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7 ways you can celebrate the Lunar New Year more sustainably

Green is the new red. Enjoy the festivities and keep traditions alive while reducing your environmental impact with these tips.

TEXT: MORGAN AWYONG

IMAGES: SWAPAHOLIC SINGAPORE; REPAIR KOPITIAM; SING SEE SOON; SHUTTERSTOCK; SINGAPORE FOOD AGENCY

During the Lunar New Year, it is common to observe auspicious customs such as exchanging mandarin oranges and red packets, as well as tossing yu sheng (raw fish salad). However, you’ll also want to be mindful of the environmental impact of these practices. According to Hong Kong-based environmental group Greeners Action, more than 16,300 trees are felled each year to produce some 320 million red packets. That alone may give us pause for thought on how we can evolve our customs to minimise waste.

The good news is, we can keep our Lunar New Year traditions alive while being kinder to the planet. Consider the following tips and kickstart the year of the Dragon on a sustainable note.

1.SHOP PRUDENTLY

Purchase a single household item or outfit as a symbol of new beginnings, rather than overhauling your home or wardrobe. It takes about 2,700 litres of water to produce a single cotton T-shirt, so you’ll want to minimise the waste from fast fashion. You can do so by picking long-lasting pieces over throwaway ones, or consider joining the circular fashion movement through thrift or swap shopping — which happens to be very much on trend. When shopping, opt for local businesses instead of international e-commerce platforms to reduce the carbon footprint from overseas delivery. Ladies can consider Beyond the Vines and Ong Shunmugam for contemporary pieces suitable for Lunar New Year outings, while the lads can look dapper in threads by Benjamin Barker and biro. For locally-made wooden furniture pieces, check out Roger&Sons.

2. DECORATE AND DECLUTTER WITHOUT BEING WASTEFUL

Consider what you can reuse or recycle when doing your spring cleaning. Too often, our throwaway culture means items don’t get the lifespan they deserve. When decluttering, see if the items can be repaired by experts such as Jia Xing or SG Home furniture — or learn how to do so yourself at one of Repair Kopitiam’s workshops. If you must give away items that are in good condition, pass them on to the needy through The Salvation Army or Cloop bins set up by a circular fashion enterprise.

When it comes to decorating, look at existing materials you can use to dress up the home. Repurpose a Christmas wreath into one for the Spring Festival, or create beautiful lanterns from last year’s red packets. If you really must purchase decorations, opt for biodegradable or natural materials over metal or plastic.

3. PURCHASE LONGER LASTING PLANTS

Instead of adorning your home with short-lived blooms such as the Hyacinthus or Narcissus, opt for hardier, lower-maintenance plants such as bamboo, chrysanthemums, and azaleas. Besides requiring little moisture and growing easily indoors, the resilient and auspicious money plant is adept at filtering out common indoor pollutants such as formaldehyde, benzene, and xylene. When buying these plants, pick out those in permanent or compostable pots to reduce plastic waste. Join a free floral arrangement workshop by local florist Sing See Soon, which weaves sustainable lifestyle hacks into its classes.

4. CONSIDER PUBLIC TRANSPORT WHEN MAKING YOUR VISITING ROUNDS 

In Singapore, land transport accounts for about 15 per cent of carbon emissions. You can help lower this number by utilising our efficient network of public buses and trains. Last year, SMRT’s train services were extended for commuters travelling late during the eve of the Lunar New Year — stay tuned for updates on this year’s schedules. If you must travel by private transport, consider carpooling, shared car hire, or using the services of electric car-sharing companies like BlueSG. 

5. RETHINK RED PACKETS

RETHINK RED PACKETS

Offer digital versions by using PayNow via major banks instead. This way, you can even send your well-wishes to those who can’t make it for gatherings. If you still prefer something more traditional, use recycled red packets in good condition and skip the new notes — especially since the carbon emissions generated from printing new notes for Lunar New Year each year is said to be similar to that from powering 430 four-room HDB flats annually. You may also want to drop your crumpled red packets at recycling bins found at most major banks , which are often available throughout the year.

