Using sports to champion green causes

From left: Mr Douglas Yuen, Mr Alfred Li and Mr Jaryl Ngan, all 20 years old, wanted to promote environmental awareness and hit on the idea of starting Greensport Singapore about a year ago.
From left: Mr Douglas Yuen, Mr Alfred Li and Mr Jaryl Ngan, all 20 years old, wanted to promote environmental awareness and hit on the idea of starting Greensport Singapore about a year ago.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Ex-schoolmates start non-profit group to spread awareness and raise funds through sporting events that bring people together

Sports and the environment may not seem to have much in common but a new non-profit group hopes to build a link between the two.

Set up by three 20-year-olds who are all sports and nature lovers, Greensport Singapore hopes to raise funds for green causes through sports activities.

"It is a start-up that my friends and I hold very dear to our hearts, as it is an amalgamation of our passions," said group co-founder Alfred Li, a full-time national serviceman.

The two other co-founders, Mr Jaryl Ngan and Mr Douglas Yuen, are also serving national service.

The trio, all former students of Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), wanted to promote environmental awareness and get people to do their part and hit on the idea of starting the group about a year ago.

Last month, the group organised a frisbee competition for 140 participants, raising $1,400 for the Nature Society Singapore, a non-governmental group.

"The three of us agreed that sporting events were the only way that we can get a lot of people to come together," said Mr Li. "Initially, we looked at organising eco-exhibitions and talks but we felt that it was difficult to get people to be interested and attend an event on a subject that a lot of people, unfortunately, felt was dry," he said.

Only biodegradable materials, such as paper cups, plates and trash bags, were used at the frisbee event. Participants were also encouraged to recycle.

The three NSFs may have to give up their weekends but do not mind as they are passionate about environmental issues.

Mr Li, for instance, loves botany and once wrote a school paper on how water hyacinths can be used in water bodies like reservoirs to filter out impurities.

Mr Ngan is passionate about deforestation, while Mr Yuen is very concerned about animal welfare.

Said Mr Ngan, an avid hiker: "Being able to enjoy nature and seeing wildlife just gives me a good vibe.

"Heavy deforestation not only causes global warming but also prevents nature enthusiasts from enjoying the fullness of what a hike can offer," he added.

Greensport Singapore joins other groups in coming up with innovative ways to encourage others to go green. Social enterprise Sustainable Living Lab, for instance, tries to discourage a buy-and-throw-away culture by having a monthly "repair kopitiam". It started its first public workshop in February where people can take along items such as electrical appliances and furniture.

Greensport Singapore hopes to organise a marathon next year to raise awareness on climate change issues.

Stepping up for the environment requires everyone to chip in and put in some effort, no matter how small it may be, said Mr Ngan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 18, 2015, with the headline 'Using sports to champion green causes'. Print Edition | Subscribe