Eco-conscious entrepreneurs in Singapore share with us simple, sustainable steps we can take to help save the planet. Even the small wins count!
Sustainable living may sound overwhelming if you don’t know where to start, but you don’t have to overhaul your entire life to go green. Every choice we make affects the environment in some way, so you can get the ball rolling with little swaps and positive changes that minimise your impact on the Earth. We asked 21 entrepreneurs in Singapore for advice on green living, and they came through with fantastic sustainability tips you can incorporate into your everyday life.
Let’s talk about sustainability in Singapore: Useful eco-friendly tips
1. Swap single-use period products for reusable ones
A large amount of non-recyclable plastic is present in traditional sanitary products such as pads and tampons. To live more sustainably, swap out single-use period products for period underwear that’s washable and reusable. You can wear it during WFH days or at night to sleep. Or on those days leading up to your period (because periods like to come when you least expect it and it never feels good walking around with a dry, itchy pad). If you have post-natal bladder leaks and constantly wear a panty liner, period underwear works just as efficiently. And it’s much kinder to the environment.
– Jamie Choon, founder of Mooncheeks Period Underwear
2. Show love to pre-loved and package-free goods
My family and I started our low-waste journey in 2018. We purchase pre-loved items instead of new ones wherever possible. I love using Carousell or even Facebook marketplace for items we need like clothing and books. We also go for reusables instead of single-use items. For example, cloth napkins instead of kitchen paper towels, reusable containers to pack leftovers, and a reusable water bottle to curb the need to purchase packaged water. Also, have a meal plan, use leftovers creatively, and buy package-free produce to reduce food waste. We love supporting Unpackt.
– Dr. Aparna Chari Sundar, certified KonMari consultant and Montessori positive parenting coach at Global Mindful Journey
3. Try solid soap bars
We’ve been using solid shampoo bars in our family for years now – they’re easy to use and effective cleaners. My favourite is from the local brand Oasis Beauty Kitchen. We’ve also gone from liquid soaps to solid form – for foaming hand wash, laundry soap, and household cleaners. Buying the concentrated form of what you need and adding water at home is a no-brainer. I get all these swaps from The Green Collective.
We can’t get away without using rubbish bags so we use food bags as rubbish holders as much as possible. The most common in our household is the standard sandwich bag – they hold a lot of rubbish and come with their own tie to secure the bag before throwing it down the chute!
– Jennifer Gregory, director of Indosole Singapore
4. Ditch those shampoo bottles
Did you know one bar of solid shampoo can replace between two to three bottles? That’s because 90% of liquid shampoo is usually water. Solid shampoos only contain active ingredients, proteins, luscious butter and oils, and sometimes botanicals. Of course, they don’t come with plastic bottles, so they don’t generate plastic waste. After you finish it, nothing is left.
Solid shampoos are usually free of parabens, sulfates, and silicones. So they offer benefits to the environment and health benefits to your hair. This brought me to study and work on creating my own recipes for handmade solid shampoos with ingredients that not only respect the environment but also my body.
– Susan Calderon Urbina, founder of Sacha Botanicals
5. Reduce paper use and bring bags for grocery shopping
Our mantra in this area is “progress, not perfection” as we make each small step. The key changes we’ve made at our office are: choosing non-centralised air-cons, using non-disposable cups or cutlery made available in the pantry, and reducing our paper use.
On a personal level, a reusable water bottle, a coffee cup and a reusable cloth bag in my purse are small shifts in my daily habits that I implemented with ease. Silicon zip locks and cloth bags also come along when I go grocery shopping at the markets!
– Puja Surtani, director of Eastern Scent
6. Go vegetarian, avoid takeaways and take public transportation
Carry your own water bottle and bag to reduce your reliance on single-use plastics. Start with one day a week on a vegetarian diet, and gradually increase the frequency. Eating less meat can significantly reduce your carbon footprint and improve your health.
Avoid takeaways or carry your own box. Takeaway containers are often made of non-biodegradable materials that harm the environment. Lastly, take public transport, walk or cycle to reduce your carbon footprint and improve your physical health. Cars are a major source of air pollution and contribute to climate change.
– Ankita Jain, founder of Purple & Pure
7. Compost, volunteer and shop second hand
Composting is one of the most generous acts we can offer the Earth. It’s essentially about turning waste into soil, and soil is a nourishing fertile life force. Practice composting can be simple – gather your raw food waste into a container and put it in the freezer. Next, bring it to your local community garden for composting. Learn more with Soil Social.
