Long before “organic” and “sustainably made” products became retail buzzwords, our grandparents were already doing their bit for the planet. For them, mending, upcycling and being resourceful have always been a way of life.
Here, we help you rediscover trusty tips and life hacks that have served the older generation for decades. Bonus: you can save money (take that, inflation!) and take care of our environment at the same time.
#1 Collect rainwater
But wait, isn’t water a renewable resource? Yes, but using water from the tap also involves energy use from treatment and distribution. So gather up your pails and large containers; rainwater (which we get so much of in Singapore) can be used for watering the plants and washing your bicycle wheels and the car. And you get to save moolahs on your monthly utilities. It’s an all-round win.
#2 Learn to fix things
Got a shirt button that has come loose? A shaky stool? A fan that’s generating some concerning noise? Instead of discarding these items and buying new ones, attempt to fix them first. For a start, hit up YouTube for how-tos on sewing and simple mechanical repair. If you prefer to consult the pros, check out Repair Kopitiam —the team goes to different parts of Singapore on the last Sunday of each month to teach residents how to do their own repairs.
#3 Buy less
Grandpa and grandma weren’t trying to be eco warriors; tight finances compelled them to purchase only items they need. However, mindful buying has the added benefit of using less resources, ranging from the actual material of your product to emissions from manufacturing, logistics and more.
#4 Use public transport… or walk
If you’re just popping over to the nearby suburban mall, leave the car at home and take a feeder bus instead. You will be helping to reduce air pollution while letting up a carpark space for someone who needs it more.
#5 Freeze leftovers
From braise and pasta sauce to roast meats and soups, food that you can’t finish at dinner can be packed and chilled or frozen so you can heat it up again for another time. This will dramatically cut down your food waste —one of the biggest waste streams in Singapore—and single-use packaging consumed from getting your next meal outside.
#6 Mend your soles
Remember cobblers used to be a ubiquitous presence in all our neighbourhoods? These kindly uncles can breathe new life into worn-out soles, and you can support a small business at the same time.
#7 Get your things from a brick-and-mortar shop
Online shopping is extremely convenient, but it comes with environmental drawbacks. There is the huge amount of packaging that is needed to protect your purchases and carbon emissions from delivery (including air freight or shipping in some cases). When you shop in an actual store, like our grandparents did in the good old days, you get to try before you buy so you know the product is exactly right for you. Also, you can skip the plastic and bring your own shopping bag!