The Green Generation
East Coast Primary School student, Kim Navatey. beat 4,000 other participants to win the Green Carpet Awards 2012. Her winning entry of leaves with holes bored by insects demonstrated the symbiotic relationship between plants and the animal kingdom. The awards were organised by World Marketing Group, to raise awareness of environmental conservation among students.
Sustaining the environment has become a rallying point for Singapore’s youths who are leading the charge of the Green Brigade.
By Cynthia Chung
ingapore’s youth are a green-minded lot. They are either actively participating in environmental sustainability efforts such as experiential camps like H3ROES, a collaboration between Canon and National Environment Agency (NEA) that aims to educate secondary students on green issues, or raising public awareness for our natural habitats and getting involved in conservation activities through the Green Carpet Initiative.
Fifteen-year-old Husainah binte Mohammed Ali is one of 20 nominees whose work was shortlisted from 5,000 photographic and journalistic entries in the Green Carpet Awards in July 2013. The ceremony marked the finale of the year-long Green Carpet Initiative that promotes environmental education amongst the young.
Wielding digital cameras, students embarked on adventure trails at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Pasir Ris Mangroves, the Sembcorp Forest of the Giants, and Labrador Park. They were given carte blanche to photograph whatever inspired them, prepare short essays, and articulate their unique photographic perspective.
Husainah’s nominated photograph showed a smaller-thanaverage monitor lizard bobbing with gusto in the marshland waters of Sungei Buloh, barely able to keep its head above the water.
More Environmentally Conscious
For Husainah, monitor lizards hold her fascination. “They’re getting smaller every year,” observes the teenager from Madrasah Al-Arabiah Al-Islamiah. “I’m worried about them I think they’re not thriving because their environment is increasingly polluted.”
Husainah has been going to the gazetted wetlands with her family since she was a mere tyke, and is troubled by its present state.
“There is plastic everywhere,” says a concerned Husainah. “I saw a hermit crab, and it was struggling to escape from under one of the plastic wraps. Plastic is not biodegradable — it will be there long after we aren’t.”
An awareness of how our actions can adversely impact an animal’s natural habitat is what underscores the intent of the Green Carpet Initiative, says its chairman Jim Huang.
“This emotional connection enables the kids to empathise and say, ‘yes, I want to save the penguins, I want to save the polar bears, because they are facing this problem, because I can imagine myself in their shoes and it’s very cruel and very sad,’” Huang says.
“This emotional connection enables the kids to empathise and say, ‘yes, I want to save the penguins, I want to save the polar bears, because they are facing this problem, because I can imagine myself in their shoes and it’s very cruel and very sad,“
— Jim Huang, Chairman, the Green Carpet Initiative
Rani Alagappan (third from left) and her friends Lim Weixiang, Nur Safwannah, and Lau Jing Xuan of Chong Boon Secondary School jump for joy when their teacher Madam Sarah Toh announced that they had been awarded the top prize in H3ROES’ Sustainability Projects Competition 2013.
To date, H3ROES has trained 147 students from 44 secondary schools since its inception in 2011 via its five-day experiential camps on ecological sustainability and waste management. Held at the Sustainable Living Kampung, the base for the NGO Ground-Up Initiative at Bottle Tree Park in Yishun, these youth also received instruction in leadership, stewardship, social media and photography.
Sixteen-year-old Tan Zhi Rui, from River Valley High in Jurong West, was one of the students involved.
The camp was divided into two segments: one on environmental conservation; the other on social campaigning. Students were told to expand upon their ecological perspective — from 3Rs to the 6Rs: Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair and Recycle.
“We were taught how to mix soil and compost…and how to plant and nurture a tree,” Zhi Rui says. “It gave urban-dwellers like me a chance to get closer to nature.”
Nur Al’ Husainah binte Mohammed Ali proudly displaying her nominated photograph of a monitor lizard taken at Sungei Buloh marshlands. Husainah’s entry was shortlisted from more than 5,000 photographic and journalistic entries in the Green Carpet Awards in July 2013.
“We were taught how to mix soil and compost … and how to plant and revive a tree. It gave urban-dwellers like me a chance to get closer to nature.”
