Sunday, 9 September 2012

Wild Asia Heroes - Dr. Joean Oon - Wild Asia

Wild Asia nominates Dr Joean Oon as our second Wild Asia Hero. Fondly known as the "garbage enzyme lady," Dr Oon's Earth Saving Through Garbage Enzyme campaign has spread beyond the shores of Penang, a small island off the west coast of Malaysia where she operates a naturopathy clinic. JULES ONG checks her out.

 Dr. Joean Oon and daughter.
In the last two years, making your own garbage enzyme has become exceedingly popular in Penang, Malaysia. I am a Penangite, and I first learned about it from my aunt. Then I discovered that my friends in Penang were also doing it, and my friend's parents, their parents' friends. It seems infectious - as if the garbage enzyme phenomenon has gone viral in Penang and is still spreading!
Don't take my word for it, just google "garbage enzyme", and you will get a step-by-step process on how to make your own garbage enzyme, and at the same time reduce trash and help save the planet.
That simple?
So it was with curiosity that I sought out the "garbage enzyme lady" - Dr Joean Oon, a bubbly naturopathy therapist and mother of three. Joean radiates positive energy and you can't help but be carried away by her enthusiasm.
Since 2006, she has given hundreds of public talks and demonstrations bringing together thousands of people in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and India. As most of her talks are in Mandarin, she is quite well-known among the Chinese speaking community but practically unknown among those who reads the English media. It's admirable that she goes on these roadshows all on her own time and money. In January alone, her enzyme blog, Enzyme Save the Earth shows that she has nine public talks, all back to back.
Here's a Q&A interview with her:

How did you learn about garbage enzyme?
I learned about it from Dr Rosukon Poompavong, a famous Thai naturopathist and organic farmer. She has done a lot of work in producing food without chemicals and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) awarded her for outstanding farmer in 2003. When I met her in 2006, I asked her, how can I help reduce global warming, and I was surprised she took me to the kitchen and showed me how to make garbage enzyme.

What is garbage enzyme and how do you make it?
It is like making vinegar but simpler. In the olden days, people use vinegar in a lot of useful ways, so the principle is quite the same. First, use any size container with a cap, preferably plastic ones so it can expand when it produces gas. Mark your container with a marker pen into 10 parts. Put 6 parts water, then mix with one part of brown sugar. Then just top it up as you go along with your kitchen wastes. Any vegetable cuttings, or fruit skins like papaya, durian or pineapple. Citrus fruits like oranges and limes will give it a nice smell.
Stir it or shake it, then close the cap and let it sit for 3 months. Make sure you release the gas or your container might explode! At the end of 3 months, sieve out the pulp, and you can use the liquid as household cleaners, or fertilizer for your plants, or even apply it on your hair and skin. You can save a lot of money and you can help save the earth. (See diagram)

So how can it help to reduce global warming?
Instead of throwing away your kitchen wastes, and letting it rot and produce methane gas that is a greenhouse gas, you ferment it in a container. The catalysis produces ozone gas that will react with carbon dioxide and other heavy metals in air. The reaction will remove and reduce greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. The fermentation also produces nitrates that can help enhance the fertility of the soil. By not throwing away your kitchen wastes, you will also help to reduce trash and reduce landfills.
Is it scientifically proven?
People keep asking me what is the scientific evidence. They are doubtful, but I just ask them to try it out. You will know the difference. I did try to take it to the lab but the cost is really high. I thought I might as well spend the money on my flight tickets or renting venues or buying brown sugar. The best evidence is to try it out. If it cleans well, if your vegetables taste great after soaking in it, if your plants grow well after you use it as fertilizers, than it's good. You're saving money, you're reducing your wastes, and it's so easy to make. So there's really no reason why you should not do it.

How do you spread this information?
I have gone on hundreds of roadshows with my volunteers in and out of the country. We have given free public talks in schools, community halls and stadiums, even churches and temples. I buy my own flight tickets to go overseas and people tell me I am so generous to do that. But to me, it's like a holiday, and I ask them back, don't you buy your own flight tickets to go on a holiday? Don't you enjoy it? It's the same with me. I enjoy doing this.

How have people responded?
It has been great. People come back with really good testimonials after using it. Then they come and support me and help to be volunteers. Or they become advocates and tell their friends or organize their own talks. Even local governments have been very positive about it. In Sarawak, the Sibu municipality has encouraged people to practise it and have reduced their trash by 30%. So it's really encouraging.

Why haven't we heard about it more if it is that good?
The reason is because it is not marketable. No business can sell it. Since, everyone can do it for free, no one profits in terms of money. But everyone benefits in many other ways including the environment.

What motivates you?
Actually my reasons are selfish. I want my children to inherit a natural and green world. My whole family is vegetarian because we want to reduce our impact on the planet. I believe that we can all make a difference and making garbage enzyme is so simple, yet it can help us in so many ways.

You are a mother of three. How do you find time to do all these for free?
My family has been very supportive. My mother-in-law and my husband really support me. Without their permission, I won't be able to do this. I really thank my family for being so loving and supportive to enable me to do this.

Profile of Dr (H) Joean Oon, MDMA, DNM, BHMS
Dr Joean Oon is a homeopathy and naturopathy therapist. She runs the Naturopathic Family Care Centre since 2002 in Penang, Malaysia. She has been treating cancer patients since 2002, and through natural therapy, leads many of them to recovery.
Wild Asia has nominated Dr Joean Oon as a Wild Asia Hero as she is an outstanding example of someone who is working within her own capacity to spread an important environmental message without much support or expectations of monetary reward. Her work on garbage enzyme, although not scientifically proven to reduce global warming, is one step towards creating a more sustainable world - reducing wastes by recycling it back as effective cleaners and fertilisers.
Garbage enzymes as fertilisers have been used in several plantations in Malaysia with positive results. It has helped at least one fruit plantation reduce the usage of commercial pesticides and fertilisers, and even increased their yield. A few restaurants have begun using garbage enzymes as cleaning agents and that has helped reduce their operating costs. Thus, Dr Joean Oon's work fits rightly into Wild Asia's mission of "Promoting change, Inspiring People and Engaging Businesses."

Tanikota admin would like to say heartfelt 'terimakaseh' to WA and Jules[Videographer] for making this article available on the web.