VIA reflections of the BeACh Clean-up

On the 7th of May, our ACPress CCA headed out for our annual Beach-cleanup VIA at East Coast Park. With Covid-19 and lockdowns causing last year’s VIA to be cancelled, it was the first time that our batch could experience such an event. However, rain in the early hours of the morning threatened to throw a spanner in the works. We were doubtful that the rain would stop, but thankfully it did, and the sun shined down on us as we all gathered at 9AM at Mcdonalds

Logistics were handed out to each participant, with everyone getting 2 rubbish bags, 1 pair of gloves, and tongs. After that, we set off in our own distinct groups, aiming to clear a 600m stretch of the park that we had booked prior to it

As it had been a while since I had set foot onto a beach, I was appalled at the state of the park. The beaches were littered with masks, packaging waste and plastic trash that washed up on shore. Rubbish was not only on the beach, but on the public benches and tables too. Upon closer inspection, the rubbish was mostly Mcdonalds packaging, coupled with many sweet packets and cigarette boxes, which suggests the aftermath of a group

Lexi finds a spray can on the beach

As the morning sun continued to shine down of our group, we went along the coastline, aiming to pickup any litter we find. It was difficult to pickup the small bits of litter such as cigarette buds or sweet wrappers, which was the main source of litter on the beach. There was dangerous items found on the beach, for example pieces of driftwood with rusty nails attached to it. We had to quickly dispose of them in order to prevent anyone from stepping on it and getting injured. Another observation is that there was many small pieces of styrofoam strewn across the beach and the sheer amount of it made it difficult to collect it all.

Making our way back from the coastline, we combed the park to pick up litter while seeking shelter from the humid hot sun of singapore. I came across many interesting items such as slippers, tyre scraps. But the most interesting item i found was a mannequin head (missing hair), right beside a sand filled motorcycle helmet. While doing our rounds, it was heartening to see others passing us thier rubbish to help them dispose of it. After another hour of collecting, our bags were filled with rubbish and we all slumped back into a shelter, taking a much needed break.

Me with the mannequin head

We carried our trash bags back to our original meeting place, before Ms Neeta treated us with McDonalds. Most of us ordered the signature McFlurry to cool ourselves from the blistering heat. After conducting a reflection, we disposed of our rubbish and went our separate ways.

From this beach clean up, it was certainly an eye opening experience to pollution in our little red dot. It highlights SIngapore’s plastic problem, with our habits of freely using plastic without any repercussions resulting in the pollution of our parks. It also reminded me of being a responsible park user, disposing of my rubbish properly and encouraging others too.

Beach Cleanup VIA Reflections — Emma Lock

By: Emma Lock 2MD2

The morning started with thundery showers over most of Singapore leaving everybody skeptical if the event could go on. But soon enough at around 8, the skies cleared, giving way to a vibrant blue sky — like a green light signalling that everything could go on as planned. I lugged the tongs, trash bags and plastic gloves (that I had bought the previous day at the mama shop near my house) up the slope and headed toward McDonalds @ Marine Cove, and caught sight of a group of kids dressed in the familiar yellow PE shirt.

Once everybody had gathered, we split into our respective groups and allocated the materials. This included a garbage grabber or tongs, along with two garbage bags and one set of gloves.

IMG credits: Emma

Without further ado, everybody set off! Around the Mac’s area, the grass and sidewalks were peppered with empty fry packets, half finished drinks, and open sauce packets. I was quite surprised by the volume of litter, especially since there were quite a number of bins along the paths.

IMG credits: Emma

As for the sandy section of the beach, I’d say there was the highest quantity of styrofoam bits lying around, followed by plastic cups and bottles. Interestingly, it seemed that much of the waste was not from Singapore, judging from the language on the labels on the items.

Aside from the plastic waste, there were also some masks, such as the N95 mask seen below

IMG credits: Emma

Furthermore, there were a couple of lighters along the shore, embedded in the sand. These seemed to be pretty hazardous to me as they were either broken, or just lying on the sand. If anybody were to step on it by accident, there would be so many ways that things could go wrong.

