Could you tell us about Tingkat Heroes and your motivations for initiating it?
My project had a simple objective of reducing waste at NUS. I went for exchange in Germany in AY1617 Semester 2 and living like a local, bring my own grocery bag (as they charge for plastic bags), having the chance to take a module on Energy Law in the European Union (although I was an Economics student!) made me acutely aware of my consumption habits and appreciate how important it was to be live more responsibly and sustainably.
Coming back home, I was frustrated with the rampant use of disposables and plastic bags. I started bringing my own bottle and containers to takeaway food, but I was still unhappy with the status quo. One night, I reflected and decided I could turn my frustration into constructive proposals. I wrote to the NUS President, Prof Tan Eng Chye, on what could be done to reduce disposables use at NUS. I committed myself to a long term journey.
What was the impact of your project?
I organised NUS first Zero Waste Fest in January 2018 at The Deck and worked with the fruit juice uncle to implement a disposable charge on disposable cups. He also brought in reusable cups to support the initiative. Uncle shared candidly that he appreciated when people drink fruit juice from a glass cup and bringing that back was meaningful to him. He used to provide glass cups in the first 35 years of his operations but made the switch to plastic cup in part, due to fast culture. I worked with OES and OCA on the above initiatives, I am grateful for the support I received from he management. When we implemented the charge on disposables, patrons chose reusables more often, showing how effective a charge can be as opposed to a subsidy (similar to what I experience in Germany with plastic bags)
I also worked with OHS to remove the use of disposables in the halls & residences, they even provided residents their own set of reusables in the welcome package for AY1819.
I knew I wanted to change policies to achieve impact at scale, and am glad to have contributed.
What challenges did you face while working on it and what motivated you to keep going?
I did all these in my last semester of school, hence balancing my thesis, being a teaching assistant and all the ground work I had to do, running around getting approvals, convincing partners and decision makers to come onboard my initiative was not easy. What motivated me were the enlightened leaders I got to work with and knowing I was not alone in pushing for a more sustainable campus.
Are there any recent developments or updates to your project?
Since I graduated, I have also organised a Sustainability Camp for the public, a charity Christmas dinner with would-be food waste in partnership with MasterChef Zander Ng, TreeDots and DBS, facilitated for the environment version of Youth Convo (by MCCY and NYC), was on a panel discussion with Minister Masagos for an event by Eurasian Association and NUS first eco-fest in January 2019!
Are there any other projects you have worked/are working on?
Now I am curating new content and partnerships on my Instagram @tingkats.sg, where most of my initiatives are documented :)
I got a scholarship to attend Smith School Enterprise and the Environment Summer School (University of Oxford) in July 2019 and I am looking forward to it!
What are your fondest memories of NUS?
Leading the rugby team, staying in Temasek and Eusoff hall and Deck YTF!
What have you been up to since you graduated from NUS?
I am working at Sentosa Development Corporation now and will be embarking on my Masters in Environmental Management come August 2019 at NUS.