We challenged ourselves to a full week without using disposable plastic products—plastic bags to plastic straws, none allowed. Struggles, triumphs, lessons and conundrums ahead:
GWEN ONG Deputy Editor
The saying 'old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form' rang loud and clear in my head throughout my weeklong #GoGreen pledge. Although I've generally been mindful about recycling, I do sometimes lapse when it comes to refusing those rustling carrier bags and microwavable plasticware. I blame it on absentmindedness but truth is, it was just easier to make excuses. So, for our eco-challenge, I was adamant to be as "green" as I can. I had a game plan—I just needed to make it a HABIT to be environmentally-friendly. I figured if you practise doing something long enough, it becomes part of you.
While I did good in bringing my own recyclable bags for groceries and food container for tapau, there was another area in which I didn't do too well—reducing my water footprint. For example, when I cook, I like washing up as I go but this means that I tend to use more water than if I were to wash everything up at the end. This is a hard thing to change as it is ingrained in my somewhat OCD self to always just clean, clean, clean! My realisation from this challenge is that a new process or way of doing things will not kill me but sticking to my old habits will kill the earth, slowly but surely. If I'm to be a responsible human, I need to cultivate good habits in every areas of my life. Note to self: stop turning the tap on!
JASON LIM Fashion Editor
Disposable plastic ware has become so ingrained in our day-to-day lives that hardly do we spare a thought to the strain this places on our environment. I have never been conscious of the amount of plastic I use and sincerely believed that a week without would be a cinch. The first few days of the trial were relatively easy—I found that not being able to buy takeaway coffees (I forgot my travel mug every. single. day.) ended up saving me a fair amount of money. I think I may also have dropped a couple of pounds because my fridge at home is full of nothing, so not being able to rely on food delivery services meant no dinners unless I ate out. All these inconveniences only required minor adjustments that had no initial impact on my lifestyle—I was having fun and I felt good about what we were trying to achieve.
The biggest challenge I discovered as the week wore on was the lack of potable water sources in Kuala Lumpur. I try to drink at least two litres of water everyday, and a full day out of the office without being able to refill or purchase drinkable water left me very thirsty and crotchety. Every other issue: from not using plastic utensils or straws, to opting not to have a coffee-to-go were all easy matters to resolve—all it required was a little mindfulness and planning ahead. But the lack of water fountains (I'm a little unsure of refilling my water bottle straight from the tap) was something that I really struggled with and short of developing humps for storage, I struggle to think of an easy fix. All suggestions welcome.
RACHEL AU Senior Lifestyle Writer
Initial thoughts: The Earth is dying; Mother Nature needs our help; It's time to take the first step to making a difference; No plastic, no purchasing items that uses biodegradable packaging, etc. It'll be fine. Having lived in Australia for almost two years, I'm quite well-trained in carrying tiny reusable bags for my groceries and other knick knacks from my shopping. I started using my own water bottle instead of buying drinks. For the first half of that week, I could proudly say I was acing the challenge. Then my resolve was challenged at the grocer's near our office. I really wanted kueh but it was packed in a plastic container. My faith was not strong enough. At our office party on Friday, I used paper plates, thinking it was recyclable. Then, I saw Gwen with a proper-washable-plate. I failed once more.
Final thoughts: It's harder than it seems because leading a sustainable lifestyle isn't just about using tote bags and saying no to plastic straws. Just because something is made from paper doesn't mean there isn't a better, more eco-friendly option. And above all, the fate of this planet is more important than kueh.
WEI YEEN Fashion and Beauty Writer
My first thought upon getting the #GoGreen-week memo was, "OMG, where do I get metal straws?!" Coming from someone who wears a lot of lipstick and loves her drinks iced, giving up plastic straws didn't seem doable—that is, until I found out how these little unassuming, cylindrical plastic things play a devastating role in suffocating a helpless marine animal. But then I remembered what the late Fay Khoo (RIP, <3) taught us—that everything begins with the choices you make.
