Savour!’s 4th Webinar, “Singapore’s Green Plan Dialogue 2030 — Sourcing Food Sustainably” was an enriching session with our 5 honored panelists. In this blogpost feature, we will be diving into sharing more information about Rupa Shree Sekar, one of our panelists as well as the key quotes she brought up in the webinar that serves as valuable takeaways for readers like you.
Rupa Shree Sekar is the Project Lead of Bye Bye Plastic Bags Singapore. She is an ardent and rigorous environmentalist who is very passionate about sustainability and its benefits. Bye Bye Plastic is a youth-driven organisation aimed at reducing the use of plastic bags in Singapore. She is also the Vice President of Earthlink NTU and the co-founder of Hazy Waste, an initiative aimed at encouraging the use of sustainable palm oil among Hawkers in Singapore.
When asked about her views on the Green Plan Dialogue 2030 and what sustainability means to her, here’s what she said.
“My opinion about this is a little more generic. I do believe that this plan is an ambitious one, but it’ll make Singapore more climate resilient and environmentally friendly. The plan covers many environmental aspects, from biodiversity conservation, all the way to food security. I think it’s a good start with the public sector taking more effective sustainability actions by 2025, like targeting high polluting sectors like energy and food.
Having said that, I believe there’s still scope to be more ambitious. As youth environmentalists, we always see the good side to what the Government is doing, but we also have a lot of suggestions as to how Singapore can do a lot more in terms of policies to meet International standards and requirements to fight climate change and other ecological emergencies.”
Here are some suggestions that Rupa had:
- Levying tax on other disposables, like the tax on plastic bags that was recently levied.
- Incentivising composting in households. Composting is a very western habit and can be adopted and normalised in Asian countries like Singapore.
- More actions by industries to reduce waste upstream and downstream. They could make more long lasting products rather than making products that become obsolete quickly. This can be done by implementing EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) for electrical or other goods.
- To include sustainability practices and studies in curriculum, not just at University, but starting at primary school, so that the practices are inculcated at a young age.
- Lastly, to keep in mind the marginalised sections of society (like low income families, migrant workers, etc.) are not disproportionately marginalised or impacted by things like climate change.
Q. What are the objectives and targets of your food sourcing sustainability efforts, and what progress has been made in meeting your goals that fall under the Green Plan 2030?
Ans. Bye Bye Plastic Bags Singapore works for sustainable habits both for systemic and individuals. Here we focus on reducing usage of single use plastics like packaging waste. Plastic is the centre of food packaging and it is more important in the industry than we tend to think it is. At Bye Bye Plastic we try to reduce food waste by means of composting. Also when brands come to us for consultation, we tell them about the new sustainability trends and how they can tap the market of vegetarians and vegans. We host programs with like minded individuals and organisations, who we try to inspire to take the first step towards sustainable practices.
Of course, sustainability is not just about packaging and we need to take a step back and realise what goes inside the packaging as well. Ingredients like palm oil and cocoa are associated with deforestation and damaging natural habitats. We (a different organisation I’m a part of) advocate usage of sustainable (RSPO) palm oil, the price of which has increased due to the pandemic. This comes to show that this is a slow process and hopefully in time we’ll see an ideal world where local produce and sustainability is a norm here.
Q. What are the synergies and tradeoffs when you value both public health and food sustainability?
Ans. In terms of synergy, we must remember that food security is not just about national security, but also ensuring public health and safety. We can control and monitor the way we grow our food, making sure it is done sustainably. We must have a public health standard, which should be maintained. With the shift in trends and rising conversions to veganism and vegetarianism, companies are coming up with various alternatives like impossible meats, cell based meats, etc. these alternatives come with other benefits like low cholesterol and less heart diseases.
In terms of trade-offs, consumption of some of these alternative proteins and meats come with long term health issues. This can be resolved with robust research as well as public advocacy and education. The other issue for Singapore is that of space. It is very difficult to locally produce everything because of the lack of space, but hopefully will get better with time and management.
Written by Subhi Poddar
Subhi Poddar is a Marketing & Communications Intern at Savour!