Climate Change: looking back for a solution of today

This post is part of a collaboration between Climate Tracker and Young Reporters for the Environment. This article is the winner of the 2019 competition for 19-25 years old. Author of the article: Loraine Lee Yen. Country: Singapore.

When we think of solutions against climate change, we think about being more environmentally friendly and wasting less. Many view this as an inconvenience and a modern phenomenon we need more to adapt to with a similarly modern approach, as seen with the metal straw craze and sudden “ban-on-plastic”.

However, the last people we often think of practising such solutions this is our grandparents. I remember the second-hand embarrassment as I watched my grandfather pull rolls of plastic bags in NTUC, before stuffing it into a trolley and walking away. I never knew where all those plastic bags went, and maybe I don’t want to know which landfill or ocean it is in now.

Yet, what if I told you one of the ways to mitigate the effects we have on climate change can be drawn by our grandparents?

My Grandma and Her Mini-Garden

On the 5th floor of an old HDB estate, you’ll find two rows of plants lining the sides of the walkway. Mdm Siew Cheng will be there with her trusty spray bottle and scissors, tending to her garden every day without fail. While she may not be a gardener, she is my grandma and her small garden is one of the ways she practices responsible consumption.

This small garden is home to 16 different vegetables and plants, which my grandma has tended for the past 20 years. Every morning at 6 am without fail, she prunes and sprays her mini-farm and these vegetables feeds our family. Her chye sim with soup and her rosemary with steak are utterly delicious, and our family goes over every Saturday to collect our “share of the harvest”.

When I ask her why she goes through the trouble, she responded, “it’s yummy and I save money”. Yet, she isn’t aware of the impact her tiny garden has had on the environment other than the fact that it has kept our stomachs filled.

Watering System Installed for the Potted Plants

To save on money, she has installed recycled plastic bottles to water her plants so that she doesn’t overwater them and only sprays her plants with water when necessary. Her pots are all taken from her neighbours or from the rubbish bin downstairs, recycling what would have ended up in a landfill.

Natural Fertilizer from Leftover Vegetables

In her attempt to live healthier, my grandma turned her farm organic as well. Leftover vegetables that would have ended in the dustbin are used as fertiliser for her plants. And after trial and error, my grandma’s home-made pesticide was simply an orange or banana peel left overnight. She found after trial and error that snails and other pests would fester on the peel and she could simply remove them from her vegetables after leaving the peels overnight.

“I don’t have to throw rubbish away often now… it’s good for my legs too and saves money” was her reason behind all these little actions. However, I was met with an “aiyo no la” and “sure boh” when I shared with her of the positive impacts her actions have had on the environment.

However, one of the biggest impacts her farm has had was reducing plastic and pollution.

When we purchase vegetables from supermarkets, they are often wrapped in plastic and these end up in landfills or polluting the oceans, harming sea creatures. And on tiny island Singapore, the food seen in supermarkets and goods such as pesticide are more often than nought imported from other countries. Yet, we tend to forget the pollution produced when moving these consumer goods from country to country, whether transported by ship, land or air.

Her small actions in making her farm were done to save money and effort, but yet has had such impacts on our environment. Yet ironically, our reasons for not being more environmentally friendly or taking actions against climate change are because it costs extra, or it takes extra effort.

So maybe we don’t need an all too modern solution which requires us to buy more metal straws or ship something from overseas. Maybe what we all just need to do is to look at our grandparents’ older consumption habits… or just a pot with vegetable seeds.

Author of the article: Loraine Lee Yen. Country: Singapore.