The past week had me making a conscious decision to order hot drinks instead, and also to consume it in-store instead of having it in a takeaway cup; along with making my own cuppa joe in the office on a daily basis. My trusty tiffin carrier had its permanent spot on my desk as well, serving as a nifty container for days I needed to tapau lunch back to the office. Prior to this, I already had a stash of recyclable tote bags in my car boot, but I had to keep reminding myself to bring it along in my purse—or better yet, making sure I don't leave the house without one in my bag. Last week required real effort to stop myself from resuming my usual habits of straw-sipping and plastic-bag hoarding. But I figured that as a fellow inhabitant of this planet, it'd be selfish to not take up a role in saving it—even if it means making one simple choice of investing in a metal straw. Because who really needs another plastic bag/bottle that would take about 1,000 years to decompose?
TAN SU FEN Writer
The eco-friendly team challenge started off well enough—I managed to refrain from accepting or using disposable containers, both mindfully (finally bringing my own container for lunch takeaways) and by habit (I always have a reusable tote and tumbler with me when I head out)... until one fine Thursday afternoon. Those who know me well will know that I rarely have iced drinks. But the weather was scorching hot that day, so I ordered a cold drink to go with my lunch without thinking much about it. Only after getting home did I realise that I've just broken the rules of the challenge: I used a straw, and contributed to the plastic waste that earth certainly doesn't need. And the scary bit was—it didn't even occur to me as it happened.
That little incident got me thinking about how easy it was to say yes, indirectly or not, to disposable plastics. On the flip side, it also occurred to me how easy it can be for us to make a difference: by being more mindful of our decisions and what we consume. So I faced a little hiccup in the middle of the week, but I learned that with conscious effort, we can be a lot more eco-friendly in our daily habits—it's the least we could do for Mother Nature.
ALYSSA LEE Editorial Assistant
I was doing so well... Until free llao llao happened. There I was, digging into my cup of wonderfully tart froyo when it dawned on me that we were on a throwaway-plastic fast and the bright green spoon I had in my mouth was pretty much 100% plastic and was about to be thrown away. Sure, I could have washed it and kept it for a good 10 years but who are we kidding. Had I formed a habit of using my own carry-and-keep cutlery, I would have refused the plastic spoon in the first place. It's about the sacrifice of convenience. More than relinquishing use of takeaway/throwaway boxes for quick lunches and lazy dinners, it means sacrificing time to wash portable dining sets and tumblers every morning, carrying the extra bulk around daily, forgoing dainty shoulder bags for more utilitarian totes to accommodate that extra bulk; it could almost—God forbid—be at the cost of being fashionable. But it's a price we need to be willing to pay.
Over the week, I faltered the most when I was given things in disposable plastic ware. I could avoid buying them myself—that was easy—but when the boyfriend buys your favourite meal to go and you find it packed in an array of creatively-sized disposable plastic containers, it's a hard choice between breaking his kind heart and breaking the fast. See, I could very well be the most passionate eco-warrior but if all the people around me are unaware that we're in the midst of a war, all the battle cries and swishing swords would hardly amount to anything. We need to make these efforts known, even if that means refusing a whole cup of free llao llao (with unlimited free toppings!). Or, eat it with your fingers and potentially start some very pertinent discussions on the dangers of throwaway plastic on Mother Nature. It's a collective effort; care to join us?
YI SUEN CHONG Digital Designer
Initial thoughts: My mother has always been conscious about environmental issues, and thanks to her, our household has very little throwaway plastic. She always makes it a point to bring her own containers to take away food, she frequently nags us about saving electricity (I have this bad habit of leaving the lights on and falling asleep), and don't even get me started about recycling. So ,when I got this #TeamTries brief, I thought to myself, how hard could it be? I've been doing this at home, surely I can ace it.
Challenge No 1: I left my containers at home and we need to tapau lunch one day. We searched our pantry high and low and finally, managed to find a few plastic containers. Phew, the day is saved. Challenge No 2: I can't have my flat whites to go - the lids are made of plastic. I find this the hardest part as I was so used to taking-away at least three to four cups a week (gasps!). Solution: I could get a KeepCup Espresson! I barely made it through the entire week without buying a single takeaway coffee. But I did and I am immensely proud of myself. Lessons learnt: After the week, I've realised that it really isn't that hard to make more conscious/eco-friendly choices. We could argue that one's effort of buying a recyclable cup would barely make any differences at all, but it's the accumulated effort that counts, right?