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The Ocean Movement – Creating Waves of Change

Marine pollution has been a major issue that has been garnering attention across the world over the past few years. From pictures of shores full of plastic waste to videos of plastic straws getting stuck in the nose of turtles, these images have left an impactful impression on many individuals and spurred them to take action towards marine conservation.

The Ocean Movement, is a project started by five 17-year-old students from School of The Arts Singapore back in 2017. The founder of the group was an aspiring marine conservationist which inspired the group to start raising awareness about marine life. Since then, The Ocean Movement has conducted a session sharing common problems that our marine ecosystem faces such as climate change, plastic pollution and overfishing with their school. In addition, they initiated the sale of reusable straws in SOTA which successfully sold about 80 straws.

Over the past few month, the group’s objective also transformed into raising awareness about marine life particularly in Singapore, as well as creating platforms for students in our school as well as the public to contribute towards conservation efforts. This objective is achieved by making reusable goods accessible and creating avenues where different environmental groups can work together towards a common goal of saving our environment.

Coming this February, The Ocean Movement is organising an event – TIDAL.

 

 

TIDAL is a series of environmental events brought together by various organisations. The first 2 events in the series include a film screening of ‘A Plastic Ocean’ with a post-screening dialogue as well as a guided coastal walk/beach clean-up. (However, these 2 events are already sold out)

In addition, a ‘Know Your Seafood’ Workshop by SiBiol will be conducted on 4th Feb from 10.30 am – 12.30pm where one can observe the dissection of common seafood in an aid to explain how marine organisms function.

The main highlight of TIDAL is the awareness concert held on 4th Feb from 5 pm to 7.30pm. The event will be centred around the theme of the environment, with acoustic performances by local performers and students from SOTA, various fringe events, booths selling sustainable products and booths where you can learn how to make reusable goods out of recyclable materials or how to make your own compost bin.

All the above events are completely FREE OF CHARGE so what are you waiting for? As there are limited seats for each event, do sign up quick!

Be sure to support these young inspirational individuals and support them in their cause towards marine conservation!

 

Green Talk

Interview with Tingkat Heroes Singapore

When we hear the word “Tingkat”, a few questions pop into our mind – Who used it? When was it popular? Where did it go? Why did we stop using it? ….. and these questions and curiosity towards the practice of carrying Tingkat are exactly what Tingkat Heroes Singapore wants you to reflect on. Started by Pamela Low in 2017, Tingkat Heroes Singapore is an initiative that aims to work with communities, schools and businesses in Singapore to go disposables-free.

We had an opportunity to interview her to find out more about this meaningful initiative.

 

TSP: What inspired you to start Tingkat Heroes Singapore?

THS: For me, my journey started when my neighbour asked my family out to do recycling when I was in secondary school. We went to Tzu Chi and as I was dismantling a toy car, putting plastic with plastic and metal with metal – I realised everything I had been mindlessly tossing into the general bin had a second life. My family went home and started sorting our trash and we still do it today

Next, the Singapore Youth for Climate Action’s Learning and Leadership Program (LLP) in 2016. A thoughtful curriculum that aimed to empower youths with the necessary knowledge and skills to champion initiatives and to take climate action. I found myself finally meeting like-minded peers and mentors who have been at this way longer, with far more experience and having their own communities. That inspired me to think beyond self, individual actions and it made me more confident in pursuing opportunities. Being a beneficiary of the LLP, I also recognise the value yet lack of eco-youth development opportunities as comprehensive and geared at grooming and empowerment. And I hope to address just that.

I interned in the tourism industry during my holidays in 2016 and 2017 and that shaped a lot of my growth and perspectives in working with various stakeholders and as well as being conscious of and concerned about what makes Singapore a destination of travel, work and living. Together with my eco-lens, when I travelled around Europe for exchange, I found myself keeping my eyes peeled for solutions and what stood out in each city and country.