6. SNACK SUSTAINABLY

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), about 900 million kg of plastic is discarded every year in Singapore. Avoid individually-wrapped items to help reduce such waste. Purchase Lunar New Year goodies from bakers who accept container returns. You can find some of them at Project bECOme and most even offer you a small refund. Even with mindful buying, you can easily get carried away with treats during this period. Be sure to keep track of their expiry dates and reduce food waste by sharing or giving the excess goodies away.

7. PURCHASE LOCALLY-GROWN PRODUCE FOR YOUR REUNION DINNER

You’ll not only reduce the carbon footprint from importing ingredients, but will also enjoy the freshest produce possible. Singapore is home to several local vegetable farms and fisheries that supply delicious stock, but you can also look at businesses such as Ugly Food, which sells blemished and surplus produce that is nutritious and safe to consume. While fish is associated with abundance and therefore a popular Lunar New Year menu item, its supplies are threatened by overfishing. Have a more eco-conscious meal by consulting WWF’s guide for more sustainable seafood options.

Interested in serving beyond your obligations? Consider the Volunteer Extension Scheme, which allows PNSMen who have completed their NS liability to continue serving beyond their statutory age. PNSMen (With NS liability) who have passed their statutory age of 40 years (Junior Officers) & 50 years (Senior Officers) may apply.

Like our stories? Subscribe to our Frontline Digital newsletters now! Simply download the HomeTeamNS Mobile App and update your communication preference to ‘Receive Digital Frontline Magazine’, through the app settings.

Categories
Food

7 restaurants where you can enjoy auspicious CNY meals

Celebrate the Year of the Dragon with your family by feasting on sumptuous dishes rich in significance and flavour at these restaurants, some of which offer discounts for HomeTeamNS members.

PHOTOS: SWATOW CITY; ORCHID SEAFOOD; XIAO MU DENG; SUM DIM SUM; BAN HENG; KENG ENG KEE (KEK) SEAFOOD; YAN PALACE

TEXT: THERESE TAY

Chinese New Year (CNY) feasting is a joyous tradition celebrated by families to usher in prosperity and good fortune for the coming year. In Singapore, symbolic dishes and treats such as yu sheng (raw fish salad) and nian gao (sweet glutinous rice cake) — which denote abundance, prosperity, and happiness — are shared among loved ones amid a convivial atmosphere.

We’ve rounded up restaurants — including some that offer delectable discounts for HomeTeamNS members — for a communal dining experience replete with the usual symbolism-laden suspects, as well as lesser-known dishes.  

Swatow City

Located at HomeTeamNS Bukit Batok, Swatow City is well known for its authentic Teochew-style seafood dishes. Their use of light seasoning is one of the hallmarks of Teochew cooking, which seeks to bring out the natural flavours of the ingredients. Signature offerings include Teochew Cold Crab, Steamed Pomfret, and Braised Superior Shark’s Fin, which are all CNY mainstays. For a truly sumptuous feast, order their Grandeur Reunion Prosperity Fortune Pot Takeaway Combo Set which includes a dish containing premium ingredients such as abalone, sea cucumber and dried scallops, along with prawns and pig’s trotter— as well as yu sheng with smoked salmon and kampung chicken in Teochew bean sauce. Don’t forget to bring home the restaurant’s Delicious Crafted Pineapple Tarts ($20+ for a box of eight).

HomeTeamNS members enjoy 20% discount for dine-in ala carte, dim sum, and non-promotional items (Not applicable on 9, 11, and 12 February 2024). 

Orchid Live Seafood

Famously known as the home of the original Lobster Porridge — which is more a pao fan (rice steeped in a rich seafood broth) rather than congee — Orchid Live Seafood’s HomeTeamNS Khatib branch offers several signature dishes that customers keep returning for. These include the Steven Chicken, which is marinated with marmite and honey and deep-fried with a crispy batter. Also don’t miss their Abalone Yu Sheng and Boston Lobster Yu Sheng, which will elevate your lou hei sesson.

