Active Citizenship

Communities and Engagement

Hey, Earth to NUS Students!

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30 January 2022

It’s no secret that environmental degradation and climate change are the battles of our time. From the impact of single-use plastics, pollution of rivers caused by chemicals dye, prolonged unsustainable practices to environmental apathy have led to where we are today –  a climate crisis.  

We ask three NUS Green champions who care for a liveable Singapore, and a liveable future. These individuals are cognisant of the many trade-offs when it comes to being sustainable and are doing their part to make the Singapore Green Plan 2030 a reality.  


(From left to right): Ting Wai Kit, Melina Thebe, and Sarah-Ann Tan. These individuals are cognisant of the many trade-offs when it comes to being sustainable. They are doing their part to make the Green Plan a reality. 

Ting Wai Kit, Year 3, FASS

I have participated in a beach clean-up at Pasir Ris Beach organised by NUS Save and through the initiative, we cleared 106kg of trash from the intertidal area within two hours! The turning point was when I picked up 160 straws in a 2-by-2metre area which made me realise that I had to stop using disposable plastics. Certainly, there is more that I had to do in combating climate related injustice. 

Two decades ago, people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. Today, we have no excuses. We can start by doing better as a school, by distancing ourselves from companies that are doing more harm than good for the environment when securing sponsorships, scholarships, awards, and prizes such as petrochemical related companies which only helps to entrench them deeper into our society. 

"I am glad that the school is committed to plant 100,000 trees as part of NParks OneMillionTrees Movement and our own students have been invited by the NUS Office of Facilities Management Horticulture & Grounds team to plant a tree opposite Yusof Ishak House along Lower Kent Ridge Road."

How students and student bodies can do better:

  • Welfare packs: Sponsored items that are plastic and items given but thrown in general trash by students must be taken seriously. Instead, have reusable items like container and bottle in the goodie bags.
  • Meals Takeaways: Simple personal act from individuals have avoided the use of 181,153 disposable containers and 69,011 disposable cups (Source: Project Box & Project Tumbler (PBPT).
What you do makes a difference, and we must decide what kind of difference we want to make!

Melina Thebe, Year 2, FOE 

Many of the constructed buildings in NUS took energy efficiency into consideration and there are multiple locations for e-waste collection – these efforts signify the importance of Sustainability on campus. In addition, the University recycles food waste by sending it to Ulu Pandan and turning it into Biogas through a partnership with NEA

There is an urgent call for all of us on the matter of reducing plastics waste as well as the consumption of electricity. The BYO culture is still very weak in NUS and most of the students and staff still do takeaways using the stalls’ provided one-time used plastic containers. Only TechnoEdge Canteen has a reusable container system established and I’m anticipating for such an initiative to be adopted across all NUS eateries to establish a stronger BYO culture.

I noticed the electricity consumption within campus is still relaxed as there are places where the fans and lights are operating at almost 24/7 even though there are no users. The set of fans along the engineering block overhead bridge connecting LT3/LT4 to the main engineering block is often switched  on at full speed.

We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it. Addressing the climate challenge presents a golden opportunity to promote prosperity, security and a brighter future for all.

How students and student bodies can do better:

  • Be more energy-efficient. Starting with switching off the lights and fans when they are not in use. 
  • Adopt a Vegetarian lifestyle. After learning about the impacts of the meat industry on our environment. Greater promotion of plant-based food in our canteens to encourage the community consumption at least once a week to cut down on our meat intake.
  • Practice home composting. Incineration of food waste contributes to land and air pollution.
  • Make BYO compulsory University-wide. There can be a no-plastic bag/plastic-cutlery day to encourage the use of reusable bags/cutlery. 

Sarah-Ann Tan Shee Yee, Year 2, FASS 

I was offered an opportunity to be a brand ambassador for an online e-shopping brand (Let’s call it Brand x for confidentiality’s sake). Delighted with such an exciting opportunity, I did my research. To my horror, it exposed me to the negative environmental impacts of online shopping, as well as the environmentally unsustainable and unethical practices of the brand. 

This led me to turn down the offer but, more importantly, it prompted me to reflect on the kind of influence, if any at all, I would want to have. That reflection became a pivotal moment where I decided that if I were to ever become an ambassador or an agent of change or influence of any form, it would be an honour. 

How students and student bodies can do better:

  • Do your due diligence – research and reading up. After which, raise awareness of environmental issues among our social circle through social media or even casual chats. For me, I prefer to create infographics based on the information I have researched and gathered. When I joined the University Scholars Program and noticed the absence of an environmental or green group in the residential college, I decided to widen my scope of influence by launching an environmental group dedicated to bringing together individuals interested in contributing to achieving environmentally related UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), UNSDGs 12 to 15!
  • Normalise sustainable practices. Make sustainable living an integral part of the NUS culture.
  • Bring Attention to Existing Initiatives. Numerous initiatives already in place that are targeted at helping NUS become a more sustainable university. However, not all students are aware of their existence. For example, the inclusion of recycling chutes within residential college is a great way to bring convenience. However, few are aware of it, let alone their purpose. By bringing attention to these initiatives and the purpose behind implementing them, it will encourage more users, and highlights the centrality and value of sustainability in the university. The challenge remains in finding the right platform to broadcast these initiatives.
  • Involve the Community. Getting students involved in sustainable events or practices is also another way to promote sustainable living such as having regular Green Career Fairs, organising a thrift market where students can both buy and sell their second-hand (or more, and community gardening. These provide the community ways to directly participate in sustainable practices and, empowering them Climate change is real. It is happening right now; it is the most urgent threat facing our entire species and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating. 

There are still plenty of pages left in the earth’s story for the future. 

The three Green champions highlighted the importance of coming together to overcome global hurdles at a time when the Sustainable Development Goals are most endangered, despite the substantial progress made in the past six years. 

There will be times when we will feel bewildered and troubled, yet we have people who embodies, “let’s live on, let’s make the best of this moment!”. 

Every choice we make is the beginning of change. So, here is a week's worth of adopting simple changes to daily habits and putting it on repeat after that.




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About Orange & Blue (OB) Marker
Hey, Earth to NUS Students! is the second of a series of “Orange & Blue (OB) Marker” articles contributed by the NUS community. The series explores how active citizenry can be encouraged through education and community action.



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