On 30th September 2018, the official launching of the Tzu Chi Eco-Awareness Centre in Woodlands was witnessed by many visitors and guests. During the ceremony, the Environment and Water Resources Minister, Masagos Zulkifli, and Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore)’s CEO, Low Swee Seh, placed two logos, one indicating the Eco-Awareness Centre and the other, the Tzu Chi Foundation, onto a model of Singapore that was made with more than 400 used PET bottles, signifying a new milestone for the four-year-old Eco-Awareness Centre.
Minister Masagos Zulkifli said in his opening speech that the 5R principle of “Refuse, Reuse, Reduce, Repair, and Recycle” advocated by Tzu Chi aligns with the Zero Waste objective of the Sustainable Singapore Development Blueprint. He highlighted that the public could learn how to integrate these environmental concepts into their daily lives and practise sorting their trash for recycling. He was very pleased with Tzu Chi’s efforts in promoting environmental conservation to school students, encouraging and guiding senior citizens to do recycling, and promoting green living together with the CDCs.
After taking a tour around the various exhibition zones at the Eco-Awareness Centre, he said he was happy to see that Tzu Chi has established such a centre in Singapore to show the residents how trash pollution is affecting Singapore and the world. He stressed that all it takes is a simple action for recyclable trash to be turned into useful resources, and commented that the Eco-Awareness Centre is a wonderful place and that he hoped more people would visit the Centre to find out more about recycling and environment protection.
Creatively designed interactive displays
In his speech at the launching ceremony, Tzu Chi Singapore’s CEO, Low Swee Seh, revealed that the first Tzu Chi recycling point started operating in 1999 in Jurong East, and currently, there are 39 such community recycling points island-wide.
“To mark Tzu Chi Singapore’s 25th anniversary this year, we have revamped our Eco-Awareness Centre and added more interactive platforms in it. With the launch of the Centre, Tzu Chi aims to reach out to more of the younger generation and guide them towards an eco-friendly lifestyle,” he said.
He also expressed special thanks to Dr. Teo Ho Pin, the mayor of the Northwest District, for his strong support, which had allowed Tzu Chi to start several recycling points in the area.
The newly renovated Eco-Awareness Centre explains the impact of people’s common choices in fashion, food and housing on the environment in an interactive manner, sending a clear message to the public that environmental protection has to start from each and every individual.
Standing in front of a colourful "breakfast truck", a visitor picked up a “beef burger” and scanned the barcode below. After a beep sound, the carbon footprint resulting from producing the hamburger was displayed on a screen—4.5 kg of carbon dioxide. The consumption of one burger every day will result in a total of 1657 kilograms of carbon dioxide being generated in a year, and this means that 138 trees have to be planted to offset the pollution.
“It is really apt to use technology to show visitors the amount of carbon footprint generated by their food choices and the number of trees required to offset the pollution,” remarked Brandon Low Lip Wee, the deputy director of the Community & Outreach Department (3P Network Division) of the National Environment Agency (NEA).
He witnessed how Tzu Chi volunteers sorted trash for recycling on the spot, which allowed people to see how recycling work can be done. “All it takes is a little effort from everyone to make this world a much beautiful place,” he remarked.
Next to the garbage sorting zone was the “Happy Farm”. There was a life-size display of a cow standing on grassland, and visitors could feed the cow, whose belly would then swell, causing the animal to pass out gas. The visitors learned that methane released from cattle burping and flatulence has a greenhouse effect 20 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. The meat, egg and dairy industries also emit 65% of the world's nitrous oxide, which is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Ocean plastic pollution
The “Ocean World” zone depicts beautiful images of dolphins swimming freely in the deep blue ocean. The underwater world is such a refreshing sight to behold! But when the visitors looked up above their heads, they saw turtles and children being surrounded by trash in the sea. As they looked down at the bottom of the “sea”, they were greeted by a vast stretch of bleached corals and all kinds of rubbish.
The display on marine and micro-plastic pollution struck a deep chord with the general manager of Fraser & Neave (F&N), Jennifer See. She commented that the simple display would be very effective in raising the environmental awareness of people in Singapore, and expressed her hope for F&N to cooperate with Tzu Chi to do more to promote environmental education to the public, starting from the younger generation and communities.
“Global warming is very real. We ourselves can also feel that it’s getting hotter in Singapore each year, and therefore, immediate action has to be taken to learn more about environmental protection. Tzu Chi educates the public effectively, letting everyone know how to take practical actions to protect the environment,” shared the F&N manager in charge of the company’s project on sustainability, Nah Kok Chun.
As a beverage manufacturer, F&N is continuously improvising their environmental policies to promote sustainability, such as encouraging the public to recycle, using recycled packaging materials for their products, etc.
Mayor of Northwest CDC Dr. Teo Ho Pin complimented the revamped Eco-Awareness Centre and hoped that more student groups would make study tours there. He felt honoured to have worked with Tzu Chi for the past ten years to promote recycling in his district and was always delighted to see enthusiastic Tzu Chi volunteers guiding residents how to sort recyclables. Their efforts and hard work had significantly increased the quantity of recycled waste.
After hosting the launching ceremony in the morning, the Centre welcomed 39 residents from Hibiscus RC@Sengkang South in the afternoon. Sunny Ong, the vice chairman of the Residents' Committee, is a strong supporter of environmental protection. He has plans for the RC to collaborate with Tzu Chi to establish a second recycling point in Hougang Avenue 8 in November this year. He commented that Tzu Chi has done a great job in protecting the environment, and that his visit to the Eco-Awareness Centre along with the residents from Hougang was very fruitful.
"It is really an eye-opener! Everyone has learned a lot about environmental protection, especially the segment where the volunteers showed our residents how to sort trash for recycling. It’s really very helpful and practical. The best thing is that every resident who came here has learned about recycling,” he said excitedly.
“This exhibition is really awesome, especially the section on fast fashion. It has never occurred to me that colourful and beautiful clothes would pollute the environment. Women love beauty and fashion, but they are unaware of the damage to the environment caused by the textile industry. In order to conserve the environment, I have to reduce the shopping trips organised by the Community Club,” said the RC’s chairman, Maria Lexie, half-jokingly.
On this beautiful Sunday, 105 invited guests and 263 volunteers and members of the public were attended to by 191 Tzu Chi volunteers. After visiting the newly renovated Eco-Awareness Centre, which has been creatively upgraded with a variety of added interactive displays, everyone took to heart the urgent message of conserving our resources and the environment.