Climate change is real and it’s happening fast. Every day, our activities drive up the Earth’s temperature, causing irreversible damage to the planet. From blasting the aircon to tossing perfectly usable clothes, our actions are pushing the Earth closer to its tipping point.
Singapore is not spared from the effects of climate change either. According to one study, our island is one of the top 100 cities facing extreme risks from climate change.
But it’s not all bad news here. It’s still possible to make a difference in the fight against climate change with individual actions that start at home. From rethinking your laundry routine to redesigning your home, these 13 ideas not only provide a roadmap for a more sustainable household and lifestyle, but they can also help save you some money, too!
1. Recycle household waste and electronic products.
Recycling is the easiest way to save the environment and reduce the amount of waste that ends up at the landfill. All you have to do is separate your home waste into recyclables and non-recyclables.
Since 2001, all public housing estates in Singapore have been equipped with large blue recycling bins. Things you can recycle include glass bottles, cardboard, and paper. If you’re not sure, simply look for the recycling symbol on the product packaging.
Recycling e-waste: Though you can’t toss your electronics in the blue bin, you can still recycle electronic appliances and batteries at various collection centres around the island. For example, you can recycle most electronic or electrical items like laptops, mobile phones, and desk fans at City Square Mall. Or you can also walk into IKEA to recycle light bulbs, fluorescent tubes, rechargeable batteries, or power banks.
Those one-time use alkaline batteries for your aircon or remote controller cannot be recycled in Singapore yet. But for now, they are safe enough to be discarded in the regular green bins.
2. Redesign your home to be more eco-friendly.
Using materials like stone and porcelain will help keep your home naturally cool, reducing aircon usage. If you have large windows, installing tinting is an inexpensive way of keeping the sun from heating up your home.
Your wall colour also affects the temperature in your home. Always choose light and white shades of paint for a cooler home. These colours are good at reflecting the sun’s heat from the home: white, for example, can cut heat by 35% than if you had dark-coloured walls.
3. Reduce your food waste.
Food waste is a big problem. Last year, Singapore wasted 665,000 tonnes of food. During the circuit breaker, Singaporeans started hoarding excess food supplies. But buying more than what you need will cause food wastage in the long term when the unused food expires.
Disposed food creates methane, which is the most potent form of greenhouse gas. Methane has 80 times more warming power than carbon dioxide, posing severe climate change risks to the Earth.
If you have food that you fear might go to waste, organisations such as The Food Bank Singapore collect unused food.
4. Try composting.
Another way to reduce food waste is to try composting. Research shows that as much as half of the waste in your trash bin can be composted.
To get started, you’ll need a composting bin you can place in the kitchen or on the balcony. If you want some expert advice, there are community gardens and groups that practise composting around the island. And if you’re looking for more fuel for your compost, check out this map connecting those who want to receive and give food waste.
5. Cut down on the aircon.
Tropical Singapore is hot all year. Most of us cool down with air-conditioners at work, at home, and in schools. But all that power uses a lot of electricity too.
Roughly three-quarters of the electricity in the average Singaporean household is used to power three major appliances – air conditioners (36.7%), water heaters (20.9%) and refrigerators (18.5%).
While the aircon uses about 3,000 watts per day, the humble fan uses only between 10 to 120 watts. So, whenever you can, opt for the fan or go green and open the window for some natural air. It’s also a lot cheaper. If you absolutely cannot live without the aircon, set it at between 25 and 27ºC for the most energy-efficient temperature.
6. Clean or replace your HVAC filters.
A dirty filter on your aircon will make the system work harder and waste energy. Clean or replace your filter every three months. Make sure to use quality filters with a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) of no lower than 8.
7. Give your furniture a second life.
Trying to dispose of furniture or large appliances that are still in working condition? Instead of dumping them, you can always give them away. Contact groups who will pick up your goods and donate to people in need or simply ask around and someone who needs it will likely snap it up. Some groups you can contact include Junk to Clear or Pass It On.
8. Rethink how you do your laundry.
Using warm water to do laundry uses a lot of energy. About 75 per cent of the total energy used for washing a single load of laundry comes from warming the water itself. That’s unnecessary, especially since studies show that washing laundry in cold water is as effective as warm water.
Also, consider ditching your dryer for a clothes rack. The clothes dryer is one of the top power-hungry appliances driving up the electricity bill in your house.
9. Repurpose your household products.
Repurposing everyday items in your home is a great way to save money and the Earth. Some of the things you can repurpose are disposable razors, tissue boxes, glass jars, egg cartons and more. When your disposable razor gets too dull for shaving, you can still use it to remove pills from sweaters, for example. Tissue boxes, glass jars, and egg cartons can be used as alternative storage options if you’re not recycling them.
10. Go car-free.
When you can, cut down on carbon emissions by going car-free. Opt for the bus or carpool with friends if you have to go somewhere far or if the weather is too unbearable. When the skies are blue and the temperature is cooler, you can even cycle or walk too. Singapore has cycling routes that connect the entire country via the Park Connector Network.
11. Use water-saving devices at home.
Fit water-saving devices on your sinks or showerheads so that you use less water each time you take a shower.
If you don’t have a water-efficient tap at home, you can ask for a free water-saving kit from PUB. The kit comes with thimbles that regulate the faucet and showerhead flow and can help you reduce as much as 5% of your monthly water consumption.
12. Go digital with your readings.
Go green by reading digital versions of newspaper and magazine content. Most publications today offer an online version of their content and often for cheaper. Not only will you save trees, but you’ll save money too.
What’s more, you can even access the e-versions of our newspapers on the National Library Board’s website with your free library account.
13. Unplug electronic devices when not in use.
Appliances that appear to be ‘off’ are still drawing power if they remain plugged in. Things like your cable TV box and laptops may use almost as much energy when they are switched off but plugged in as when they are actually on. The same goes for those phone chargers and toothbrush chargers. These devices, when plugged in, continue to use power. So unplug your appliances or switch off your wall sockets and you can also save on your electricity bills.
Remember that climate change is happening around the world and Singapore is not spared from its effects. Singapore is an island with low-lying shorelines, putting us at a higher risk of rising sea levels. These little steps may not seem like much, but even the slightest effort will help in saving the Earth.