Earth Day: Greenfluencers Show Us How Easy It Is To Be Eco-Friendly

Pearlyn Tham
·8-min read
Let these three individuals - (from left) Ho Xiang Tian of LepakInSG, Sangeeta Nair of The Eco-Statement and Preston Wong of treatsure - inspire you to adopt a more sustainable way of life.
Let these three individuals - (from left) Ho Xiang Tian of LepakInSG, Sangeeta Nair of The Eco-Statement and Preston Wong of treatsure - inspire you to adopt a more sustainable way of life.
Let these three individuals - (from left) Ho Xiang Tian of LepakInSG, Sangeeta Nair of The Eco-Statement and Preston Wong of treatsure - inspire you to adopt a more sustainable way of life. | Photos: (From Left) Facebook/@lepakinsg, @theecostatement and @treatsurefood

No, you won’t have to not shower for weeks. Or sit at home in the dark until 11.59pm. Or not buy anything for the next 2,590 years.

That’s just so… 1999.

The new ways to go and do green are easier and more sensible and fun – from simply enjoying a scenic bus ride to hosting dinners on classy plates made from dried leaves and shopping for (affordable) surplus food that would have otherwise headed for the landfill.

LepakInSG

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What they call themselves: An informal environmental group that runs a one-stop calendar listing environmental events and activities in Singapore and also organises events to raise awareness.

We chatted with: Ho Xiang Tian, who co-founded LepakInSG and runs it with 12 volunteers now. Collating a calendar lets the Singapore Institute of Technology student work on different issues.

Why the name LepakInSg?

We wanted an informal name and we thought something like “Singapore Green Calendar” would turn off those who aren’t interested in environmental issues. We also run other activities to take action on various environmental issues. For instance, Sea Our Shores in 2018 was a series of workshops we did for the International Year of the Reef to raise awareness about Singapore’s marine ecosystems. We also just… lepak in Singapore.

What was the first good thing you did for the environment?

When I was about six or eight, I got my family to stop using air-conditioning.

Have you ever annoyed your family and friends by nagging them to be more green?

No, I’m generally quite chill because most of the time, people aren’t environmentally unfriendly on purpose. When friends purchase drinks in disposable cups, I don’t nag them to bring their own cups because even if they did so, the other 500 people who buy cold drinks will still use the disposable cups. A better way would be to get the drinks stall to provide reusable cups. I would rather spend what limited time and energy we have every day on changing systems than changing individuals.

What's better: da bao or cook?

It depends more on what you’re eating than where you’re eating. Plant-based meals have a lower carbon footprint. Chicken and seafood are generally better than pork, which is better than beef and lamb.

How many squares of toilet paper is it PC for one to use these days?

Use the bidet if one is available. If toilet paper is a must, as little as possible.

MRT, carpool or Grab?

I use public transport as much as possible because cars emit up to 30 times more greenhouse gases, compared to trains, and 10 times more compared to buses.

Is there anything about Singapore that few of us know about?

Waste in Singapore is incinerated before going to a landfill. That means whatever biodegradable/compostable item you’re using doesn’t actually help.

Another issue is biodiversity in Singapore. Singapore is incredibly biodiverse, but people don’t know about it, and think there’s nothing to see in Singapore. We actually have more than 40,000 species, but most people see only the “pests” like crows, cockroaches, houseflies and mosquitoes.

The Eco-Statement

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What they call themselves: A social enterprise that works towards the conservation of environment and makes circular design a way of life.

We chatted with: Founder and adjunct lecturer Sangeeta Nair, who attended a talk on zero-waste living about nine years ago and got inspired to cut down on her consumption of single-use items. The Eco Statement co-designs and sells merch made by cottage industries in India.

What do you mean when you say you curate sustainable products on your website?

We have Eco-Stationery like plantable pencils, pen stands, coasters and baskets made from old newspapers that would have been thrown away, and also Eco-Homeware like plates and bowls made from dried leaves.

