Going green isn’t all that hard.
It’s all about knowing the little things you can do each day – and sticking to it. Learn about all the ways you can turn your home into an eco-family with simple home improvements that foster eco-friendly habits.
Does sustainability matter? Short answer: Yes, very much.
Carolin Barr, the founder of eco-app susGain, shares what sparked her family to go green, and how small changes can help Mother Earth:
With forest fires, floods and record temperatures in the news, we get frequent reminders that climate change is at our doorstep and something needs to change. While it’s true that governments and corporations play a critical role in driving that change, we tend to underestimate our own power of influence.
My sustainability journey began around five years ago – following the birth of my daughter and my family returning to Singapore, after living abroad for a few years. While I marvelled at new shopping malls, MRT lines and parks, I realised many places where we used to eat had switched to single-use tableware. With food deliveries and online shopping on the rise, my family found ourselves overwhelmed by the amount of products and packaging around us.
We tend to underestimate our own power of influence.– Carolin Barr, Founder of eco-app, susGain
I began to explore sustainable alternatives like buying package-free groceries, taking only public transport, or refusing gifts for my daughter’s birthday party. But I soon realised it was impossible to fully switch to greener options in all aspects of our lifestyle. About that time, I came across cookbook author and zero-waste proponent Anne Marie Bonneau’s quote: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” That gave me a new perspective. Instead of focusing on making a big difference, I started looking into the little things I could change. As parents, we play a crucial role: It’s our everyday actions and choices – be it separating waste or reducing consumption – by which we act as role models to our children.
And kids can take the lead, too. My daughter’s favourite book series teaches about water, air and land pollution, and she often brings up its “how to protect our planet” discussions at mealtimes. We now bring reusable bags along when leaving the house, get second-hand toys and clothes, eat more plant-based meals and occasionally spend a Sunday morning picking up litter in our neighbourhood.
While these are small lifestyle changes, the journey we’ve embarked on enriches us as a family – and we keep learning. And, if my hubby or I ever forget to switch off the bathroom light, it’s our daughter who will remind us!
susGain To The Rescue!
Social enterprise susGain’s free, rewards-based app enables users to turn socially conscious eco-actions into points, cashbacks, donations to local charities, and trees. Kickstart your green journey with susGain and plant a mangrove tree – an offer just for The Finder readers – by scanning the QR code below.
Easy Eco-Habits For A More Eco-Friendly Home
- Getting your family on board
- Household hacks
- Donation stations
- Swap out disposables
- Do laundry the eco-way
- Sustainable supermarket habits
- Have fun for free!
- Greener gifting
These sustainability tips are totally doable by you and your crew.
1. Getting your family on board
Weaving sustainable and eco-friendly habits in the home might need a little effort on first try, but with a little practice and getting used to, it isn’t all that hard.
- Get inspired. Find ideas in magazines (like The Finder Kids!), blogs and social media groups. Our local libraries also have a great selection of children’s books about recycling, saving water, DIY crafting and upcycling activities.
- Learn from one another. Make sustainability a discussion topic and brainstorm the little things each family member could do. Don’t be surprised if your little ones come up with plenty of suggestions.
- Take small steps. Be it bringing a water bottle or remembering to switch off the lights, acknowledging these actions gives your children a sense of accomplishment and will spur their motivation to do more.
- Set up a recycling corner. Have your kids help to decorate and label it. Next to a general waste bin, set up a “blue bin” for glass, paper, metal and plastic, and an “e-waste box” for batteries, light bulbs and small electronics.
- Pass it on. Ask the kids to gather toys, books, clothes and other goods they no longer use or want for donation. (While you’re at it, why not declutter your own closet or cupboards?) Have them join you for the drop-off, so they can see how their donations help others.
- Spend more time outdoors. Explore public parks or nature reserves (check out our PCN story for some how-tos). Discuss with your kiddos what you see, listen to the different sounds, and discover and appreciate the wonders of nature.
2. Household hacks
Rather than disposing of them, repurpose these common items around the home.
- Cooking water: Use the water that you used to cook pasta or steam veggies to water plants.
- Packaging: Finished the drink in your paper beverage carton? Rinse it, cut off the top and fill it with soil to grow some plants. You can also repurpose plastic bottles and egg cartons for home gardening.
- Glass bottles: Have leftover glass or wine bottles? Turn them into pretty bottle lights or make lamps out of them to spruce up your home – and give those lamps away as eco-friendly gifts.
- Old clothes: Cut up old clothes to make cleaning or dust rags.
3. Donation stations
Building an eco-friendly home also means learning to live only what you need. From recycling bins to food bank donation boxes, SG’s eco-infrastructure is extensive. Here’s when and where to use its more than 1,000 handy stations.
- Excess food: Unopened, dry or packaged food items with at least four weeks till expiry can be donated to any of over 100 food bank bins around the island.
- Empty drink containers: Deposit them at 50 reverse vending machines throughout the island.
- Old batteries, light bulbs, mobile phones: Leave them at e-waste recycling bins deployed islandwide. More than 300 bins are spread across SG.
- Contact lens blister packs: Eyecare brand Two of a Kind’s “Project 2×2” provides free envelopes to collect plastic lens holders from any brand.
- Empty toner and ink cartridges: All public libraries have a Project Homecoming collection box for printer waste.
- Poly mailers, paper envelopes, boxes, styrofoam stuffing and other packaging materials: Donate them to eco-brand Package Pals or green business The Sustainability Project’s “Zero Waste Packaging Initiative”.
- Books and magazines: Bring them to Dignity Mama’s preloved book stalls run by young adults with disabilities and their caregivers.