 HomeTeamNS members enjoy 10% off the total bill (applicable for regular menu only).

Xiao Mu Deng

Sharing a hotpot meal with loved ones is a quintessential Singaporean CNY tradition. What’s not to love about cooking and enjoying your food together over a bubbling pot of nourishing soup with all the fixings? At Xiao Mu Deng, you can partake in this delicious ritual without having to fuss with clean-up. The restaurant at HomeTeamNS Bedok Reservoir offers interesting Chongqing-style side dishes such as Pickled Pepper Kidney, Knife Slap Cucumber (cucumber salad with a tangy sauce), and Tin Foil Roasted Pig Brain Flower (grilled pig brains).

HomeTeamNS members enjoy 15% off the bill (applicable for non-promotional items).

Sum Dim Sum

Though not a conventional CNY dining destination, you can certainly create your own traditions with family and friends at the popular Sum Dim Sum restaurant, which is located at HomeTeamNS Bedok Reservoir. It boasts a large variety of tasty handmade dim sum, including their signature Tiffany Blue XL Prawn Dumplings as well as branch-exclusive items such as Century Egg Prawn Paste, Jin Qian Bao (mushroom-filled steamed dumplings), and Steamed Fresh Leopard Grouper.

HomeTeamNS members enjoy 15% off the bill (applicable for non-promotional items).

Ban Heng

Established in 1972, the Ban Heng group of restaurants has gained a reputation for serving some of the best Teochew and Cantonese cuisine on the island. Its large range of reunion dinner and CNY celebration packages — currently available for bookings — include traditional favourites such as Steamed Live Soon Hock with Superior Soya Sauce in Hong Kong Style, Buddha Jumps Over The Wall, and Sweetened Yam Paste in Teochew Style.

Keng Eng Kee (KEK) Seafood

This popular zi char (cooked food) restaurant is rightfully beloved for its no-nonsense, boldly flavoured stir fries that are full of wok hei (smoky) goodness. Must-order dishes include their Coffee Pork Ribs and Moonlight Hor Fun, which is topped with a raw egg yolk. KEK is offering more elegant dishes for CNY, which are no less delicious. Items on the CNY set menus include Premium Collagen Soup and Tobiko Seafood Ee Fu Noodles.

Yan Palace

This Chinatown mainstay has been operating at Hong Lim Complex for decades, where it made a name for itself with its delicious Cantonese cooking and Hong Kong-inspired dim sum. Its CNY set menus, which will be offered at both the Hong Lim Complex and Warren Golf & Country Club branches, feature down-to-earth dishes and premium items such as Roasted Suckling Pig, Roasted ‘Pi Pa’ Duck, Stir Fried Scallop with Broccoli & Macadamia Nuts, and Double Boiled Hasma with Dried Longan & Lotus Seeds.

Auspicious CNY Dishes

Learn the significance behind these Chinese New Year delicacies.

Pen cai: Also known as “fortune pot”, this dish symbolises good fortune and prosperity. A labour of love, it features eight stacked layers of premium seafood and other ingredients, such as roasted pork belly, prawns, and large mushrooms.

Yu sheng: Essentially a raw fish salad, the communal dish denotes prosperity and good tidings in the way it is eaten: besides adding the dish components in a specific sequence while shouting meaningful Chinese couplets, diners also spout various auspicious sayings and wishes as they toss it before eating.

Nian gao: Pronounced in Mandarin, nian gao also sounds like “a higher year” which is loosely translated to mean “a better year”. Legend has it that the sweet and sticky glutinous rice cake was created to seal the mouth of the Kitchen God shut to prevent him from bad-mouthing households to the Jade Emperor.

Tang yuan: The round shape and mandarin pronunciation of the filled glutinous rice balls allude to a reunion with loved ones. Thus, it’s said that eating tang yuan brings good luck to families.

Like our stories? Subscribe to our Frontline Digital newsletters now! Simply download the HomeTeamNS Mobile App and update your communication preference to ‘Receive Digital Frontline Magazine’, through the App Settings.

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