IMG credits: Emma
IMG credits: Emma

After about a hour, we had accumulated a substantial amount of trash, and we took a little break before going on. By the time we returned, it was sweltering; and the sandflies were feasting on our legs and arms. We quickly finished up, with a respectable total of around 9 full garbage bags from our team. We also ended with drinks or sundaes as a treat from our teacher, after a hard day of labor.

IMG credits: Emma

In hindsight, this project made me realise how important to conserve our beaches in Singapore. According to the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS), Singapore, any additional increase in sea level caused by climate change is an immediate threat, due to around 30% of Singapore’s land area being less than 5m above Singapore’s Height Datum. Therefore, protecting the coastline should be one of the priorities in Singapore’s adaptation measures toward climate change. The construction of sea walls and stone embankments currently protect around 70-80% of Singapore’s coastline. However, if the effects of climate change continue to worsen, issues that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as Maldives may face may very well become a reality in Singapore.

Indeed, the former US president Donald Trump may have had a controversial ruling during his time, but I’d like to quote his response to a reporter’s question asking if he was in favour of banning plastic straws. “I do think we have bigger problems than plastic straws,” Trump responded. “You know, it’s interesting about plastic straws: so, you have a little straw, but what about the plates, the wrappers, and everything else that are much bigger and they’re made of the same material? So, the straws are interesting. Everybody focuses on the straws. There’s a lot of other things to focus on.”

Does it all come to nothing? The geopolitical dance of climate change

By Conrad Ng, 2AD3

The international consensus is that the fuse for tackling climate change is short. In the global arena, there has been copious permutations of treaties and conferences with world leaders coalescing to discuss and debate what the next steps should entail with regard to climate change.

Nonetheless, as with the saying, “talk is cheap”, few world leaders have yet to act decisively to curtail polluting extractive industries, sufficiently invest in alternative sources of energy, and more. Vicious activists such as Greta Thunberg and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have been quick to criticise the absence of true tangible concerted efforts.

This is perhaps the inner workings of the Prisoners Dilemma whereby states who are the forerunners of change bear the disproportionate burden of facing short-term socio-economic penalties (such as losing their comparative trade advantages).

As a result, these aforementioned states will only act when there is global cooperation. To date, this notion of global cooperation is still a piecemeal effort. This functions as an invisible arbitrary barrier inhibiting global efforts. In 2020, when then-President Donald Trump formally withdrew from the Paris Climate Accords, it was evidence of the failure of the treaties. The non-punitive compliance mechanism embedded in the treaties made it such that there was little obligation to adhere to the stipulations.

Likewise, domestic policymaking has also reflected staunch resistance toward going green. The brown agenda – centered on profit-making and improving the material standard of living (MSOL) of the populace, is rhetoric that states (and politicians in power) find hard to part with. In truth, only internationally appealing politicians (such as heads of state and foreign diplomats) will construct the facade that they are in favor of going green. In which the price to pay is borne by the next generation and the low income of the present generation.

Let us Nurture Nature to have a Nurturing Future

Done by: Murugavel Girija (1SC6)

A beach is a dynamic environment located where land, sea, and air meet. Beach pollution consists of harmful substances that contaminate our coasts, ranging from plastic, trash, and litter to sewage, pesticides, and oil. Excess amounts of natural substances, such as nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers and animal waste, are also pollutants. It is just one example we are focusing on to take the first step to better our environment. 

Image of beach pollution. 

Beach clean up might not sound exhaustive in terms of supporting the environment but the act of removing rubbish protects habitats for native wildlife and prevents further pollution through degradation within that environment, or travelling to other surroundings, including waterways and oceans where marine debris threatens many species. It aids in removing plastic pollution from the marine ecosystem and thus protects local wildlife. 

