Singapore’s Green Plan 2030 is a “national sustainability movement” which aims to turn us into a more eco-friendly country over the next decade.
It includes things like the planting of trees, making the public sector greener, expanding the rail and cycling networks and reducing the amount of waste being sent to landfill.
But all the plans in the world aren’t going to work if they mean financial hardship for the people. So the government will be dangling carrots to encourage us to adopt greener habits.
On our part, we can also make simple changes to our habits, starting with those that are either free or can even save us money in the long run.
Here are 7 ways to save money and the environment at the same time — ahead of the Singapore Green Plan.
1. Adopt an energy-efficient lifestyle
Our homes are consuming energy as we sleep, but switching to more energy-efficient appliances can reduce this footprint somewhat.
Last year, NEA launched a $24.8 million Climate-Friendly Household Package dishing out vouchers to households living in 1- to 3-room HDB flats.
These included $150 vouchers to be used on energy-efficient refrigerators, $50 for water-efficient shower fittings and $25 for LED lights.
The vouchers expire on Dec 31, 2023, but you might want to claim and use them before GST gets hiked to 9 per cent.
Even if you don’t qualify for the vouchers, do consider eventually switching to energy-efficient and water-saving appliances. They might be slightly more expensive but can save you money in the long run thanks to lower utility bills.
And if you haven’t already, get PUB to send you a free water saving kit, which includes thimbles you can fit over your tap and shower head so you can better regulate their flow rates.
On the government’s part, they will be aiming to green 80 per cent of Singapore’s buildings by 2030, and have 80 per cent of new buildings be Super Low Energy buildings.
The greenest buildings will also be pushed towards an 80 per cent improvement in energy efficiency. So the next home you buy will hopefully be a more energy-efficient one.
2. Reduce waste and recycle
Our national landfill Pulau Semakau is going to run out of space by 2035, so reducing waste is one of the government’s key aims. The Green Plan aims to reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill by 20 per cent by 2026, and 30 per cent by 2030.
Given the fact that food delivery services have gone from not existing to replacing Grab as Singapore’s social security provider for retrenched folks, weening the population off single-use plastic is going to be an uphill climb.
On the bright side, we have lots of control over how much waste we produce as individuals.
For starters, if you haven’t started separating your trash, it’s not too late to start doing so. Recycling bins can be found at the foot of every HDB and condo block, while landed property dwellers get their own private bins.
The key is to find out what goes inside and what doesn’t, as placing contaminated or non-recyclable items in the bin can also ruin the recyclable materials. Here’s a list of what to put into the recycling bins.
Recycling is great, but reducing waste at the source is a lot better, since creating and recycling materials has a carbon footprint.
Bring your own lunchbox or tingkat when taking away food, buy package-free produce at wet markets and zero waste shops using your own containers, buy second hand rather than new, and refuse flyers and free tissue packets when you’re out and about.
For more ideas for reducing waste, check out local NGO Zero Waste SG’s website.
3. Buy local produce
The Covid-19 pandemic showed us that food security cannot be taken for granted, which is why the government wants Singapore to produce at least 30 per cent of our nutritional needs by 2030. This will be done by developing land to support agriculture, training workers, offering funding and promoting R&D.
As consumers, we can support this plan by buying local whenever we can. Fresh produce grown in Singapore now bears a red logo bearing the text “SG Choose Fresh Local Produce”, and the selection includes vegetables, eggs and fish.
By supporting the local food industry, we’re encouraging more local farmers to jump into the fray, which will make us less reliant on food that has to travel thousands of kilometres to be shipped to us, or produce from countries that engage in detrimental farming practices or overuse pesticides.
4. Walk, cycle or take public transport
Taking public transport, walking or cycling instead of driving or hopping into a Grab car reduces your carbon footprint and improves our air quality.
The government has already forced us to do this by reducing cars’ affordability with the COE system. But in the coming years, there will be more carrots to accompany that big stick, with the cycling path network growing from 420km in 2020 to 1,320km by 2030.
The MRT network will also expand from 230km to 360km by the early 2030s, with the opening of new stations and the development of new lines such as the Thomson-East Coast Line, Jurong Region Line and Cross Island Lines.
5. If you can’t not drive, consider an electric car
Need your own set of wheels? Consider an electric car when the COE on your current vehicle expires.
Electric cars are admittedly more expensive, but they let you save money on petrol and maintenance. The government intends to double the number of electric vehicle charging points by 2030 and has also introduced a few schemes and rebates to make electric vehicles more affordable.
Electric vehicles are still quite expensive and might not be for everyone, but those living in landed property who can charge the vehicles in their own yards are in a great position to consider making the switch.
Another option is to use electric car sharing scheme BlueSG, which is often significantly cheaper than Grab or taxis.
6. Volunteer in sustainability-focused activities
The number of volunteer opportunities for the environment has grown, whether on a long-term or ad-hoc basis. Here are some ways you can contribute:
- Zero Waste SG – This organisation promotes the reduction of food, plastic and organisational waste. They have volunteer opportunities for a wide range of profiles, from photographers and web or graphic designers to finance professionals and trainers.
- Plastic-Lite Singapore – This organisation aims to reduce plastic waste through initiatives like reusable bag sharing and No-Straw Tuesdays. They have both long-term and ad-hoc volunteer opportunities.
- Food From The Heart – This charity distributes leftover food to needy beneficiaries, tackling the problems of food waste and poverty at the same time. If you have a vehicle, you can help to deliver bread and food packs, otherwise you can help out with sorting and packing or participate in their events.
- The Food Bank Singapore – They run a Fresh Food Truck (FFT) project which salvages “ugly” fruits and vegetables, which would otherwise be wasted, and then distributes them to the needy. They are looking for groups of up to ten volunteers, which can be perfect for corporate volunteers or groups of friends and family.
- National Environment Agency – Get involved in organising cleanups, events to raise public awareness on sustainable living and dengue prevention checks.
- Singapore Environment Council – Their Earth Helpers programme organises a variety of environment-related activities.
- Beach clean-ups with various organisations – Before all that plastic waste makes its way into the ocean, participate in a friendly group clean-up with Trash Hero Singapore, International Coastal Cleanup Singapore, Green Nudge, Seven Clean Seas and Ocean Purpose Project.
Bonus: By spending your free time volunteering with social enterprises and NGOs — rather than cafe-hopping or splurging on staycations — you save a lot of money too.
With your support, you’re also indirectly helping to promote opportunities in sustainable industries and create more jobs for Singaporeans, which are aims of the Green Plan.
7. Get funding for your green startup
Having a job that actually benefits the earth might not be so impossible after all!
The $50 million SG Eco Fund is a government grant set up to support projects that advance environmental sustainability and involve the community. You can apply as an individual, a group of individuals or a Singapore-registered organisation.
If your application is accepted, you can receive up to 80 per cent of your supportable costs (including venue rental, logistics and transportation) for up to three years, capped at $1 million.
This article was first published in MoneySmart.