Of course, spending 5 months in Europe, being based in Germany and travelling around at least 15 countries were the perfect case studies for me. The European Union/ Europe is ahead of us in plastic bags, recycling and energy policy and have their own strengths as destinations. I was constantly reflecting on attractions, layouts, transport, recycling, energy policies and their way of life. I was not just blindly consuming travel, I probably have more pictures of buses, road signages, maps, transport (signs, vehicle, fittings) and recycling bins than of attractions itself/ touristy stuff themselves. Being in a reflective mode allowed me to learn more about the cities and to similarly formulate solutions that could work in Singapore.

 

Why disposables? I feel that the individual can get desensitised and disenfranchised by and with the whole concept of climate change. For example, rising sea level can feel quite far-fetched for the individual. Disposables are about personal waste management, and there’s an economic benefit, health benefit (in using glass/ metal ware vs styrofoam and plastics) and environmental benefit. Hence it’s tangible at the individual level and the individual when enlightened and empowered can actively and consciously make choices to avoid disposables/ generating waste.

I usually share my own BYO experiences on my Facebook page for my own reflections etc and this perceptive came when my friends started sharing their own BYO experiences with me. Not just them, even their own family members and partners’ experiences. That to me is empowerment in itself when you make the individual feel that they can take action and do something.

 

TSP: Can you tell us a few challenges you faced when launching Tingkat Heroes Singapore?

THS: Well it’s been an insanely steep learning curve. I have never had the opportunity to meet, talk and work with so many enlightened leaders and corporations and it’s not easy. Working with various stakeholders and partners, it was paramount I learnt to work together, consider and negotiate along mutual interest and at the same time protect the core value of the project and its mission to reduce disposables (for better waste and resource management).

Have everyone to thank for their guidance, mentorship, patience and common objective for a sustainable Singapore. No magic here. It was about working hard, working smart and working together. There is no room for assumptions and not taking things for granted. Would say I am busier this school break than the whole semester. I am learning things I can’t learn in the classroom, and getting myself out there and taking ownership of the project has been a good experience of growth and challenge.

The harshest moment would probably when my “mentor” for a grant application commented that I was outsourcing my project by engaging experienced, passionate partners, to be a part of my curriculum. I felt quite dejected, but thank goodness things worked out, and I managed to outsource the mentor/ specific grant instead, and I have received tremendous support along the way.

 

TSP: Since the launch of the initiative, what is the general response from the public?

THS: It’s hard to sustain the interest of the public as it’s a very comprehensive project with an eco-curriculum. Results are not instantaneous. In general, everyone has been very supportive and friends offered their help as they see me share more. My cousin helped in designing my marketing collaterals and my logo, which I am very thankful for. Hit me up for contact. The project was featured in The Straits Time on 1/January/2018, which was a bonus and signalled the importance of taking and encouraging climate ACTION this year.

 

TSP: For those who are interested in getting involved with Tingkat Heroes Singapore, can you share 2 to 3 quick and easy steps to get started?

THS: To collaborate, they can drop an email to tingkatheroes.sg@gmail.com. I am looking for support in terms of funding, education and volunteers

 

TSP: What is the main goal for Tingkat Heroes Singapore and what actions will be taken to achieve that goal?

THS: Besides the main tangible goal of reducing disposables use among individuals and working with schools/ institutions to go disposables-free – our core value is our eco-curriculum. There’s no shortcut to education for meaningful action and empowerment of individuals, and the eco-curriculum has been thoughtfully pieced together and tightly linked to pedagogy to bring students through a journey of motivating the topic, inquiry and exploration and problem-solving. I hope to inspire more youths to act through my comprehensive eco-curriculum. I believe education can really touch young hearts and minds and motivate them to think beyond self, and to serve the larger community positively.