Besides us as humans, marine creatures are also affected by beach pollution. Statistically speaking, 100 million marine animals die each year from plastic waste alone. 100,000 marine animals die from getting entangled in plastic yearly – this is just the creatures we find! 1 in 3 marine mammal species get found entangled in litter, 12-14,000 tons of plastic are ingested by North Pacific fish yearly. 

Image of marine creature affected by plastic. 

Now moving aside from why clean the beach for the environment, to why we as humans need the beach. Firstly, it improves overall well-being. Getting exposure to the sun and ocean air is great for your mental health. Next it also lowers stress. Being in nature, a place you feel safe, can lower your blood pressure and stress hormone levels. It lifts your mood. Time on the beach increases your self-esteem and promotes relaxation.

This shows that there are myriads of reasons why we should care for the environment. Why is the environment important? Although some of us may take this lightly, it is critical to know that we don’t have anywhere else we can run to. If we spoil what we have here, we will suffer the consequences of our actions. If we take care of nature, then nature will also take care of us in return.


As well one ecosystem, we should take immediate action as we are capable of making a difference if we work together instantly. Now I would like to call everyone to take a step forward to work towards a better environment. A little effort towards saving the environment is better than no effort.

Picture credits: Unsplash, iStock

Reaching Zero Hour: The Environmental Limit

By Joseph Chan 2SA1

The state of our planet has finally gone into the red-zone. According to current predictions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world is set to face a 3°C rise in global temperatures and it is inevitable. At our current rate of fossil-fuel burning and decarbonisation, this is set to be our fate by the end of the century. Even if we amplify our efforts to reduce fossil fuel usage, there is now a need to literally suck carbon dioxide out of the air too if we are to meet the 1.5°C temperature change limit set by the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Carbon capture technology to ‘suck’ carbon dioxide out of the air

The past decade for environment protection, even with dedicated efforts to avert disaster, has undeniably been littered with broken promises and failed initiatives. It has even been bestowed the title as the ‘lost decade’ for climate conservation. At this point, the damage is too severe to clear up within the limited time provided by the Paris Agreement, but what has led the world up to this point?

What Happened?

The 2010s were characterised as a time of immense environmental activism. Countless protests held in front of government institutions, numerous conferences to discuss climate change and several youths putting themselves at the forefront of climate activism. So much pressure to keep the world on track, yet the world failed to buckle beneath it. The usage of fossil fuels remained persistent as many countries lagged behind their carbon goals.

The climate is doomed

The deterioration of the environment has already manifested itself in very real ways. What was once just slightly hotter days has now turned into intensifying natural disasters. Stronger hurricanes, prolonged droughts and increased flooding are all phenomenon that have risen in frequency, all of which can be attributed to climate change.

What may arguably be the worst aspect of climate change is how it insidiously worsens everything. It is not an intimidating firestorm, taking central stage in scorching the earth. Instead, it is the hand that hides behind the curtain, obscured by normalcy but making slight adjustments to the climate all the time. It aggravates the destruction caused by nature but does so slowly. This may be an explanation for the lack of more aggressive approaches towards climate change as the disasters become accepted as part of life, even though they are, in truth, anomalies. They are not meant to occur so often and be so damaging, but since they arrived at that level slowly over the years, people just acclimatised to it. Now, we face a more serious problem than before and more effort needs to be made towards reducing our carbon footprint.

Is this the End?

If you are talking about keeping up with the aims made during the Paris Conference, likely the answer is yes. There is now very little time left to make sufficient changes to drastically reduce the amount of carbon dioxide to prevent a global temperature rise of 1.5°C.

There is still hope for the climate

However, if you are referring to our fight against climate change, then the answer is still as it always has been: NO. In the face of environmental pessimism, there have been very significant strides made in reducing carbon emissions. Currently, clean energy is a lot cheaper to employ than it was 10 years ago. Solar and wind energy have become increasingly price competitive, to the point that they are now pushing fossil fuels out of the energy market. Improvements in their efficiency and developments of more experimental models, such as Perovskite Solar Cells, to provide diversity, have made the switch to clean energy an economically prudent move.

