No age barrier in contributing to sustainability efforts here

Experts say older people are just as active in doing their part for the environment

The Government's recent announcement that it will work on a charging model for disposable carrier bags at supermarkets has cast the spotlight on Singapore's current environmental efforts, which often seem to be associated with the younger generation.

But experts said while the actions of younger people may be more visible through social media, older people, including retirees, are just as active in being sustainable in their daily activities.

National University of Singapore (NUS) sociologist Tan Ern Ser said although education has much to do with whether one practises sustainability, older people, some of whom have lower formal education than young people, may learn about sustainability as they watch television and participate in community activities that expose them to civic-minded messages.

One such person is Ms Seah Lang Ing, 70, a retiree who used to be part of the aircraft interior cleaning department for Sats at Changi Airport.

She became interested in the environmental cause through news reports about promoting sustainability.

She was one of 14 older people contributing to the environmental movement here whom The Straits Times spoke to.

Ms Seah joins beach clean-ups by SG Beach Warriors, a community that promotes awareness of marine pollution.

Since 2019, Ms Seah, who lives in Tampines, has been attending the three-hour sessions two to three times a month at Changi Beach, Coney Island or Yishun Dam.

"It's very tiring. But since I still have the strength, I want to do something meaningful. I will continue to go until I'm not able to any more," she said.


Mr Lim Hum Leng, 60, a clerk who does beach clean-ups once a month, began using reusable bags to buy food in 2019, after his daughter Amanda, 27, an auditor, reminded him to.

He said: "If we don't treat the earth well, future generations, like my daughter and son, will have to pay the price."

Some older people, like Ms Liow Oi Lian, 57, do their part for the environment by buying "ugly food", consuming the edible portions and using the rest for composting.

Ms Liow, who lives in a Tampines flat, began composting in 2013 to reduce food waste and regenerate garden soil.

The freelance facilitator for gardening and horticulture therapy activities is one of the residents who work at a community garden near her block and uses the compost there.

"In the beginning, people would laugh at me and say I had nothing better to do," she said.

Still, she continues to share information about her efforts and food waste issues on Facebook, to raise awareness and inspire more to adopt a carbon-conscious lifestyle.


NUS Energy Studies Institute research fellow Melissa Low said: "There seem to be people across all ages and socio-economic backgrounds who find it difficult to switch and change their habits.

"We all need to be conscious consumers in an increasingly carbon-constrained world."

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.