Turning off the lamps to shine light on sustainability issues

In addition to switching off its office's lights during lunch to conserve energy, Ricoh Asia Pacific has several ecologically friendly practices, winning it this year's President's Award for the Environment.
In addition to switching off its office's lights during lunch to conserve energy, Ricoh Asia Pacific has several ecologically friendly practices, winning it this year's President's Award for the Environment.ST PHOTO: NIVASH JOYVIN

For an hour each day, Ricoh Asia Pacific's office is left a bit dimmer.

Just after noon, the ceiling lights are switched off as staff leave their workspaces on their eighth-floor office for lunch.

For the office equipment and business solutions provider, turning off the lamps is its way of shining a light on environmental sustainability.

For its light-saving practice and an array of other green initiatives, Ricoh Asia Pacific, along with Marsiling Primary School and Bukit View Secondary School, yesterday received this year's President's Award for the Environment from President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Istana.

The annual award, organised by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), is the highest environmental accolade here.

Ricoh has been carrying out its lights-off exercise for almost a decade. "We don't save much, but we do it to show our commitment," said Ms Masayo Hada, the company's deputy senior manager.

Once every month, all the lights and appliances at the office are also switched off at 7pm to conserve energy. "All the staff go off from work early that day and we don't work overtime on our monthly Eco Action Day," she explained.

The office, which has 130 staff, does not have individual waste bins. Instead there is a general one at the pantry area and another centralised bin for all paper waste.

Ricoh's green initiatives are so well received that ministries, companies and even schools have toured their premises to learn more.

The firm is also an active partner of other environmental initiatives, such as adopting Tanjong Pagar Park and starting and sponsoring the Butterfly Trail@Orchard project. Since 2005, the company has worked with the National Parks Board and National Environment Agency to organise annual tree-planting activities. To date, an estimated 3,000 tree saplings have been planted.

Over at Marsiling Primary School, environmental education is integrated into its school curriculum. In one school project, students learn to compost used coffee grounds as plant fertiliser. They worked with neighbouring cafes and coffee shops to collect the beans before processing and packaging them in school, explained head of department for science Natasha Maidin.

Said vice-principal Felicia Foo: "The whole idea is for them to understand that they belong to the community and they can do something about the things they see around them."

Bukit View Secondary School has facilities such as an Eco Garden to teach students biodiversity and water and energy conservation.

It created a rainwater collection system in its Eco Garden to collect rainwater for refilling the school pond.

Said head of department for partnerships Heng Chong Yong: "We want to equip the students with knowledge and skills that are related to the conservation of energy, water and the natural environment and to develop individuals to have a mindset for sustainable growth."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2016, with the headline 'Turning off the lamps to shine light on sustainability issues'. Print Edition | Subscribe