What can I do on a personal basis?

Refuse – Reduce – Reuse – Recycle 
(and not the other way around!!)


LESS IS MORE

Before buying Always ASK YOURSELF: do I REALLY need that?
BE CURIOUS about a few things: where the product was made, what materials were used, what are the ingredients, what is the packaging made of? …
Try to SHOP in places where the seller KNOWS his product and can talk about the materials or ingredients, the person or company who made it…
A LONG LIST of ingredients is NOT a good sign…

And remember that the best way to have a real impact on the planet is
to LOWER OUR CONSUMPTION.

In General at Home

1- Energy and money saving tips

  • Switch to renewable energy providers
  • Set your air-con temperature to 25°C or above or use fans instead of air- con when possible 
  • Switch off your plugs when not using your appliances – Energy conservation is one of the most important things to do, to reduce our carbon footprint. And it will make your electricity bill cheaper!
  • Place the lid on your pan when boiling water to save energy as the water will boil faster
  • Buy energy-efficient appliances. The ones that have at least 4 ticks on the energy label
  • Use LED bulbs as they consume 12 volts vs 220 for standard bulbs

2- Water saving tips 

  • If you have a garden or a balcony with trees and plants, let the rain water your plants. Do not water your plants with your household water unless your planter pot is really dry. In your garden, normally plants and trees get their water from the ground that is usually always humid even if it is really hot outside
  • If you wash your veggies and intend to steam them after, use the same water to rinse and steam 
  • When washing the dishes, wet the plates, cutleries, glasses; stop the water; wash the dishes and then rinse them. You will save water that way
  • Stop water when brushing your teeth
  • Prefer showers to baths

3- Reuse

  • Envelop or uninteresting letters can be turned into memos for to-do lists or grocery shopping lists
  • Reuse plastic bags or sachets to put smelly trash before placing them in the bin or chute
  • Glass jars from jelly, mustard, pickles… can be used as containers to store food in place of plastic containers
  • Old towels or sheets can be used for cleaning the house or protecting area in your house from the rain or can be placed on your pet’s bed

4- Repair 

  • Before discarding any items, ask yourself: could it be repaired? Carbon footprint of our products mostly happens at their production stage, so repairing instead of buying directly a new one, has a huge impact.
  • Join the repair Kopitiam Movement

5- Donate

  • You do not use your appliances, clothes, computers anymore? Before recycling, consider donating them! To extend the life of what we have already produced is the best way to decrease our carbon footprint.
  • Browse here all options available in Singapore for donation

6- Recycle 

  • Recycling should always come last after we have refused, reduced and reused
  • Note that even if a waste is made of eco-friendly material like some disposable wares, it is still a waste. In Singapore, if it is contaminated by food or any other product, it will be incinerated and not recycled: 40% of our blue bins are contaminated with food and non-recyclable items and therefore end up being incinerated!
  • It is important to know what can or cannot be recycled: Browse here the list of what can be recycled 
  • Biodegradable or bioplastic materials should never be put in the blue bins as they are NOT recyclable but biodegradable… 
  • Did you know that only 4% of the plastic that we put in our blue bins are recycled in Singapore? Good News! It may change in the near future as Singapore has a bottle buyback EPR system coming in 2022 and will build a bottle PET recycling plant for it. Then expansion into other plastics looks set for 2025 onward. So, until then, the best solution for plastic is to REDUCE our usage! Join the BYO movement and use reusable items as much as possible. 
  • You have e-waste to recycle? Here are the e-waste dropping points in Singapore  
  • You want to avoid blue bins contamination? Consider donating recyclable cans, glass, papers, cardboards and others to Tzu Chi Foundation or sell them on Ezi app

BYO - Bring Your Own

  • Discarded disposables in Singapore could fill 400 Olympic swimming pools every year! Waste management is a real issue and puts pressure on Pulau Semakau, Singapore's only landfill island. By 2035, Semakau will run out of space. Learn more here about Semakau island and Singapore waste management 
  • There is no landfill on Singapore's main island. All the trash is INCINERATED in Waste-to-Energy plants and the ashes are transported to Pulau Semakau and disposed of on the land. The incineration releases in the atmosphere CO2 and other toxic particles and contributes to global warming 
  • Part of the solution to the waste we generate (and mostly plastic waste) is to bring our own container, bottle or cup when we go to the coffee shop or to the hawker centre. If we want to grab a salad or a wrap on our lunch break, we can even bring our own container. Doing that can be weird at the beginning but if you know WHY you are doing it, it will soon be a common practice and you can even save money with your BYO! 
  • Use stainless steel containers, water bottles or coffee cups. Silicone is also good and easy to carry. Glass and ceramic are also an option but more complicated to haul as they are breakable

