The bad news: In the five minutes you take to read this article, roughly 70 tonnes of waste would have been generated across Singapore.
The good news: The amount of waste Singapore generates annually has steadily been decreasing over the past few years.
This reduction is partly attributed to lower amounts of wood waste, and the increase in plastic and paper recycled. The Pride offers a few ways you can stay eco-friendly.
1. Expiry dates refer to the product’s quality, not their safety
“Best by”, “use by” or “expires on” stamps emblazon all the food we buy. Although meant to provide advice about when a product is at its freshest, these labels may be misleading and contribute to a huge environmental problem by inadvertently encouraging people to throw out perfectly safe and edible food.
A survey found that more than a third of respondents throw away food that’s past its date label.
The problem with this behavior is that expiration labels tend to reflect estimates of when it will be at its peak quality, instead of indicating the actual safety of a product. This means that large volumes of food are being needlessly discarded away every day.
It is estimated that the carbon footprint associated with wasted food worldwide each year is more than 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Additionally, the amount of global food waste produced annually is more than enough to end world hunger.
Generally, most food is still safe to eat one to two weeks after their expiration date. Some foods, like grains, can even last a whole year after their labelled date. Check this guide to find out whether your food is still safe to eat.
Disclaimer: We are not advocating that anyone drink mouldy, curdled milk for the sake of saving the environment.
2. Use food products in new ways instead of throwing them out
Homemade jam is a delicious, sticky-sweet, preservative-free and healthier alternative to other spreads. Plus, you’ll have control over every single ingredient that goes into your jam, and can tweak it to your tastes – toss in sprigs of mint for a cool, refreshing touch, or squeeze in fresh lemon juice for a tangy twist. You can also add a heaped tablespoon of chia seeds for extra fibre.
Banana bread is even better: take soft, mushy brown bananas that you bought a week ago and completely forgot about… and turn them into moist and fluffy slices of fresh-baked bread.
3. Stop using disposable plastic! Bring your own bag, utensils and water bottle
Singapore generated more than 800 million kilograms of plastic waste last year. Plastic bags are used for all of 30 minutes before they’re disposed of. However, they require over 400 years to break down, far outstripping its half hour of use, and even a human’s lifetime. But the epitome of disposable items probably go to plastic cutlery: a bubble tea straw is used for perhaps 10 minutes, and a Starbucks drink stirrer, for 10 seconds.
You can stop plastic going to waste by bringing your own cutlery, water bottle or metal straw. Also, carrying a foldable tote bag with you will go a long way in reducing the 2.5 billion plastic bags that go to waste in Singapore every year.
Or choose to shop at Singapore’s first zero-waste grocery store, UnPackt.
4. Munch on home-grown, organic herbs
It’s true what they say: you reap what you sow. And in this case, its fresh herbs, the cultivating of a green thumb, peace of mind in organic, pesticide- and herbicide-free herbs, and the knowledge that you are reducing the use of fossil fuels involved in transporting produce. Seeing as sunlight and water come in abundance in Singapore, if you have a sunny window (or five) and some spare time, grow plants in mason jars, pots, or vertical wall gardens.
Some easy, fuss-free and delicious herbs to grow include lemongrass, chives, mint, Vietnamese coriander and chili. These herbs tend to grow quickly, and don’t require too much sunlight or water (they’ll forgive you if you forget to water them on Saturday mornings).
Once you’ve set up a little herb garden, prepare to reap the benefits of home-grown produce in just one month. Supplement your garden by starting a compost pile and fertilising your plants with nutrient-rich compost!
5. Compost your organic waste… in worm bins
We know, we know! “Compost” and “worm bins” have got to be some of the least sexy terms you’ve read today. But hear us out.
Composting is nature’s circle of life: nutrients are recycled back into the ecosystem. It’s a win-win situation that lets you dispose of organic waste conveniently and save space in landfills, and it gives worms a happy home and all the free meals that they want, too.
In composting, organic waste, such as dried leaves, raw fruit and vegetable scraps, are left to sit in a container. It’s simple, fuss-free and doesn’t require any more space than a tall bin. If you’re an urban gardener or an environmental enthusiast, this is a great idea for you.
Create a basic compost pile by dumping raw vegetable scraps or fruit in a large bin. You can speed up the process by introducing worms or to your compost pile.
6. Use packaging-free soap and shampoo
If you have silky long tresses and are guilty of going through a bottle of shampoo, conditioner, dry shampoo and deep conditioner (hey! It’s tough having long hair sometimes!) every few months, consider buying or making packaging-free, solid bricks of shampoo. Lush sells some great options, or get craftsy with your friends and spend the weekend making your own bricks of shampoo. Men, this is also a great personal gift idea for the women in your lives. Personalise bricks of soap or shampoo with their favourite essential oils, scents, and colours. You can even carve a sweet message on your brick.
7. Women, use alternative period products
On average, a woman will experience roughly 456 periods over 38 years. About 70 per cent of women use plastic disposable tampons,which are both bad for the environment and expensive. It’s estimated that a lifetime supply of tampons will cost you around $1,773!
One alternative to pads or tampons are period cups. These flexible, medical grade silicone cups are shaped like a bell, with a stem that protrudes out from the bottom (much like a tampon string). These are easy to use – they’re removed, emptied out, rinsed and reinserted every 4-12 hours.
As someone who has used period cups for over two years now, I can attest to their comfort and security. I don’t generally use them when I do heavy cardio or judo, as leakage tends to occur, but cups are wonderful for use when sleeping.
Ultra-absorbent, comfortable, and reusable, period underwear can hold up to 2 tampons worth of blood. They also come with anti-microbial lining to fight bad odour and bacteria, so you know you stay fresh down south.
At the end of the day, you rinse the underwear and then machine-wash as per normal. It may seem gross to wash your ‘period blood’ with your other clothes, but consider this: on average, women bleed only 1 – 3 tablespoons of blood, which will be diluted by the 60 to 120 litres of water a washing machine uses. Additionally, you also machine-wash your dirty, sweaty gym clothes with all your other clothes, don’t you?
Living a greener lifestyle doesn’t have to be difficult or uncomfortable. It can be as easy as bringing your own bottle or cutlery with you, as fun as crafting your own soap or shampoo, or as challenging as starting your own garden and compost heap. You can help reduce waste when you make small eco-friendly changes in your everyday life!