On the Saturday morning of 18th February 2017, a busload of 33 seniors slowly made its way into the Tzu Chi Eco-Awareness Centre. The elderly folks, who reside in the Chong Pang neighbourhood of Yishun, had signed up for an educational cum experiential recycling tour (organized by Chong Pang Community Club) held at the centre.
For the comfort of the 33 elderly visitors, a group of Tzu Chi volunteers had arrived an hour earlier to divide the Eco-Awareness Centre into three zones.
“Oh! This thing also can be recycled!” Some of the residents couldn’t help but express shock and wonder about the items that can be recycled when the volunteers were explaining how recycling materials can be sorted.
How can one differentiate aluminium cans from metal cans? A volunteer used a piece of magnet and demonstrated this simple sorting tool ‒ cans that can be magnetized are metallic and vice versa. The residents nodded their heads in agreement, and then began to share their personal recycling experiences at home.
“I would place separate piles of old clothes and old newspapers outside my door, awaiting for people to come and collect,” shared Mdm Wu Sai Jiao.
Most people shared similar experiences with Mdm Wu, by placing used items for recycling outside their homes. This outing was an eye-opener, and everyone wanted to try their hands at sorting recyclables. Whenever they came across an unfamiliar item, they immediately sought the advice of the volunteers. After experiencing recycling first-hand, many realised that many items they use in daily life can be recycled.
Volunteer Li Jin Xing, also shared with everyone a video on the harmful environmental effects of plastic bags. He encouraged everyone to use reusable food containers and bags when they are out shopping so as to cut down on the use of plastics. The residents listened intently and some even brought out their own reusable shopping bags to show others.
When she went grocery shopping, Mdm Wu would use recycling bags for fruits and plastic bags for vegetables. But after watching the video, she decided to use reusable bags for both fruits and vegetables so as to reduce her use of plastic bags.
Volunteers also led participants in signing the lively and catchy Tzu Chi recycling song, “Everyone Can Recycle”, in the hope that the visiting residents of Chong Pang can incorporate recycling into their daily life and leave a better environmental legacy for the next generation.
Three highly spirited Tzu Chi recycling volunteers, who are already in their 70s, shared in Hokkien how recycling had impacted their lives and how they met many volunteer friends. Some even looked after grandchildren at home while being active volunteers. To encourage the residents, one of them even said, “Do not be afraid of not knowing anything, the people here will always teach patiently, so, over time, you can also do it.” She received thunderous applause after her sharing.
Another volunteer, Lin Li Fang, a TCM doctor, also shared that eating vegetarian not only helps to protect the environment, but can help us to maintain a healthier body. In her humorous and relaxed way, she shared many benefits of a vegetarian diet and the nutritional value of various fruits and vegetables.
“I will eat more vegetables, the vegetarian dishes today are really tasty!” Mdm Wu remarked while tucking into her yummy meal. As she happily expressed her desire to eat more vegetables and less meat, she added, “Eating more vegetables is good for the body and easier for digestion.”
The lead IC of Chong Pang Community Club, Lin Ru Ying, said that nowadays, the seniors in Community Clubs are mostly doing indoor activities, so the committee hoped that by organizing such visits, they could have more opportunities for outings and be connected with news and information outside of their community.
“Today’s activity is really great!” one of the seniors exclaimed happily.
The outing was an eye opener for the elderly folks, and they left the outing with much joy and recycling knowledge.