Pressing the button to turn on the air-conditioner in our homes or taking an extra shower a day might seem perfectly normal to most of us working from home, since it’s almost a daily necessity nowadays with the heat and humidity.
But have you ever paused to think how it could potentially damage the environment, in terms of speeding up climate change, and as a result, rising sea levels in Singapore?
According to research firm Verisk Maplecroft, Singapore is one of 100 cities within the Asian region classified as being at risk of the long-term impacts of climate change.
In fact, on a four-tier-scale – Singapore has been classed at the second highest level in terms of being at risk of environmental pollution and climate change effects.
So how can we play our part in reducing the impact of climate change on the environment that we live, work and play?
In conjunction with World Environment Day on June 5, here are five ways on how we can help to save the environment and reduce our carbon footprint.
Reduce your energy consumption where necessary
As a tropical country located on the equator, Singapore is hot all year round, and it is getting hotter and hotter each year due to global warming (35 degrees!). Many of us counter the heat with air-conditioners. We use them at home, in our offices, and in shopping malls.
In fact, in the average household, roughly three-quarters of the electricity is used to power three main appliances – with air conditioners constituting the highest (36.7%), compared to water heaters (20.9%) and refrigerators (18.5%).
In addition, our air conditioners use about 3,000 watts per day, compared to traditional fans which are less ‘energy-hungry’, which use between 10 to 120 watts – a significant difference!
And according to research website Statistia, the electricity generation capacity in Singapore for the first quarter of 2020 was a whopping 12.6 thousand megawatts – despite the slight decrease in energy usage from 2019.
Coupled with the constant burning of fossil fuels to provide a source of energy, the use of such appliances increased the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, causing more heat to be trapped in our environment.
This is why there is a need for us to switch to more eco-friendly appliances such as fans when possible – which not only benefits the environment, but also helps in reducing the long-term running costs of using these appliances for our comfort.
Reduce plastics, bring your own reusable bags
Annually, Singapore uses a staggering 1.76 billion plastic-related items, according to the Singapore Environmental Council.
This is worrying as plastics are non-biodegradable materials and to dispose of them fully, they often have to be burned, then buried in landfills, which produces harmful gases such as carbon dioxide – this speeds up the process of rising sea levels and global temperatures, as well as air pollution.
We can all play our part by switching to eco-friendly, reusable tote-bags or bringing our own containers when we go to dapao our food (especially during this no dining-in period)
Reducing food wastage
During the circuit breaker last year, and again when the Heightened Alert was announced, Singaporeans rushed to the supermarkets and started panic buying, or in other words, hoarding excess food supplies. However, buying more than what you need will potentially cause more unnecessary food wastage in the long-term.
It is important for us to reduce food wastage because food that is disposed of often creates methane, the strongest form of greenhouse gas.
And when we waste food supplies, more essential resources such as energy and water will be unnecessarily wasted so as to produce fresh food for us humans to consume.
In 2020 alone, Singapore wasted 665,000 tonnes of food.
The good news is, there are organisations who upcycle food waste into useful products by taking otherwise wasted food, and create something new and nutritious out of it. For example, CRUST Group sells beers and non-alcoholic beverages made from surplus bread and other useful ingredients.
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Switch to public transport
Did you know that switching to public transport helps to make your journey twice as energy efficient, compared to using your personal vehicle?
According to research done by Our World In Data, using the train instead of a car to commute within medium-length distances would reduce carbon emission levels by a staggering 80 per cent!
They aim for nine in 10 peak-period journeys to be made via Walk-Cycle-Ride modes of transport (which include public and shared transport such as taxis and private hire cars), and to have 100 per cent greener, cleaner energy public bus and taxi fleets by 2040, which also means ditching the conventional diesel and petrol-powered vehicles we are so used to.
And as part of the Green Plan 2030 initiative, no more new diesel vehicles are allowed to be registered by 2025.
It might seem like a big compromise to wake up earlier and sacrifice a comfortable car ride to take a bus or MRT to work, but by our collective effort to switch to public transport, we can help to reduce Singapore’s annual CO2 emissions by 20 pounds per day, or more than 48,000 pounds in a year.
Think about the benefits of this to our environment and our health (cleaner air!).
Be motivated to act now
Climate change is happening around the world and Singapore is not spared from its effects.
We need to act now before it is too late, especially since Singapore is an island with low-lying shorelines, putting us at a higher risk of rising sea levels.
For starters, a campaign that one can participate in is Youth for the Environment Day (YED), a platform to engage the youth to champion environmental ownership by leading, organising and participating in programmes to show their passion and commitment towards global and local environmental issues. Last year’s theme was “Towards Zero Waste”.
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Individuals, schools and organisations can also pledge via Eco Action Day to commit to going green. For myself, I decided to take a stand against climate change by using the fan & travelling around using public transport.
I hope that others will be encouraged too to do their small part in conserving our big beautiful planet.