As of now, the area to focus on is our lifestyle. It would be foolish to assume that government measures alone are capable of making significant change. Our habits, from how we get about and how we spend, have an impact. Every little effort helps.

What to Do?

On this Red Dot, we are fortunate to have such a vast and dense transport system that is only improving as time goes on. According to the LTA Master Plan 2040, there will be 3 new lines, including the Cross Island Line, as well as numerous extensions to existing ones, putting every home within a 10 minute walk of a MRT station. Transit Priority Corridors (TPCs) are being set up to provide express paths for buses and cycling paths are growing more widespread throughout the island. At this rate, it is likely public transport may become a preferred mode of transportation in the future, due to their lower cost compared to private cars and increased convenience. If you are interested in making changes today, you can start by searching up ways to reach your favourite destinations using public transport only or by bicycle if you own or rent one.

Future MRT Map (from LTA official website)
BlueSG logo (from BlueSG facebook)

Even if you are still prefer using a car, there is now a new option for you. BlueSG, an electric car sharing initiative, has grown since its inception. It is no longer as limited as one might think, with rental and charging stations all over Singapore. Although it is still faces a low supply of cars, recent investment in the company is expected to propel BlueSG’s services to greater heights of convenience. Should you be interested in experiencing these cars of the future, you can always head to their website to sign up for a plan, which you can cancel anytime. You can also use it to locate your nearest available BlueSG car, at https://www.bluesg.com.sg/.

A final point is to cut down on spending. If you can live without it, try not to buy it. When you go out shopping, think about how many clothes you already have in your wardrobe or the amount of food you have in your cupboards. Consider whether you truly need the item you are considering to purchase. Do not be allured by sales too, as they may lead you to purchasing items that are redundant or in bulk, which may lead to wastage.

There is no doubt we have failed, but we should try to not make our failure worse. Keeping up the momentum for environmental sustainability is imperative in making sure our problem is not compounded. Besides, there is still a slight chance we can beat the predictions as we have before. In the 1980s, the ozone layer was found to be breaking up due to our widespread use of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in household items and industry. If left untouched, it would have led to complications that would made the world a very different place. However, the world united and overcame the odds by banning CFCs, saving the ozone. If we could do that in the past, who’s to say that cannot do the same now?

If you want to find out more about the environment issue, feel free to check out Kurzgesagt’s videos on the topic above.

Credits:

pv magazine

Kurzgesagt

LTA

BlueSG

Bitcoin’s Environmental Impact

In April of 2011, the price of one bitcoin was $1; now each one is worth approximately $58,000. Records of Bitcoin investors’ sudden windfall have gotten more and more people intrigued by the possibility of striking it rich through investing in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. But Bitcoin’s rising popularity may make it impossible for the world to stave off the worst impacts of climate change, because the energy consumption of this cryptocurrency is enormous and its environmental implications are far-reaching.

To understand Bitcoin’s environmental impacts, we first need to know what it is and how it works. According to Wikipedia, Bitcoin is a “decentralised digital currency, without a central bank or single administrator, that can be sent from user to user on the peer-to-peer bitcoin network without the need for intermediaries.” This essentially means that it is a decentralised capitalistic currency that neither the world’s governments nor organisations have control over.

Over the years, investors have realised the power and growth potential of bitcoin. In fact, many renowned people of the upper-class have chosen to invest in it to grow their wealth. However, they do not have the time to monitor the ever-changing cryptocurrency fluctuations. Hence, using blockchain technology, Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin, came up with a method by which he could use technology to earn money. This method is none other than an algorithm to predict and trade the cryptocurrency, which is now widely known as bitcoin mining.