If you’d like to offer a more active role, explore volunteering at a community garden. Habitat Collective and Cultivate Central will help guide you in the basics of gardening, growing food, and its importance in our life. Also, shop second-hand with Loving Loot or try brands like The Fashion Pulpit to refresh your wardrobe in a sustainable way.
– Chloe Calderon Chotrani, somatic therapist at Body as Earth
8. Swap and shop mindfully
Leverage your community! Use apps like Olio or Carousell to declutter and get amazing finds. We also leverage condo chats and neighbourhood groups to recycle and donate or even organise swap shops in function rooms. If you have kids’ outgrown or second-hand items, list them with Nimbu. It’s South-East Asia’s first circular brand that provides a full service from pick-up to listing to finding new homes for your kids’ beloved clothes, toys, books and shoes.
If you can do without, find creative ways to not shop. But if you shop, use the item to its fullest. As long as you can keep the items away from a landfill, you’re on the path towards sustainable living! Support sustainable local businesses and share about them with friends to magnify their impact.
– Kriti Gupta, founder & CEO of Nimbu
9. Think about why you’re making the change and align it with your values
The most important step to making easy eco-conscious changes is to start within. Why are these changes important to you? Long-term change will only happen when you really tap into your values.
Be aware of what you wear most and why; how does it make you feel? Is it the fabric, the functionality or the fit? This is your guide for how all your clothes should make you feel. And stop buying for the sake of buying – that goes for clothes, groceries, beauty products, and so on. Other tips include making meal plans to reduce food waste and buying second-hand furniture. The beauty of sustainability is that it always has benefits for you and the environment.
– Biek Speijk, wardrobe curator and artist
10. Make your own natural floor cleaner
I make my own no-nasties floor cleaner from fruit peels – also known as eco enzymes. This is a multi-purpose liquid that’s produced from the fermentation of organic waste. It can be used as floor or kitchen cleaner, fruit and vegetable cleaner, insect repellent or plant fertiliser.
Just take a bottle, add three parts of fruit peel, one part of sugar and 10 parts of water. Let it sit for three months and open the cap of the bottle every day to let out the fermentation gases. After that, strain the liquid and voila! It serves many purposes – it reduces food waste and the usage of chemical cleaners in your home, and re-uses single-use plastic bottles.
– Sangeeta Nair, founder of The Eco-Statement
11. Small green steps count towards making an impact
You don’t have to be perfect to be part of the solution. Find an area you’re passionate about and start there. This journey can be fun and enjoyable. Check out Project Drawdown, which shares nearly 100 solutions that already or almost exist, or Anatomy of Action by the UN, which lists the five major areas that will lead to collective change if each of us makes the change.
If you’re looking for quick wins, think about the decision you make on your plate. Adopting more of a flexitarian diet (more plants, less meat) is a great place to start. Check your bank and what it does with your money. Most of us don’t realise that banks invest our money into projects that are harmful to the planet – but you can tell them not to. If you’re a business owner, do an audit on your website and see how you can reduce the emissions it’s producing. Look at how you can integrate small impactful actions with companies like Handprint.
12. Go for reusable, second-hand and energy-efficient items
Use plantable stationery, a reusable bag, and get a refillable water bottle and reusable coffee cup. You can also reduce food waste. Plan your meals in advance and only buy the food you need. Try to use leftovers instead of throwing them away.
Go for energy-efficient light bulbs as they use less energy and last longer. If possible, get on public transportation instead of driving your car. This will reduce your carbon footprint and can be a more cost-effective option. Instead of buying new items, consider purchasing second-hand. It’ll reduce the demand for new products and save money.
– Radhika Mayani, founder of Left-handesign
13. Support eco-conscious, ethical and local businesses
To reduce my environmental impact, I opt for reusable products over disposable ones: cloth bags for groceries, refillable water bottles, and cloth towels instead of paper towels. I also conserve resources and reduce my carbon footprint by saving energy whenever possible. This includes turning off lights and electronics when not in use, and using energy-efficient appliances.
I believe in supporting eco-friendly and ethical brands – like local small businesses and farmers – that prioritise sustainability and social responsibility. Plus, I use public transportation or walk whenever possible. Education and advocacy are essential components of sustainable living. By sharing my sustainable practices with my family and friends, I can inspire them to make similar changes in their own lives.
– Michelle Chan, founder and certified natural skincare formulator at Miseico
14. Living a sustainable life can be fun!
There’s a misconception that living sustainably requires sacrificing comfort. Instead, see it as an opportunity to discover new experiences while contributing to a healthier planet.
Rethink your purchasing habits. Be mindful of the brands you support. Choose responsible labels that prioritise eco-friendly materials, reduce waste, and ensure ethical labour practices. Consider buying used items. If you’re buying a gift, think outside the box. Adopting trees for friends and family is memorable and rewilds the planet.
