Monday, 30 April 2007

Dirty Secrets of Incinerators

It's a very quiet day in campus. I think mainly because the students have finished their exams and gone off for their long vacation but also because many staff have taken the opportunity to take the day off to enjoy a long stretch of holidays (tomorrow and the day after being public holidays). So, most of the window units (aircon) around my office are off and I have been getting fantastic cool breeze with all my windows open. The day is downcast but cool and I feel happy because my Constructivist book is finally printed (after 2 years with the publisher) - and I am looking forward to attending the conference in Hong Kong on the 2nd May which incidentally is related to my book topic.

Who's telling the truth about incinerators? Many claim that their latest technology is efficient and non-polluting and can even generate electricity from plastics. I went to a CAP (Consumer Association of Penang) seminar this morning where (well, I don't know what to label him, so I will call him an 'activist') an activist with GreenAction based in San Francisco exposed many of the false claims by companies attempting to push various types of incinerator technology in the US. In fact, one of the companies claimed that they have an operational plant in the Kuala Lumpur area (which of course is not true). Bradley Angel gave a few tips on how to deal with these companies. Ask for the data or evidence to support their claims. So far, none have been able to produce the data. Zero emissions. Look for the tall chimney or emission stack (why have a stack if there is no emissions?).

What's the problem with incinerators, by whatever name or technology it is called (gasification, pyrolysis, plasma, catlytic cracking, hydrolysis/fermentation, anaerobic digestion)? Dioxin! And a few other pollutants such as heavy metals, ammonia, etc. Dioxin is produced when you burn plastic at high temperatures (between 200 and 400 degrees). There are claims that some technology do not produce dioxin because they used very high temperatures (like above 600 degrees) but the problem is that when the gases are discharged through the stacks (tall chimneys) the component gases recombine to form dioxin. We can overcome this if the gases are cooled down very very fast (from 600 straight to below 200) but there is no such technology yet (this information was provided by Dato Ong Hean Tee at the seminar). Dioxin is the result of the combination of chlorine-based compounds and hydrocarbons through burning. You get dioxin not only from incinerators but other industries which uses chlorine such as paper mills which uses chlorine for bleaching, the production of PVC plastics and pesticides.

What's the problem with dioxin? According to the American Chemistry Council, the release of dioxin into the environment by industry is now well controlled. The most dominant source of dioxin is now uncontrolled burning. The EPA confirms that dioxin is a cancer harzard.

What's happening back home? The proposed incinerator plant at Broga in the Klang Valley has been abandoned (for now). But there's a lot of chatter in Penang to introduce the incinerator here. That's why there was lots of reporters at the seminar. They can smell a story there but as Bradley said, the media plays are very important role to bring the issue to the public.

One interesting fact which was highlighted by an officer of the local authority is that you can't just have one. You need at least two because there is a lot of downtime for regular maintenance including complete shutdown to change the filters and clean up the chambers (they have to be shutdown yearly for about a month). And these babies run into several (hundred?) millions each + maintenance costs.

What's the solution? Wear smaller shoes - make your footprint smaller. Yes, reduce our consumption. Practice the 4Rs - refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle. There's one more R - but it escapes me for the moment.

Hazardous waste on campus. I remember a scientist in USM was offered a free experimental incinerator several years back and he asked for permission to place it in our Minden Campus. I was horrified to hear that the university had even considered various unobtrusive locations to put the incinerator. Fortunately someone raised the alarm so the proposal was (or seems to have been) abandoned. But we do have alot of hazardous waste from the labs and the hospital. Bradley told me that he visited a facility which used microwave to disinfect hazardous materials (including hospital waste) without the need to incinerate them. That's one area we should be looking at.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Buildings which melt back into nature

Sustainable construction or architecture is about building with nature.

One of the crucial principles of sustainable development is for the constuction materials to be recycled or reused for new construction. Natural materials such as wood or straw, given enough time, will eventually decay and "melt" back into the environment. Mortar or concrete of course cannot decay but can still be reused as aggregate for driveways, walkways or foundations.

