Being environmentally friendly is more manageable than I thought

Putting the brake on climate change requires both systemic efforts and individual change.

Audrey Ong

Published: 16 November 2021, 4:33 PM

I used to have a huge doubt that personal efforts have any form of impact on the environment. 

I have seen advocacy, followed the movement, and become convinced to thrift my clothes and recycle plastics. But a part of my impatient Singaporean-Gen-Z self has failed to see the benefits of my efforts, and the consistent decline of our Earth’s health only discourages me further. 

But my perspective changed two weekends ago after attending a Social Causes and Environmental Change Talk by The Somerset Belt. 

Organised by Brain Juice Collective alongside the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, and the National Youth Council, Somerset Dialogues is a platform for youths to explore their interests, deepen their knowledge and collaborate with other passionate youths.

The aim is to foster belonging and ownership over the Somerset Belt, while making it a fun and vibrant precinct. The Dialogues happened over six sessions, with each session focused on a specific theme that resonated with youths.

The one and a half-hour panel discussion and ideation session I attended took place on Oct 23, a Saturday morning. It shed new perspectives that opened my viewpoint to new possibilities in the environmentalism field. 

The talk itself had several segments, walking us through group ideation discussions, a virtual learning journey of the solar panels at 313 Somerset and a panellist discussion. 


Our on-site host showing us the view of the solar panels at 313Somerset.


I learnt the most from the panellists, who were a mix of student advocates and company representatives. They helped shed light on the extent of environmentalism in Singapore and different social groups’ impact on it.


The panellists included (clockwise from centre) founder of UpCircle Wee Leng Tay, director of Kid-back Plastic Documentary Nur Friday, youth advocate Tan Shi Ying and CEO of Swapaholic Priyanka Shahra. PHOTO CREDIT: SOMERSET BELT


There was a moment when the host prefaced a question by saying, “Many do not adopt sustainable practices as they feel that their actions alone would not make a difference”.

My attention was piqued and I sat up to hear how the panellist would respond to that.

Wee Leng Tay, the founder of UpCircle, talked about how taking small steps to reuse, reduce and recycle does make an impact. She emphasised the importance of influencing others into sustainable living practices, saying: “You don’t have to say so much. If you actually do it (living sustainably), you will normalise it.”

Some on the panel went on to address how there needs to be systemic change in how companies and organisations operate. Whether it be production or energy usage, big corporations need to do their part.

Other panelists also highlighted the importance of consistency and willingness to change our lifestyles for the long run. After hearing such, a part of me felt guilty.

I realised that I “kind of care” that our world is melting yet am unwilling to change my lifestyle. So before I complain about the lack of systemic change on a large scale, I should be convincing myself to make a lifestyle change.


Each group was given a topic to ideate on such as fashion, energy and water. Using the platform Miro, we used post-its to write ideas and vote for ideas others wrote. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/AUDREY ONG


I was filled with new hope as I heard participants’ individual efforts to start initiatives. Aside from our panellists, many fellow participants seemed to have budding environmental ideas they wanted to pursue. 

The session’s hosts recommended several funding opportunities these individuals could apply for. It was something deeply heartwarming to see, and it made me realise that other youths around my age were trying to make a difference.

The session even reminded me of a few eco-friendly practices, such as switching off my electrical points when not in use and bringing out recycling bags instead of plastics, which I have since tried to cultivate as habits. 

By the end of the session, I considered most of my doubts debunked. While I did not necessarily transform into an environmental advocate, I was convinced that individuals’ roles in making a difference in ecological change are equivalent to larger companies or groups out there.

So instead of complaining about wasted efforts, I plan to take my own steps and look for other organisations to get more educated. There is much to learn and understand about environmentalism, and I am encouraged and reminded that I am not the only one on this journey to save our earth. 

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