Looking Back – Greening of Singtel-Singapore Cancer Society’s Race Against Cancer 2018

In 2018, Green Nudge and Green Ambassadors made a last minute appearance at the Singtel-Singapore Cancer Society’s Race Against Cancer!

Held on 22 Jul 2018, we were called upon by the friendly people from Singapore Cancer Society to help out two weeks before the event. And of course we gamely took up the challenge!

While we were not able to provide our pre-events planning services due to the tight timeline and preparations made by the event organisers, we were still able to influence certain decisions undertaken by them. Key to this was the openness of SCS in wanting to make a difference. Rather than just disposing of all their waste, they wanted to explore finding way to reduce their environmental footprint in a more meaningful manner.

With that in mind, we were able to introduce many firsts in the event. This was the first time we introduce our Sustainability Corner where we situated ourselves near various crucial points of the event ground to tackle the amount of waste generated. Using visual aids, we were able to nudge runners to bin their waste with us, exactly where we needed them.

Grooming the next batch of Green Ambassadors

This event also saw us sharing our views and guidance to a group of new volunteers! Tasked to assist with the segregation of waste, these volunteers, who hail from Victoria Junior College helped to set up the Sustainability Corner and encouraged participants to properly disposed their waste at the finishing point. And rise to the occasion they did!

Renowned for their energy (this author is from VJC hehe), these first timers started singing and dancing, attracting curious runners to take a look. Their actins not just gained the attention of onlookers, but also changed the way that people were viewing waste. Not only can waste disposal be done properly, it can be done in a fun manner!

A fruitful collective effort

All in all, our brief involvement in the event managed to collect an amazing 110 kg of banana peels, and more than 15 bags of plastic bottles and metal cans. The peels were sent to community gardens to be used as compost. With the presence of the volunteers, the recyclables avoid contamination, which meant that they could be used as art materials as well as recycling. More importantly, our actions made a difference to the volunteers.

From being clueless about trash, to even being disgusted about the fact that they were ‘arrowed’ to tackle waste, our volunteers could see first hand how waste was generated, and even excessively when some runners threw away their items such as the runner medals or uneaten fruit.

As the event progressed on, we noticed a change in their behaviour as they not only took the time to properly separate the trash, but were not afraid to get their hands dirty in bagging the fruit peels. More importantly, they also gained a lesson in observing how people who dealt with trash such as the waste management were treated.

Despite getting all sweaty and dirty at the end of the day, the volunteers had no qualms in staying longer than required to tidy up the area, and even asked about the next event to participate in.

From reducing environmental footprint to starting a conversation on empathy, SCS’ RAC has been a meaningful and fun experience for all of us! We certainly hope to be able to support SCS in other ways and look forward to more collaboration in the future!

4 ways that Yakult Singapore’s no straw announcement has impacted Singapore

Recently, Yakult Singapore made an announcement to remove all plastic straws from its packaging. In addition, it also states in a separate announcement that they will be “looking at alternative materials” to replace plastic for its packaging. Straws have also been removed from other countries which suggest that the organisation is embarking on a wider green initiative beyond Singapore.

This is not the first time that a business has announced their intent to reduce waste. In fact, numerous companies such as KFC and Burger King (insert link) have done so. So what’s so special about this move that makes us at Green Nudge sit up? 

  1. This is a fundamental change in packaging design

Yakult’s move to remove straws means it will no longer be packaging one additional item alongside its products. In terms of waste generation, that means there are two less items generated from each bottle of Yakut sold (the straw and the plastic packaging around it). Unlike businesses which have decided to provide straws on a per request basis, this means that there will be no more straws generated as waste. 

This is a positive step forward. We have seen for ourselves at Green Up! coastal cleanup events that small packaging and plastic items such as straws tend to form the bulk of the marine debris that are picked up. And thinner straws such as the ones from Yakult are often caught in small gaps among the rocks. At community functions, due to their small packaging size, it is the straws or their wrappings which are often left caught in the breeze and people tend not to pick these up because they appear to be insignificant. 

Plastic packaging like these are commonly found at functions and events

By removing these, there is already an absolute of packaging being cut down. More importantly, it also means there is a smaller likelihood for incidental litter to occur. In other words, Yakult’s announcement has a direct impact to the environment, as its role as the supplier of the drinks and the straws mean that it directly reduces waste by not even producing them in the first place. Which in our opinion is really a sensible move.

2) It changes consumer behaviour towards Yakult’s products

Yakult’s move means that instead of making it optional for consumer to choose whether they would need a straw, consumers will have to drink directly from the bottle, or find their own straws to drink it. While straws may be necessary for a small group of consumers, the majority is likely to find its absence not really a big deal. 

In the short term, there could be some discomfort as consumers who are so used to the straws may not be keen to adapt. Indeed, a certain proportion of consumers might decide not to buy its products because of the change.