I also aim to assimilate these simple “eco-friendly” actions into the priorities of the average Singaporean such as health and money. Doing this that benefit for the environment does not and is not a noble cause, it’s something that makes intuitive sense to our wallet and wellbeing to adopt, as Tingkat Heroes seeks to demonstrate. There’s also the community benefits that are hard to get or appreciate in a grab-and-go, fast culture life. When we slow down and rethink our buying needs and choices, declutter our life, we simplify our living, which makes for more time and money for meaningful and memorable experiences.

Myself, I benefitted from a Learning and Leadership Program by Singapore Youth for Climate Action. No two persons have the same reason to get started on this green journey, which is why I feel awareness, outreach and programs are essential. In a class of 100, if 5% gets enlightened and starts pursuing their own initiatives that can each benefit 1000s, the ROI is very good!

It’s tough to measure these intangibles or very long-term measurable for grant applications, and I try my best to articulate the value of an LLP program and the “trickle down knowledge” or the extensive reach an initiative can have by one or a group of enlightened youths/ greenies from a cohort.

 

TSP: What are some of your future plans for this initiative? 

THS: Hmmm… I do hope to host a zero-waste market this year, which is hugely inspired by a zero-waste Christmas market I visited in Hong Kong.

Furthermore, I am looking to collaborate with chain F&B businesses to display by posters, which seeks to highlight already available options – including bring your own or having here, and applicable takeaway charges. By making this tweak in the consumer journey design, I hope consumers at the margin will make the better choice and bring about reductions in their waste-line.

Sustainable Living

A Guide To Sustainable Shopping

We all love shopping. It is one of the greatest weakness, especially for us – girls. While trying to attempt to live this zero-waste lifestyle, the temptation from shopping for clothes is especially great. From receiving emails from various shops about their sales to seeing brand new styles at shopping centres, the struggle is real.

So, how then do we prevent textile waste when faced with such great temptations? Here are some tips from our personal experience!

 

Know WHY NOT

You might regard it as only one pair of jeans. But did you know, it takes about 8,000 litres of water just to make one pair? That’s enough to fill almost 20 bathtubs! Not to mention, the cotton used to make jeans uses 2.4% of the world’s cropland and 24% of the world’s pesticide. How scary is that!

In Singapore, more than 156,000 tonnes of textile and leather waste was thrown away in 2016, but only a mere 8% of such waste is recycled. Based on a Channel NewsAsia documentary, Singaporeans buy about 34 pieces of brand new apparel per year, with almost half of them citing discounts as the main driver for doing so. And on average, they discard 27 items of clothing per year, citing reasons like “making space for new clothes”, “no longer fits” and “there are defects”.

To prevent yourself from contributing to unnecessary waste, you need to be equipped with the knowledge and be aware of how buying one piece of clothing can have a huge impact on the environment. It helps you to see how one little action can have a big impact!

So, always think twice before buying that piece of clothing that you thought was harmless!

 

Make a plan

To slowly reduce the amount of textile waste you are creating, it is not something that happens overnight. It is a step by step process and you first have to acknowledge that it will be a painful and difficult process. Making a plan is crucial and it doesn’t matter whether it will take months or years to achieve the goal, as long as you have a plan, it is better than nothing!

First of all, you need to track the amount of clothing you buy every month. By doing this, you will be aware of your consumption habit and it will be easier to monitor your reduction. Then, start setting a limit on the number of clothing you can purchase every month. One tip is before buying a new piece of clothing, evaluate if you have any similar pieces of clothing in your current wardrobe or if it is possible to borrow a similar top from your mother or sister. If it is a “yes”, then put that piece of clothing away!

It is also important to ensure that you practice self-control and stay away from any possible temptation. When you are able to make small progress towards working the final goal of eliminating your textile waste, be sure to reward yourself (with food)! We know it isn’t easy and by rewarding yourself, it serves as a form of encouragement to continue working towards the end goal.