So, how does Bitcoin mining even relate to climate change? The main concern of environmentalists is that bitcoin mining requires incalculable amounts of energy. The number of processors needed to run the desired algorithm is so immense that it would take over 80 kilohertz per second to mine just 1 bitcoin. After doing the maths, Business Insider concluded that it takes about roughly “91 terawatt-hours of electricity annually” to mine bitcoin. This contributes to a whopping 0.5% of the entire world’s electricity consumption.

Naturally, there needs to be a source for all this energy that is used for bitcoin mining. Most of the time these sources are from the burning of fossil fuels which results in climate change. Environmentalists have coined bitcoin mining as irresponsible as at the cost of amassing excess wealth, the upper echelons choose to forgo the planet we live on. 

Fortunately, there are now more efforts to make bitcoin mining more environmentally friendly including the use of renewable energy to fuel the mining process. Additionally, China has also recently launched a project called “Exodus”, which plans to reduce the carbon footprint of bitcoin mining. 

In conclusion, it ultimately boils down to whether large-scale investors are willing to choose the more environmentally friendly option to partake in. Whether or not the future generations have a home to live in really depends on the actions of the current contributors to the economy.

Nuclear energy: Boon or Bane?

By Divyesh 1SA6

Whenever we hear the word nuclear, the horrific image of the mushroom clouds in Imperial Japan pops into our minds. Therefore, nuclear power or anything that has the word “atomic” has always been perceived as very bad. However, nuclear energy can actually be a great solution to our climate crisis. 

What is nuclear power? Nuclear power is the use of nuclear reactions to produce electricity. Nuclear power can be obtained from nuclear fission, nuclear decay and nuclear fusion reactions. Presently, the vast majority of electricity from nuclear power is produced by nuclear fission of uranium and plutonium in nuclear power plants. 

How does nuclear power solve our climate crisis? It does not release carbon dioxide! For the past 100 years, we have been burning a lot of fossil fuels to meet our energy needs. This has caused the amount of carbon dioxide in the air to grow inexorably. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. At excessive levels, greenhouse gases are extremely harmful to the planet as they trap too much heat. This causes the average global temperature to rise. Global warming can spell disaster for humanity and other species as it results in rising sea levels and more extreme weather events like hurricanes.

Isn’t nuclear energy extremely dangerous? It used to be unsafe. In addition to the risks posed by terrorist attacks, human error and natural disasters can lead to dangerous and costly accidents. The 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine led to the deaths of 30 employees in the initial explosion and has had a variety of detrimental health impacts on thousands across Eastern Europe and Russia. In 2011, A massive tsunami bypassed the safety mechanisms of several power plants, causing three nuclear meltdowns at a power plant in Fukushima, Japan, resulting in the release of radioactive materials into the surrounding area. In both disasters, hundreds of thousands were relocated, millions of dollars spent, and the radiation-related deaths are being evaluated to this day. Cancer rates among populations living in proximity to Chernobyl and Fukushima, especially among children, rose significantly in the years after the accidents.

Then, why is nuclear power still a good thing after all the flaws of it mentioned above? Due to new technology, nuclear energy has become much more safe and sustainable. In the past, only solid nuclear fuel can be used and this solid fuel can only stay in the reactor for a limited amount of time before it starts to break itself down and the fuel has to be physically removed. Through this process, only 4 percent of the uranium used actually produces nuclear power. The rest is radioactive waste. That is like taking a bite of your plate of chicken rice and then throwing away the remaining rice into the bin. However, new technology for transatomic’s reactor design has allowed for liquid nuclear fuel. This fuel can stay in the reactor for a significantly longer time hence allowing for higher fuel utilisation. Therefore, less nuclear waste is produced. There is also another prototype for thr future of nuclear energy. In thar prototype, conventional fuel rods are replaced with uranium atoms encased in a golf ball like figure. The ceramic material used to encase cannot physically melt and hence it is much safer to use. The fuel pebble is safer because in the event of failure, pebbles will leave the reactions chamber and exit into a holding container where it cools downs on it. Therefore, such a system will ensure that nuclear meltdowns do not occur when the energy to the nuclear reactors are disrupted.