— Tan Zhi Rui, River Valley High
Students putting their hands to the plough under an initiative called H3ROES, a collaboration between Canon and the National Environment Agency. They attend an environmental boot camp, where they design and implement green activities.
But it was the social campaigning aspect — through which students were tutored in social media tools and photography tips that got the teenager excited. “One of the movements shown to us involved a flash mob,” she enthuses. “That was something very exciting for me, because I could feel the passion and groove of the dancers.”
Go the Extra Mile
After the five-day environmental boot-camp, the students were tasked to initiate schemes in their schools based on their experiences. Their outreach efforts were then judged for sustainability, practicality and creativity.
Rani Alagappan, 14, is a student at Chong Boon Secondary in Ang Mo Kio, which bagged the winning entry in H3ROES’ sustainability contest in 2013. She and her cohorts saw a need to reduce textile waste. She notes, “We only wear about 30% of our clothes regularly.” They started a collection of used clothes and sold it to raise funds for charity.
Rani and her friends also created a personal website and Facebook page to upload how-to videos on breathing new life into old clothes. By creating the online tutorials, they picked up new IT skills, such as learning how to navigate Prezi software to create slide presentations that sizzle and pop.
The students of Chong Boon Secondary School took up the mantle of the ‘Green Generation’ to organise a flea market and a ‘green’ workshop for 30 students from Our Lady of Good Counsel Primary, where they gave demonstrations on how to turn clothes into hip bags or friendship bracelets.
Over at River Valley High in Boon Lay, H3ROES graduates came up with a plan to ‘upcycle’ used phone covers and transform them into luggage tags, accompanied by the tagline: ‘One Man’s Trash Can Be Another Man’s Treasure’.
River Valley High students and Environmental Society members created a 16m by 12m montage made up of used clothing collected from the Boon Lay Recycling Outreach programme. This art piece was created in conjunction with the International Day of Biological Diversity on 22 May 2013. The clothes were later donated to the United Nations Development Fund for Women and distributed to women and children in developing countries. The objective of this endeavour was to groom youths on environmental stewardship and accountability.
However , there is still much to be done to inculcate a ‘green’ mindset among Singaporeans, says Shermaine Tan Xue Min of Dunman High, another graduate of 2013’s H3ROES course.
Tan now carefully weighs every purchase she makes “because a lot of resources go into producing these goods”. She also totes her own reusable bag during grocery runs, and goes around switching off lights and electrical appliances.
“It is not easy for people to change their habits (as) it would affect their lifestyles,” explains the 15-year-old, who has become more environmentally cognisant. “In such a prosperous country, resources are abundant, so people usually take things for granted.”
Setting Out Right
Environmental boot camps like the Canon-NEA H3ROES programme is one of many initiatives that will help to nurture the next generation of green heroes. Active participation amongst the young is at the crux of environmental education, says Green Carpet’s Jim Huang.
“It’s easier to set children on the right path early rather than having to correct them later in life.”
“We’re engaging them — our next generation — in this open dialogue, when they get to ask the questions, when they get to ask us ‘why?’” says Huang. “Why do we have to save the environment?”
Khin Rati San of Xishan Primary in Yishun has become more aware of the negative impacts of trash on the environment.
Khin Rati San of Xishan Primary School (extreme left) showing employees of SingPost snapshots of a butterfly taken in Sungei Buloh on an adventure trail.
“It is not easy for people to change their habits (as) it would affect their lifestyles…. In such a prosperous country, resources are abundant, so people usually take things for granted.”
— Shermaine Tan Xue Min
H3ROES participants at River Valley High in Boon Lay demonstrating how to “upcycle” used phone covers into hip-looking luggage tags with ribbons, stickers, sequins and plastic flowers.
“There was litter all around it,” the teenager says of an orange-speckled winged butterfly. “Plastic bags, aluminium cans, paper, tissue, food wrappers … but I was struck by its beauty,” says the secondary four student whose shot of the insect alighting tenuously on a leaf won ‘Best Photograph’ at the 2013 Green Carpet Awards.
“Now I pick up trash everywhere I go, and tell my friends to do the same,” says Khin Rati San, a Singaporean permanent resident from Myanmar.
“We can all do our part, one person at a time,” says Husainah, who expresses hope that sustainability is attainable sooner than expected, for an increasing number of younger green heroes.
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