This week on Humans of Singapore's Environmental Scene (HOSES), we catch up with Tan Weiliang, a recipient of this year’s National Environment Agency (NEA) EcoFriend Award and a proud member of our SSN team.
What are some of your most memorable projects?
I really enjoyed getting involved in the Singapore Environmental Action and Leadership (SEAL) program, which is an environmental education workshop for junior college students. When I went to Scandinavia to learn about best practices in sustainability, I learned that environmental education from a young age is critical to creating a culture of sustainability. This culture is quite lacking in Singapore.
Jeffrey Tong and I co-founded SEAL as part of I’dECO, the Yale-NUS student environmental group. We developed the 3-day workshop curriculum together, incorporating key concepts of environmental studies and bringing participants on site visits so that they can see how these theories can be applied to different situations in Singapore. On the last day, students are tasked with coming up with meaningful interventions and concrete projects to improve sustainability in Singapore. We hope that they will execute these ideas beyond the workshop. It was actually very encouraging to know that there are enthusiastic and bright young people who are interested in making an impact.
Apart from SEAL, I was also involved in the Sustainability Blueprint Project, which aims to compile a list of best practices in other educational institutions and bring them over to our Yale-NUS campus. I primarily worked on the Dining Hall report. Some changes we made include the separation of food waste and general waste for recycling purposes, reducing plate sizes and removing trays altogether to cut down food waste. We also pushed for a Sustainability Advisory Committee which the school administration agreed to set up. It’s currently in the works.
What environmental hot topics are you interested in?
Over the summer, I did some research on consumer perception in Singapore of genetically modified (GM) food. GM food is very controversial and people have such polarizing opinions. Even in academia...biologists are very supportive, ecologists are usually against it. So I wanted to see if this weird divide is present in the Singapore population, especially since we are quite apathetic over these things and you don’t expect us to be polarised.
Any insights on how we can promote environmental sustainability in Singapore?
In 2015, Jeffrey and I went to Scandinavia for 6 weeks to work on an organic and biodynamic farm. It was a very interesting experience because I had to do weeding for the first time in my life and it was so challenging! Environmental work in Singapore usually takes place in a comfy air-conditioned room…
During this time, we interviewed 25 stakeholders in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, and tried to find out what builds and creates a culture of sustainability. We came up with 4 ideas - environmental education, connectedness of the environmental community (which led to us co-founding SSN!), a more egalitarian society and closeness to nature.
Tell us a random fun fact.
Well I didn’t know how to cycle and cycling is essential if you want to survive in Scandinavia and make the most of their intensive cycling lanes. So I spent one month aggressively learning how to cycle. I would make appointments with friends to cycle, sometimes cycling 3-4 times a week.