Spice up your meal routine with plant-based options. Meat production is responsible for a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation. Even if you can’t commit to a vegan diet, go meat-free one day a week. My go-to app is aBillion, where you’ll find thousands of restaurants with meat-free options. Take it from a former steak-loving French turned vegan: plant-based food is incredible!
15. Start simple with easy food swaps
One quick way is to focus on everyday things we already do, like eating. Switch around what you eat, like going for noodles made from upcycled materials, rather than raw materials. You probably didn’t know that spent barley grains, which are used to make beers, can actually be used to make better food! One example I love in the market is W0W Noodles.
Sometimes, our aversion towards eating “waste by-products” is a self-limiting belief. Before we say no to making a habit change, perhaps take some time to say, why not?
– John Lim, founder of Live Young and Well
16. Choose solids instead of liquids in plastic containers
I’ve been gradually transitioning to solid personal care and home care products. They’re compacted and concentrated, eliminating the need for large plastic containers and reducing emissions from transportation. In Singapore, there are many brands that offer solid soaps and shampoos, as well as laundry detergent sheets and cleaning capsules with natural, good quality ingredients. These products are eco-friendly, easy to use and space-saving.
– Vrinda Jain, founder of Altereco
17. Opt for your bike over your car
Biking has always been a part of my life, but it wasn’t until recently that I truly realised its impact on the environment and my own mental health. As I pedal through the streets, I feel like I’m doing my part to reduce my carbon footprint and protect the environment for future generations. Biking is a great way to clear my mind and reduce stress. It gives me a sense of freedom and independence, and the endorphins released make me feel happier and more energised throughout the day.
– Dana Wolf, feng shui expert, certified KonMari consultant, and founder of Anjia Living
18. Make sustainability a part of what you love
One of the first hacks I implemented when I embarked on my sustainability journey a few years ago was to start small. This means taking the first green step that makes sense to you – and repeating that over time. Once you’ve mastered that, you can implement other baby steps that will eventually have a great impact on your life.
Secondly, join a community of people that have a sustainability mindset. By meeting online or at events, you’ll have a sense of belonging that’ll help you keep up the good fight! Finally, embrace a test-and-learn mindset. Do the things that you love, that bring you energy. For some, this can mean gardening or composting; for others, it can be picking up trash on the beach or cooking vegan meals. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution; it’s about doing the things that make sense to you.
– Alya Annabi, founder of GreenPush and a sustainability change agent
19. Use eco-friendly kitchen sponges
Did you know regular coloured sponges are made from petroleum-based ingredients that can leach microplastics into our waterways, harming our planet and wildlife? Eco-friendly alternatives like cellulose sponges are just as effective. Made from wood pulp processed into cellulose, they’re topped with a natural luffa scrubber and sewn together with cotton twine.
While eco-sponges may not last longer than your regular coloured sponge, they’re 100% biodegradable and compostable. They also contain no harmful ingredients. Tip: cut the corner off a sponge that has done its time in the kitchen, so you can use it for grubbier tasks such as outdoor and heavier-duty cleaning – and make the most out of it before proper disposal.
– Caroline Warren, owner of NaturalSpot
20. Remember: living sustainably doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive
Avoid using single-use plastics such as straws, utensils, and food containers. Try having a meat-free day once a week, or swap meat for plant-based proteins such as beans, lentils, and tofu. You can also plan your meals, shop with a list, and store food properly to reduce food waste. Use leftovers in creative ways and compost food scraps.
Turn off lights, unplug electronics, and adjust your thermostat to save energy. Use natural light whenever possible and hang your clothes to dry instead of using a dryer. Look for eco-friendly household products – made with environmentally friendly materials and packaging – such as cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, and personal care products.
Take public transportation, walk, or bike instead of driving alone. This reduces your carbon footprint, saves money and promotes physical activity. Consider buying second-hand clothing and furniture, as this reduces the demand for new products and reduces waste.
– Jen Gearing, change agent and founder of Rejenerate
21. Ditch your petrol ride for electric
You’ll save an average of 70% of carbon dioxide emitted while driving, and close to 100% when you charge your vehicle with renewable energy. Another advantage is that your vehicle won’t pollute the air (hello, fresh air!) and you experience your drive in silence. With the current petrol prices, switching to electric is also good for your wallet. Easy change, right?
– Maike van Grootel, managing partner at Niu Bali
Gearing your lifestyle towards sustainability in Singapore isn’t hard when you have these easy eco-friendly tips to start! For more advice from business owners, check out Launchpad, a networking platform that offers business support and a community for entrepreneurs.