And you also run workshops and hold talks…

We conduct these based on our clients’ or partners’ requirements. Some include “Get into the Game of Recycling”, a game-based interactive workshop, and “Making No Nasties Multi-purpose Cleaner’.

What is the one thing that annoys you most when it comes to the environment?

Wasting food and taking a plastic bag for a small item or a few items which you could have easily put in your bag. Carry a reusable bag with you.

What’s better: da bao or cook?

Eat at home. You can be mindful of what you eat and how much you cook, and decrease food wastage. Cooking can also be therapeutic!

How many squares of toilet paper is it PC for one to use these days?

Washing is always better than only wiping. But you will need a toilet equipped with washing facilities and we need to change people’s mindsets.

MRT, carpool or Grab?

BMW: bus, MRT, walk. You get exercise and contribute to less carbon emission.

There are so many “green” terms these days. What’s really what?

Circular design: Designing products so that there is zero waste generated in the whole life cycle of the product.

Zero-waste shopping: Shopping is never zero-waste. Work towards low-waste. Buy only what you need and when you need it, bring your own bags, and cut down on packaged food.

Responsible business model: A business that minimises its impact on the environment and follows ethical practices in every aspect.

treatsure

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What they call themselves: An imaginative start-up tackling food wastage with technology.

We chatted with: Preston Wong, chief executive of treatsure, an app that hooks up customers with businesses that have surplus produce to sell so that nothing gets thrown out without a good reason. Before Covid-19, treatsure ran a buffet-in-a-box concept which let customers fill up a box with excess food from a restaurant or hotel’s buffet line. Its first hotel partner was Grand Hyatt Singapore’s StraitsKitchen in 2018.

Have you ever annoyed your family and friends by nagging them to be more
“green”?

Yes, all the time! When someone helps me take away food from the coffeeshop, I will pass them my reusable container, which might be inconvenient to carry around. When I'm at a gathering at a house, I might annoy the host a little by requesting for reusable cutlery or using my own cutlery. When I'm at a wedding, friends automatically try to leave no wastage behind in the presence of Preston-No-Food-Wasted-Wong.

Most of us may not think about food wastage and food production sustainability when we think of the environment.

A lot of effort and resources (both environmental and human) are expended in every stage of the food chain, from farm to fork. Food wastage is a disregard of not only the output per se, but all of these different inputs. Also, there are ramifications for food wastage on the environment. We need to incinerate more waste, and build more incineration plants and landfills to fulfil these growing requirements. That, in turn, poses many challenges to land-scarce and resource-scarce Singapore.

In terms of food sustainability, certain food alternatives reduce the carbon footprint. Many see plant-based food as an alternative for dairy products as the latter consumes more resources and is more carbon-intensive. Sustainable seafood brings with it good farming and harvesting practices that keep our waters clean and safe, while local produce have lesser carbon footprint than imported produce.

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The first offline treatsure retail concept store has just been launched at Oxley Tower in Robinson Road. Tell us more.

Our grocery business covers four categories of food products: expiring, blemished, excess and sustainable that you can order through our app and opt for delivery or a pickup from our store.

For surplus and sustainable groceries, we have fruit, vegetables, eggs, yogurt, milk, cheese, snacks, bread, as well as sustainable seafood, plant-based meat and so on.

We do not sell expired products.
We also have non-food merchandise which promote zero-waste living like beeswax wrap, nut milk bags, bamboo and metal straws and personal care products.

We work with suppliers to get special rates which are usually lower than what you get in supermarkets. Our customers are everyday consumers who recognise that they can enjoy good food and savings, while doing a part for the environment.

MRT, carpool or Grab?

None of the above, actually. Personally I prefer the bus, as I get to unwind and observe the scenery.

What are some F & B and supermarket practices that you would like to change?

We hope to inspire businesses to treat food as treasure and that would entail giving surplus food a new lease of life, either through our channel or working with us to redistribute or repurpose it into great creations. We have, for instance, turned surplus eggs into bread and pastries for our users.

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