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? These questions and curiosity towards the practice of carrying Tingkat is exactly what Tingkat Heroes 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 I was in secondary school, my neighbour asked my family out to do recycling . 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.
Intern and travelling
I interned in the tourism industry during my holidays in 2016 and 2017. It shaped a lot of my growth and perspectives in working with various stakeholders. Furthermore, it shaped me to be conscious and concerned about what makes Singapore a destination of travel, work and living.
Together with my eco-lens, 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. Learning more about the cities and to similarly formulate solutions that could work in Singapore is possible when I am in a reflective mode.
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. There’s an economic benefit, health benefit (in using glass/ metal ware vs styrofoam and plastics) and environmental benefit.
Hence it’s tangible and when one is enlightened and empowered, they can actively and consciously make choices avoiding disposables wastes.
I usually share my own BYO experiences on my Facebook page for my own reflections etc. 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.
To me, that 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. It’s not easy.
I learnt to work together, consider and negotiate along mutual interest with various stakeholders and partners. 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. 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. I managed to outsource the mentor/ specific grant instead and 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 Straits Time featured our project on 1/January/2018. It was a bonus and signaled the importance of taking and encouraging climate ACTION this year.
TSP: Can you share 2 to 3 quick and easy steps to get started 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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. The eco-curriculum has been thoughtfully pieced together. It is tightly linked to pedagogy to bring students through a journey of motivating the topic, inquiry,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. It helps to motivate them to think beyond self, and to serve the larger community positively.
Adding on, I also aim to assimilate these simple “eco-friendly” actions into the priorities of the average Singaporean such as health and money. Doing this benefit the environment 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. It 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. I feel awareness, outreach and programs are essential as no two persons have the same reason to get started on this green journey.
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. 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…Hugely inspired by a zero-waste Christmas market I visited in Hong Kong, I do hope to host a zero-waste market this year
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.