By Shaun Loh (21A01A)
Cover image by Clarice Tan (21A01C)
About a year ago, immediately after taking the Mother Tongue O Level examination, a small group of Year 4 students congregated in a classroom at Sheares Block.
“Should I call us Raffles Climate?” I asked, laughing at how banal the name was.
“No! That’s so plain,” retorted my friend. “How about EcoGryphons? That’s more refreshing.”
And there it was, the name of a new environmental group in Raffles.
Coming back to the present—after an entire year of calamity, elections and protests—conversations on climate change have toned down tremendously. I mean, do we even remember the time when the name “Greta Thunberg” was in every one of our conversations? Just a week ago, I overheard someone remarking to his friend that talking about the environment is “so 2019”.
Nevertheless, there is actually still a vast range of environmental initiatives within Raffles, across the RI Year 1-4, RGS, and the Year 5-6 sides. With their individual ways of spreading environmental advocacy, these initiatives have found new ways to be the voice of the environment even in this odd year of social distancing and mask-wearing.
RI (Y1-4): ECOGRYPHONS
Before EcoGryphons properly broke out of its nest last year, eco-captains (including yours truly!) had actually started out with post-exam recycling drives. Firstly, we passed two raffia strings to each class for everyone to gather stacks of exam worksheets. Then, we meticulously placed every stack one atop another at the Raja Block Foyer, preparing them for recycling.
Nevertheless, we knew that a recycling drive was but only one way our campus could become more eco-friendly. Under the guidance of Dean Ms Melissa Lim, we brainstormed more ideas to make the Year 1-4 campus more sustainable.
On top of designing posters to remind Rafflesians to recycle and adding more recycling bins around school, the very first initiative we started was the Bring Your Own Tumbler Campaign in February this year to reduce the use of single-use plastics in school. By bringing their own bottle for drinks in the Year 1-4 canteen 10 times, a student could redeem a free drink from the canteen auntie.
Incorporating the House system into the campaign, every completed redemption card would also be collected by the Year 1-4 House Captains and added up to house points.
Sadly, because of the COVID-19 restrictions, us Year 5 eco-captains did not get to visit the Year 1-4 canteen to see the initiative take place. After stepping down at the end of Term 1, the current Year 4s eco-captains of 2020 took over the reins.
“We are having our Karang Guni project now. Continuing what you guys have started, we took note of how examination materials were outphased after EOYs, and decided to capitalise on this opportunity to recycle the paper used for exams instead of merely dumping it. Undoubtedly, it will save so much paper!” Malcolm Ngio, a current Year 4 eco-captain, shared about the new Karang Guni initiative taking place this year.
RI (Y5-6): RAFFLES COMMUNITY ADVOCATES (THE FOOD ISSUE)
THE FOOD ISSUE—the batch project of Community Advocates ‘21. As part of their efforts to raise awareness about environmental issues related to food, CA hopes that their ongoing series of initiatives and educational online posts will shed light on how we can all be more sustainable consumers.
One challenge that just took place under The Food Issue was the #CALunchboxSquadChallenge. Witnessing how the rise of food packaging waste generated in our community has led to a myriad of negative environmental impacts, CA aims to get Rafflesians to change their eating habits.
“I love the idea! I have so many adorable lunch boxes at home which I should probably use more often,” remarked Hadley-Hullett Captain, Xu Nuo (21A01A), when told about the challenge.
Aside from the #CALunchboxSquadChallenge, CA has also initiated the Composting Challenge. Besides giving out composting kits which allow us to grow our very own spring onions, CA has also provided a list of materials required for composting. Composting is another way to reduce food waste and contribute to environmental sustainability.
RI (Y5-6) AND RGS: THE WILD SIDE
Aiming to educate the school population on the need to care for and appreciate our local flora and fauna, The Wild Side is a group of students hoping to familiarise us Rafflesians with the Wild Side of Singapore.
“We do not care for our natural world enough, [as we often take] a more anthropocentric, capitalist view of our relationship with the environment when it shouldn’t be that way,” lamented the student leader of The Wild Side, Samuel Sim (21S07B).
By providing insightful research on local biodiversity and animals, alongside publicising the many webinars and activities organised by different environmental NGOs, The Wild Side bridges the gap between Rafflesians and environmental advocacy outside of school.
When asked about the initiatives planned for 2021, Samuel shared, “What’s on our heads right now is really sustainability, and keeping some momentum going. We are looking to contribute something bigger on Earth Hour and Earth Day next year.”
Currently, TWS holds a “Singapore Got Wildlife, Meh?” series on their Instagram page, offering insightful information on the origins of elusive animals that are relatively unheard of.
One such animal is the Estuarine crocodile in the picture above. Did you know that in the 1940s, crocodiles could be kept as pets in Singapore? They could even be killed and skinned into a custom pair of shoes.
Buckle-Buckley Vice-Captain Gemma Mollison (21A01A) commented, “Contributing to creating a more sustainable environment starts within our school. Sometimes I learn new facts when I see one of their Instagram posts about wildlife preservation. These environmental initiatives should really keep up the good work!”
“My hope is for Rafflesians to realise, you know, that we are part of nature and so much of what we do damages it. So from there, it’s really about seeing how the things we care about and our crises converge with what’s all around us,” Samuel relayed his goals with conviction.
RI (Y5-6): RAFFLES ONE EARTH
Last but certainly not the least, the resident environmental CCA in our Y5-6 side! As a tight-knit group of environmental enthusiasts, they host scintillating school wide events annually, such as the Escape Room during the yearly Team Raffles Games and Ecoweek. In 2019, they also collaborated with Raffles Runway to organise a fashion showcase in which all the clothes were made of recycled materials.
Aside from physical events, the restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in One Earth’s venturing into online outreach, hence opening up new spaces through which they can engage in environmental advocacy. This year, they started the online Eco-Waste Campaign during Circuit Breaker, sharing facts about waste, its impacts and small ways to reduce and recycle at home.
Indubitably, the coronavirus this year has inflicted many drastic changes on our lifestyles. As we use the end of the year to reflect on the many adjustments and uncertainties present, it’s extremely important to remember that our environment is still an imperative concern. Like the pandemic, climate change seems to be a reprisal from nature on our growing intrusion.
But we can still look on the brighter side. The virus has most certainly reduced the rampant consumerism of the past, alleviating the hectic pace of commercialism from before. We are now forced to embrace simplicity, as we face lesser options to choose from, whether be it food, travel, or recreational activities.
Placed together, reflection and simplicity bring forth calm, and there is no better call for calm than the thunderstorm that is COVID-19. Let’s continue our fight against the virus and climate change, so that our environment isn’t just washed up into obsolescence, becoming a topic that is “so 2019”.