Alya Annabi
Sustainability Change Agent & Founder - GreenPush
Alya's introduction

I am a Sustainability Change Agent who wants to help businesses implement more sustainable practices — and have fun while doing them. I am committed to the idea that small changes can make a big impact, and I am great at motivating others to act. Having worked on this issue for years, I have developed the expertise and experience needed to help businesses cultivate more sustainable actions. That’s why I founded GreenPush — to inspire, educate, and engage the next generation of sustainability champions. We are the push you need to make sustainable change.

When and how did you get interested in a more conscious living?

When I arrived in Singapore in 2018, I was shocked by the amount of single use plastic that was used on a daily basis. I felt overwhelmed by all the packaging that came each time I purchased something. So I decided to do some research online to see how I could change my habits and create less waste in my home and in the office. Fortunately, I discovered a lot of Facebook groups & information online to help me kickstart my sustainability journey in Singapore. Joining some eco-conscious communities in Singapore and having conversations with other like-minded individuals, helped me a lot to stay motivated and keep on growing and learning.

It was a long ‘test & learn’ process, during which I made some mistakes (we don't change habits overnight!) and that is why I decided to share everything I found out, all the tips, good practices, etc. to my friends & colleagues, during awareness talks and events. I have been working hard to raise awareness about sustainability by making small sustainable changes in my own life and sharing my experiences with others. Since I embarked on my green journey, I have been taking action to keep on spreading knowledge & inspire more individuals to start their own journey. From organising free workshops and holding sustainability talks, to creating a neighbourhood chat group to reduce waste & increase sharing amongst neighbours.

It took me months to realise that it was not about being perfect, but rather realise that we have a choice to make better actions & choices every day.

What triggered your decision to bring sustainability in the office?

After doing so much research online, I started sharing a lot about green practices & sustainability in general with my former colleague Carolin Barr (founder of susGain). 

In the previous company I worked for, we used to organise some "Lunch & Learn" talks in the office, to get to know our colleagues better. So we decided to take this opportunity to organise a presentation about how to embrace a more sustainable lifestyle in Singapore. With Carolin, we shared about our own experiences and what we were already doing at home. 

After the talks, we started initiating some ‘green initiatives’ in the office - such as adding a compost container next to the coffee machine to collect coffee grounds & tea bags, or nudging our colleagues in reusing plastic containers & metal cutlery when going outside for our lunch  breaks (to reduce our waste).

What are the different initiatives you implemented and how successful have they been?

During the talks that we organised, we shared some of our best practices to reduce waste using the 5R (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle & Rot). 

To that extent, we implemented a composting container in the pantry, to collect used coffee grounds & tea bags. We explained to our colleagues that instead of throwing the coffee grounds & their tea bags in the regular bin, they could just do the same in the container next to the coffee machine. We made it easy & accessible for them to start doing it.

After a few weeks, we designed and added a flyer to show to our colleagues what they could (or not) put in the compost container. Gradually, not only we saw coffee grounds & tea bags being added regularly, we  also saw some crushed egg shells, avocado, banana peels… being added to the compost. To manage the compost system and keep it simple, Carolin was bringing home the full container on a daily basis and added the food scraps to her community garden’s compost.

Furthermore, we started washing the plastic containers that came with our take-away food and reuse it for the next meal. By seeing this, more and more colleagues followed that habit and started re-using plastic containers and avoiding plastic cutlery (since we had metal cutlery in the pantry!). This way, we reduced our consumption of single-use plastic, and when we gathered over lunch time, some of us were bringing their own containers. 

Great team effort as everyone started to be conscious about not creating more waste when going out for lunch :-)

The COVID-19 situation made it harder to maintain certain actions, how did you manage to keep the momentum?

At first, it took us some time to adapt to this virtual environment. No more lunch breaks & physical office to meet made it, of course, hard to sustain what we started. 

I decided to keep the momentum by making a virtual presentation about how to "Green Yourself" - where I explained to my colleagues how to make their own products at home using ingredients that they have in their kitchen. The topic is not directly related to office life since we did not have an office anymore after the pandemic hit. 

The company is now using shared offices, which I hope will lower their carbon footprint, paper footprint, etc.

You have decided to start your own company GreenPush. Can you tell us more about it?

Of course! When I embarked on my green journey, I learned a lot about sustainable living from various resources online and started sharing more and more about sustainability with my friends & colleagues during talks and events.

In 2020, I created a neighbourhood community group to nudge people into the habit of giving instead of throwing away. Little did I know that this community would grow so much, with 130+ participants and more than 3,400+ items that have been shared, donated, rescued or borrowed (and eventually saved from landfill).  

Also, I quickly realised how powerful knowledge sharing can be, as neighbours got more and more interested in implementing some green habits into their lives.

That’s how we ended up organising many knowledge-sharing sessions, from “Composting” workshops, Beach Clean-up events, “Tempe & Kombucha making” sessions, to Climate Fresks…and many more activities.

So after more than two years of animating talks & various green workshops and realising the power that communities can have to drive positive behaviour change, I decided to create GreenPush - ​​to inspire, educate, and engage the next generation of sustainability champions.

Our vision is to help employees make a difference in their workplace today so that they can create a better tomorrow. To achieve that, ​​we empower team members with knowledge, tools and resources to encourage sustainable behaviours and actions in every part of a business.

What are you most proud of?

Today, I am proud to have started a business that is aligned with my values to keep on inspiring people to adopt greener steps by planting seeds in their heads and help them grow in their own journeys.

At the end of the day, it’s not about convincing people, it’s about making them think. That’s why I use a positive approach in my sustainability talks to share knowledge, open the minds and make them commit to start with one action. It’s very fulfilling to receive positive feedback from people who started some green steps, and to witness some positive behaviour change.

There’s so many ways to approach the topic of sustainability to make people care. I am so proud to see that by bringing people together in communities, it helps open their minds through other angles & topics (eg. health, biodiversity, waste, unethical labour, animals, minimalism…).

To care, people need to find a topic that speaks to them to start acting as individuals.

I am proud to see that all the seeds I have planted keep on growing around me. I strongly believe in the "snowball effect" because your everyday actions matter and how you live can have a ripple effect on others & the environment around you.

What would be your top 3 pieces of advice to The Matcha Initiative users?
  1. Raise awareness about sustainability during lunch time to open the discussion with your colleagues
  2. Test & Learn process: you never know if it will work until you try!
  3. Try some influencing techniques: I think the ‘social proof’ principle helped in our case. When you see other people doing something, you tend to do the same and follow the trend
How could you help The Matcha Initiative users as a buddy?

I can share my experience to green the office, do introduction to green communities or just have a conversation as it’s always nice to connect with like-minded people.

Alya kindly accepts to answer your questions.

If you need additional insights, you can send her a message.