 

Practice self-control

This might be the most difficult aspect as we are most likely being tempted from every corner of our lives. Our best practice is out of sight, out of mind. So, whenever there is a possible temptation, try to distance yourself from it and rationalise internally if it is a need or a want(Trust us, most of the time it will be a want.). It is also a good habit to constantly remind yourself of the long-term effects of a small act of purchasing a new top. It might seem trivial, but if you consider all the resources taken to make a single piece of clothing, it will definitely make you reconsider.

 

Shop Secondhand

If you really have the urge to shop and cannot stop yourself, why not try second-hand shopping? It helps you save money, save resources and be a better person. So, why not!

Our favourite is Refash, an exclusive online marketplace for women to buy and sell “like new” fashion. Members can list items straight from their wardrobes and shop up to 70% off their favourite fast fashion and luxury brands. It has many popular brands such as Love Bonito, Forever21, The Closet Lover, Forever New and a lot more. So, you no longer have to worry about having the same old few pieces of clothes in your wardrobe!

Sustainable Living

All About The Humble Brush

Toothbrush – a daily essential that everyone has to use for good health.

But little did anyone expect that a small plastic toothbrush can cause so much harm to the environment. The world consumes 3.6 billion plastic toothbrushes annually and most of them end of in the landfill. In the United States, an estimate of 850 million to over a billion toothbrushes are discarded annually and that amounts to more than 50 mullion pounds of waste.

Can you imagine the amount of waste produced from this small equipment? By replacing your usual plastic toothbrush into a bamboo toothbrush, you can help to fight climate change through this small action.

One of the products on our online store is the bamboo toothbrush from The Humble Co. and here are a few benefits of the products:

 

It is developed by dentists

Humble Brush was conceived, designed and is now manufactured under the guidance and supervision of dentists. This help to ensure that the product is similar to the plastic toothbrush in terms of functionality and quality.

 

100% biodegradable bamboo

The handle of the toothbrush is made of bamboo which naturally provides a non-slip surface and even better, is 100% biodegradable. In addition, bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth and since it is antibacterial, no pesticides or fertilisers have to be used during cultivation!

 

Degradable and BPA-Free bristles

All brushes are made of Nylon 6 which degrades faster than lower grades of nylon.  Nylon 6 is a material ideally suited for dentistry but also degrades over time and can be processed through regular waste channels. The bristles have also been verified to be free from the toxin BPA (Bisphenol A).

 

Lifespan

The Humble Brushes have the same lifespan as any plastic toothbrush so you do not have to worry about the issue of constant replacement.

 

Compostable packaging

Besides providing a toothbrush which is sustainable in nature, the brush will be packaged in a transparent and biodegradable wrapper made completely out of plants and a box made out of 100% recycled materials.

 

With that, there simply are no other reasons not to switch to a sustainable bamboo toothbrush. Click here to purchase them!

Sustainable Living

5 Essentials You Need To Embark On A Zero Waste Lifestyle

The term “zero waste lifestyle” is one that is commonly being used now to describe one who leads a lifestyle that aims to create no waste at all.

Some might think, is that even possible? How do they do it? Well, for those of you who are interested in leading this lifestyle or simply trying it out, here are the 5 essential items you need to help you lead a zero-waste lifestyle!

 

1. Stainless Steel Straws

By now, I think most of us know that #plasticstrawsucks. If one was to use a plastic straw every day for the next ten years, there would be 3,650 straws worth of landfill! It is time to switch to a more environmentally friendly alternative – metal straws.

Metal straws are reusable and can last for ages if properly taken care of. Be reassured that it is easy to clean a stainless steel straw, with a cleaning brush, dishwasher or soap. As compared to plastic straws, stainless steel straws are BPA free and safe to use. They also make your picture look more stylish and chic!

Purchase them here!

2. Stainless Steel Container

If you always buy takeaways, you should be aware of the amount of Styrofoam and plastic containers that are used to store your food. Some plastic containers may even leak out harmful substances due to the heat! Did you know that more and more research is proving that toxic compounds found in plastic cause health problems ranging from cancer to infertility.