Transport

  • Use as much as possible public transport, bikes or simply walk when possible. The transport sector represents almost 50% of the PM2.5 emissions in the air
  • If you have a car and can afford an electric vehicle, go for it. Singapore government is encouraging the transition to diesel or gas-powered cars to electric cars with a revised road tax structure and an increase in electric vehicles charging points  
  • If you need to go grocery shopping to several places with your personal car, consider buying online. Singapore-based online grocery shops reduce the number of trips you make with your individual vehicle as they deliver several households with a single vehicle. 

You can try to track your CO2 emissions with the capture app

In your kitchen

  • Cook from scratch with raw, non-processed ingredients
  • Cook the portion that you need and place your leftovers in a container. Keep it in your fridge for the next meal or freeze it for another day
  • Limit your consumption of meat, fish, eggs and dairy – Agriculture represents 25% of the world greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. More than all the means of transportation all together!  
  • Try bulk or wholefood stores. It will give you the opportunity to refill your bottles and food containers and thus to avoid the overuse of packaging. Here are some wholefood stores: Unpackt, Scoop Wholefoods, The Source Bulk Foods and some more here.
  • Compost if you feel like it!! Keep your peels of veggies or fruits, your eggshells and compost them. Keep also your toilet and kitchen rolls, old newspapers, and mails as they are key in your composting journey – Some people are interested in collecting clean soil for their private garden like SG farming in apartments and Urban farmers. Learn how to make your own compost bin  
  • Drink Tap water! Try to avoid buying water bottles at least when not bottle-feeding a baby. Tap water is good in Singapore. If you are worried about the lack of minerals, you may consider a water dispenser with mineral water. For sparkling water opt for a sparkling-water maker. The leading company of bubble makers has a system where you can return your gas bottles when buying new ones. You get a discount on your purchase    
  • Avoid disposable wares even when going out for a picnic or having your lunch at work or at school. Bring your cutleries or buy foldable ones 
  • Grow your herbs and little veggies like cherry tomatoes, lemons, limes
  • Use coffee beans or ground coffee instead of capsules. Once again, they may be recyclable but at the end it is still waste that must be incinerated
  • Instead of paper napkins, use napkin cloth  
  • Use bee wraps to avoid using shrink wrap or plastic wrap
  • Avoid aluminum foil and use a silicone cooking mat instead. This one is even better than parchment paper as it will not increase your waste     

Your household cleaning products

  • 3 ingredients are enough to keep your household clean: water, white vinegar and baking soda. With these 3 little things you can clean your countertop, oven, mirrors, windows, toilet bowls… Standard cleaners are full of aggressive ingredients and emit odors that are not good for our health
  • For All-purpose cleaner: mix ½ cup of white vinegar and ¼ cup of baking soda into 2 liters of water
  • For toilet bowl: Mix ¼ cup of baking soda and 1 cup of vinegar. Pour into the basin and let it set for a few minutes. Scrub with a brush and rinse
  • You can find workshops online to do your own green household cleaners 
  • If you are not ready yet for homemade cleaners, try to go for eco-friendly ones or choose refillable products. Bulk stores in Singapore offer that kind of products
  • (dishwasher powder, dishwashing liquid, laundry powder, window cleaner…). No more plastic bottles and nasty ingredients. You go back to the store with your own empty bottles, and they refill them for you
  • Use old newspapers to do your windows, old towels as doormat (keep that for the back kitchen or back door!!)