However, if this is a long term move, chances are consumers will start to associate the drink being a strawless one, which is frankly quite similar to any other beverage in the market. Yakult’s drink is small enough to be easily consumed by the average adult in one go, and there would be less need to bring them around. And if there is a need for a straw, these are easily be found. Therefore, straws may not necessary have to be packed in with the bottle. 

It would be a stretch to make consumers bring their own bottle for the probiotic drink, but removing something that is optional as a start, is likely to be a non-issue for most of its consumers. In fact, feedback on Yakult’s social media pages suggest that this was long overdue, as many of its consumers already do not use them. 

Screenshot from Yakult Singapore’s Facebook page


In short, Yakult’s move would help to shape consumer’s behaviour and attitude towards the drink. When done so regularly, it turns the behaviour of not using a straw into a habit. Which is also what we at Green Nudge are advocating 🙂

3) It is a business decision

For the longest time, companies are reluctant to make changes to their products because there will be a need to change the way that they currently operate. For F&B businesses, each tweak can be quite a change in the production processes and accordingly there are cost implications. 

Yet Yakult’s move makes it possible by demonstrating that it is possible to make fundamental changes to the design of the packaging to cut down on packaging waste. Reducing packaging also means reducing cost of producing and packing in the long run. 

And while it is possible that there would be some cost incurred in the short run as changes need to be made to the production processes, the reduction in the materials would likely result in cost savings in the future. 

From a business standpoint, it would make commercial sense to reduce cost and increasing earnings. This means that businesses will find that it increasingly difficult to argue that it is not possible to make changes to their packaging based on commercial decisions.

4) You stand out from the pack

It’s not easy to make this decision you know. Consumers who are not keen on this may simply switch brands and select other products from Yakult’s competitors. Afterall, its target audience includes young families or children who like to drink these, and unlike the adults, may not be able to complete the drink in one go.

In addition, there are also business competitors which would be taking note of these moves. This appears to be an argument that many businesses such as supermarkets hold. Businesses need to stay profitable in order to survive and compete. So it looks like Yakult may be taking a gamble here.

Yet, if Yakult does it right, this move can be done in a manner that helps to connect with its consumers better. Which means that it can turn its initiative into an educational one, particularly its younger customers. 

Screenshot from Yakult Singapore’s Facebook page

By doing so, it not only eases customers towards its no-straw initiative but may also attract customers who are eco-conscious to do so. And by customers, it’s not just individual customers that we are referring to, but corporates who see benefits in tying up with the company on potential green collaboration.

Studies such as the one by Nielsen show that consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable goods. If Yakult is able to explains its intent go beyond the removal of the straw, by looking at ways such as using recyclable packaging for its bottle, it could position itself by being a leader in sustainability within the F&B field. 

As a dominant player, its move would also help to nudge others along who have no choice but to move along accordingly in order not to lose market share. Of course, it will have to be mindful not to be seen as greenwashing. 

In conclusion

Yakult’s decision to remove straws from its packaging is certainly a long awaited move from a business that used to require it being served to its customers. While the move is certainly beneficial for the environment, it also sends a strong message to other businesses that they too need to change accordingly with time, and that it makes commercial sense to pivot.

While regulations on packaging are yet to be in place in Singapore, Yakult’s move also suggest that businesses do not have be regulated before they are required to improve. Indeed, we are beginning to spot companies which have the foresight to think ahead of time as well as stand out from their competitors, even in non-product ways.

We would certainly love to see how else Yakult Singapore is making changes to its product offerings, but its move has a subtle but important influence to the physical and commercial environments in Singapore. 

Trip Report – A Visit to Tzu Chi Singapore’s Recycling Point

Recycling is often thought as the de facto solution to our environmental problem. The more we recycle, the more we are saving the world. Yet the solution is not as easy as it seems.

In November 2018, Green Nudge carried out a trip to one of Tzu Chi Singapore monthly recycling points. Given Tzu Chi Singapore’s extensive network, as well as well known recycling processes, we wanted to learn how we could better sort out our own recyclables, as well as explore ways to inculcate better recycling habits among ourselves.

What we saw was quite an eye-opener. For instance, we saw how simple steps such as sorting and washing your recyclables made a whole lot of difference. Some items were sticky and stank when we opened up the bags and some bottles grew mouldy because they were stored for a month, which meant they had to be thrown away in the end. That was one takeaway we always assume otherwise: Rinse your recyclables, it’s a lot more hygienic and kinder for those who are helping out.

The sheer amount of recyclables collected was also staggering – in the short 3 hours that we were there, we collected almost 6 huge bags of different plastics! And this was just from one collection point. With 40 recycling points around the island, one can just imagine the amount of plastics, as well as other items collected in just one morning. Fast forward one month, the Tzu Chi volunteers say, and we should be expecting a huge amount of clothes and other items from the spring cleaning and year end holidays.

Honestly, it is easy to claim that we have done our part by just placing our items at recycling bins. But it takes a lot for volunteers from Tzu Chi Singapore who do this out of their own time and money on a regular basis. Many of them do this because they were concerned about the larger purpose of the environment and contribute in their own ways.

