By Arielle Yeo (21S07B)
Cover image by Clarice Tan (21A01C)
Among all of the issues plaguing our society, environmental advocacy may not be of the highest priority to some. Many of us have heard of it, but how many of us really know what it entails? During Echo for Eco 2.0, a webinar organised by Raffles Community Advocates, over 100 participants gathered to find out more.
If someone asked you about what you knew about organisations championing for environmental advocacy, you may be at a loss. You may not know what it means, or how it even relates to you. Truth is, there are many organisations working for the future of Singapore’s environment. They are trying to undo the years of damage we, as citizens, have unknowingly brought about to our own nation, and advocate for a more ecocentric worldview. Out of these groups, four organisations, all comprising youths, have come forward to speak out about this very issue during this webinar.
During the 11.11 sale, Singapore e-commerce giant Shopee amassed a whopping total of 200 million sales, breaking all previous records. But after tearing through the layers of packaging, where do all these discarded single-use plastics go? Polymailers, envelopes, containers— all these single-use packaging makes up one-third of Singapore’s domestic waste, yet little has been done to overcome this issue.
This is where Package Pals comes in.
Package Pals, made up by a team of three youths, is a circular packaging initiative that collects used packaging from the public and distributes them to retailers for reuse. This is done in a simple 3-step process: collection, quality check, and redistribution. They accept donations via monthly meetups and mailing, and thoroughly sanitise each packaging before distribution. Within the first month, they had collected 186 pieces of packaging, and distributed 102 of those pieces.
“What many do not know is that polymailers can’t be recycled through blue bins, and even then, many recycled plastics end up in warehouses or landfills without being reused due to the lack of demand,” Ms Rachel Lee, co-founder of Package Pals, says. As a result, what started off as an attempt to reduce waste may even result in downcycling, and the outcome is a lower-value, low-quality product.
Working with various retailers such as local brand Kinquo, JustBorrowed, WWF and more, Package Pals advocates for businesses to adopt second-hand packaging to give single-use plastics a new lease of life. On top of that, they also aim to educate the public on the importance of sustainability and encourage others to embark on their own environmental initiatives through infographics on Instagram and workshops.
Other than donating, Package Pals encourages all of us to take action in other ways too, by reusing paper from receipts, bringing your own containers in eateries, limiting online shopping or requesting for less packaging.
With the name derived from the inheritance of the culture of thriftiness that the older generation had passed down to us, Tingkat Heroes is a zero-waste initiative spearheaded by Ms Pamela Low, a NUS graduate.
Tingkat Heroes began as an attempt to reduce waste in NUS, with Ms Low organising NUS’s first Zero Waste Fest in 2018, and working with the university administration to implement charges on disposables.
Since then, Tingkat Heroes has continued to branch out, holding a Sustainability Camp, a charity Christmas Dinner with influential stakeholders such as TreeDots and DBS, and panel discussions.
With experience and teachings from all over the world under her belt, Ms Low believes that the way to progress climate outcomes is systemic change. Tingkat Heroes is currently working towards creating a culture of targeted systemic climate action through existing social networks, and catalysing climate change in areas where it is not currently happening.
Eco-Youth Collective (EYC) consists of youths from polytechnics, ITE, and JCs— including some from our very own school! Their goal is to create solidarity between pre-tertiary institutes, and empower students to work towards environmental and social justice.
Cheryl Yong and Natalie Quah, two members of their core team, shared with us some of their experiences during their ecological journey. From biodiversity walks in NParks to collaborations with Singapore Climate Rally, their shared passion for environmental advocacy has given rise to a devoted team pushing for collective action and mutual aid.
They hold regular mass meetings, where all 83 of their members host and organise games, giving them opportunities to network with peers. Some of them have even gone the extra mile to start intra-school environmental clubs. Through mentorship programmes, collaborations with notable local names such as Checkpoint Theatre, and book clubs in NLB, EYC has taken concrete steps to ignite the flames of change in Singapore’s environmental scene.
EYC encourages all youths, no matter with background in environmental activism or without, to take the leap of faith and begin on their journey. A few of their pointers for youths who are interested in environmental advocacy would be to get connected with like-minded individuals and build a community. Most importantly, they should keep their goals in mind and not lose hope when things get tough.
Fossil Free Yale-NUS
90% of Singapore’s energy is generated by fossil fuels, contributing to over 50 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emission yearly. It’s common knowledge that energy consumption in Singapore is a can of worms—an imminent threat that barely anyone dares to acknowledge. Fossil Free Yale-NUS (FFYNC) has taken up the mantle, and has come forward to shed light on this situation and spark discussions on how we can do better.
As a student-led movement, FFYNC envisions and works towards a climate-just future where the higher education landscape is free from the influence of the fossil fuel industry. They stress the importance of identifying the root cause, and coming up with sustainable and innovative solutions to target the problem.
Ms Tim Min Jie explains that they’ve chosen to campaign for the institutional divestment from the fossil fuel industry. Through holding institutions accountable to their energy investments, FFYNC hopes to persuade NUS’s investment office to withdraw investments currently in the fossil fuel sector.
Signboards, expert panels, op-eds, festival booths— FFYNC has done it all. Yet, even with a petition garnering over 800 signatures, and a waiting time of 6 months, little change has been enacted. With the endowment fund ($4 billion) being tied to NUS, and protests being prohibited in Singapore, FFYNC has met numerous unforeseen roadblocks.
Despite these obstacles, FFYNC ultimately believes that divestment is inevitable. However, to ensure the sustainability of our future, they hope to keep working closely with the university board to achieve fossil-free investments by 2024.
Echo for Eco 2.0 revealed many harsh truths about the current state of our environment, but rather than feeling disheartened, the participants left feeling motivated and determined to work towards a desirable and sustainable future.
We all have the responsibility to be active allies— that is, rather than simply passively agreeing with what needs to be done, we should use our privilege and power to advocate for institutional change. Environmental advocacy can start with a simple conversation, a text, or an email, but most importantly, it starts with us.