Most of us are familiar with how Earth Day is usually celebrated with a huge concert graced by headliners from Paul McCartney to John Legend. But we can’t quite pin down which day it falls on (22 April), or may not even realise that Earth Day turns 51 years old this year. Singaporeans are becoming more environmentally conscious but we still have plenty to do to protect our fragile planet. If you’ve always wanted to be more eco-friendly but don’t know how/reckon it’s too tedious/think your enthusiasm may run out of steam, don’t worry. Here are some baby steps to help you show Mother Earth some love.
First, the good news: More young Singaporeans are becoming more concerned about the environment. In February 2021, the Institute of Policy Studies revealed encouraging results from their recent study entitled “Our Singaporean Values''. Conducted with 2,012 Singaporeans, more than three in five respondents say they believe that protecting the environment should be prioritised over economic growth. That’s double the woeful 30.8% who felt the same back in 2002. Younger Singaporean respondents, especially those aged between 21 and 35, also showed a greater awareness of environmental protection.
The bad news? Many of us are keen to go green but may not know how. Some are too lazy to step out of our very comfortable zones. Others may start with good intentions but their enthusiasm fizzles out after a while because, let’s face it, sorting out garbage for recycling takes effort. Don’t beat yourself up over it because it’s never too late. You already know the drill about ‘Reuse, Reduce, Recycle’. Here are four small things you can do to start/restart your green journey.
1. Do away with as many disposables as you can – every bit counts!
This is the easiest thing to begin with though admittedly, COVID-19 threw us some curveballs. Many of us ordered food delivery regularly when the Circuit Breaker started. Before long, our stash of disposable containers started piling up. If you are a Foodpanda or Deliveroo addict, start by requesting no disposable cutlery and serviettes. If your disposable containers can be washed and recycled, please do so.
If you ‘tabao’ (take away) your favourite hawker meal regularly, make it a point to bring your own containers. Check out Khee Shihui, better known as @tabaogirl on Instagram. This millennial teaches her 4,800 followers about leading a zero waste lifestyle via her aesthetically-pleasing flat-lays. She snaps and shares pics of her daily tabao adventures along with an account of the disposables she avoids using. For example, her recent post on chicken rice for four persons shows that she saved 4 plastic lined papers, 1 plastic bag and 4 plastic spoons.
Other simple tricks: Don’t use a disposable straw with your drinks or bring along a reusable metal straw. Always have a foldable reusable bag tucked in your bag. We love our Notabag. Its award-winning design is sturdy and doubles up as a stylish tote or backpack – very convenient when you need both hands to carry more shopping!
Also 'SAY NO' to unnecessary plastic bags, particularly at bakeries where buns are often individually packed, then placed into another plastic bag. Really, your buns can hang out together in one bag.
2. Shop with eco-friendly sustainable brands
Inspired by Shihui? Go a step further by buying eco-friendly lunch boxes. Local e-commerce store Mama Shop is a one-stop shop offering environmentally sustainable ware. Their lunch boxes and cutlery are made from Ecohusk, an agricultural bio-based green plastic material that is certified by the USDA BioPreferred Programme. The plain Muji-esque ones are perfect for the office while your kids will love the cute designs featuring Titoy and Morchoo, their eco-ambassadors for Husk’sware. For coffee on the go, check out their Truegrasses water bottles made from – you guessed it – natural grasses!
Pre-packed food items are sometimes too much for you and your family, leading to wastage. Not to mention all that excessive plastic packaging! Scoop Wholefoods offers plastic-free shopping at their three branches at Tanglin Mall, Great World City and Paya Lebar Quarter. It is well stocked with everything from oils, nuts, tea, grains, spices, salt… we bought some gorgeous smoked salt flakes that were heavenly on our steak. Their huge variety of snacks and chocolates will also tempt your waistline. Also check out Unpackt at Jalan Kuras, Singapore’s first zero-waste grocery store, with a similar concept to Scoop Wholefoods. Everything at these stores is sold by weight so take as much as you need.
3. Reduce your carbon footprint by eating local produce where possible
Buying veggies harvested in Kranji rather than Korea means your carbon footprint is not only much smaller, you are also getting fresher produce and supporting our local farmers. A triple win! Going local is also part of Singapore’s “30 by 30” vision, which aims to meet 30% of our nutritional needs produced locally by 2030.
Some Singaporean brands include veggies from Kok Fah Technology Farm and ComCrop, fish and seafood from Apollo Aquaculture Group, mushrooms from Kin Yan, eggs from Seng Choon and goat milk from Hay Dairies. Just look out for their bright red ‘Choose Fresh Local Product’ SG icon when you shop at supermarkets or online.
4. Go thrifting
Buying fast fashion bargains may give you instant gratification but do you really need yet another dress, even if it’s at 80% off?
Fashion is the world’s second largest polluter, just after the oil industry. That cheap $15 frock started its life in the cotton fields, where the use of fertilizers often leads to water contamination. By the time it made its way to your overstuffed wardrobe, it has left behind a trail of dye, untreated toxic wastewaters and fabric scraps. Not to mention the packaging that comes in the mail!
That’s not to say you can’t be a fashionista any more. The buzzword is ‘thrifting’. Old hands know that if you’re lucky, you can find good stuff at The Salvation Army’s various outlets. Some items are new and donated when stores closed down. We once bought a brand new, well-made cheongsam at $20 that earned us plenty of praise during Chinese New Year. Check out Threadlightly at Queensway Shopping Centre. It ofers three distinct clothing lines at youth-friendly prices: ‘Rehome’ for donated items; ‘Reclaim’ for curated vintage wear; and ‘Rework’ for tie-dyed and hand-made pieces by the young boss Rin and her mother.
Or pay more for the good stuff at Déjà vu Vintage at Millenia Walk, which carries posher pieces that include couture pieces from Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and more. A Vintage Tale at Joo Chiat also has snazzy gems, including Gucci, Valentino, Moschino pieces.