So why are you not using stainless steel containers? They are durable, non-toxic, completely recyclable and less wasteful. Hence, making them a much healthier and better option as compared to plastic containers.

Purchase them here!

3. Reusable Tumbler

For coffee/tea lovers, this item is a must-have! Reusable tumblers allow you to keep the beverages hot for a long period of time, reduce your plastic waste and even save money (as some vendors offer a discount for bringing your own). Coupled with the fact that bottled water costs 2,000 times more than tap water, save your money and bring your own bottle instead!

4. Reusable bags

It has been estimated that by purchasing a reusable bag and using them every time, it eliminates the use of 20,000 disposable plastic bags! The production of plastic bags requires the burning of fossil fuels which is causing climate change. By using a reusable bag, you are reducing your environmental footprint.  Think about the big picture and avoid plastic bags, even when they are free of charge.

5. Bamboo Toothbrush

It is now a well-known fact of how harmful plastic is to the environment. But little did we expect that the toiletries item we use every day, our toothbrush, can bring so much harm! The world consumes an estimate of more than 3.6 billion plastic toothbrushes every year, in which most of them end up in landfills and oceans.

So, you might be thinking, why don’t I just recycle them? Unfortunately, toothbrushes are one of the most complicated items for recycling because of the need to separate each component before recycling.

The alternative to these arisamboo toothbrushes that will help to reduce the damage being done by this household items. Hence, being more environmentally responsible as well.

Purchase them here!

Others

How You Can Contribute to the Year of Climate Action

It is official. 2018 has been declared to be the Year of Climate Action for Singapore!

As noted by Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli, “As a small island city-state vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, Singapore is committed to the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement”. Singapore, being a low coastal area country, will definitely suffer from climate change, with the daily mean temperature projected to rise by up to 4.6°C towards the end of the century and sea level estimated to rise by up to about 1m by 2100.

With the government making this declaration to commit towards combating climate change, it is time for us as citizens to acknowledge our responsibility and play a part as well.

Here are 3 small and simple changes in your life to contribute to the Year of Climate Action.

Just say NO

These two words hold great power when it comes to helping us make a decision in our lives! Say no to straws. Say no the plastic bags. Say no to any form of plastic. Also, these two words are free of charge! Just by saying no, you are using the power of a small action to make a big change in the world.

 

Think twice before buying

In Singapore, the amount of solid waste generated in 2016 increased to 7.81 million tonnes, up by 140,700 tonnes from 7.67 million tonnes in 2015. If you re-evaluate your buying habits, you will realise that you are able to eliminate unnecessary waste. Think of buying second hand. Think of using reusables. Think of borrowing books or doing book swaps. Most importantly, think of whether it is a need or a want.

 

Be more aware

To be able to make responsible decisions for yourself and for the environment, it is crucial to be aware of the events happening in the world. Relying solely on others to feed you information is not enough. Take a step out of your comfort zones and read on all these issues that affect your view on climate change. Go in with an open mind. Read on issues such as ocean pollution, renewable energy, starving polar bear or plastic waste. Start somewhere and you enrich yourself with the knowledge to make better and wiser decisions in your life!

 

These are three small and simple steps that do not require you to devote a large number of resources or time to be committed to. So what are you waiting for? Make 2018 the year you start making a change.

Others

5 Reasons Why You Should Visit EarthFest

EarthFest is a Singapore festival that is designed to be sustainable, fun and inspirational for all ages. It features a food fair of delicious international and new age planet-friendly foods, a Farmer’s Market of local businesses with more sustainable products, an eco-carnival of engaging low carbon games, talks, screenings, etc. There will be something for everyone and all interests, all packaged in one of the most sustainable and beautiful venues in the world. EarthFest is scheduled to take place on 14 January 2018 from 11 am to 4.30pm at Marina Barrage!

