In the first of this three-part series, travel host and ELLE Singapore cover girl Denise Keller shares her experiences as a green advocate, plus practical advice on what we can all do to stay sustainable.
Sometimes we need a little reminder to see how even the most mundane of daily decisions, from our choice of coffee to how long we shower, matters not just a little but a LOT – especially when we as a human race count this collectively.
So how can we make a difference?
First things first – being green is not about the actions of others; about big institutions or government agencies. It’s about us – you and me. What we can do, how we do things, the way we live our lives.
Most definitely, what we do DOES count. Where we put our dollars; how we demand products that are more intelligently made; whether we conduct our own investigations into seeing if companies and manufacturers are doing the right thing.
Every day, each of us makes decisions that increases or lessens the stress we place on the planet. So every day, we have the opportunity to turn our individual actions into an individual difference.
Many are saying “just go digital”, which is a good way to minimise the cutting down of trees and paper waste. But let’s be real - sometimes, you just can’t do away with paper. From the colouring worksheets they hand out in kindergarten, to school homework and office forms, paper is everywhere and here to stay. Which means how we make the paper and what we do with it after becomes doubly crucial.
I recently decided to support a campaign called 1 Dream 1 Tree by Double A, a paper and pulp company based in Thailand, because they seem to be onto something when it comes to sustainable production and consumption.
According to Double A, creating a zero-waste model is the way forward. The world is now a linear economy, where natural resources are being exploited by humans in a one-way path that ends in a landfill. We have to work towards a zero-waste, circular model, where no waste is produced and everything is recycled or re-used.
It was through my support for the company that I heard for the first time of paper from “KHAN-NA”, which is Thai for the vacant spaces around and in between rice fields. This is where the trees used to produce Double A paper are planted, which creates value from these empty spaces that would otherwise be unused. These are fast-growing trees, able to be harvested within three to five years. Also, as Double A’s manufacturing plant is right where the rice farmers are, the company is able to collect the unwanted rice husks for use as eco-friendly fuel.
This, I believe, is the way we should all be operating. It’s time to stop thinking that going green requires a lot of sacrifice (e.g. having to stop driving your car, making time to bring recyclables to a central disposal area etc) and is only for the rich (because only they can afford to put up solar panels).
No, going green means replacing our old ways with a whole new wave of approaches to the resources that we use. It means doing a lot more with a little less.
“Going green means…doing a lot more with a little less.”
Do you follow fashion blindly and throw out your clothes once the season is over? Do you go to buffets and take more than you can literally chew – and waste food? Do you know how much it takes to rear that chicken or grow that kang kong, then transport it, have it cooked and placed on a plate for your consumption?
Or do you make your clothes last and donate the good pieces to charity when it’s time for you to trim your wardrobe? Cut your spending on both your electricity and grocery bill so that you consume only what you absolutely need? Use public transport or your legs if you need to pop out to get a loaf of bread?
If you really have a think about it, every one of us can find ways in our lives to conserve. We are consuming so much so quickly that we are living far beyond the Earth’s capacity to support us. So sustainability is really about meeting our present-day needs without compromising the capability of future generations to meet theirs. We all need to take a step back and see that we are all in this together.
“It’s time to recognise that every chemical we pour down the drain goes somewhere and will inevitably emerge again in some form or shape.”
It’s time to recognise that every drop of rain is precious and that every chemical we pour down the drain goes somewhere and will inevitably emerge again in some form or shape, like in the fish you just bought from the supermarket. That extra trip in our cars, buying things that have to be shipped long distances, it all adds up.
My key message in all of this is that going green means looking at your consumption of daily products and the choices through a new lens – a green lens.
For more Living stories, head here. Or check out What Eco-Friendly Fashion Looks Like Now and 7 Local Labels That Are Saving The World With Fashion.