The next time you see a renovation work being carried out on a building in your neighbourhood, stop to observe. Most of the construction waste will be all mixed up in a pile waiting to be carted away to the landfill. For bigger renovations, a lorry would just drive right up to the building and the waste thrown straight in from the building. Sometimes the workers will separate out the metal rods and pieces to be sold to the scrap dealer. Old wood and concrete blocks have no resale value. Perhaps the paint on the wood makes it difficult to reuse or recyle them?

We put in a lot of effort at recycling plastic bottles, newspapers, cardboards, used papers etc from the office and house but there does not seem to be any effort into reducing construction waste ending up in landfills. This is an area which I hope USM can pursue rigorously in the future. It is probably going to mean the contractors are going to cost in or charge for the effort to recycle the construction waste. But that is the price we will have to pay to reduce depletion of natural resourses. I believe this has to be tackled from the design stage. The designer of the building (whether new or old) must be required to incorporate reuse of the old construction materials (I would add "wherever possible", but that sounds half-hearted).

Early this month, I was at the Berjaya Langkawi Resort to facilitate a Futures Workshop. The resort is designed very much with nature in mind. Tall beautiful trees provide lots of shade to the wooden kampung-style chalets on stilts. The chalets are built into the hillside maintaining much of the vegetation and terrain. You are not allowed to drive your own vehicle to the chalet but motorised transport is provided by the hotel.

One of the things I did was to find out whether I could 'survive' without the aircon on. I opened all the windows and doors and stripped to bare minimum (don't ask how minimum), switched on the fan and tried to take an afternoon nap after a long trip by bus and boat from Penang. I was barely comfortable, sweating slightly despite the tropical architecture, the wooded and shady environment and the sea close by. After less than one hour, I sensed an intruder in the room. To my horror, a monkey had crept into the room and was already reaching for the 3-in-1 coffee satchets on the top shelf. That's really going back to nature. And there goes my cross-ventilation - I had to close the front door.

The principles of sustainable developments suggests shady trees, use of natural ventilation and lighting, appropriate use of light colours for buildings and roofs to reduce heat absorption, proper orientation of building, shading devices, and so on. These are principles we hope to apply when USM develops its new Research Park (Garden) - that is the vision of Dato Dzul, our Vice-Chancellor, to put our stamp on sustainable development. I am looking forward to that.

As a bonus for you, this is a shot of one of those tall slender elegant trees reaching for the sky in the soft morning light in Langkawi.

Friday, 27 April 2007

The Power of the Sun

Most Malaysians don't think about it. We wash our clothes and then we hang it out in the sun to dry. What's the big deal?

I remember when we were staying at the Sandpoint Student Housing of the University of Washington in Seattle in the early 1990s. We learnt about the power of the sun from an Aussie lady named Jenny. When its Spring, she gets very excited when the sun comes out. She will do her laundry and hang it out to dry. We asked why she bothered. Why not just pop them into the electric dryer? That's when we learnt how passionate she was (I guess still is) about energy conservation. To her, it was about harnessing the sun (which is a renewal energy) instead of using electricity (which is generated mostly from non-renewal energy such as petroleum or coal which are also polluting; not to mention generating more heat from the dryers).

The above picture was taken on one of my walks in the USM main campus in March 2007 (its behind one of the student hostel). It brings back memories of my time as a student in USM (not so long ago?). I am glad that our students are still harnessing the power of the sun to do their laundry. There is nevertheless a dobi (laundrette) just next to this clothesline which uses several electric dryers. I hope that the students use it only when its rainy or for large pieces of laundry too difficult to manage manually.

