Even as a child, Teng Chu Yu was drawn to books about people, flora and fauna in different places and cultures. She fondly reminisces about her family’s weekly library visits – where she would search for both fiction and non-fiction books on these topics.
As she entered Secondary school, Chu Yu recalls being captivated throughout her first Geography class. “I had a hunch then, that I’d pursue Geography as a career in the future. And here I am, still on this path,” chuckles the now third year Geography and Global Studies student at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
It was in Junior College that Chu Yu developed an interest in pursuing a career related to sustainability in the future. She researched more about the dire state of the global climate and learnt that the effects were escalating in an unequal way across different communities around the world.
Her passion and interest for the environment motivated Chu Yu to opt for a predominantly plant-based diet, and to get involved in a couple of student-led initiatives at NUS.
She helped establish a student-led group called the NUS Vision of Equality for a Greener Earth (VEGE). The group aims to introduce the NUS community, as well as members of the public, to the concept of a plant-based diet and lifestyle, for environmental and ethical reasons.
(1st row, second from the right) with her teammates from ‘Meat-Lite
Chu Yu says that conceptualising and leading the execution of the inaugural ‘Meat-Lite Movement’ was one of her most memorable experiences in VEGE.
Under this project, Chu Yu and her teammates worked closely with canteen stall owners and other major NUS stakeholders to bring more plant-based options to F&B establishments around the campus.
Chu Yu notes that you don’t have to make sweeping changes to begin with. “If systematic action seems too daunting for you at the moment, you can begin with simpler steps to become more sustainable”, Chu Yu says.
For a start, she advises following social media accounts on Instagram and Telegram that contain bite-sized sustainability-related news. Chu Yu herself has also started two Instagram accounts (@consciouscookieee and @consciousmochiii), where she shares about plant-based food and occasionally social and environmental issues via Instagram stories.
These social media content can help us learn more about practising sustainability, both in terms of our individual lifestyles and more systemic action. The latter can involve joining forces with businesses and governmental agencies to collectively progress towards our climate action goals.
You can then consider the steps to take and how to consciously become more sustainable. “Actively seek out industry- or sector-specific resources. Find support networks that can sustain you emotionally throughout this journey”, says Chu Yu.
Deepening knowledge in sustainability
Another undergrad, 24-year-old Tan Shi Zhou, agrees that every little gesture matter. He notes, “Small changes daily can accumulate to create a large impact on the environment. Personally, I take cold showers, avoid using air-conditioning, take public transport and avoid single-use disposables.”
The second-year student at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) explains that incorporating these changes to his life might seem small and insignificant, but if everyone does it, it can create a huge impact.
Besides majoring in Materials Science and Engineering, Shi Zhou is also doing a minor programme in environmental sustainability. “I hope by learning more about the natural environment, it would reinforce my engineering knowledge in sustainable technologies,” he says.
Shi Zhou was previously a Chemical Engineering student at Temasek Polytechnic (TP), where he interned at the water technology department and served as the president in the Green Interest Group. During his National Service days, he also took up a specialist diploma in Environment and Water Technology.
Driving the campus spirit
Shi Zhou is currently the president of Earthlink, a student-led environment club at NTU. He oversaw various sustainability projects, including a call for students to drop off their used pens under a ‘Save that Pen’ initiative, as well as producing a podcast titled “1001 Ways the Earth is Going to Die!”
Shi Zhou (second one from the right) and his team members at Earthlink
However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, it became challenging to organise green events.
For one, Shi Zhou and his team had to brainstorm ways to execute a two-week long Green For Good 2021 project safely, while keeping it engaging for NTU students and staff to learn more about environmental sustainability.
Holding three large events over two weeks in a hybrid mode of virtual and physical setting was challenging for the Earthlink team, but they managed to pull it off successfully.
“This couldn’t have happened without my committee members and the school staff who have supported our projects”, Shi Zhou smiles.
Singapore Green Plan 2030
The Singapore Green Plan 2030 was launched recently as a national movement and whole-of-society effort to build a sustainable Singapore for all generations.
As an engineer, Shi Zhou expressed his excitement to how the targets in the Singapore Green Plan could be implemented in Singapore, especially the increase in renewable energy usage and the adoption of electric transportation.
Chu Yu also echoed similar sentiments. “I would like to see a more equitable and inclusive transition for former employees from fossil fuel companies, to help them enter clean energy, plant-based protein and other more sustainable sectors.
“Given that the Singapore Green Plan 2030 is a ‘living document’, I look forward to seeing how it evolves and addresses pertinent issues.”
Share your ideas for the SG Green Plan 2030 at: greenplan.gov.sg/take-action/share-your-ideas/
What you can do