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Earth Day is Apr 22, but we shouldn’t remember to be environmentally conscious for just one day.
It’s not just a fad either. Going green is good not just for the environment, but for us as well.
Experts have said that rising global temperatures can increase the risk of new viruses appearing as animals migrate to cooler, more human-adjacent environments.
Similarly, climate change is expected to put up to 4% of global GDP at risk as poorer countries deal with economic losses stemming from rising sea levels, and more regular heatwaves, droughts and storms.
So sustainable practices can help reduce the chance of us falling ill to new unknown diseases, and keep our economies safe from environmental damage.
And Singapore is doing its part.
For example, we have pledged to reduce our emissions intensity by 36 per cent and stabilise our greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
The Straits Times shared a comprehensive report on the impact of global warming in Singapore and the steps that we are taking to combat it via the 2030 Green Plan. CNA also came up with the CNA Green Plan on little steps we can take daily to make a difference.
Yet what is it that many of us are still reluctant to make the change?
The first step is often the hardest, so here are some simple ways to start your journey towards a more sustainable life.
Going green online
When we search for something online, we all have the same best friend — Google. But what if there is a search engine that plants a tree for every few searches we make online?
EcoAsia is a green search engine that generates revenue from advertisements, and the for-profit company has pledged to donate up to 80% of its earnings to planting trees.
Basically, search for stuff and plant a tree.
For every 45 searches you make, you would have done enough to plant a tree somewhere in 15 different countries like Peru, Brazil, Madagascar, Nicaragua, Haiti, Colombia, Spain, Morocco.
Ecosia says that it helps plant a tree every 30 seconds, which comes up to almost 3,000 trees per day!
The website even has a counter in the top-right corner to encourage users to search more (and so plant more trees). The best part is that you don’t have to donate any money. All you need to do is use the website and search.
The ad revenue generated from the searches, clicks and purchases (yes, it has an online store too) gets shared with tree-planting organisations supported by EcoAsia.
You can make EcoAsia as your default homepage or add its extension to your browser.
Google can still be your bestie but maybe once in a while you can use EcoAsia and feel good about searching online!
If you want to go for green activities but don’t know where to start, try Secondsguru.
The website gives readers access to a curated calendar of eco-events, guides on eco-friendly lifestyles and information on sustainable brands.
Its founders Anuja Byotra Aggarwal and Lara Rath started the website in 2014 after they arrived in Singapore and realised that there was no one-stop online resource to help people gain access to sustainable living.
At Secondsguru, readers not only can get tips and resources in eco-friendly living but also participate in sustainable events in Singapore. There are workshops, exhibitions, cleanups and even green adventures!
The calendar keeps track of upcoming events so whether you’re an environment enthusiast or an eco-friendly newbie, keeping track of opportunities to go green is easy.
One thing I never thought of ever recycling was my shoes. Growing up, my parents spent a lot of money buying me shoes just because my feet just kept growing.
Once I outgrew them, we never really thought about recycling them — we simply chucked the shoes in cupboards until we threw them away. Now that I’m older, a simple Google search (or EcoAsia!) can easily help you find local bins where you can donate your old shoes.
ActiveSG has a permanent eco-project to convert used sports shoes into material that could be used for tracks, fitness corners and playgrounds.
You can search for the nearest collection points, which include ActiveSG sport centres, community centres, schools and even Decathlon!
Dealing with e-waste properly
We often make mistakes when it comes to recycling electronics!
Don’t throw them away. Don’t throw them into the blue recycling bins that you see in your neighbourhood.
Instead, dispose of your used batteries, old laptops, mobile phones and appliances at e-waste collection points. The risks of electronics mixing in our Semakau landfills can cause fire hazards or even short circuits.
It’s important enough to bear repeating. Please do not dispose of any batteries into general bins or blue recycling bins. Please tape the ends or wires of rechargeable batteries and seal any leaking batteries in leak-proof bags before recycling them.
You can properly dispose of them at your nearest e-waste bins as part of NEA’s Extended Producer Responsibility System for E-waste Management System.
Alternatively, you can donate your laptops, phones and other electronic devices to Engineering Good. Even if your old gadget can’t turn on anymore, the parts can be cannibalised for other devices.
The tech non-profit upcycles working parts to repair devices to help persons with disabilities and digitally needy families.
Both organisations are actively involved in the community, but more importantly, they are always looking for donations of unwanted electronics. Just remember to wipe your personal information from the gadgets first!
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Selling your “rubbish”
I know we all miss those toot toot sounds in the neighbourhood during the afternoons.
Karang guni vendors have slowed their activities due toCovid-19, but that doesn’t mean our beloved rag-and-bone men aren’t around anymore.
In fact, there’s even a karang guni website where you can arrange to sell your old newspapers, electronics and unwanted furniture.
Fill up the contact form, send some pictures and you’ll get a quote in return. More information on eligible items can be found on the website.
Another initiative is literally called Cash-for-Trash, which is an incentive programme under NEA, where Public Waste Collectors collect recyclables in exchange for cash. You can find the nearest stations to drop off your junk and earn money.
As you’ve often heard: one man’s rubbish is another’s treasure!
Giving away books and stationery
I remember when I finished my O-level exams, I was so ready to throw my school books away. But thankfully, I didn’t.
I put everything, from Additional Mathematics to Literature, snugly in a box and was about to dispose of them when I found out I could give them away.
Fairprice’s Share-A-Textbook campaign was conveniently taking place right after my examinations so I dropped off about two bags full of textbooks at my nearest Fairprice collection point.
The initiative, now in its 39th year, isn’t a year-round campaign, so keep your textbooks and watch for the call to donate!
Similarly, storybooks I used to read as a kid can also be easily reused by others.
I used to spend a lot of time at my local library when I was a kid — I still have my Primary 1 library card in my wallet! It would be cool to see my favourite books being read by other kids too.
Every NLB branch has a bookshelf where you can drop off your old books (and pick out new ones from others).
Obviously, not forgetting my favourite place to visit: You can donate books at Project Dignity’s Dignity Mama, where they are resold at very cheap prices.
Dignity Mama is a social enterprise that encourages mothers to work with their special-needs children to sell second-hand books.
I have bought so many of my books here. I collect National Geographic magazines and I’ve found lots of old copies at Dignity Mama’s shops. I’ve even found classic literature books here!
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Another non-profit that sells secondhand books is Books Beyond Borders. It was started in 2017 by a young Singaporean, Randall Chong, to help children and youths in some of the world’s most isolated communities get an education.
He has committed 100% of all donations and profits from book sales to fund educational causes.
Lastly, one thing you probably never knew you could recycle is your pens!
Save That Pen is an organisation that collects donated pens to be refilled and passed forward to underprivileged students in Singapore and overseas.
Check out these bin locations to drop your pens off. Alternatively, if you can refill and reuse your pens, don’t buy new ones! Many pens now are sold with refillables and the inks can be easily replaced.
There are no more excuses not to care about the environment. It’s 2022 and global temperatures will only continue to rise if we don’t change our daily habits.
Everything to be done is laid out in front of you.
All you have to do is take the first step. What’s your move?