Doing Our Bit

The Singapore of old was humorously observed as the Five Cs: Cash, Car, Credit-Card, Condo, and Country-Club. Times have obviously moved on – hopefully we’re all a little less materialistic and now we’re turning our attentions to another letter in the alphabet, the Five Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot.

Much of the following, you’re undoubtedly already doing – or at least variations of. Many people I’ve spoken to from Australia and New Zealand are more than aware of the benefits of recycling, keeping an eye on their impact on the environment. But we can always do with a little booster lesson and an opportunity to share the info.

You’ve watched Al Gore and Leonardo Decaprio’s climate change documentaries; you’re conscientious  on what you buy and where you buy it; you enjoy the outdoors and want to keep it as pristine as possible. But it’s all about doing our bit and being educated so don’t just recycle, refuse plastic; don’t just re-use your clothes, reduce the fashion you buy. It’s incredible the impact we can have collectively so no change in lifestyle is too small. I’m starting today.

 

REFUSE

Straw Wars

Just say no. Americans use over 500million straws EVERY DAY, and in a world where up to 43{fad86f5e3336133246a213aa2a2588200b27e4ae08b3f6f25405093f2c4991ee} of plastic ends up in a landfill site, these tiny tubes – which, FYI, take 200years to break down – are taking up way too much space. Drink directly from the glass or purchase a metal or bamboo re-usable straw.

 

Plastic Not-So-Fantastic

By 2050, the ocean will contain more plastic than fish at the rate we’re disposing one-use items. Remember your reusable bag when heading to the supermarket and say “No, I do not need three plastic bags to individually wrap my bread rolls.”

 

To Market

Heading to the Tekka or Chinatown wet markets means you’re buying your goods directly and they’re not pre-packaged in a styrofoam tray and enough clingfilm to wrap your first born. Also – although its obviously difficult to avoid in Singapore – you can keep an eye on where your food is flying in from. Buying local produce or picking Asian vegetables over the European counterparts for example reduces the farm-to-table footprint. Tick tick.

 

REDUCE

Takeaway Your Need

Oh the ease of the food delivery app. A quick select ‘n’ click, and food is enroute within 30minutes – along with three bags, a set of plastic cutlery you won’t use and a container for the three leaves of your side salad. What about your daily coffee from the shop to your desk? I am dreadful at this and my over-flowing bin of disposable cups puts me to shame. Essentially here, it’s about trying to use your supper leftovers for lunch the next day and packing them into reusable tupperware. 

 

On Your Bike

In a city as accessible as Singapore, there really is no excuse not to use the MRT or walk – although sometimes getting to meetings a little flushed and flustered isn’t always the impression you want to start with. There are also the great bike initiatives such as oBike, the “stationless bike-sharing platform”. Download the app, locate your nearest oBike, scan the QR code to unlock it and off you go. Your carbon footprint AND your calories go down. Win, win.

 

Why to Buy?

Take a look at the Story of Stuff on YouTube: it tells the story of production from extraction to disposal or the “material’s economy”. I found the psychology behind what and why we buy absolutely fascinating – especially as many of us are part of a generation that has grown up on brilliant marketing and the social media pressure for bigger and better. It’s about 20minutes of easy-to-digest info that gets you thinking about what you really need and what your possessions actually mean to you.

 

Wasted Energy

We’re all concious of turning off the light when we leave a room, but I know I’m still guilty of leaving the TV on standby. I spoke to a firm who look at the energy efficiency of various businesses and advise them on how to reduce costs with the by-product that it is sustainable and good for the envrionment. They drew to my attention that when looking at the business accounts, every last dollar was accounted for but energy isn’t as scrupolously looked at.

Finding out exactly what appliance uses what, could effect your use and in turn, reduce your overall cost.

And it probably goes without saying, but try using a fan instead of your AC blasting out arctic air all day. I don’t want to run the risk of being called an alarmist if I tell you some of the scary figures surrounding AC usage and carbon released into the environment!

 

 

REUSE

Fix it, Don’t Bin It

We live in a world where companies deliberately produce items less durable so we have to buy new things; or the technology is developing so quickly that our products rapidly go out of date. However, check out Repair Kopitiam which runs a repair workshop on the last Sunday of every month – they have a Facebook site to confirm locations, dates and registration.

Also, make a point of trying to buy the best you can, when you can – a higher cost to begin with can prove more energy efficient and durable. But you know that.

 

Upcycle

Recall the Blue Peter programme? What those guys couldn’t make with an old yogurt pot and some sticky back plastic. This is a great aspect of eco-lifestyle that the kids can get involved with. Best advice for some inspiration here is to check out the Festival for Good (see pages 42).

Pass-It-On

With so much disposable fashion, we’re buying and getting rid of more clothing than ever before – and much of it is ending up at landfill. So make sure you donate your second-hand clothes to charities such as the Salvation Army (salvationarmy.org/singapore). Or stores such as H&M have installed recycling bins in their 10 outlets across Singapore to encourage you to drop off unwanted items. Last year, they collected 64 tonnes of second-hand fashion.

 

RECYCLE

Eeek! E-waste

This is the biggie. With new designs and tech companies wanting us to upgrade and repurchase, it’s no wonder that there’s so much getting thrown in the bin. E-waste (phones, computers, kettles) contain harmful chemicals and so we need to get better at managing this aspect of recycling. Watch out for the RENEW bins at 274 locations across the island – head to www.starhub.com/about-us/corporate-sustainability-and-responsibility/recycling-nations-electronic-waste.html for a full list of what you can and cannot dispose of and bin locations. Also take a look at ReCYCLE (www.recycle.sg/), a programme launched this year between Singtel and SingPost. Unwanted devices can be dropped at Singtel stores or mailed so that the components can be recovered and given a new lease of life. Just trashing your e-waste results in incineration – and all of those toxins smoking up into the atmosphere you live in.

 

Battery Operated

Rechargeable batteries are best, but the chemicals in any are harmful to the environment. Traces of mercury are found in these as well as fluorescent lamps so there can’t just be thrown into your regular recycling. Currently there is no official programme for your batteries – only for computer and mobile batteries. Problem. However, if you’re near an IKEA, they do take lamps and batteries for recycling. It may be worth the trip.

 

Where does it go?

So scarily, more than 90{fad86f5e3336133246a213aa2a2588200b27e4ae08b3f6f25405093f2c4991ee} of Singapore waste goes to the incinerator…at this rate the country will need to build a new plant every decade or so and one Sentosa-sized landfill every 35-45 years (thefinder.com). That’s costly and not even sustainable. Make a point to separate your recyclables and drop them in the clearly marked bins at your condo or HDB. Most malls offer a recycling service too, so there’s really

no excuse.

 

ROT

Compost-ition

Over half of your daily waste is food stuffs – it’s the equivalent of each citizen throwing two bowls of rice in the trash every 24hours.  Put another way, cutting food waste by 15{fad86f5e3336133246a213aa2a2588200b27e4ae08b3f6f25405093f2c4991ee} would have the same impact on CO2 emissions as taking 86,000 cars off the road. So how about composting rather than throwing down the chute? Or going one-step further and getting a worm farm? They don’t need much space (you can buy worm farms to fit under the kitchen sink) which is great news in our square-foot-poor city living. I found a great website, www.zerowaste.sg with lots of tips on how to get started.