When grocery shopping

  • Refuse single-use plastic bags or limit to one if you have no choice and afterwards, reuse it to throw your trash.
  • Bring your own reusable bag to avoid single-use plastic bags. Avoid cotton reusable bags or kraft paper bags as they are 10 times more harmful for global warming than reusable plastic bags in Singapore.
  • When offered a reusable bag, refuse it if you already have one (or 2) – No need to stock dozens of shopping bags with the argument that they are reusable and free. If you don’t need them, you don’t take them!!
  • Same when you shop for clothes or cosmetics or whatever. When you are offered a nice bag, you can easily say no and put your tee-shirt, book or lipstick in your handbag or backpack. The more we refuse, the better it is.
  • Try to choose veggies and fruits that are not in plastic bags or go to the wet market with your own trolley or reusable bags
  • Read the labels and give the priority to products grown locally or in the region
  • Focus on raw ingredients and try to limit sauces in jars or vegetables or fruits in cans. Most of the time you can buy the fresh products that can be prepared at home
  • Ban or try to limit single-use bottles (water, juices…)
  • Industrial products in general (bread, spread, sauces…) are full of ingredients that are used only as conservatives or taste enhancers. Read the labels and choose the products with less of them

In your bathroom

  • Prefer showers to baths – You will use 3 times less water and you will save money
  • Reduce the consumption of plastic bottles by switching your hand soap, shower gel and shampoo/conditioner bottles to bar soaps (body soap and shampoo or conditioner bars) – Doing that, make sure your soaps are only made of natural ingredients. Some soaps are made with non-eco-friendly ingredients such as petroleum products (mineral oil, paraffin or wax or petrolatum). All these toxic products end up in the oceans and in your fish or seafood
  • If not ready yet for soaps, try to buy refillable shower gel, shampoo and hand soap. The bulk shops in Singapore offer that kind of service
  • Remember less is more. Do you really need 10 lipsticks, 3 blushes, 2 mascara, 5 eye pencils…? Same for skincare. Today you can find serums or creams that moisture and act on wrinkles. Try to identify the products that you use the most and finish the other ones and stop buying them. You will see that it will make you feel better as you will be contributing to lower your global consumption and waste
  • Try to avoid aerosols (deodorants, hairsprays, spray sunscreen…) as they contain products that are damageable for the environment but also for your lungs. Prefer creams, while paying attention to the compositions and the packaging. You can find deodorants or roll-on that are better for the environment 
  • Ban or try to avoid scrubs (facial or body) as the microbeads in them are still too often made of plastic. If you want to try natural body scrub, just mix used coffee grounds with water and soap or oil, and Voilà! Do you know that, if your toothpaste has some pellets, it is highly sure that it is also plastic? These plastic microbeads end up in the oceans and by extension in your fish and seafood. Do read the labels though it is not clearly written PLASTIC. Search for PE (Polyethylene), PP (polypropylene) or any other poly… thing. You have clean products available on the market that use sugar, jojoba beads, fruit acids… Same for toothpaste, go for one made of natural ingredients.
  • Disposable cotton pads can be switched to reusable makeup remover pads. You will be reducing your waste. 
  • Regular plastic toothbrushes can be swapped for bamboo ones
  • Try Recycled Paper or bamboo pulp products for your toilet rolls but also tissues. Their manufacturing uses more than 10 times less water and emits more than 3 times less carbon emissions – You can also find kitchen towels made of bamboo. More absorbent than tree-pulp made kitchen towel rolls. Here are some brands: bambooloo, NooTrees, The Rollieco
  • Use your towel after your shower to clean your ears instead of cotton buds 
  • Use silk floss instead of standard ones

In your closet

1- Be Mindful

  • Did you know that while people bought 60% more garments in 2014 than in 2000, they only kept the clothes for half as long!
  • And that 85% of textiles go to landfill at the end of their life and not to mention the waste of material when cutting the fabrics to make the garment…?
  • The textile industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world and fast fashion contributes a lot to this negative impact: water consumption to grow fibers like cotton, water consumption to manufacture the clothes, chemicals used to dye the fabrics, fabrics like polyester made from plastic which is a petroleum product contribute to water pollution that end up in the oceans, waste production from cut-and-sew process, waste products at the end of their life cycle – btw garment recycling is NOT really effective as discarded clothes are most likely incinerated or simply thrown away to landfills. 
  • To know more about fast fashion environmental impact, read here.
  • Therefore, REDUCING our consumption is KEY. Always ask yourself before buying: do I REALLY need that piece of cloth? How many times am I going to wear it? Do I have something similar that could make the job?
  • The great news is that by 2028, the second-hand market should increase so much that it will be bigger than the fast fashion market!!

