When it comes to promoting awareness of the environment among the young, Ngee Ann Polytechnic could be considered one of the pioneers - it started doing so more than 20 years ago.
Today, topics on the environment are taught at the polytechnic. Its Clementi Road campus is also home to technology centres that come up with projects to improve sustainability efforts.
Yesterday, the institution received the President's Award for the Environment - Singapore's highest environmental accolade - from President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Istana.
The other two recipients of the award this year are the Institute of Technical Education and Mr Eugene Heng, chairman of environmental group Waterways Watch Society (WWS). The three winners each received a trophy and a certificate.
Organised by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, the annual award recognises individuals and organisations for their contributions towards the environment. There were 26 nominations this year.
For Mr Heng and his volunteers, at least two hours are spent every weekend picking up flotsam along waterways.
Plastic bags are the most common trash item. They also pick up styrofoam boxes, cans, shopping trolleys and television sets.
The group makes its rounds on boats and bicycles to monitor the waterways and alert the authorities on areas that need attention, like those polluted by oil spills.
WWS, which has 370 volunteers, also conducts workshops for students to better understand how drains, canals and rivers are connected to reservoirs. While every drop of water can be treated to drinking water standards, it is vital for people to stop littering because litter is transported from the catchment areas and waterways to reservoirs when it rains.
"We have a nation that runs things very well and supplies water so efficiently. People tend to forget it's a gift. They tend to abuse it and take it for granted," said Mr Heng.
While he feels that enforcement officers need to be more visible and be at the "right place, at the right time", he says educating the public on the consequences of littering is still more important.
"The Government can only do so much," he added.
At Ngee Ann Poly, a major part of its green efforts involves teaching the right values on protecting the environment. All students are required to take a module where they learn about climate change and environmental degradation. The school also has four diploma courses related to the environment, including the diploma in environmental and water technology, and the diploma in clean energy management.
As part of the school's push for clean, sustainable technology, the Environmental and Water Technology Centre of Innovation was set up to help small and medium-sized enterprises grow their business in a green way.
Said Ngee Ann Poly principal Clarence Ti: "As parents and educators, we want our students to not only have good values and learn a trade but also be meaningful contributors to society."
Rooftop gardens, solar panels at ITE campuses
Classroom ceiling boards made of recycled materials, rooftop gardens and offices designed to maximise the usage of natural light - these are some of the green features at the Institute of Technical Education's (ITE) three campuses.
For those efforts, and more, the ITE was given the President's Award for the Environment - Singapore's highest environmental accolade - at the Istana yesterday. It is among three recipients of the prestigious award this year.
The ITE's three campuses had also received the BCA Green Mark Award by the Building and Construction Authority.
At ITE College East, located in Simei, open staircases and circulation spaces help to cool the interiors and minimise energy use. The ceiling boards in laboratories, classrooms and toilets are also made with 40 per cent recycled materials.
Meanwhile, the ITE College West in Choa Chu Kang has a green roof and rooftop gardens that cover 40 per cent of the total roof area. This helps to absorb heat and reduce the energy used for cooling the building.
Over at ITE College Central in Ang Mo Kio, solar panels installed on the roofs generate electrical power.
The ITE has also incorporated environment-related topics in about 70 per cent of its courses, such as those on course-relevant environmental regulation and waste handling.
This article was published on Sept 3 in The Straits Times.
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