salt of acids, these are food-grade preservatives generally regarded as safe worldwide),” explains Horsley who has a background in chemical engineering. “As for fragrance, we use specially blended essential oils from France. On average our products are 99.8% natural.”

100% natural, or not?

But is there such a thing as a 100% natural product, and does it matter?

“It’s nearly impossible to make 100% natural skincare products on a large-scale commercial business model,” says a Klang-based formulation pharmacist who declined to be named. “For boutique business, yes, it is possible.”

Preservatives are used to prevent spoilage due to contamination from bacteria or fungus. Without preservatives, the shelf life of a product will be months if not weeks, the pharmacist explains.

There are natural preservatives like grapefruit seed extract and essential oils but compared with synthetic preservatives, their antimicrobial activity is lower and they cover a smaller spectrum of microbes.

“So using a natural preservative will require good knowledge of the product,” explains the pharmacist. “For example, if you use single-use delivery systems (containers) like ampoules, you may not need preservatives at all.”

There are also other compounds that are used to prevent products from spoiling or oxidising, such as antioxidants like vitamin E or vitamin C. The pharmacist says these antioxidants are natural but come in synthetic forms like Buthylhydroxyanisole (BHA) or Tert Butyl Hydroxy Quinone (TBHQ) and can be found in ointments or lotions. “Again, it’s possible to use natural antioxidants but it can get very expensive as you require higher quantities of the ingredient.”

But Penang-based Indochine Natural, a company that churns out handmade natural soaps, body wash and shampoo for local and international markets, did away with preservatives by sticking to old-fashioned soap recipes.

The germicidal action of soap has been known for a long time. Natural soaps are alkaline – a characteristic that favours the destructive effect of soap on micro-organisms. Scientific research from the 1920s has shown that soaps loose their germicidal action at pH7 or more acid conditions.

“Indochine soaps (as well as shampoo and body wash) have a pH of around nine and are formulated with 100% pure essential oils, many of which have documented anti-microbial activity,” says managing director and founder Dr Mike Thair, a trained chemist. “Therefore, the combined effects of the soap itself, the pH, and added essential oils make it unnecessary to use any form of preservatives.”

Beyond certification

Natural or organic certification is not the be all and end all in ensuring consumer confidence as companies like Indochine and Alive Group, a Kuala Lumpur-based organic products manufacturer, demonstrate. Indochine’s production facility implements a quality system that conforms to the cosmetic guidelines of Asean, Japan, the European Union and the United States.

For their raw materials, Alive imports only those certified as organic. “Before every purchase, all the organic certificates provided by the suppliers or growers are examined,” says Alive nutritionist Sai Chia Chin. “We also do random lab tests on the raw materials to ensure they meet the required organic standards.”

Like I-Green and Indochine, Alive follows Good Manufacturing Practice standards to ensure product safety for its consumers. Alive personal care products are not certified but it is a member of Organic Alliance Malaysia which is working with the Department of Agriculture to enhance the competence and credibility of the organic sector.

In the field of certification, there is no shortage of mudslinging, accusations of false labelling and debates over mutual organic standards. Which explains Indochine’s reservations about applying for certification.

“It’s something we have deliberated over long and hard as currently there is a cloud hanging over many of these certifications,” admits Thair, whose company operates under Fair Trade principles as defined by the World Fair Trade Organisation. “We have decided to take a wait-and-see approach.”

An anomaly amongst manufacturers who guard their secrets zealously, Indochine practises an open-door policy at its factory in Tanjung Bungah, Penang.

“We are happy to show customers the entire production process plus all of the quality documentation and certificates of analysis for our ingredients and products,” says Thair. With the exception of essential oils, all the raw ingredients used by Indochine are sourced locally. These include turmeric, powdered lemongrass and vegetable oils.

“Our distributors from France, Switzerland and the US have visited and did thorough audits of our company’s production and work practices in order to satisfy quality standards,” he adds. Indochine’s Japanese distributor has had a third-party audit done on its finished products, which included laboratory analysis for 22 potential contaminants.

“At the end of the day, we welcome rigorous quality testing and auditing as a means of ensuring consumer confidence,” says Thair.

One thing all three companies – Indochine, I-Green and Alive Group – have in common is they are committed to strong research and development, strict quality control and reaching out to their consumers through awareness campaigns, education and consumer fairs.