- Pens: Leave them in Save That Pen bins at various university campuses. The ink will be refilled and the pens will be passed on to underprivileged students in Singapore and the region.
- Kids and adult shoes in good condition: Drop these at kids’ shoe fitting studio Ten Feet Tall in Holland Village. Alternatively, ActiveSG’s “Old Shoes New Future” bins at Active SG sport centres accept worn out sports shoes to be turned into materials for jogging tracks, playgrounds, etc.
- Old or new spectacles and sunglasses: Donate these at Visio Optical’s shop in Holland Village.
Good to know!
All these eco-stations are listed on a map in the susGain app. In addition, it lists more than 70 water refill stations, places that give discounts for BYO (bringing your own reusables), places for clothing swaps and more.
4. Swap out disposables
Ditch disposable kitchen supplies in favour of sustainable alternatives, such as beeswax wrap instead of plastic wrap, cloth towels instead of paper towels and zip seal silicone bags instead of plastic ones. That goes for baking supplies, too! Opt for silicone baking mats over parchment paper, and silicone baking moulds in place of paper cupcake or muffin liners.
5. Do laundry the eco-way
How to clean your clothes and linens without sullying the environment. Follow these hacks below for a more eco-friendly home.
- Choose natural fibres. Before you even start washing anything, know this: According to the International Institute for Sustainable Development, part of the microplastic concentration in our oceans comes from laundry wastewater – most likely from loads containing synthetic fabrics such as fleece. So, simply opting for natural fibres like cotton, silk and linen can help prevent microplastics from threatening marine life.
- Wear it more than once. Want to reduce your water and energy consumption? Re-wear clothes like cardigans, jeans and jackets, instead of washing them immediately. Just spot clean and air-dry them between wears.
- Wash at a cold temperature. On average, 80 percent of the energy used in a wash cycle is for the temperature and only 20 percent is to power the motor. By reducing the temperature, you can save heating costs, help protect the environment and prevent your clothes from shrinking or colours from fading.
- Use sustainable laundry detergents. Phosphates found in conventional laundry detergents can have detrimental effects on marine ecosystems. Look for plant-based detergents in eco-friendly packaging, or find homemade (or make your own) vegan laundry detergents.
- Opt for sustainable dry cleaning. A chlorinated solvent called perchloroethylene (or perc) is used by most dry cleaners. This is bad not only for your clothes, but also for the environment and your health. For The Love of Laundry uses a form of liquid silicone called GreenEarth technology, a sustainable alternative to Perc that biodegrades into sand and trace amounts of water and carbon dioxide. Find them on the susGain app.
6. Sustainable supermarket habits
Follow these tactics on your next marketing trip to save the Earth (and even a little money!).
- Create meal plans and make grocery lists to reduce overbuying.
- Buy whole foods in bulk. Ditto oils and soaps. When possible, use your own cleaned containers.
- Look for eco-labels on products such as sustainable seafood, or Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) labels on palm oil products.
- Bring your own bags for produce, and use the plastic bags only when necessary. One idea: Stick the weight label on fruit or vegetables directly; you don’t need the plastic bag just to affix the label.
7. Have fun for free!
Rather than giving the usual presents, consider gifting one of these five eco-experiences for kids and families instead.
- Have some good, clean fun. After completing Fawn Labs’ Bath Bombs x Farmer’s Edition workshop, you’ll get to take home your all-natural creations for some bomb-diggity bath time. Or, get messy while having a little eco-fun at Soaprise’s Soap and Slime workshop. Find booking info online.
- Go fly a kite. Visit Sustainable Singapore Gallery to learn about sustainability, then let the good times continue by flying kites at Marina Barrage.
- Turn green living into an adventure. Rent a Cleanup Toolkit from Green Nudge, then go on a litter-picking expedition around your neighbourhood or East Coast Park.
- Get your hands dirty. Farming fun awaits you and your little ones at urban farm and community space City Sprouts. See the website for current programmes.
- Empower your eco-warrior. Sign up your kiddo for one of DinoStaury’s half-day Little Green Warriors camps, and he or she will learn the fun-damentals of land, water and air pollution.
8. Greener gifting
Check out these clever ways to reuse items with or for the kids.
“Upcycling does not have to be boring!” enthuses Susan Tan, Sustainability Leader of Kinderland International Education (see more here). “There are many ways in which we can inspire eco-consciousness among the young, by simple acts of sustainability.” Case in point: these crafty ideas for being creative at home.
• Upcycle old items for art and craft projects. Paint or redecorate picture frames. Make holiday decorations or greeting cards with recycled bits and bobs plus brown or craft paper.
• Create toys. Turn milk or juice cartons into buses and cars; paper towel or toilet roll tubes into racing ramps or tracks. Convert supermarket plastic bags into parachutes.
• Use them for teaching. Get kids to learn to count, with bottle caps or natural materials – such as pebbles or leaves you find in the garden or at the park. Or, set up a maker’s corner using cardboard boxes and discarded paper packaging from online purchases.
• Repurpose old clothes. Turn old clothes into costumes or accessories for children’s role play.
• Make gift wrap. Instead of buying wrapping paper, use brown paper bags, newspapers or magazines, or even your children’s doodles.
By Carolin Barr + K Praveena for The Finder Kids Vol. 31, September 2021.
More on The Finder:
Sustainable Shopping: Go GREEN With These 24 Super Eco Stores
Learn How These International Schools In Singapore HELP Kids Stay Eco-Friendly
Drab To Fab: How To UPCYCLE Clothes To Create A Whole New Wardrobe