We’ve tried it: Green living for a week
How hard can living a more sustainable lifestyle be? Jessie Lim, our Tenant Relations Specialist at One George Street, shares her experience after completing a one-week challenge to be more eco-friendly.
My motivations for the ‘Green Living’ challenge
Last year, while researching about sustainability for an event, I was horrified to find out the amount of waste we generate. When I learned that Singapore’s only landfill, Semakau Landfill, will overflow by 2035, I realised the gravity and urgency of the situation – it’s something that will happen within my lifetime!
What I hoped to achieve
I’ve been trying to lead a greener lifestyle since 2019. I started by cutting down plastic use by bringing my own food containers and thermal flasks.
This time, I hope to be more conscious of my choices and show people that it is not that daunting to lead a sustainable lifestyle. While what we do may seem small, it can have a significant impact if more of us do it collectively. For the challenge, I pledged one sustainable act a day for one week. I took on the challenge with my family. New habits are easier to stick to with encouragement and reminders from people close to you.
Sustainable living for a week, here I come...🌿
Had breakfast at the restaurant and did not take any plastic utensils when ordering my takeaway.
Brought my own container to dabao lunch and dinner and refused plastic utensils and plastic bags.
Used my thermal tumbler to buy iced tea.
Used my Lock & Lock to buy bread for my family’s breakfast. The bread stall auntie was rather impressed with my large container, as it can easily fit six buns. She commented that it is very useful! While it may be weird for some to eat bread from a container, it reduces the use of plastic and my family got used to it quickly.
Thoughts after Day 1
It takes conscious planning of what I want to do and eat, so that I can bring along the necessary containers. My daily bag was also heavier and larger because of that.
Keep a few containers of different sizes in the office for contingencies. Collapsible ones like these save a lot of space.
Through my research, I learned that meat production is not sustainable and aquaculture is harming our oceans. Going meat-free is one way to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.
Breakfast: I had chee chong fun with vegetarian soon kuey
Lunch: I had a vegetarian bento set from Green Dot
Dinner: Made my own chia seed pudding (following this recipe) made with chia seed, soy milk, honey and fruit toppings
Thoughts after Day 2
While I like my veggies and salads, I am not ready to go fully vegetarian (I love my teriyaki cod, miso salmon and chicken satay!). But, I realised it isn’t that difficult nor boring to go meat-free once or twice a week with all the interesting vegetarian and vegan offerings popping up everywhere.
Each time we switch on the TV, surf the web or use our phone, we’re actually adding to our carbon footprint, and this has a significant contribution to global greenhouse emissions. So, for that day, I decided to minimise gadget use and just enjoy nature instead.
Took the family out to Bukit Batok Nature Park after breakfast at home. We enjoyed fresh air and saw animals such as monitor lizards, birds and interesting foliage. My husband and daughter had fun playing at the sand playground and snacking at the nearby picnic table. My son and I explored the park and had fun spotting various types of greens.
We brought along mini games to play during tea break and dropped by the Jurong Regional Library for new books in the afternoon.
Thoughts after Day 3
I think adults are as addicted to their phones as children are! We’ve grown too dependent and familiar with the convenience and accessibility that gadgets give us (texting and checking emails) that we had to constantly remind each other not to pick up and look at our phones each time a notification came in.
We had already made it a habit to bring along reusable bags and cooler bags for our grocery runs. To bring our sustainable actions to the next level, we focused on the packaging that our choices came in.
Did you know the plastic containers that the fruits come in are not recyclable? With this in mind, we chose loose produce over pre-packed ones that come in plastic containers.
We chose large family-sized containers of yogurt over smaller, individual cartons.
We got loose tea leaves rather than tea bags in individually sealed packets.
Thoughts after Day 4
In the end, we got items such as fresh vegetables, fresh chicken and prawns from the wet market near our house as those in the supermarket were pre-packed with plastic and styrofoam.
While I didn’t go to the extent of bringing my own containers for the chicken and prawns, I will definitely try it next time! Instead, I asked the sellers to pack everything into a single plastic bag, and I packed them into individual serving containers when I got home.
Facial masks (not the surgical ones but the ones you use for skincare) are typically individually wrapped, and some even come with a plastic backing to ensure that the mask does not crumple in the sealed pack. However, these conveniences come at a cost to the environment. Hence, I decided to try making my own face mask.
To combat the clogged skin and ‘mask-ne’ due to wearing a face mask daily, I made an avocado face mask using ingredients that I always have in the kitchen. The mask smelled very yummy! It was very cooling on the skin (I put it into the fridge to let it cool) and there seemed to be lesser sebum.
Thoughts after Day 5
This fun experience has encouraged me to try other homemade masks as well.
Bubble tea is perhaps the nation’s favourite drink, and they all come in single-use plastic cups. I wanted to be sustainable while indulging in my favourite bubble tea but I had a few surprises that day. I found out that some bubble tea shops do not accept reusable cups. Some cited hygiene issues due to COVID-19 and some said it was to keep to their image/branding.
The newly reopened Change Alley basement has A LOT of bubble tea shops. I asked around these shops and the ones around Raffles Place. Out of the 10 that I visited, only five said that they would accept my reusable cup.
Thoughts after Day 6
Personally, I felt that buying bubble tea without the packaging reduces the thrill and fun of buying it. And I post everything I eat or drink before taking a bite or sip; who would want to see the same old cup on my Instagram feed? . I felt that putting food and drinks in reusable containers greatly reduces your credibility as well – would you believe me if I posted a picture of my thermal flask and said it had bubble tea inside? For all we know, it could be empty!
But are a few likes to a post worth throwing away plastic that will be in the landfill rotting and emitting microplastic for the next few hundred years? My thoughts? Find something else to post on Instagram.
As I mentioned earlier, I believe that our sustainable practices can have a bigger impact if more of us do it collectively. So, I decided to share my eco-friendly journey with more people.
Met up with a tenant for coffee and encouraged her to bring along a tumbler for takeaway. During the chit chat, I shared my thoughts on sustainability and why I was doing it. While we may not see the effect we have on climate change and reduced plastic usage right away, our efforts can benefit the earth.
Thoughts after Day 7
Leading a more sustainable lifestyle is especially important during this extraordinary time where we are seeing a surge in plastic use. I was really heartened to hear that she would start small and even share it with her grandchildren.
My biggest takeaway after this challenge
It wasn’t that hard to adapt a greener lifestyle, we just have to make slight tweaks to our habits and we can easily achieve it by going one step at a time. Be the one to take that first step and encourage those around you to do the same.
I also realised that while it’s vital for everyone to do their bit, the impact that companies can make is just as important. For example, retail companies should look at their packaging and remove what’s unnecessary.
Inspired by this article and want to find out how to live a more sustainable and eco-conscious life? Stay tuned and keep a tab on us by following us on Facebook or Instagram for something coming your way in November!
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