Beyond the environmental cause, we also see innovation at play, with technology being harvested to spin recycled plastic bottles into blankets used for natural disasters. We also discovered instant rice, which were invented so that they can be a source of substance during times of need. These are readily “cooked” in cold water in 30 minutes, or hot water in 20 minutes.

We learnt a great deal during this short trip to the recycling point. A lot more humbling and meaningful than we had expected it to be. And we know for sure that it’s not our last time. Internally, we will be making plans to conduct more such trips to get people to be more aware of these efforts. Particulary, we want to allow those who are unfamiliar with the efforts of Tzu Chi Singapore to learn more so that we can all join efforts and green Singapore in our own ways.

Ultimately it’s not about recycling per se, but that our individual efforts come together and that together we can make a tangible (and meaningful) contribution to the environment and community.

4 Alternatives places to repurpose your recyclables or preloved items

So, you have joined the green movement and collected some recyclables or have some items that are still in good working conditions. But instead of just tossing them in the blue recycling bins, you would like to see how else they can be reused.

Here are 4 ways where your items can be put into good use in Singapore.

 

1. Playeum

Playeum is an independent registered charity that champions children through play and creativity. Located at Gillman Barracks, Playeum believes in the use of creating with up-cycled materials and the endless possibilities it presents.These bottles become art materials which will be placed at Playeum’s Future Maker Space for children who visit them and want to make creations. Playeum currently accepts a number of other items, including CDs, newspapers, tubes, springs and other materials.

Playeum’s collection drive ends in April next year, which means there is plenty of time to place your items there. But don’t expect a free collection. Be a nice guy and send along your items to them. Click here for more information.

Playeum’s collection is great for many items, especially those that you have collected in bulk, such as plastic bottles. And because they are going to be used as construction materials for children, we know that they are being put to great use. So do them a favour by only sending clean items okay?

 

2. Materials for Fish Aggregation Devices

Materials for what? In short, plastic bottles are used to build homes for baby fishes.

Onhand Agrarian is a local seafood farm that uses Integrated Multi-Trophic Recirculating Aquaculture Systems for tropical marine species. As part of its commitment to fixing the marine environment, it is seeking plastic bottles to be used as building materials for floating reef blocks. Essentially, these are floating blocks which allow the growth of mangroves, as well as provide hiding places for baby fishes.

The collection of bottles are less frequent but we will see if our bottle collection coincides with the bottles required by the farm. But if so, this is really cool stuff.

 

3. Migrant Workers Parties / Events

If your items are really in good condition and you know places like the The Salvation Army are already filled to the brim, why not keep a lookout for other occasions where you know your items will be put to good use?

From time to time, activities for migrant workers such as a thank you party are organised by itsrainingraincoats and they need all sorts of items that migrant workers might use. Hot items include shoes, shorts, towels, toiletries as well as fragrance(??) Well, that was what we were being asked when we were giving out our spare travel toiletries collected from hotels or airlines.

Knowing that your items will be used by the unsung heroes is not just about putting your preloved items to good cause, but also giving back to society in a meaningful manner.

And if you have any ladies clothings, fear not, similar events or activities do also exist, although in various forms. One such call could be for domestic workers in homes, where they are staying due to various social reasons and may not be able afford clothing.

We here at Green Nudge are keen to support such causes so you can be sure that we will be posting them up on our social media channels to help when we know of these!

 

4. Really Really Free Market

If all else fails and you still want to be able to share your items with others, here’s another area that you might want to consider.

According to its Facebook page, The Really Really Free Market is a “temporary market based on the concept of giving and building a community based on sharing resources, caring for one another and improving the collective lives of all”.

So basically, if you have anything you want to give, you could lay out your items on a mat, and wait for those who are in need to take it from you. Similarly, if you have any items that you spied on, feel free to just take them (does not apply to humans).

There are some cons to this concept though. Firstly, this allows you to offload EVERYTHING you want to give away. This means literally anything you think others might want, and indeed there are some really weird items there. Like a whole set of steamers, to used cups, to that missing teddy bear’s eye. And if these items are not taken, then they are unfortunately going to be thrown away.

Secondly, SRRFM has grown to an extent where people are starting to take for granted which means there are some who are treating it as a dumping ground. On the other hand, because it is free for all, there are also others who have viewed them as a treasure trove and help themselves to everything they can find. It does get to the point where you notice the same few individuals at the event who are hoarding everything, which is not exactly the point of the event.

Well, one man’s trash is the other man’s treasure, and if these are indeed being used meaningfully by others, who are we to stop them right?

 

Final Words

All these venues are great when you have excess materials or items to give away. But the first and most importantly point is to reduce your consumption! We don’t want to sound like we are preaching but hey, it’s really only useful if we start to only buy what we truly need.

Let us know if you know of any other unusual ways to give back your recyclables or pre-loved items!