NUS students Chen Lin and Tan Weiliang, together with alumna Ms Kia Jie Hui, were presented with the EcoFriend Award 2017 on 20 September by the National Environment Agency for their outstanding effort in protecting the environment.
Year 3 NUS Civil Engineering student Chen Lin, who won the Award under the Youth & Students category, has been passionate about saving the environment since she went on a field trip to Christmas Island. She was dismayed to see that the remote, sparsely populated island was not spared from harm by human activities — native species threatened by extinction, forests cleared for phosphorus mining and plastic waste washed up on the shores. “I was boggled by how the impact of human activity on the environment is so extensive and gradually started taking an interest in and advocating for environmental issues,” she said.
Formerly Vice President of NUS Students Against Violation of the Earth (SAVE), Chen Lin co-developed Bento Bash, an initiative for the rental of lunchboxes on campus in 2016. Some 300 lunchboxes were rented within three days during the launch, reducing the use of disposable takeaway containers by 50 per cent.
Chen Lin is particularly keen on encouraging the use of second-hand items. One of her advocacy platforms is Green Bazaar, an annual event by SAVE that allows members of the NUS community to exchange their second-hand clothing for others. “I think there is a lot of potential in this concept as we are not only reducing the need for new items, we are also providing an alternative to trashing old items,” explained Chen Lin.
Final year Yale-NUS College (Yale-NUS) student and fellow Award winner Tan Weiliang is a former President of I’dECO, a Yale-NUS sustainability student group. He co-created the group’s Singapore Environmental Action and Leadership programme to improve environmental education in Singapore, after he saw how environmental education from a young age inculcated a culture of sustainability while he was on a social impact fellowship to Scandinavia.
He also led a number of l’dECO projects, including the Sustainability Blueprint which saw the group conducting research on global best practices of campus sustainability and proposing policy changes. Their Dining Hall Report 2015 has led to significant improvements at Yale-NUS, such as eliminating the use of trays, smaller plate sizes, separation of food and other waste as well as a buffet layout to minimise food waste.
Weiliang and his team presented a proposal on the Sustainable Solutions Network (SSN) in 2015 at the Global University Climate Forum, organised by the International Alliance of Research Universities, in Paris. The SSN connects students, academics, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and corporations, through initiatives such as networking events, conferences as well as an online portal. The team was in the process of registering SSN as an NGO, shared Weiliang.
Speaking of his commitment to environmentalism, Weiliang said, “Environmental problems determine our collective future. I want to play my part and contribute meaningful ideas to the environmental movement so that we can all move towards a cleaner and greener future.”
Ms Kia Jie Hui, who graduated from NUS Business School and University Scholars Programme, was a recipient of the EcoFriend Award under the Non-Government Organisation and Grassroots Volunteers category. Ms Kia co-founded Save That Pen in 2010 to give used and discarded pens a new lease of life by refurbishing refillable pens or converting non-refillable ones into useful items such as stationery holders. Originally a campus initiative, it now sees participation from more than 50 educational institutions and community groups across Singapore. To date, the group has collected more than 85,000 used or unwanted pens, with some 10,000 refurbished pens redistributed to underprivileged students in Singapore and various countries in the region.