Whether at work or play, here are some easy ways to adopt more earth-friendly habits, according to teachers and students at this year's W7 Environmental Sustainability e-Forum.
By Sabrina Lee
Whether it is walking to lunch or recycling an old pair of jeans, small actions can go a long way towards conserving the environment.
That was one of the key messages at the inaugural W7 Environmental Sustainability e-Forum held on 14 April.
In the spirit of Earth Week 2023, teachers and students from Bukit Batok Secondary School, Commonwealth Secondary School, Millennia Institute (MI), and River Valley High School rallied together and shared their views on sustainability issues.
The e-Forum shed light on sustainability themes, including nature conservation, food security, and the pursuit of carbon neutrality, drawing inspiration from the Singapore Green Plan 2030
Helmed by Mrs Erin Lai, Head of Department of Humanities at MI, the e-Forum was organised based on the MI Environmental Education Team’s vision of empowering youths to contribute to a sustainable Singapore.
“We realised the importance of nurturing student agency and providing them with a platform that can make a significant impact, enabling them to share their voices and inspire the youth community to take substantial steps towards creating a better living environment for everyone in the future,” she says.
If you need some inspiration to get started on your own eco-journey, here are six fuss-free ideas from students and teachers who attended the e-Forum. While this list is not exhaustive, it is a great start to becoming more mindful about the environment.
Moove on from dairy milk to a plant-based alternative
It is breakfast time! Level up your morning coffee game by saying goodbye to dairy milk and hello to plant-based alternatives such as oat milk.
A 2022 article
by Stanford University found that by phasing out animal agriculture and making a global switch to plant-based food, the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases could be effectively halted for 30 years – giving humanity time to end its reliance on fossil fuels, the other leading cause of the climate catastrophe.
There is hope for saving our planet, and the answer could be as simple as drinking a glass of your favourite vegan milk. But oat milk is not just another alt-milk; it is a creamy, barista-approved substitute that is taking the coffee world by storm. Whether you are sipping on your morning brew or chomping down on breakfast cereal, swap diary for plant-based milk – your taste buds and the planet will thank you.
Bring your own water bottle for drinks
Ditch single-use plastics and BYOB – Bring Your Own Water Bottle. Not only will you be hydrating in style, you will also be saving the planet, one sip at a time.
In an article
by The Pew Charitable Trusts – a non-profit dedicated to addressing pressing global challenges through research, public policy advocacy and philanthropic initiatives – pollution by plastic waste has had detrimental effects on over 800 species, leading to harm caused by ingestion or entanglement. It is essential to recognise that humans too, experience the consequences.
Beaches and wastewater systems are marred by the presence of discarded drink bottles and other plastic waste, which not only obstructs drains but also serves as a breeding ground for diseases.
With a reusable bottle in tow, you are not just quenching your thirst; you are reducing the endless plastic waste that litters our oceans and landfills. So, whether you are at the gym, at work, or on the go, remember, BYOB is the cool way to do your part.
Fuel up with salad instead of a burger
Thinking of what to have for lunch? Imagine a plate piled high with greens, juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, and a rainbow of bell peppers. Salads are like nutritional powerhouses, packed with vitamins, fibre, and all the good stuff your body needs. Plus, by choosing vegetables over meat, you are doing your part to cut down carbon emissions.
Another option is to opt for plant-based burgers, says Mrs Lai, “One key takeaway from our student’s blind tests results is that patties made from soy protein and other ingredients taste just as good, if not better than meat-based burgers.” She adds that the secret is in the food preparation process – marinating, defrosting and food presentation all play a part in making plant-based burgers an attractive alternative.
According to the WWF
, extensive cattle ranching leads the pack in Amazon deforestation, accounting for 80 per cent of the damage and emitting 340 million tons of carbon annually (equivalent to 3.4 per cent of global emissions). Additionally, it ignites wildfires and damages ecosystems, resulting in soil erosion, river sedimentation, and pollution. This means that your diet not only has a direct impact on your health, it also determines the carbon footprint that you leave behind.
The next time you find yourself deliberating between a steak and a salad, keep in mind that opting for a plant-based meal is not just a nutritious flavourful decision — it is also a planet-saving one.
Skip transport and walk to lunch
Why wait for a bus or MRT when you can reduce your carbon footprint by opting for a leisurely walk to lunch? As part of the government’s Land Transport Master Plan 2040
, initiatives are in place to transform suitable road sections into wider footpaths and cycling lanes, promoting a city where walking and cycling become increasingly popular commuting options.
Feel the sunshine on your face, listen to the chirping birds and relish the excitement as your taste buds tingle with anticipation. As you amble to your favourite eatery, the world around you transforms into a backdrop of possibilities. Who knows, maybe you will discover a new cafe or encounter one of the many facets of our garden city’s rich biodiversity.
If you are fortunate to study or work in the vicinity of Jurong Lake District, Jurong Innovation District, Punggol Digital District, and Woodlands Regional Centre – areas designated for greening in the master plan – take a short break at the nearby parks and green spaces to rejuvenate your mind and soothe your eyes. All in all, spending time in sunlight and fresh air may help you feel better in mind and body.
Think twice before hitting the Buy Now button
Before making an online purchase, take a moment to reflect on the impact of your choices. Fast fashion, for example, may be tempting, but it is one of the largest contributors to pollution and waste.
“In this capitalistic economy, a ‘good buy’ is as good as kissing your money and our Earth’s limited resources goodbye. Every retailer wants you to believe that you are ‘missing out’ on a value purchase with every sales pitch,” says Mrs Lai. She recommends upcycling or donating gently used clothing, allowing them a second life. Additionally, recycling used textiles at convenient local collection points, such as Super 800
municipal waste collection sites and select retail stores, diverts them from landfills.
By thinking before making a purchase and choosing quality over quantity, you are not only saving money but also doing your part to protect the planet. Sustainable fashion options, such as upcycled or ethically produced clothing, can help reduce your carbon footprint. A little extra thought before you shop can go a long way in safeguarding the environment.
Draw inspiration from youth environmentalists
Eager to nurture your child’s eco-passion? For a start, learn what youths around the world are doing to make a positive impact on the environment.
One way to get meaningful conversations on the topic going is to dive into the inspiring narratives found at Youth in Action
– a United Nations initiative igniting youthful involvement in the climate change battle.
Learn about youth-driven endeavours, projects, and campaigns, all geared towards curbing climate change and championing sustainable lifestyles. Their initiatives serve as a powerful reminder that the future of the planet rests not only in policy changes and technological advancements, but also in the passion and dedication of the next generation.
For stories on how schools embrace sustainability:
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