The building on the left is popularly referred to as the Hilton. I stayed there for a year when I was a first year student. Notice the "flags" on the staircase railings? I remember it was a hassle to wash your own clothes here because there was no special place to dry them in the building. If you were staying on the 7th floor (which I was) you would not be bothered to go all the way to the ground to hang your clothes to dry. But these girls (yes, girls have taken over) are more industrious. As Dato Dzul said, girls are different - in the sense they will go one step further when comes to personal care. What did I do? Hmm, I think I sent mine to a laundry lady (actually, the lady comes to collect from the students; I believe they are family "businesses" using traditional methods, i.e. handwashed).

Some of you may recall a former prime minister who made big fuss about these "unsightly flags" hanging out of apartment blocks in KL. In Putrajaya (our new administrative capital) I heard that there was a suggestion that clothes line would not be allowed (even on the ground) and every house would have to be fitted with an electric dryer. Now, that is certainly not in line with principles for sustainable development. But we can't blame the residents. Our designers and developers don't think about such inconveniences.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

USM Sustainable Development Report

One of the first jobs given to me by the Vice-Chancellor when he appointed me Coordinator of Kampus Sejahtera was to prepare a Sustainable Development Report for USM - in 2 weeks, half-jokingly I think!! I said no way, very seriously. That was more than a month ago.

In discussing the preparation of this report with a team of very passionate staff at Korporat (or BPLK), we agreed that the Report should strive to be inclusive. There are probably many individual efforts which are in line with the sustainable development agenda which we don't know about. We want to tell these stories of how members of the USM community are making a difference. We want to appreciate your work to save Mother Earth. We also want to identify promising activities or projects which we can pursue together.

What is sustainable development? Our letter to the Deans and other Heads of Department inviting inputs have triggered this very basic question. Yes, the experts have not fully agreed on how to define and to measure it. But we know one thing. The way we are using our Earth's resources is alarming. In fact, the more educated we are, the more we consume (because we have higher income and therefore more purchasing power). We take for granted that the Earth will keep on producing everything we need without limit. The bad news is that our current lifestyle (yes Malaysians included) is not sustainable. What it means is that we are consuming more resources that the earth has available (non-renewal) or is able to (re)generate (renewable). We need to allow nature to breath and regenerate whether it is the forest or the sea.

So, in a nutshell, don't consume so much that we threaten the quality of life of future generations. There is an interesting concept called the ecological footprint which tells us whether we are consuming more than the ecological capacity of the earth. Malaysia is not doing too well but the United States of America is Bigfoot with the highest consumption in the world. For more information visit or The World's biocapacity has been shrinking from about 3.5 global hectares per person in the early 1960s to about 1.8 now. Malaysia's footprint is 3.0 global hectares which is over the World biocapacity - so we are borrowing from our future generations. USA is 9.5 while Bangladesh is only 0.6.

What about sustainable development on campus? Much work is being carried out by universities around the World to make our campuses sustainable. Here's a list of indicators created by the University Leaders for Sustainable Future The indicators are grouped into 7 major categories. For instance, under curriculum one indicator is whether the courses have sustainability content; in research do they include sustainability-related topics or issues; in operations do we have energy efficient practices; do we recognise faculty for their contributions to sustainable development; are students exposed to sustainability issues; and do we have formal written statements to reflect commitment to sustainable development. Where do you fit in?

What can you contribute to the Sustainable Development Report? We want hear from you. We hoped to be surprised. You find the connection to sustainable development and tell us about what you are doing.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Transformation sculpture given spa treatment

See? Its spick and span. This is Kampus Sejahtera at work. One USM staff asked me if we could do something about our landmark. She said that it looks dirty : "Can we give it a new coat of paint?". I said "no way, that's a granite sculpture" but said we could get it cleaned up instead. At lunch, I passed by the sculpture and stepped into the roundabout to take a closer look. Indeed it was coated with dirt and looked kinda sad. I hadn't even thought about how dirty it was even though I passed by it almost everyday on the way to lunch.

