While sustainability and circularity are now buzzwords, there are individuals that have been practicing eco-habits in their daily routines. From reusing old pasta jars to store nuts and grains, to turning old t-shirts into rags, to shopping at wet markets to get fresh or local produce sans packaging. This frame of mind has been something nutritionist Charlotte Mei, lives by day in day out.
The media personality doesn’t just talk the sustainable talk but walks it with her head held high. During the beginning of the pandemic, cooking and eating at home got Charlotte thinking about food scraps and spoiled veggies that didn’t get the chance to become dinner. As a nutritionist and food lover herself, Charlotte took on composting (among other eco-friendly habits) to reduce her carbon footprint, and also combat waste in all forms.
For this year’s World Environment Day, Charlotte shares her easy eco swaps that anyone can adopt, without burning a hole in our pockets.
How did sustainability (and all of its nuances!) becoming important to you?
Sustainability wasn’t just important to me but something we practised around the house. I grew up with certain habits that extended to reducing waste and water/electricity usage. I remember my dad kept all the single-sided sheets of paper that came through the mail. He’d later bind it together and pass it to me to work out my math sums!
Upon returning to Singapore after living abroad for 8 years, I decided to start an Instagram account to speak more about how we could live more responsibly and consciously, to lower our carbon footprint. My first focus was on food waste (an easy one being a nutritionist and someone who loves food!) and the rest was history.
Just last year during circuit breaker, I started composting! As someone who cooks a lot at home, I realized I was throwing out a lot of scraps and inedible portions of food. More than half of my kitchen bin is filled with food scraps and I wanted to do something better. I found out through The Green Collective that they provided compost bins for small apartment spaces and that’s how I got started! I now own 2 bins and am on my 4th round of composting!
Has working within the media industry affected your relationship with conscious living and consumption?
If anything, it’s given me a platform to speak about the issues that I care about and share with my audience!
When it comes to production, a long day of shooting garners a lot of single-use waste. There’s plastic water bottles, tissues, takeaway food boxes, plastic cutlery etc. I make it a point to BYO during these times and it is nice when you see others doing the same too. Sometimes it takes one person to do something to lead the way for others to follow by example.
What do you feel are the biggest misconceptions about living a greener lifestyle?
There are misconceptions that living a greener life is expensive. It’s ironic especially since many everyday items (with a larger carbon footprint tend) are more expensive than their green alternatives. For example, shampoo bars vs conventional bottled shampoo, toothpaste tablets vs toothpaste in tubes, shopping at a package-free grocer vs shopping at the supermarket. More so, there are so many ways to live a greener lifestyle without spending an extra penny. Here’s a few tips:
- BYO bottles, bags, cutlery, food containers, coffee cups, anything! These are all items many of us have at home. If not, ask around since many have multiple of these products. I received 4 reusable coffee cups just in the last year!
– Shop at the wet market with your own bags. It’s cheaper, you are supporting our market vendors and it usually comes packaging-free so win, win, win!
- When shopping at the supermarket, shop locally produced items as much as possible. This has a lower carbon footprint since it’s not imported from far away, and it is fresher too! This goes for products such as eggs, vegetables, fish amongst others.
- If you have food or groceries that you can’t finish before it goes bad, store it in the freezer – goes for ripe fruits, bread, tortilla wraps, juice, any leftovers!
You recently worked on a documentary called “Farm to Fork”. Overall, what realisations have you taken away from projects you’ve worked on?
Oh, I loved working on this series! It’s a documentary with the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment about food security and our local produce. Well for starters, I had no idea we had 220 farms in Singapore! Unfortunately, it only meets 10% of our nutritional needs. Hence we’re sticking by the current goal of #30by30, as to provide 30% of our nutritional needs by 2030. As consumers, we have a huge part to play too! Without our support, there won’t be enough demand for our farms to meet!
Last but not least, how do you feel individuals or brands can be more #Down4Earth?
Big corporations and individuals both have a part to play towards a more sustainable future. As individuals, we have to be mindful and see everything we do as a vote for the future we want. By shopping at the wet market, we are voting to see wet markets continue to exist. Don’t forget – as a consumer, your voice holds weight in affecting how businesses operate and driving demand for what you choose.
One thing I always suggest to anyone is to look at which parts of their everyday life have the most impact on the environment and start making changes there – those would be your lowest hanging fruits! If you purchase takeaway beverages every day from the coffee shop, start by bringing your own cup (many places even offer discounts if you do!). Swap disposable cutlery with your own reusable ones. If you’re planning to get food to-go, bring your own food container. These small actions help build new habits that reduce your carbon footprint when you least realise it.
#Down4Earth is a social awareness campaign launched by ZERRIN on World Environment Day 2021. The campaign features Singapore-based sustainability advocates with a passion for urban farming, circular fashion, composting and more. They prove that there’s more to sustainability than the quintessential 3 R’s and there’s something everyone can do. Discover more about the campaign. Photography, styling and production by ZERRIN STUDIO.
With a background in fashion and textiles, Durva is an ardent photographer and advocate of social justice. She enjoys writing about fashion, socio-political issues within sustainability and partakes in the occasional 'who wore it better' banter on Diet Prada.