Still deciding if you should check it out? Well, here are the top 5 reasons on why you should attend EarthFest 2018!

1. They are really really serious about sustainability

We kid you not, this event “talk the talk and walk the walk”. Here is how they ensure sustainability is in the core of the event:

  • Biodegradable plates and cutlery will be used and then composted
  • If one-use materials are necessary, they must be biodegradable
  • Food is all planet-friendly requiring less water, land, and food inputs to produce
  • One-use plastic carrying bags will not be given out (Reusable bags will be available for purchase)
  • No pamphlets can be handed out – vendors have to do digital distribution
  • Palm oil is banned
  • Vendors are given a financial incentive to create less waste
  • Everything is designed to be reusable for future EarthFests

 

2. It’s free of charge!

Did we fail to mention that Earthfest is FREE OF CHARGE? They are, however, limited in number. So what are you waiting for? Get them here!

 

3. Everyone has something to do

If you are wondering if there are activities for you to do, fret not! EarthFest has activities planned for everyone of all ages.

Highlights and additions to the festival this year include:

  • New bands on stage, including local artist Christiane Mikaela
  • Our first hybrid food truck will be part of the food fair
  • New talks and workshops curated by Green is the New Black!
  • PitchFest by Awesome Foundation – win $1000 for your sustainable project
  • NEA Exposition on Climate Change + Waste
  • Screening of Landfill Harmonic by Singapore Eco Film Festival
  • Singapore Really Really Free Market
  • Exhibition of the Green Warriors by The Wedge Asia
  • WWF Eco-School exhibitions
  • Bookswap hosted by Secondsguru

4. Opportunity for you to change your lifestyle

EarthFest is about creating effective change in people’s daily habits. By attending it, you can easily learn about your carbon footprint based on your daily behaviour, have access to many different organisations educating on key sustainability issues and discover knowledge to realise various action options. Ultimately, the mission of EarthFest is to “To inspire and empower us all to create a sustainable future.” With all the tools aforementioned, EarthFest will provide you with insights and knowledge to lead a more sustainable lifestyle!

5. Support local

EarthFest serves as a platform to help you connect with businesses they didn’t even know existed in Singapore! These businesses all main one goal in mind – Sustainability. By attending EarthFest, you are supporting both local and Mother Earth! You can check out all the businesses that will be there by visiting EarthFest’s website.

 

With all these reasons, we don’t see why you should miss EarthFest!

 

Sustainability Reporting

Singapore Sustainability Reporting Award: CDL’s Integrated Sustainability Report 2017

In September this year, the Singapore Institute of Directors held the inaugural Singapore Sustainability Reporting Awards (SSRA) which aims to encourage and recognise excellence in sustainability reporting among Singapore listed companies. Of all the participants, CDL was honoured for producing the best sustainability report for established reporters or firms that have long been producing reports on sustainability.

Here are some highlights of the sustainability actions that CDL has reported in their Integrated Sustainability Report 2017: 

My TreeHouse

Built using eco-friendly and recycled materials, My Tree House boasts an eco-centric book collection, interactive green features and programmes which enable children to learn and discover about our natural environment, especially during their formative years. The library is a collaboration between the National Library Board (NLB) and CDL. There are about 45,000 books in this library, a third of which are green-themed covering on animals, plants, nature, water, weather, environment, recycling, and climate change.

My TreeHouse is located at the Central Public Library located within the National Library Building. In 2016, it received a visitorship of over 312,500.

Engaging Tenants on Resource Efficiency

Tenant electricity usage accounts for close to 50% of electricity consumption in CDL’s office and retail buildings. To support efforts in reducing energy consumption and environmental footprint, CDL implemented the CDL Green Lease Partnership Programme in 2014.

