“Reduce, reuse, recycle.” The familiar 3-R’s of recycling. I was imbued with these ideas on sustainability all through my schooling years. Captain Green, a frog which was a mascot for the National Clean and Green campaign, was no stranger as it appeared frequently on television, my primary source of entertainment growing up. In school we recycled paper and were encouraged to reduce our use of plastic bags as they do not decompose and often ended up polluting the waterways, causing destruction to the ecosystem. So I grew up being acutely aware of the need to practise the 3-R’s.
Living sustainably is important as our earth’s resources are limited, and there will come a point where the balance will be tilted beyond repair. For the sake of my children and future generations, it is the right thing to abide by the 3-R’s.
If I lived on my own, it would probably be less of a challenge to live sustainably. I take a recycling bag when I go to the supermarket, and I try to bring a reusable container to pack food from the hawker centre. Instead of using cling wraps, I use silicon covers to keep food fresh. I reject disposable utensils and I recycle my coffee capsules. I try to sort my rubbish and bin them at the numerous recycling bins around my estate.
New and old models of recycling bins all within a short walking distance.
As I reflect on my own personal journey of sustainable living, I think the 3 A’s should also be considered – Accepting the challenges faced by others; Advancing what we can; and Advocating for greater community action.
Accepting that sustainable living is not top of everyone’s mind. Some people may recognise the detrimental effects of excessive plastic use on the environment, and yet disagree with paying for plastic bags. Others will not pay for a more expensive electric vehicle even though it is more environmentally friendly. The inhibitive starting costs and immediate pressures to address other needs can outweigh any desires for sustainable living.I do not think that I am in any way extreme in my recycling and sustainable living habits. That said, it has not been easy to encourage those around me to do likewise. Habits die hard. This is even more so with elderly folks. So to preserve harmony at home, I have learnt to not impose my way of living on others. I am content to do my part to teach my children the importance of living sustainably.
Advancing the value of sustainable living through community effort is a way to increase acceptance. This is evident through the increasing popularity of the freegan movement in Singapore. Organisations are supportive and there are groups of volunteers who regularly help to distribute the food items that would have been binned. (Read about such a volunteer group through the article “Project Zero”.)
Advocating for greater community action would ensure that the momentum for sustainable living continues through to the next generation. One such effort by the government is to include dedicated recycling rubbish chutes in newly built flats. This makes it easier for residents to recycle.
When a society rallies together, the chance to succeed is higher – because we are greater than the sum of our parts. I believe everyone can play a part, no matter how insignificant it may seem. As for me and my household, we will continue to do what we can to practise the 3-R’s in our everyday life.