Environment And Sustainability: Let's Set Change In Motion
In light of the disruptions caused by COVID-19, the Emerging Stronger Conversations platform was realised to enable Singaporeans to share their ideas and take action to emerge stronger from the crisis. The National Youth Council (NYC) conducted a series of engagements to allow young people to share their sentiments and recommendations on how Singapore can overcome the effects of Covid-19.Environment and Sustainability is a topic under the Emerging Stronger Conversation Youth Track and we focused on the topics that were most pertinent, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic:
1) Food Security
2) Zero Waste: Reduce waste e.g food, clothes, plastics, encourage use of reusables and recycling
3) SG Clean and Green: Fostering good hygiene habits and culture of keeping surroundings clean
WHAT WE HEARD
NYC commissioned a Milieu poll in August 2020 with 500 youths, aged 16 – 34 years, to understand the sentiments that the general population has towards the environment and sustainability.
Overall youth respondents are more familiar and concerned about carbon emissions and their impact on the environment than food security and waste management in Singapore.
Food Security In Singapore
More than half of youths (68%) agree that they are confident that Singapore will have sufficient food supply for the foreseeable future. The top 3 reasons for their confidence are because Singapore has a diversity of food sources (77%), stable relationships with countries that provide us with a supply of food (75%), and sufficient stockpiles of food in Singapore (67%). Even though more than half of youths agree that COVID-19 has negatively affected Singapore’s food security, trust in Singapore’s government to ensure sufficient food supply for its population remains high at 83%.
Zero Waste/Waste Management situation in Singapore
Most youths (85%) are positive that they can contribute to Singapore’s goal towards a zero-waste nation with most of them (98%) indicating that they are at least somewhat willing to put in the effort to do so. Apart from practicing the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), of which at least 3 in 4 already do so, they shared that more can be done in terms of increasing public awareness of waste management practices (77%), providing incentives for consumers to reduce waste (75%) and providing incentives for businesses to reduce waste (74%).
In line with sentiments for businesses (55% – ranked 2nd, after government) to play a bigger role in ensuring environmental sustainability, 52% of youth respondents felt that current measures put in place by corporations and organizations are insufficient.
96% of youth express their concern over the impact of carbon emissions on the environment. They think that current measures put in place by the government (41%) and corporations/organizations (56%) are insufficient. However, as an individual, most (88%) believe that Singaporeans can contribute to reducing carbon emissions in Singapore. This includes taking more public transport or looking for alternative green commutes, reducing air conditioning and electricity usage.
More than half of youth respondents (55%) also indicated that they control what they buy to reduce their carbon footprint with about 70% of youth respondents at least somewhat willing to pay a premium on food products if it meant a reduction in carbon footprint. Overall, 65% agree that making trade-offs are acceptable if it results in a significant reduction of carbon emissions in Singapore.
MERGING STRONGER CONVERSATIONS: MULTI-TRACK YOUTH DIALOGUE
NYC organised a Zoom dialogue with about 120 participants from NYC’s networks and open calls on 26th September.
POHs that were in attendance were:
- Mr Edwin Tong – Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law
- Mr Desmond Tan – Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs & Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment
The event was hosted by Minister Edwin Tong with breakout sessions revolving on (i) Jobs and Future of Work, (ii) Support for Vulnerable Groups, and (iii) Environment and Sustainability. The Environment and Sustainability track was helmed by Minister of State Desmond Tan.
Youths acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic has played a positive impact on carbon emission, as reduced travel and waste from public events have turned down carbon emission and waste output. Despite so, youths also expressed concern about the increase in waste from the disposal of masks, packaging, and plastic waste due to increased demand for takeaway meals and food deliveries.
In response to increasing food security in land-scarce Singapore, youths expressed their desire to support local produce. However, they also acknowledged the impediment for Singaporeans to do so due to the lack of convenience, poor retail accessibility, and the higher cost of local produce. Youths suggested incentives such as better branding, increasing awareness, providing subsidies, and greater retail accessibility of products to create more demand for local produce. Youth also lauded the ongoing efforts to enhance food security & tackle waste through initiatives like the reverse vending machines. Despite so, youths felt that more should still be done to promote recycling.
Overall, participants felt that there should be joint efforts between businesses and the government to promote environmental sustainability. Youths also recognized that there can also be more ground-up efforts in the community to achieve the goals of zero waste, food security, and a clean and green Singapore.
“ECO AFTER ME” FORUM THEATRE
A joint production by NYC and Fat Kids Are Harder to Kidnap, “ECO After Me” is an interactive live theatre play that serves as a rallying call for youths to jump on board the sustainability bandwagon, and to also very subtly bring out the idea of what will happen to the environment after our generation. The entire play, as well as the discussion, took place via Zoom.
Participants were engaged through the lighthearted session, which allowed them to select which skits they wanted to watch based on their preference. There were a total of 15 skits, with each skit highlighting a concern, issue, or problem our environment is facing today. These included the extensive use of food and plastic packaging, global warming, and the extinction of certain animal species due to climate change.
After the play, participants broke out into rooms where they discussed issues they felt strongly about. They suggested ways to tackle climate change, including personal actions to reduce waste. Participants acknowledged that corporates generated larger carbon footprints than individuals. They reflected that for large-scale mitigation to occur, there needed to be a mindset shift on proper recycling and sustainability choices across school-going, working, and elderly populations. On individual impact and awareness, participants expressed that environment-friendly lifestyles should not be imposed on their friends and family. As such, they agreed that individual behaviour would drive changes in the community in the long term.
Beyond conversations, young people have also signaled their interest in discussing how Singapore can become a more environmentally friendly country even after the economy has returned to normalcy.
NYC will provide opportunities for youths to take ground-up action, and contribute towards policy change.
Wanna find out more? We have partnered up with Rice Media to bring you more information on Singapore’s effort to boost our food security
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