Sustainability in Singapore: Eco-friendly ways to adapt to the existence of Covid-19 in daily life

Buy bulk foods.
PHOTO: The Source Bulk Foods

With Covid-19 worries gripping Singapore, staying sustainable might be the last thing on our minds at this point. But despite our world turning upside down, global warming marches on – an unceasing, unconquered monster in the background.

Thinking green might feel like “a luxury we cannot afford right now”, but as environmental policy expert Samantha Gross puts it, this mindset could cripple our climate action for years to come.

On the bright side? As Covid-19 smashes its way through our old dining and shopping habits like a wrecking ball, we’ve got the chance to plant new, greener ones in the ruins.

While we’re all staying in and social distancing, there’re plenty of tweaks we can make to our new routines that help the earth stay healthy. The best part – most of these sustainable tips are also good for your wallet!

B.Y.O. takeaway containers

This one’s a no-brainer. With takeaway and delivery orders skyrocketing during this circuit breaker, so has our use of disposable food containers – so much so that we’re already facing a potential shortage.

And as they say, a moment on the lips, a lifetime polluting the landfills and oceans – your average Styrofoam box takes over 500 years to decompose.

Last year, plastic waste alone accounted for 30 per cent of Singapore’s three million tonnes of trash. With luck, Covid-19 won’t make us break that record this year – as long as we all step up our dabao game.

Bring your own reusable containers when you takeaway meals, and turn down single-use cutlery when ordering through delivery apps.

If you’re wondering about safety, there’s currently no evidence of Covid-19 being transmissible through food packaging. Just soap up your containers thoroughly before use, and you’re good to go.

Support local farmers and growers

Rather than jostling with the supermarket crowds, get your produce delivered dewy-fresh from our local farms. We’ve always known how important eating local is for sustainability – farm-to-table produce has a far smaller carbon footprint than food that’s flown many miles.

But with our recent Malaysian food import scares, it’s never been clearer that eco-friendliness and economic concerns can go hand in hand. Supporting local farms now can strengthen our food security when the world’s supply chains get scrambled.

With the government splashing out on a $30 million grant to help local farms scale up, we might soon be able to get much more of our eggs, greens, and fish farm-fresh. In the meantime, you can show some love for these local farms doing deliveries:

For organic greens

One of Singapore’s leading distributors, Quan Fa Organic grows an impressive array of fruits, veggies, herbs, and mushrooms in the Kranji countryside – all pesticide-free, of course.

Then there’s well-known urban farm Citizen Farm, which recently launched a weekly subscription box packed with microgreens, veggies, and sometimes flowers. For Chinese staples such as mung bean sprouts and wild Chinese spinach, look no further than Fire Flies Health Farm.

For fresh seafood

Barramundi farm Kühlbarra has supplied its open-sea-raised, harvested-to-order fish to the Michelin-starred likes of Candlenut and Labyrinth, so you know you’re getting some top-notch fillets.

For seafood feasting, Ah Hua Kelong has been supplying Singaporeans with clams, mussels, golden pomfret, and other juicy gems for more than two decades.

Meanwhile, Sea Farmers specialises in slurp-worthy oysters, and here’s a tip-off – they’re currently running stay-home promos!

For eggs & dairy

Get your dose of calcium fresh and additive-free from DairyFolks‘ Holstein-Friesian cows – they’ve actually been around since 1936. If goat’s milk is more your jam, you can get Hay Dairies‘ creamy goodness delivered to your doorstep.

As for eggs, Seng Choon and Chew’s are household names for farm-fresh yolks, available on Redmart and in major supermarkets.

Make your own masks

Disposable masks are in short supply, so here’s one option which can save the earth and your health: Upcycling your own masks from old cloth. 

While cloth masks are far from medical-grade, a landmark Public Health England study on homemade masks showed that a 100 per cent cotton T-shirt successfully filtered between 50 per cent -70 per cent of viral particles from the air.

Short of surgical masks, the humble tea towel had the highest filtration efficiency, blocking a highly respectable 70 per cent - 80 per cent  of viral particles. Be right back – we’re off to raid our closets.

While upcycling your own life-saving mask may sound impressive, it’s as easy as snipping up your old cotton tee and putting it all together with elastic bands.

If you need detailed visuals, check out this expert-approved guide by the CDC on sewing your own face covering. For those of us less handy with needle and thread, check out this ingenious no-sew tutorial as well:

Buy bulk foods

No, we’re not talking about joining the hoarding hordes. Getting your dry foodstuffs in bulk – think coffee beans, nuts, olive oil, pasta – is all about going packaging-free.

No matter how fancy that plastic packaging is, we’re going to toss it out anyway – so buying your essentials by the gram cuts down on polluting waste, and often comes cheaper to boot.

Stocking up for this lockdown? Get your supply of staple foods, cooking essentials, and snacks delivered with The Source Bulk Foods and Teck Sang Pte Ltd, or head down to Scoop Whole Foods and Unpackt with your own containers for self-collection.

Plus, check out our previous guide to bulk food and package-free shops in Singapore for more inspiration.

ALSO READ: Sustainability in Singapore: Eco-tipsy tips for sustainable drinking

Work from home (energy-)efficiently

If you’re getting down to the daily grind from home this month, your energy use is about to hit a whole new level of expensive.

Go lean and green with a more power-efficient workspace, starting with your location. To cut down on lighting and air-con use, set up your ‘office’ near a window – the breeze and natural light might be all the energy you need.

As for the gadgets, try putting your computer in power saver mode even when your battery is full; most of the time, we don’t really need to keep those background apps running.

We recommend going minimalist with your gadget use too – using two monitors, for instance, may satisfy your inner geek but gets seriously energy-guzzling. Unplug the stuff you don’t need – your electricity bill will thank you.

ALSO READ: Sustainability in Singapore: 9 local and regional fashion brands to watch

Practise enoughness

Ever impulse-bought more pretty clothes/shoes/gizmos that you didn’t need and never used? So have we. In these tough times, many of us are tightening our belts, and this makes it the ideal time to rethink our consumption habits.

What truly makes us happy, as we’re learning in social distancing purgatory, isn’t retail therapy – it’s intangibles like good health and the (currently illegal) company of loved ones.

Consuming only what we need, in other words, can free up our life for the things that really matter. Something to keep in mind even when we can hit the shops once more.

For the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit here.

This article was first published in City Nomads.