Then, why is nuclear energy not booming? The general public is already very against nuclear energy as they associate it with atomic bombs and the Fukushima and Chernobyl nuclear disasters. It is very hard to change their attitude to favour nuclear energy. Additionally, in recent years, solar energy and wind energy price has gone down and are cheaper alternatives compared to Nuclear energy. Therefore, the interest in building nuclear power plants dwindles.

Nuclear Power plant. Image taken from https://www.wired.com/story/europe-nuclear-power-plants/

A New Hope : The Miraculous Recovery of the Ozone Layer

Everywhere we look, it seems as though the problem of climate change is only growing worse and worse by the day. In spite of environmental protests spearheaded by student activists such as Greta Thunberg, or lengthy information campaigns designed to educate the average citizen on the dangers of global warming, it seems to have all been for naught.

The recent United Nations report on climate change warned that we are making steady progress towards an ‘unliveable’ world, and that in order to meet our obligations under the Paris Agreement, we would have to overhaul major industry standards and adopt technology capable of absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Political Cartoon: Trump speeds out of the Paris climate agreement
A political cartoon on the United States withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Credits : The Philadelphia Inquirer

During the Trump administration, the United States withdrew from the Paris Agreement, which opened up the pathway for corporate behemoths to flout previously established industry emission rules; putting profit before responsibility.

Other world leaders have also expressed their doubts about the effects of climate change; Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has made no secret of his skepticism for the concept and has opened up vast swathes of the Amazon rainforest for logging, bringing the deforestation rates to the highest they have been in over a decade. With our ‘green lungs’ of the earth under threat, our planet’s future is looking increasingly bleak.

The Ozone Layer’s Destruction

But it’s not all bad. In fact, the main subject of my article deals with something that borders on the miraculous. It is proof that the fight against climate change is not yet lost, and that with enough effort, we can cause the restoration of a place we can all be proud to call home.

Whatever Happened to the Hole in the Ozone Layer? | Discover Magazine
A cartoon depicting the ozone layer. Credits : Discovery Magazine

The ozone layer, commonly referred to as Earth’s protective shield, is a region of the stratosphere that absorbs most of the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation. It absorbs 97% to 99% of the Sun’s ultraviolet medium-frequency light, which contains radiation that could be harmful to countless lifeforms.

Put it simply, the ozone layer is the Earth’s form of health insurance; it is vitally important in blocking out UV-C radiation, which is very harmful to all living things.

From the 1970s, atmospheric research conducted by scientists from the American National Aeronautics and Spacer Administration (NASA) and the Soviet Ministry of Space Administration picked up something very disturbing.

The ozone layer was being depleted by industry chemicals, known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). This was directly linked to increased skin cancer in humans, a loss of plankton in the ocean and other ecological problems.

While most chemicals that can erode the ozone layer can be created naturally, manmade activity – which produced artificial chlorofluorocarbons / CFCs – saw the destruction of the ozone layer over 5% of the earth’s surface. Ozone levels have dropped by a worldwide average of about 4% since the late 1970s. Consequently, unabsorbed and dangerous ultraviolet radiation is able to reach the Earth’s surface at a higher intensity.

What Did We Do?

It would be easy to dismiss this as another unintended consequence of Man’s reckless industrial activity; Indeed, when it was first discovered, there was a sense of ‘inevitability’ regarding the ozone layer’s destruction. Even eco-fanatics were skeptical of whether the international community would unite over this threat.

Amazingly, we did. Even major industrial powers such as the United States, India, Russia and China, which were ordinarily loath to forgo economic development for the sake of saving the planet, instituted strict bans on CFC-containing aerosol sprays.

The first major commitment to fixing the ozone layer, the Montreal Protocol, was hailed as the single most successful international agreement in human history. It instituted a cap on CFC levels by 1986 and banned CFC production after 1995 in developed countries.