When I got back from lunch, I sent an email to the administrative officer at Kampus Sejahtera to ask the Pejabat Pembangunan (Development Office) to give the sculpture a special spa treatment. I said we must make sure they do not paint it and that they should only use a soft brush and water or some mild soap to gently brush the dirt off. So the officer contacted his friends (we are all friends) at Pembangunan and must have been very persuasive. What do you know, this morning when I came in to work the sculpture was really, really clean. It was all done in less than 2 weeks. I wonder how many people have noticed that?

Why do I say this is Kampus Sejahtera at work? Well, Kampus Sejahtera is not about me. It is about the whole campus community pitching in, proactively if you like, making our campus a place we are proud of. Great job to all the nameless people, especially the cleaners from Pembangunan.

So what's this transformation all about? If you look at the pick above, you will see in the centre a circular protusion which is about 3/4 rough representing the brain. It faces the road coming in from the Minden gate, which used to be the main gate and symbolises that whoever comes in (especially the students) are unpolished diamonds; or at least partially polished diamonds in terms of intellect and other affectives skills and emotions.

As they spend time in campus, we will together polish and refine each. When they leave, they are much more polish, though still not yet fully polished. Knowledge, skills, affections cannot all be acquired in 4 years of study. Even staff and lecturers must relate their personal, intellectual and professional development to the idea behind the transformation sculpture. If you think lifelong learning, this fits in nicely. Each time you come back to campus, there is whole new world waiting for you.

The sculpture was created by a fine arts lecturer from USM in the 1970s. It is a treasured landmark.

For the rest of you out there with some burning issue on how to make USM better, get in touch with us.

e-Waste : cradle-to-grave?

Under the Kampus Sejahtera initiative, all old computers which are condemned as obsolete are now sold off through competitive bidding. Currently only two companies are actively participating in our programme. The amount we get from the sale of condemned machines is only a tiny portion of the original cost but the goal is to prevent the computers from ending up in the landfills. Incidentally, in advanced nations, you have to pay the contractor to disporse off your old computers. So, some of these enterprising companies in Malaysia actually import the "old" computers from Europe. And comparatively, the "old" computers from Europe are new by our standards, mainly Pentium 4s.

So what happens to the old computers when they leave our campuses? I and three other colleagues from Kampus Sejahtera paid a visit to one of our contractors to find out. This one is a small company (but I suspect he is doing big business). I was interested in how he got into the business. He started off selling computers and than these chaps from the recycling factories dropped by and taught him how to dismantle the parts to sell to the factories. The dismantled parts fetch higher prices. The components which can be recycled are iron, aluminium, copper, plastic and gold!! It seems there is no mercury in the machine. The ICs (integrated circuits) are one of the main parts which can be reused. As for the wires, it seems that the big companies in KL have machines which can strip the plastic insulation from the copper. And KL offer better prices. But in the Penang area there some 20 such operations (I have not verified this). Do we have so many old computers to feed this many factories in Penang? Apparently not - they get their supplies in container loads from overseas.

I was assured that every part of the computer, including the monitor can be reused. The carthode ray tube for instead can be reused to make "new" monitors or even TVs but I think this will eventually die off because of the popularity of flat-screen LCD and plasma. Some of the recycling factories merely strip the parts down and export them to China for further processing. So its a global supply-chain working here. In Penang, we are famous for the Dell factory which assemble parts from all over the world to make customised computers for the world market (this is the cradle end). Then there's the grave end, taking old computers for reuse and recycling them. From cradle-to-grave, is that the essence of sustainable development? Actually, that is the old model. The grave is actually the landfill.

The new model for the enlightened manufacturer is cradle-to-cradle. When designing a product, e.g. a handphone or camcorder, the manufacturer will make sure that when the lifetime of the current product comes to an end, it can immediate become input into the next cycle of production. Amongst the things the manufacturer will consider is that the type of plastics are standardised (too many different types of plastic in a single product makes it difficult to recycle), paints are not used in the plastic, and that is it is fast and easy to completely dismantle the product into the components for recycling. Taking too long to dismantle them makes recycling costly. OK, we are still not cradle-to-cradle yet as far as computers are concerned.

