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Without meaningful action, flows of plastic waste into aquatic ecosystems are expected to nearly triple from around 11 million tonnes in 2016 to around 29 million tonnes in 2040. Image: Unsplash

Lifestyle Changes To Save Our Planet – And Money!

It’s easy to get caught up in our own lives and focus solely on our immediate needs. However, it’s crucial to remember that our actions today have a significant impact on the planet’s future. Climate change, pollution, and deforestation are just a few of the pressing issues we face, and they require urgent action.

And there's no better time than the present to address this issue, especially with a very important day of observance coming up on 5 June: Every year on this date, we commemorate World Environment Day, which was first established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972.

This year, the focus is on finding solutions to plastic pollution under the campaign #BeatPlasticPollution. The goal is to raise awareness and encourage action to reduce and eliminate single-use plastics, which are a major contributor to pollution in our oceans and on our land. With this theme, we are called to take responsibility for the plastic waste we generate and make a conscious effort to reduce it, recycle it properly, and support initiatives that promote sustainable alternatives.

The plastic problem is no less dire on our Little Red Dot. According to Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA), 982,000 tonnes of plastic waste was generated in 2021, with only 6% of it being recycled. Reducing plastic usage, such as by bringing reusable bags and containers when shopping, can significantly reduce your carbon footprint – not to mention those extra charges for plastic bags at large supermarkets. (Also check out our useful piece, "How To Use Plastics Safely In Food Prep".)

Apart from reducing our plastic usage, here are some other lifestyle changes that we can make in Singapore to reduce our carbon footprint and combat climate change – and, at the same time, trim down our expenses:

1. Reduce meat consumption

The production of meat is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. According to a report by the World Resources Institute, food systems have contributed between 25-30% of global GHG emissions in the past decade. A prime culprit: beef production, “specifically from the agricultural production process (including the digestive process, wastes and feed production) and from clearing land for new pastures, which releases carbon previously stored in vegetation and soils”. Switching to a plant-based diet or reducing meat consumption can significantly lower your carbon footprint – and, needless to say, your grocery expenses.

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2. Use public transportation

Transportation accounts for a significant portion of Singapore’s greenhouse gas emissions. Taking public transportation, cycling, or walking can reduce your carbon footprint – and conserve cash – significantly. Focusing on the electrification of public buses and taxis, Singapore’s Land Transport Authority aims to have a 100% cleaner energy bus fleet by 2040, and replace more than 400 diesel buses with electric ones by 2025.

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3. Use energy-efficient appliances

Switching to energy-efficient appliances such as air conditioners, refrigerators, and light bulbs can reduce energy consumption and lower an individual’s carbon footprint. In 2017, NEA rolled out the Energy Efficiency Fund (E2F), which supports manufacturing companies and encourages them to invest in energy-efficient technologies or equipment.

Air-conditioning often takes up the bulk of a household's electricity bill. According to Clean & Green Singapore (CGS), "a fan uses less than 1/10th the electricity of an air-conditioner", meaning you could save up to $840 a year, based on the average 2012 electricity tariff of $0.2989 per kWh, assuming the use of a single-split, 1000W air-conditioner and/or a 31W electric fan for 365 days a year.

Based on these same assumptions, you could also save up to $25 a year for every degree you raise. So, set the temperature of your air-conditioner to about 25˚C. If you really buay tahan the heat, there's gelato galore across our island.

Choosing energy-efficient appliances will also help you scale back your spending: According to CGS, a 4-tick air-conditioner could save you about $450 in electricity bills a year compared to a 1-tick model, while a 4-tick refrigerator could save you about $70 a year compared to a 2-tick model.

Final tip: Don't leave electrical appliances on standby. According to CGS, standby power can account for up to 10% of your home electricity use. Turning them off when not in use could save up to $70 a year.

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4. Reduce food waste

Food waste contributes to greenhouse gas emissions as it decomposes in landfills. According to a report by NEA, Singapore generated 817,000 tonnes of food waste in 2021, and only 19% of it was recycled. Reduce your carbon footprint, food waste and grocery bill, stat! Plan your meals, buy only what is needed, and, if possible, compost.

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5. Conserve water

Singapore is a water-scarce country, and yet, according to Singapore’s Public Utilities Board, water demand in Singapore is at a staggering 430 million gallons a day. That volume can fill not 100, not 500, but 782 Olympic-sized swimming pools – and 45% of that amount is consumed by homes. Furthermore, the water used in Singapore is treated and distributed, a process which requires energy and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

By doing small things like using a cup of water when brushing your teeth, taking a shower instead of a bath, and washing your clothes with a full load, you can save a lot of money over the long term, too.

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