This commitment is incredible considering CFCs were used previously in nearly all forms of industrial equipment, from cars to washing machines. The Montreal Protocol is proof that we are willing to endure consumer hardship for the long-term sake of our environment.

Effects

And now, a bit of good news on the environmental front.

While we still continue to lag behind our commitments on the Kyoto Protocol or the Paris Agreement, treaties which deal with deforestation, greenhouse gases and the global temperature, research by the United Nations has found that the depletion of the ozone layer slowed down significantly after the ban on CFCs. In fact, NASA noted that the ozone layer did not deplete at all in 2019.

Scientists predict that the ozone layer will begin recovering in a few years and will be fully restored by the year 2050.

That’s right! Despite allegations of governments bending the rules set out by the Protocol, the undeniable truth is that the ozone layer has been recovering due to clear political action. It is a much-needed victory over climate change, and represents something much more – when we harden our resolve and take decisive action, we can not only stop climate change but also reverse it.

So what does this mean when it comes to tackling the rest of the dangers posed to us by climate change? Rising sea levels, deforestation, the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere? We must stop beating around the bush and endure the economic hardships of transitioning to a cleaner planet.

The transition will hard, and countless lives will be affected. There is no denying that. But the right decision is very seldom the easy one. We must do what is right morally, not economically. We must lay the first building blocks to eliminating climate change entirely, instead of kicking the proverbial can down the road.

And I am certain that future generations will undoubtedly thank us for it.

One Small Step for Us, One Big Step for Mankind: Changing Your Life to Combat the Climate Crisis

We’ve all heard about the turtles supposedly dying because of our use of plastic straws. Perhaps we’ve bought metal or bamboo ones, or cloth cup holders. We know just how important water is, drilled in by Water Wally and the government’s new “Every drop counts” campaign. Similarly, we know our 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) from preparation for our Mother Tongue Oral Examinations, and probably know how to say them in another language too. However, do we really understand what we can do to reduce our devastating impact to the environment, the animals, and those around us?

Place to Plug Blog | First steps to a Zero Waste lifestyle and how to  reduce waste
Common recommended actions we can take to save the earth!
Credit: evblog



There are plenty of people genuinely worried about the climate crisis, taking great steps towards reducing their personal impact. For example, the Zero Waste movement focuses on waste prevention through minimising single-use materials (such as plastic), in order to reduce the size of our massive landfills. This sounds impossible for most of us; We eat off styrofoam plates, use plastic for our cutlery, straws, disposable cups, and wrapping on food – and this is just within school. Nevertheless, some may try to move towards reducing waste, taking every opportunity available to avoid using disposable plastics. Veganism has also recently boomed in popularity, with environmental concerns amongst the top incentives for going vegan. Animals take a lot of space and water to rear, which means cutting down forests and diverting precious resources towards agriculture. At the same time, their waste produces pollution, with beef being the most pollution-intensive commonly eaten meat to produce.

Taking strong, firm steps that can be life changing is admirable. But for many of us, it seems unrealistic and far-fetched to go to such extremes. That’s okay! We can start small, and reduce rather than eliminate, for example, going vegetarian every other day, or bringing your own container when possible. At the same time, looking at the numbers can give us an idea of why we should take such extreme measures; Singapore is the fifth most likely country to face extremely high water stress by 2040 and could experience its first 40 degree Celsius days some time between 2045 and 2065. Furthermore, its Semakau Landfill is projected to reach full capacity by 2035, which brings up the question “How will we dispose of our waste when there is nowhere left to leave it?”

Our country is in trouble, but we can take our small step towards fixing it. If within our means, bigger steps are usually better – not only do they let us make a bigger personal impact, but the resolve and courage to change our lives to help the environment also help to influence and inspire those around us.