2- Wear – Revamp – Donate

  • The best way to green your wardrobe is to reduce your consumption and WEAR your clothes as long as possible. 
  • When you do not like them anymore, and if you know how to sew, you can REVAMP them (lots of DIY videos on the net to alter your clothes) 
  • Do not throw them away when you really do not want them anymore, DONATE to NGOs: Itsrainingcoats, Salvation Army… are in great needs of second hands clothes.

3- Swap or Rent

  • You can also SWAP clothes with your friends, family members. Here are a few places: swapaholic, the fashion pulpit   
  • or RENT for a special occasion. Buying something new for a wedding or a single event is not fashionable anymore. Instead, rent your outfit! Some places to know: rentadella, styletheory

4- Few more tips

  • Buy good quality if you want your clothes to last. Because quality is usually and understandably more expensive, it will naturally lower your consumption. 
  • Check the labels and ban fabrics such as polyester, nylon, spandex and acrylic or any other petroleum-based synthetic fabrics as every time you will wash your garment made of synthetic materials, thousands of plastic fibers will be released into the water. These micro polymers are so small that they cannot be stopped by filters, and they end up in the oceans and in the fish and seafood that we eat. 
  • Choose recycled nylon that is made from old fishnets. Several startups are working on bioengineered carbon-neutral, recyclable, biodegradable and affordable materials. These innovations will solve the equation between choosing biodegradable natural materials that hurt animals and the environment (cotton, feathers, wool, natural leather even if this one is a byproduct) and cruelty-free synthetic fabrics that will stay forever on the Earth…  
  • Embrace natural fibers such as linen & bamboo that are strong, long-lasting, natural, low-maintenance, biodegradable and undeniably gorgeous fabrics. Especially in the hot weather of Singapore, linen is a must wear!!

When you bank

When it comes to green banking, there are several things you need to know.

  • In a nutshell, companies need money to invest in projects and to develop their business. Ways to get this money include loans or investments from banks and investors.
  • If banks fund companies that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions like fossil fuel industries or projects that have negative impacts on local communities like deforestation programmes or the construction of plants or projects that need the relocation without compensation of families, they are hence also contributing to global warming or harming human beings. More and more people do not want to put their money in banks that have such activities…
  • In Singapore, banks like DBS, UOB or OCBC have made public commitments towards not only managing carbon emissions and sustainability programmes for their own operations, but also making commitments towards green financing.

Here what you can do on your day-to-day banking:

  • Choose to apply for e-statements to reduce the impact of printing and mailing your statements to your home and in general ask your bank if it can totally avoid sending you information via mail such as PIN numbers…
  • Ask your bank when you need a loan if it has better interest rates if you are borrowing money for green initiatives like the renovation of your house (solar panel installation for instance) or buying an electrical vehicle.
  • Ask your bank if it provides eco-friendly debit/credit cards. These cards are created from a plastic substitute called polylactic acid (PLA), which is made from renewable sources such as plant leaves and corn, making it biodegradable if industrially composted, recyclable and non-toxic if incinerated (which is the case here in Singapore). 
  • Ask your bank if it can provide you with more insight into how your spending habits are affecting the environment. For example, some banks can help their users track, understand and reduce their CO2 footprints through carbon offsetting via free and easy-to-use mobile banking service.
  • Do not hesitate to commend your bank if you are happy with the way it conducts its business and on the contrary, voice your disappointment if you are not satisfied with its unethical practices.

If you are not satisfied with the answers or offers of your bank, consider changing bank for a greener one or opt for a Fintech that is an innately sustainable alternative to the traditional finance sector, removing the reliance on paper statements and physical bank branches by instead allowing people to manage their finances using digital technology.

Also be mindful when it comes to bitcoins or cryptocurrencies, as most of them are NOT sustainable at all mainly because of the huge data centres that are needed to mine the cryptocurrencies. This obviously leads to an excessive energy consumption and CO2 emissions and an important consumption of digital devices, ultimately generating a huge e-waste problem. Even China is stepping down on crypto-mining.

You can visit Lepak in SG to find out about environmental events taking place every week in Singapore.

Written by
Fabienne JAUTARD
Auto-entrepreneur, connecting businesses and creating value | Sustainability Advocate