Sustainability and environmental responsibility at Tampines House
By Ellie Luckcock, Boarding Houseparent, East Campus
One of the UWC values is to minimise our harmful impact on the environment. This can be interpreted and actioned in many different ways, and throughout UWCSEA East there are regular events, campaigns and activities to help us achieve this. At Tampines House, we try to live sustainably, but in Singapore, where disposables, plastic bags and packaging are ubiquitous, it is not easy to minimise our waste. The Environment and Sustainability (E&S) Committee, made up of Grade 11 and 12 students, have used this year to try and raise awareness within the boarding community around our own waste reduction, with a particular focus on use of disposable plastic.
In February this year, the E&S Committee hosted a showing of the film A Plastic Ocean with sustainable and plastic-free snacks. The turnout was good and this prompted many members of the community (students and staff) to become more aware of their own sustainability practices.
A key issue addressed in the house was the quantity of plastic waste produced by takeaway hawker packaging and deliveries. It was soon evident that all it took was a bit of self-awareness and some friendly peer pressure to encourage better practice from most of the community. Now many more choose to eat at the hawker or bring their own box, bring their own shopping bags, and request for food and deliveries without disposable plastic. We hope to continue this positive behaviour into next year and beyond.
Unfortunately, changing our own daily practices can feel like a tiny impact on the full scale of the global issue. With more than eight million tons of plastic going into the ocean every year, it is estimated there will be more plastic than fish by 2050. Microplastics and toxins from plastics have entered the food chain and threaten human health.
On Earth Day (22 April) some members of the boarding house saw this issue first hand during a beach clean-up at Coney Island. Through the event organised by Guardians of Mother Earth, Singapore, we spent two hours clearing as much rubbish as we could from the beach and forest. Whilst we collected 643kg of rubbish that day – primarily plastic bottles, straws, polystyrene, and a few unusual items such as bowling balls and tyres – it felt like we had barely made a dent by the end. But this effort which pushed us to go out into nature, see the local impact of the issue, and care for the planet in any way we could, was rewarding and a clear reminder of what can be done.
In August, a larger group of boarders will take part in another beach clean-up during the Tampines House orientation. We hope that this will start off the new year with some reflection on the plastic waste problem, and what we can personally do to reduce it.