This company which we visited in Gelugor does not do the actually extraction and recycling (our other contractor does and we are waiting to pay him a visit soon). The first thing that his staff of 7 does is to examine whether the computers can be repackaged for sale; some of his workers have diploma in electronics. Any computer below Pentium 3 has no resale value and are dismantled for their parts. Aluminium and gold are highly priced. It seems that there is a small market for these old computers which are sold at about RM300 for a set (Pentium 3, 128 MB RAM, 6 Gig harddisk, wireless network card and a 15" monitor). Of course this vendor cleans it up and there's a 3 month warranty. They also "export" to rural areas of Kelantan and Terengganu where there is some demand for this very affordable computers. He says there is a monthly demand of 10 to 15 units of these repackaged computers. But his big business is in selling the parts to the factories. He's got 7 workers who are quite well paid so the business must be sustainable.

You must be wondering how much is your old computer worth? The CPU is worth RM5 to RM10 while the CRT monitor is about RM15. Keyboards, mouse extra, etc. are free, i.e. you don't get paid for those. If you are thinking its not worth your while transporting it all the way to the shop for just RM20 or so, then think about what you are doing to save Mother Earth.

Trivia question - How long does it take to completely dismantle a CPU into its components parts? About 5 minutes according to the expert we visited - aided by battery-powered tools.

Monday, 23 April 2007

How sweet are you?

I am still learning my job so I have resolved to attend as many of these health talks as I can in the first few months - not just to keep up to speed about what's going on in campus but to learn how to stay healthy.

This morning's session on diabetes was three things rolled in one. It started with the Dr. Syed Azhar, Dean of Pharmacy reporting some statistics and findings from the series of clinics carried out since 2005 for staff (and dependents) who have been identified as diabetic. Each of the diabetic patient is invited to 4 clinics where they learn about what is diabetes and how to deal with it. Out of the 340 persons identified as diabetic, 190 turned up for the clinics and 90 of them graduated today with presentation of certificates. Good job to the health personnel from our Health Clinic and School of Pharmacy as well as to the participants. A tremendous amount of effort and energy (and I must say love and compassion) has gone into the clinics. And I learned that Syed is an expert in massage therapy to rejuvenate 'maleness' (erectile dysfunction), a common affliction amongst diabetic patients.

The third activity was a talk by Dato Mafauzy, a senior consultant at the USM Hospital, giving 10 steps on keeping diabetes at bay. One thing which struck me was that he advised the patients that medication alone is not going to do the job. Basically if I can recall, watch the sugar level, cholesterol, blood pressure, take medication as prescribed and exercise, exercise, exercise (that means exercise at least three times per week, 30 minutes each; walking is good enought). Eat healthy - reduce the sugar intake, watch the amount of rice (it gets turned into sugar in the body), cut the santan (coconut milk). Reduce your body weight - a crude measure of being overweight is the size of your pants; for men it is 35 inches and women its 31 inches - any size over that and you can consider yourself overweight. But I was thinking that if I am a size 35 I would be huge given my height. Well, watch the weight, that's a key.

I remember when my youngest daughter was a little girl. She had a real sweet tooth and love chocolates and sweets. We were quite alarmed so we imposed a restriction on her. She had to get permission from us (the parents) before she could eat any sweets and we limited to one a day. She somehow complied with our degree and now she still loves sweets and chocolates but not excessively.

After the talkes we adjourned for healthy food. No santan. Only curry fish in a water-based soup. I skipped the fried chicken. I still wish that there are more vegetables at these lunches.

During lunch, I noticed this beautiful reflection on the glass at Dewan Kuliah A (see below). On the left is Mafauzy and on the right is Syed. Great job to all the health officers.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Purple Carpet

Zainal told me his wife said I should go take some photos of the carpet of purple flowers (Jambul Merak) near the USM Tadika (kindergarten) because it reminded her of their overseas stay. So, what could I do but oblige.

