At the tender age of 10, Lutfi Aryan knows a thing or two about black holes and global warming. A resident of Block 293A Bukit Batok Street 21, he picks up discarded soft-drink cans and plastic bottles left at bus stops and chucks them into the bin. He was already taking the initiative to clear his tray whenever he dines out before the recent National Environment Agency enforcement.
His strong environmental awareness first came about when he learnt about the importance of protecting the Earth from his kindergarten teacher. “I want to make the Earth well again and do my part so people will have enough oxygen to breathe,” says the shy boy, who attends Bukit View Primary School.
Last year, he was appointed the Environmental Champion and Safe Management Ambassador (SMA) in school last year and his duties include washing and recycling soft-drink bottles and helping to clean the canteen and classroom. “I also ensure that the lights in the classroom are switched off when no one is in,” he adds. His new appointment deepened his interest and he encouraged his classmates to send items for recycling during the school’s recycling drive. He continues in his role as one of the SMAs in his school this year, too. As an SMA, he helps to remind his schoolmates to practise social distancing, wash hands before and after meals, wear masks after eating, and wipe down their desks and canteen tables before leaving.
The environmental lessons that he learnt at school and during special environmental dates like Earth Day and Earth Hour have also helped him to adopt more sustainable habits. “I stopped using my favourite Star Wars plastic drinking bottle after I learnt that it was made of recycled plastic that is not so safe for our health. I now use a metal bottle and also bring my container whenever I buy food,” he explains.
He also encourages his aunt, who likes to take a taxi when she goes out, to switch to public transportation as private cars emit more carbon. “I also encourage her to use double-side printing,” says Lutfi, who often tags along with his aunt for community litter-picking events in the neighbourhood as he wants to help keep the environment clean.
When he’s not studying, he keeps tabs on the latest environment content on YouTube and TV, and reads the news. His big idea on how he can help to push sustainability in his neighbourhood centres on constructing a separate recycling refuse chute at each Housing and Development Board block.
AN ORGANIC COMMUNITY GARDEN
A gardening enthusiast, Mr Yee Teck Sin, 69, often visits his friend’s vegetable farm in Sungei Tengah to learn more about growing edible greens. He got to put his gardening passion into practice when a site that was originally designated for a playground during the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP) at 186 Bukit Batok West Avenue 6 was converted into a community garden plot instead.
“I was part of the NRP committee and we proposed to have a community garden as there were too many playgrounds here. The residents also love gardening and they want a community garden to keep them occupied,” says Mr Yee, who is a community gardener and the person in charge of the garden.
Divided into three zones – flowers, edible plants and herbs – the Bukit Batok Zone 10 community garden has about 20 plots, and its plant species span curry leaves and basil to blue pea flowers, hibiscus, pandan leaves and vegetables such as kailan and sio pek chye.
Officially launched in 2018, the garden has two rainwater collection tanks that are used for watering purposes. “We requested for the tanks during the NRP and the contractor supplied them. I also custom-made two rainwater collection trays, which have funnels that can channel the water into the storage tanks,” says Mr Yee, who adds that the trays help to collect a larger volume of rainwater. To use the collected rainwater, gardeners simply turn on the valve at the tank and direct the water from the connected hose into a bucket.
The garden also avoids the use of insecticides. Instead, Mr Yee and his team of 15 to 20 community gardeners mix soil and compost (comprising discarded fruit and vegetables collected from residents) and use the natural fertiliser. “We also recycle unwanted household items like Dynamo bottles and wooden decorative items and turn them into DIY planters,” he says. “Before the pandemic, we also taught children how to plant seedlings and transfer these into the planters.”
Mr Yee, who is self-employed, will also prepare herbal tea from the garden herbs for residents every last Sunday of the month. “All the farming methods used here are based on the trial and error advice that I have gathered from friends and the Internet.”
His tips for home gardening enthusiasts? “Use Styrofoam boxes as planters and put these along the common corridor. People can also try to make their own compost with fruit and vegetable peels – but don’t put meat in it,” he says.