Responsible retailer

The role of ensuring safe skincare products lies with retailers, too. Organic retailer Justlife, for instance, gives priority to certified organic and certified natural personal care products.

“It is very important that all the ingredients, from the base to active ingredients, are from natural sources such as extracts from plants and natural minerals from earth. Products should be free from any synthetic and harmful ingredients, petrochemical derivatives and animal ingredients,” explains chief executive officer Callie Tai.

“We do not promote products made of animal ingredients because animal farming is one of the industries that exhausts the world’s natural resources and causes global warming,” Tai adds.

Justlife’s team of technical staff, including biochemists, evaluates all new products and reviews them from time to time based on latest findings.

So do Malaysian-made natural and organic products measure up against international brands?

“Definitely, the local brands are growing steadily, with very promising future potential,” says Tai, who founded the Justlife chain in 1999. “Brands such as I-Green and Indochine are already making inroads by penetrating the overseas market and getting good feedback.”

As for Yours Truly, I’m still none the wiser when it comes to sifting through so-called natural products.

Maybe it’s time to raid the kitchen pantry and whip up some home-made beauty remedy.

Article excerpted from

Research sheds light on the eco-friendly wallaby

Scientists have identified a bacterium in the gut of Australian Tammar wallabies that minimizes their output of methane, a greenhouse gas. The next step is figuring out how to reduce the vast amount of methane produced by cows, whose diet is similar to the wallaby’s.

Wallabies eat essentially the… (Justin Best, Associated Press / The Herald)

Scientists have isolated a bacterium from the gut of Australian Tammar wallabies that allows them to consume and digest grasses, leaves and other plant material without producing copious amounts of methane, as cattle do.

The microbe was discovered through a process described in a study published online Thursday by the journal Science. Ultimately, it might be put to use to reduce the carbon footprint of cows and other ruminants, said study coauthor Mark Morrison, a microbial biologist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Queensland.

“Now that we have that picture [in wallabies], we should be able to look at livestock and find ways to try and replicate it,” Morrison said.

The methane-rich burps and flatulence of livestock have been blamed for 28% of that greenhouse gas’ global emissions due to human activity. Like other cud-chewing mammals, they produce methane as their systems work to break down and ferment the plant matter they eat.

Wallabies, close relatives of the kangaroo, eat largely the same diet as ruminants and also host microbes that help to partly digest their food. But they produce just a fifth as much methane as ruminants do.

Previous efforts to catalog the constituents of the wallaby gut’s microbial soup revealed that wallabies were full of a then-unidentified bacterium that was perhaps responsible for the difference.

To study this key microbe, the researchers would have to get it to grow on its own. So Morrison and colleagues took samples from wallaby guts and genetically analyzed the whole community. They figured out that their target bacteria — which they dubbed WG-1 — was related to the family of soil bacteria called succinivibrionaceae. They looked at genes they knew must be associated with WG-1 and tailored the growth medium to those genetic specifications.

Certain genes they found told them the critters preferred to eat starch over other sugars. Other genes showed that they obtained their nitrogen by consuming urea, rather than in complex amino acids. They also found a gene that indicated the bacteria were resistant to the antibiotic bacitracin, which they then used to kill off other interfering microbes. The target bacteria thrived.

As suspected, the microbes produced a chemical compound called succinate instead of methane. Unlike methane, which cannot be put to further use by the body and must be expelled, succinate can be broken down into propionate by other gut microbes, which can then be used by the host animal.

Thus, having more succinate-producing bacteria allows wallabies to get more nutrients out of their food in addition to being eco-friendly, Morrison said.

This line of research will help scientists understand how some bacteria help animals break down food and extract nutrients — and may even give them clues on how to manipulate that process in the future, Morrison said.

But the work won’t produce low-methane cattle anytime soon, said Robert Forster, a microbial ecologist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Alberta, who wasn’t involved in the study.

Though ruminants do have relatives of WG-1 in their systems, they don’t seem to flourish, let alone dominate — and that might be because they’re not as well-suited as methane-producing bacteria for the long-term churning that goes on in the cow belly, he said.

The study, he added, “gives us a bit more of an understanding as to why there’s less methane production in wallabies, but it doesn’t give us a way as to how we could use it to lower methane production in ruminants. That’s a big leap.”

Article excerpted from



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