The above picture was taken near the Tadika. I think I counted 6 or 7 of these trees along that stretch of road. There are also a couple of these right at the entrance to my office at the Corporate and Sustainable Development Division but they are sickly and being attacked by parasitic plants. Got to tell them to do something about it. That's a big problem in campus. It seems that bird droppings are the conveyor of these parasites and seems to propagate better in certain species of trees.

Oh, along the way I bummed into these kids rehearsing for their sports day on the 28 April 2007. Cute, aren't they.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Majestic blooms of the Angsana

STOP! Smell the ... Angsana! Yes, its April and that's when these majestic huge angsana trees bloom. The top picture was taken just outside my window. The white building in the foreground is the Dewan Kuliah A, B, C Complex.

You have to be really quick though. The flowers last for only 3 or 4 days and when the flowers drop, its like snow falling and the ground is a lovely carpet of yellow. USM has numerous angsana trees around the Museum/Rest House area, the School of Social Science, HBP, Pharmacy and at the Minden Padang. You will also find a row of angsana trees along Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, the main road in front of the Padang. One thing about the angsana, they don't all bloom at the same time. One book I read says that if you want all the angsana trees to bloom at the same time then you have to plant cuttings from the same tree.

You will also find these huge trees in various parts of Penang Island, especially along the road leading to the Botanical Gardens. The sad thing is that the local authorities have the habit of lopping off the entire crown and let the tree grow back. Apart from being esthetically ugly, this is not a good practice because the new branches which grows out will be weak at the joints and more liable to break.

The picture below was taken at the Social Science area. Lucky chaps. Lucky me too, now that my office is right next door. Quick. Go smell the roses ... eh, angsana.

p.s. if you have noticed that the photos don't look so good, you are right. My apologies, I am testing out a compact Lumix and it doesn't seem to be behaving well. Or perhaps I have lost my touch?

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

My picturesque windows

I have two windows looking out at lots of greenery. I keep the shades drawn (open) all the time. This window looks towards the east and as the suns goes down in the afternoon, rays of sunlight shines through casting shades, shadows and bright light on my carpet. I don't swith on my room flourescent light unless it is dark - one visitor asked "your lights not fixed yet, ah?".

The other window is smaller but looks up at a beautiful canopy created by an Angsana tree and a Neem tree. The light and shadow show always have me mesmerised.

I try to keep the windows open (and the air-con off) for at least the morning but the problem is the other air compresses from this building and adjoining buildings pushes a lot of hot air across my windows. On a good day however, I get refreshing cool fresh air from the outside.

I am planning on getting a thermometer to monitor my room temperature and see when it becomes too uncomfortable not to have the air-con on.

One of the things I want to do is cool down the campus - so that more people can (and will) walk; that will hopefully reduce vehicular movement (reduce fumes and reduce heat emission from engines); and of course, if we can cut the operating hours of air-conditioning that will snowball into cooler inside temperatures. How do I propose to do that? We will start with doable and inexpensive work first - plant more shade trees along strategic routes. Got some ideas? Let me know.

Sugar is OUT, Fat is IN?

I know. You're thinking, "Not another fad?".

Well basically that's what Dr. M. Rajen said at his (quite extraordinary) lecture yesterday morning at USM. Oh, I gate-crashed - got there late and left before he gave us the prescriptions. I was a little cheesed because the organisers switched venue at the last minute - they sent an email notification at 8.25 am for the 10 am lecture which I could not read because the network in my office just wasn't energised.

But back to the interesting stuff. As I was standing there in the hall (it was full capacity and overflowing), I went "hooray, now I can eat all the roast duck and Loh Ark (5-spice duck) I want". And all the other artery-hardening and artery-blocking meats and fats (you know, butter, coconut oil). "Are you serious?", you must be asking.

