Welcome to the Earth Month series, where we highlight environmentally-focused food as well as inspiring stories by people in Southeast Asia, to help you celebrate our planet.
Giving up on disposable straws and cutlery, using reusable shopping bags to package your groceries and shopping, keeping your newspapers and used cardboard boxes for the karung-guni man, and opting for bills to go paperless; these are some of the simple things everyone can do to go green.
Every year as Earth Day (22 April) approaches, many are reminded once again to make an effort to do a little bit more to save the earth. However, there are some earth heroes who campaign for a greener and better earth throughout the year, dedicating their lives to highlight climate issues to people in power and creating products and initiatives for people who want to do more for the environment.
Yahoo Lifestyle SEA will be looking into seven of these environmental activists, including famous names such as Greta Thunberg and Jane Goodall, and check out what they are advocating for and their achievements so far.
1) Greta Thunberg
The name Greta Thunberg should be familiar to many as the young Swedish environmental activist took over headlines over the past year, challenging world leaders to take action against climate change. In her TEDtalk video, Thunberg had shared that she first heard about climate change when she was eight and could not understand why so little had been done about it.
Beginning her climate school strikes in August 2018 when she was just 15, she had demanded the Swedish government to reduce carbon emissions per the Paris Agreement. Despite being vilified by some of her haters, including politicians and the media, Thunberg also received huge support from the public, other media and governments. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres had endorsed the school strikes initiated by Thunberg, and the activist had also given speeches at various prominent platforms such as the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference and World Economic Forum.
While the 2019 TIME Person of the Year is back in school after her gap year to advocate for climate change, she is not stopping any time soon. Instead of easter egg-hunting, she had recently gone on waste-hunting with some friends instead, doing their bit for the environment during the holiday.
2) Jane Goodall
Dr Jane Goodall is an English primatologist and anthropologist and is considered to be the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees with her 60-year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees. Named UN Messenger of Peace in 2002, Goodall founded the Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots & Shoots programme, working on various conservation and animal welfare issues.
Going beyond her work in animal research on chimpanzees, Goodall is also a vegetarian and advocates for ethical, environmental, and health reasons. In her informative blog post, the activist list three major reasons people should have a plant-based diet. “Firstly, so that we may eliminate factory farms,” she wrote, “Secondly, to reduce the shocking damage the meat production industry inflicts on the environment and its contribution to climate change. And finally, to improve human health.”
As an outspoken environmental advocate, together with her Jane Goodall Institute, the expert collaborated with NASA to use satellite imagery to remedy the effects of deforestation on chimpanzees and local communities in Western Africa.
3) Isatou Ceesay
A Gambian activist and social entrepreneur, Isatou Ceesay is also known as the Queen of Recycling, turning plastic waste into fashion. Seeing that the plastic bags buildup in her area were harming the community’s livestock and breeding malaria-infected mosquitoes, Ceesay founded the Recycling Centre of N’Jau in her native village in Northern Gambia with four other women.
The recycling centre was initially set up to educate fellow villagers on the importance and benefits of reclaiming plastic waste and discouraging plastic waste littering. Over the years, it has grown and now empowers women through a recycling movement known as the “One Plastic Bag in the Gambia”. The activist taught the women in the Gambia how to recycle plastic waste and repurpose them into sellable products to earn income.
4) David Attenborough
A natural historian and English broadcaster, Sir David Attenborough is best known for writing and presenting BBC natural history documentary series and his documentary film, David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet. Vocal in support of environmental causes, Attenborough also advocated for renewable energy, natural preservation, and restoring planetary biodiversity.
Urging people to adopt a vegetarian diet or reduce meat consumption to save the environment and wildlife, Attenborough stated that people “must change our diet” and that “the planet can’t support billions of meat-eaters.” He had also backed an Apollo-style research programme in 2015, aiming to make renewable energy cheaper than fossil fuels, saying that “this alone would be enough to halt climate change.”
5) Matthias Gelber
Hailing from a small German village surrounded by the forest, Matthias Gelber developed a strong connection with nature and is a passionate advocate of green living. He is also known as the Green Man after being voted “Greenest Person on the Planet” in an online competition in 2008. His passion for environmental and sustainability issues led him to be invited onto forums such as TEDtalks. Gelber also shares videos and podcasts regularly on his Facebook.
Previously living in Malaysia, Gelber is known for getting around the country without a car and on a monthly US$10 electricity bill. While he was in Malaysia, he started Eco Warriors Malaysia, a community movement focused on taking positive action to combat climate change.
“People think that a green lifestyle is expensive, but the opposite is true,” he told Malay Mail, “A holistic green lifestyle includes asking yourself the question, ‘Do I really need this?’ The things that you don’t buy end up saving you money. Holistic green living has a net effect of saving you more than it’s costing you."
6) Nadya Hutagalung
An Indonesian-Australian actress living in Singapore, Nadya Hutagalung is an eco-activist and an eco-centric jewellery designer. She also founded wethegood.sg, “bringing the most crucial fundraising initiatives together in one space”. Hutagalung, a United Nations Environment Ambassador, joined Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment, to launch the global campaign, #cleanseas, to “eliminate major sources of marine litter by encouraging governments to pass plastic reduction policies.”
Participating in various UN initiatives, Hutagalung is also Singapore’s Ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund’s Earth Hour, Earth Hour Global ambassador, and the Elephant Warrior campaign. Her 2013 campaign “Let Elephants Be Elephants” focused on ivory reduction targeted at the South East Asian audience and had seen more than 8000 signing the pledge.
7) The Green Collective SG founders - Danielle Champagne, Mayur Singh, and Agatha Lee
Danielle Champagne, Mayur Singh, and Agatha Lee came together thanks to their common goals in sustainability and formed The Green Collective SG. An ecosystem made up of sustainable brand owners, conscious consumers and businesses, The Green Collective SG's vision is to create a responsible green kampung and to empower a community of changemakers to live, eat and dwell responsibly.
“Working together on a principle of sharing, we are building a community of changemakers who collaborate with each other to simplify adoption of a sustainable lifestyle,” their website wrote. With over 40 sustainable local businesses working with The Green Collective SG, the platform also share easy to follow green tips such as ways to reduce food waste, places to get sustainable accessories, and ways to care for your reusable straws.