A digital energy monitoring portal was jointly developed with Tuas Power to enable tenants to track and better manage their energy usage. In addition to the “green fit-out” guide issued to all tenants, CDL created a dedicated team of CDL Green Lease Ambassadors to guide tenants on how they can create more environmentally-friendly premises by adopting sustainable practices, designs, materials, fittings, equipment, and lighting fixtures. The Ambassadors also helped identify energy-saving opportunities to lower tenants’ operating costs.

As of end 2016, more than 95% of  CDL’s tenants have pledged their commitment to the CDL Green Lease Partnership Programme by signing a Green Lease Memorandum of Understanding as part of lease renewal.

Find out more about the green lease and tenant agreement here!

Twin Chute Pneumatic Waste Collection System

This is an eco-friendly waste management system that utilises air suction to convey general waste and recyclable waste separately. The entire refuse disposal and removal process is clean, odourless and vector-free, and requires less manpower to manage, reducing costs while encouraging recycling.

CDL Singapore Sculpture Award

Themed “Towards Zero Waste!”, the 6th edition of this biennial award draws inspiration from the circular economy and Singapore’s vision of becoming a zero waste nation by 2030. The competition invites participants to design sculptures with residual materials from the construction of the Singapore Sustainability Academy.

Through the theme of the Award, CDL hopes to shift mindsets and change behaviour from  a linear “take-make-dispose” model to a more circular one, in which resources are circulated back into the economy and used for as long as possible

 

Besides the aforementioned actions and initiatives that were taken by CDL, their integrated Sustainability Report has more details about the company’s environmental commitment and actions. Read it here!

Green Talk

Interview with People’s Movement to Stop Haze

People’s Movement to Stop Haze (PM Haze) is a non-profit organisation which focuses on outreach, research and advocacy haze-related concerns. Its mission is to “drive a global movement to stop the haze by empowering the community with the knowledge, means and values to do so”. This is achieved by steering consumption patterns towards sustainable palm oil and paper as well as assisting Indonesian and Malaysian farmers to create a sustainable livelihood.

We had the opportunity to talk to Co-founder, Tan Yi Han, to find out more about the organisation.

 

TSP: What inspired you to start People’s Movement to Stop Haze?

PM Haze: After experiencing haze since I was in Secondary 1, I felt frustrated why the haze had not been solved after so many years. In 2013, I decided to see for myself who was burning and volunteered with Global Environment Centre, a Malaysia-based organisation, which was tackling the root causes of haze.

When the record-breaking 2013 haze hit, we went to ground zero, where we saw areas that were burnt out as far as the eye could see. At one such location, we spoke to local farmers who shared that they had lost all their crops when the fire spread in from neighbouring land. Despite the tragedy that had befallen them, as we interviewed them, they still served us coffee and nuts. Touched by their simple kindness, I vowed to do what I could to prevent their suffering from fires and haze. After I came back to Singapore, I spoke with friends about trying to do something from Singapore to stop haze. Thankfully, some of my friends believed in me and together we formed People’s Movement to Stop Haze.

 

TSP: Can you tell us a few challenges you faced when carrying out activities for People’s Movement to Stop Haze?

PM Haze: Over the course of these two years, we have spoken to about a hundred eateries, from small hawker centre stalls to large eatery chains. Most of them use palm oil, but even after we shared the issue with them, many were not inclined to switch to sustainable palm oil. They cited barriers such as cost, preference for certain oil or supplier as well as convenience in getting the oil as part of a package of dry goods from a wholesaler. Thankfully, we managed to reach out to some eateries whose management were already environmentally conscious, and so once they learnt about sustainable palm oil, they switched within one or two weeks. It was very encouraging.

 

TSP: Since the launch of People’s Movement to Stop Haze, what is the general response from the public?

PM Haze: We are fortunate that the haze problem is one that people in Singapore relate to, so we do get lots of opportunities to give talks or set up roadshow booths. We also do get a steady stream of volunteers of about 1 or 2 a month. Of course, when there is no haze, it is hard to get mass support for our campaigns, so we are looking to broaden our message to stay relevant.

