Millennials have readily jumped onto the bandwagon of reusable metal straws but is this just a fad? Inspired by her environmentally-conscious colleague, our writer, Weina discovers what it means to go green.
There has been much talk of going green with terms like “Sustainability” and “Zero Waste” increasingly being thrown around, but are we truly loving our environment if the research shows that in a year, Singaporeans take 820 million plastic bags¹ from supermarkets alone? That means each of us use at least 146 plastic bags yearly. As we start to feel the effects of Singapore’s rising temperatures, that made me think about whether I should be doing more for my planet.
As someone who is not very green, I decided to document my daily routine as an average millennial to discover how much waste I am unnecessarily generating in contrast with a green millennial. I did not have to look far to find one – a few rows away from my desk at work sits a colleague who is passionate about all things green and spearheads many green initiatives at work.
Editor’s Note: My colleague will be known as #GreenMillennial in this article while I’ll take the moniker, #AverageMillennial.
Our day starts off with the most important meal of the day – breakfast.
#AverageMillennial: “Buying my bread, I don’t think twice about eating my bun from a plastic bag. However, this week was different – we had a breakfast meeting with a volunteer and after ordering our bread, she asked if she could keep our used plastic bags. She explained that she washes these bags and reuses them during future bakery visits.”
#GreenMillennial: “I usually bring my own container when buying bread from the bakery. Doesn’t it look more delicious served like this? A green tip of mine is to keep containers in the office. You never know when they will come in handy for quick runs to the nearby bakery or to dabao lunch.“
After lunch, we decided to treat ourselves to a cold drink.
#AverageMillennial: “Look at the excessive packaging used in my bubble tea. There’s a plastic cup and lid, a plastic straw wrapped in plastic covering, and everything is packed in a plastic bag – how many times did you see the word “plastic” in that sentence? I also realised that I don’t think twice when asked if I need a bag – my default answer is “yes”. But do I really need it? This is an instance where I can definitely cut down on my plastic usage.”
#GreenMillennial:“I ordered Coconut water which is usually served with a plastic straw, but I figured I could just use the metal reusable spoon it came with (meant to scoop out the flesh) to drink the liquid. My lunch date got a drink too and it was served in a plastic cup with a plastic straw. Mental note to self – keep an empty reusable bottle in my lunch bag for future situations like this.”
Before heading back to the office, we decided to stock up on some snacks.
#AverageMillennial: “Since the dried food shop was near the office, I decided that a plastic bag was not necessary and I could just hold my bags of seeds until I got back to my desk. Although honestly, if not for this project, I wouldn’t have thought of doing this.”
#GreenMillennial: “I keep a stash of used plastic bags in my lunch bag for times like this. The fruit seller eyeballed my used plastic bag and immediately said the bananas would not fit. I proved him wrong, and managed to fit the bananas into my plastic bag – which only took about 3 seconds more effort. This encounter is similar to many others I have faced when I offer to use my own reusable bags. Shop owners or assistants might not always understand why I go the extra mile so having a thicker skin helps. When we understand that every small effort contributes to the larger ecosystem, it helps us stay true to the green cause.”
Later that afternoon, a colleague accidentally spilled some water on the floor.
#AverageMillennial: “My immediate response was to reach for the stack of disposable paper towels to clean up the mess but our #GreenMillennial had other plans.”
#GreenMillennial: “I’m a self-proclaimed mop advocate. Haha! Our office already has a mop so why not put it to use? Using stacks and stacks of paper towels is neither time- nor cost- efficient.”
By the end of the day, the answer was clear.
I generate a lot of waste and can save A LOT just by being A LITTLE MORE environmentally conscious.
In the span of half a day, I would have used 3 plastic bags, 1 plastic cup, 1 plastic straw and a host of other items wrapped in plastic packaging. On the other hand, my colleague has saved 2 plastic bags, 1 plastic straw and lots of paper towels.
Being aware of our plastic consumption truly is scary because each of us are contributing to the 820 million plastic bags Singaporeans consume each year. Let’s not take a backseat anymore!
If you want to find out why Singapore is a plastic nation and how we can do our part for the environment, read this article.
SEC study on consumer plastic