Does individual climate action matter?

Spoiler alert: Yes, it does. Eco-Business explains why it matters, and the steps you can take to reduce your environmental impact.

Beach clean up
Every individual choice we make adds up to a broader cultural shift in sustainability. Image: chanintorn_v / Shutterstock

“Reduce, reuse, recycle.” “Go straw-free.” “We all have a part to play.” As climate change looms large as a global emergency, we’ve heard these refrains over and over again. But do these individual actions really matter? 

The statistics speak for themselves: People in Singapore use about 4.8 million plastic items each day, including plastic bags, PET bottles and styrofoam takeaway containers. And if everyone lived like Singaporeans, we would need 3.7 earths to sustain the planet. 

Change on larger scales is only meaningful when there’s genuine buy-in from people. After all, systemic change is built from multiple directions, including our individual choices. So in this piece, Eco-Business proposes five tips for people living in Singapore to reduce your environmental impact.

1. Calculate your environmental footprint.

If you want to cut your carbon footprint, you need to know it in the first place. There are several ways to do this. The Global Footprint Network has devised a calculator to help you find out your “personal overshoot day” — when you have used more from nature than our planet can renew in that entire year.

Locally, the My Carbon Footprint on the SP app is another tool. The calculator helps you to identify where you leave the biggest impact: Home, waste, food, spending habits, daily commute, and holiday travels. It also allows you to compare your monthly consumption to the national average.

SP Digital Carbon Footprint

Screenshot of the SP App’s carbon footprint calculator.

2. Know your utilities usage.

Did you know that phantom electricity can account for up to 10 per cent of home energy use? Phantom electricity, also known as standby power, is consumed when the electronic appliances in your home — like your microwave or gaming consoles — are switched off but still plugged in. With the SP app’s Consumption Insights function, you can check your home’s meter readings to gain a better idea of your consumption patterns. 

The newly launched Green Goals feature also helps you to stay on track by comparing your energy usage trends with the SG Green Plan 2030, which outlines Singapore’s steps to build a more sustainable future. For example, since the national plan targets to reduce annual energy consumption in existing HDB towns by 15 per cent from 2020 by 2030, the app encourages all users to do the same within their own household.

SP Digital Green Goals

The SP app helps users to see how their monthly electricity consumption fares in the context of national energy targets.

3. Going green can be rewarding — literally.

Leading a sustainable lifestyle does require sacrifices, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. With the rise of ground-up campaigns like BYO Singapore and Project bECOme, a growing number of local eateries have implemented discounts for customers who “Bring Your Own”. Many of these discounts can be found on the SP app which features a wide variety of partners — from coffee and grain bowls to Singapore’s largest vegetarian chain restaurant, Greendot. Get 30 cents off when you opt out of cutleries on foodpanda, or a free topping when you BYO at SaladStop! Discounts even extend to retail stores like sustainable lifestyle store The Green Collective, or handcrafted homeware from local brand Brambe.

For businesses wanting to do your part for sustainability as well, you may enquire about the GreenUP scheme as a partner here

4. “Individual” climate action means striving for systemic change too.

As individuals, we are all part of a larger collective that can help to drive change on a larger scale. Consumer demand, for example, plays a crucial role in accelerating the energy transition. In Singapore, landed property owners and businesses can install solar panels to cut your carbon footprint — the Energy Market Authority has put together a helpful guide on how to do so. According to Sembcorp, a 1,200 kWh/month solar PV system would be equivalent to planting 234 trees in a year. Residential owners could even save up to S$60,000 in total energy costs over 25 years!

Solar power plant, Central Thailand, energy transition

Image: Asian Development Bank / Flickr 

For other consumers, there are still indirect ways to drive demand for solar. You can purchase “green credits” on the SP app to make a direct contribution to renewable energy projects, including one of Singapore’s largest rooftop installations by Belgian logistics firm Katoen Natie. Vietnam’s Krong Pa Solar Farm is another option — this project generates 100 GWh, or 100 million kWh, each year and employs local residents for its operations. 

The app makes it easy to purchase green energy by calculating a percentage of your current household electricity consumption, serving as a Renewable Energy Certificate to offset your household emissions.

5. Collective accountability is crucial.

Finally, remember that you are not alone in this fight. While individual actions may sometimes feel insignificant, roughly 8 in 10 people in Singapore say they are prepared to play their part towards a low carbon future, and your actions all add up to a bigger collective. Find ways to engage with and build Singapore’s green community. For example, you can invite a friend to use the SP app with you — and earn points for the referral. Or, find environmental events through ground-up initiative Lepak In SG’s calendar

As climate journalist Emily Atkins said: “The most harmful lie being spread about climate change today is not that it is fake. It’s that nothing you can do can help save the world.” While we cannot solve the climate crisis alone, saving our planet must be a joint endeavour — and it could start with something as simple as installing an app.

The SP app is available on both the Apple App and Google Play Store.

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