According to Rajen, he doesn't even bother to monitor his cholesterol level (and advises us we don't have to either). Don't waste your money on those tests. Really? According this alternative medicine practitioner, the things you really have to watch is your sugar level (and intake, of course) ... and rice. Yes, rice! Don't eat rice. It's all carbo, which your body eventually turn to sugar and then to fat. It's the fat that your body makes which you should worry about, not the fat you eat. Man (and woman) are not genetically structured to eat rice. Keep your eye on your sugar level. High sugar level leads to diabetes, kidney failure and ... yes, you got it ... premature death.

OK, I sound sceptical but he actually made a lot of sense. He's not a fanatic. He did say "just reduce your rice" as a compromise - instead of 5 bowls, just eat half a bowl. In fact, that's what I have been doing for the last few years. My favourite lunch haunt in campus is the Red House were I have a very simple lunch of a small portion of rice (the vendor used to laugh at me) and three types of vegetables - usually it includes bitter gourd. But I am worried too - I don't really know how they cook it (did they add sugar? MSG?). Another interesting thing he said - his breakfast is 2 eggs (plus a few things I can't recall) EVERYDAY. He even had Char Koay Teow with 3 eggs, easy on the koay teow. That's a relief. Now I can have my 2 half-boiled eggs at the hotel (why?) for breakfast without feeling guilty.

And did you know that if your arteries are very highly calsified (like 90%), i.e. stiff as a plastic hose, you have far less chance of getting a heart attack compared to someone who's arteries is less stiff?

Rajen is an Alumni of USM's School of Pharmacy and making it big in the world of traditional healing.

Monday, 16 April 2007

What is Kampus Sejahtera?

Ah, yes, I have a new job. Since 15th March 2007 I have been appointed (no, its not a promotion but it has its benefits) to the position of Healthy Campus Coordinator at Universiti Sains Malaysia. What are the benefits? Some extra pocket money, yes. I get a great corner office with two windows looking out at some gloriously green trees (angsana, neem, flame of the forest, frangipani, to name a few) - more on that at another time. Oh, yes, I have to think alot - right now trying to figure what I want to do at this new job.

So, what's "kampus sejahtera", you ask? "Kampus" is "campus", straight forward enough. "Sejahtera" is a Malay word which has multiple meanings including "peace, tranquility, harmony, wellness and health". I believe it was coined by my big boss (Dato Dzul, Vice-Chancellor of USM) when he first initiated the Healthy Campus programme in 2001. So, it's been more than 5 years now and a tremendous amount of effort have been put into it led by the previous coordinator (Dr. Izham, currently the Director of the Corporate and Sustainable Development Division where the Kampus Sejahtera Unit is located).

Again, back to what is Kampus Sejahtera? We had a fruitful 3-hour meeting this morning (we overshot by one hour) to clarify, confirm and expand the concept.
  1. We should now brand USM as Kampus Sejahtera (in other words, avoid using Healthy Campus if possible because Kampus Sejahtera reaches far beyond the ideas of healthy campus).
  2. Kampus Sejahtera is a healthy lifestyle concept which extends beyond the work carried out by the Unit itself. Everyone can subscribe to the concept and contribute individually and collectively to achieve the goals.
  3. What are those goals? It embraces those from Healthy Campus and Sustainable Development. Specifically, the goals for Healthy Campus are : to improve quality of life, increase life expectancy and access to quality healthy care. Sustainable development is on everybody's lips and what it seeks to do is essentially to make sure that Mother Earth will still be a great place to live for our children, grandchildren and their grandchildren. Take only what we need for a comfortable and meaningful lifestyle. How, you ask? Eat more vegetables instead of meat; walk or cycle instead of taking the car to the corner shop; switch off your office air-con if the weather outside is cool; plant more trees; practice 4Rs (some say 5Rs); lots more we can do which we will talk more later.
I have refined the concept maps for Healthy Campus and Kampus Sejahtera as seen below (click on image to enlarge it).

If you have ideas to share, lets hear it. If you have done something which fits in with the concept of Kampus Sejahtera and you think we can share with the rest of the World, get in touch with us. We are currently working on preparing a Sustainable Development Report for USM, built around the concept of Kampus Sejahtera. We would love to include your effort in this Report.