 

TSP: Can you share with us a few statistics on the impact of People’s Movement to Stop Haze over the years?

PM Haze: In 2015, we came up with a PSI based on hourly-PM2.5 readings, which were more accurate than the 24-hour average PM2.5 that the official PSI readings used. As a result, we had a flood of 30,000 visits in less than a month (27 Sept – 1 Oct 2015). Together with media and civic pressure, the government eventually created bands for their hourly-PM2.5 readings to allow people to interpret the hourly-PM2.5 readings more easily.

This year we have gotten 3 eateries to use sustainable palm oil as a direct result of our outreach. We have also supported youth advocates to do outreach campaigns in SIM and nationwide.

 

TSP: For those who are interested in getting involved with People’s Movement to Stop Haze, can you share 2 to 3 quick and easy steps to get started?

PM Haze: Start by learning about this complex and yet fascinating issue through following us on Facebook and signing up for our monthly newsletter via pmhaze.org . If you’re keen to join us in taking action, you can sign up as a volunteer at pmhaze.org/volunteer or look out for our ad-hoc volunteering opportunities via our Facebook or newsletter.

 

TSP: How has the government been contributing to your organisation’s aim to combat the haze issue?

PM Haze: The government has been supportive in terms of giving verbal encouragement for sustainable palm oil and complimenting the work that we do. We also have frequent closed-door meetings to exchange knowledge and ideas.

 

TSP: What are some of your future plans for the People’s Movement to Stop Haze? 

PM Haze: Next year we will be building on our existing work on sustainable palm oil but also moving into the field of responsible finance, where Singapore can play an even bigger role. Responsible finance at its minimum means avoiding lending or investing money to companies which engage in unethical and unsustainable practices. We hope to work with other organisations to raise public awareness and demand for responsible finance and move the financial institutions in Singapore further along this road.

Sustainable Businesses

Ecosia: The Search Engine That Plants Trees

Imagine being able to help to restore a forest, just by searching something on the Internet. How is that even possible?

Well, look no further! The answer is Ecosia – a search engine that plants trees with its advertisement revenue. Every month, Ecosia donates at least 80% of their profits to tree planting programmes. With a mission to plant 1 billion trees by 2020, we delve further into how this search engine works and what you can do to help them achieve their mission.

 

How does it work?

All it takes to get started is by searching anything you want on their search engine. All of Ecosia’s search results are powered by Bing which is US second largest search engine owned by Microsoft.

The first few results that you obtain which are indicated “Ad” are the advertisements which help Ecosia generate revenue. By clicking on those results indicated with “Ad”, you can help to increase Ecosia’s revenue!

How many trees have I planted?

On the top right-hand corner, you will notice a tree counter. The tree counter indicates the number of searches that you have performed with Ecosia. Since not every user will click on an advertisement, Ecosia earns an average of 0.5 EUR cents per search. Hence, it takes an average of 45 web searches to fund the planting of a tree as it costs about 0.22 EUR cents to plant one tree!

Where are the trees being planted?

Ecosia looks to support projects in the 25 most threatened forest ecosystems, otherwise defined as biodiversity hotspots. To classify as one, a region must meet the following conditions:

  1. At least 1,500 species of vascular plants (>0.5% of the world’s total) are endemic
  2. At least 70% of the original natural vegetation has been lost

Hence, through this approach, Ecosia has identified 35 biodiversity hotspots as locations where it wants to plant trees. A few examples of these regions are Indonesia, Tanzania, Madagascar and Peru. Read more about the specific tree projects here!

How transparent are they?

Every month, Ecosia will issue a financial report detailing their total income for the month and the amount used to invest into their tree planting efforts (As shown below)

They also provide information about the payment for various tree planting projects and the number of trees that are being planted.

What is the current impact of Ecosia?

As of November 2017, Ecosia has planted over 15 million trees!

What can I do?

It is simple! Just make Ecosia your default search engine! Find out how to do so here.