Ultimately, most of us know the facts, and can search up the figures easily. We know what to do, how to do it, and why we must try. Someti
mes, we might be put off by being unable to do anything, and therefore giving up on it as a whole. The messages surrounding the environment can be counterproductive when people (perhaps even you?) view it as preachy or exaggerated. But even if you only believe the climate crisis is “sort-of-bad”, you can still take action to lessen the impact, and it doesn’t have to be the action that people are pushing on you. What we can do to help the environment isn’t written on a fixed list (though they can help inspire us).

AC Press is taking action; a step towards a cleaner Singapore. We’ll be venturing to East Coast Park (ECP) to clean up the beach, not just making ECP a tad cleaner, but also to understand the impact of littering, both on and off the beach. An experience like this will hopefully help us understand that even though our actions might seem small, we can still make a difference.

The Heavy Weight On Our Shoulders: The Plastic Bag Dilemma

Shoppers around the globe live at a crossroads. Not having quite emerged from the Plastics Age of the late 20th century, the usage of single-use plastic bags is still prevalent in our societies, and though sustainable alternatives are marketed to us all the time, they have not yet been fully adopted. We stand on the edge of an age where plastics are completely eliminated, while the plastic-consumptive activity of our past simultaneously looms not far behind us. Therefore, the two options are still made available to consumers everywhere. 

Which brings up the dilemma: Single use plastic bags, or reusable bags? 

Single-use plastic bags first became popular in Europe in 1965. It took a while for the United States to catch on, but it did eventually, when Safeway and Kroger, two of North America’s biggest supermarket chains, switched from paper to plastic in 1982. By the end of the 80s, plastic bags had replaced paper bags in stores all over the world. 

It’s obvious why plastic bags would appeal to consumers. Ralphs, a popular American grocery store chain, used to print their grocery bags with labels that touted plastic bags as easy to carry due to its soft strap handles, and as both waterproof and strong, qualities that paper bags lack. 

In hindsight, we now understand the detrimental effects that plastic bags have, and those outweigh the benefits tenfold. The plastics these bags are made out of do not biodegrade / are not biodegradable. They contaminate our environment. Microplastics that result from the breaking down of these plastic bags pollute our water sources and are consumed by wildlife. Birds and sea creatures such as fish and turtles often mistake plastic bags for food, filling their bodies with toxic debris. These microplastics make their way back to humans, too, as we consume them through our food and the air. Horrifically, it was reported by the World Wildlife Fund that humans consume the equivalent of a credit card’s worth of plastic a week. 

When presented with these facts, it seems obvious that reusable bags have to be the better option. But that may not always be the case. 

Amongst the myriad options for reusable bags, one specific type has stood out the most. 

The cotton tote. 

Consumers have embraced the cotton tote as a light, fashionable, reusable, and overall, eco-friendly option for their shopping needs. Though there is the pre-conception that cotton totes are beneficial for the environment, the facts say otherwise. 

The Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark says that the overall impact of production of cotton totes is so high, that one bag would need to be used for 54 years just to offset the impact. 

The production of cotton is extremely water intensive too. According to The Circular Laboratory, it takes anywhere from 10000 to 20000 litres of water to produce a singular kilogram of cotton.

On top of that, most cotton totes are dyed, or have been printed with designs to appeal to the consumer. What the consumers are unaware of is that most of these dyes are PVC based, which make them extremely difficult to break down chemically. 

There is no doubt about it. These reusable cotton totes are nowhere near as eco-friendly as we think. 

Thus, we circle back to a key dilemma of the modern consumer. Plastic bags, or reusable bags? 

In order to adopt sustainable habits, shoppers need to think carefully about the textiles they use, and whether what they consume and how they consume it (or, carry it) affects the environment. 

Single-use plastic bags are extremely harmful to our environment. But when selecting alternatives, we need to consider its effect on the environment too, and not fall prey to greenwashing. 

Consumers need to think carefully about the textiles they use, and how things may not always appear as sustainable as they seem. 

Consumers need to make a choice. 

Which would you choose?