10 lauded for doing their bit to save the planet

Ms Pek Hai Lin (right) received the EcoFriend Award for her efforts in protecting the environment.
Ms Pek Hai Lin (right) received the EcoFriend Award for her efforts in protecting the environment.PHOTO: YAP SU CHII

SINGAPORE - At first glance, it may seem like Ms Pek Hai Lin has a dream job working outside an office with no fixed office hours.

But the 31-year-old's workday is hectic and tiring. The manager of Zero Waste SG, which collaborates with ministries and corporations, organises workshops, roadshows and talks with a team of only two full-timers and a part-timer, all in the name of saving the planet.

The non-governmental organisation (NGO) was started in 2015 by founder Eugene Tay to drive change towards zero waste in Singapore and has no physical office.

For her efforts in protecting the environment, Ms Pek received the EcoFriend Award on Thursday (July 18) from Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli. The annual awards were given out at a ceremony at Sheraton Towers.

Nine others from the private and public sectors, educational institutions and NGOs also received the award, which recognises those who have made significant contributions to help Singapore's environment.

Mr Masagos said the recipients met three criteria: demonstrating commitment in their beliefs and actions, helping others build their capacity to contribute to the environment, and collaborating with others on environmentally friendly efforts.

This year, 343 individuals were nominated for the award, over half of whom were new nominations - something Mr Masagos said was encouraging.

He highlighted the work of Ms Pek's organisation on the Bring Your Own movement in 2017, which encouraged people to use their own reusable bags, bottles or containers, as well as for collaborating with the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources on a food waste recycling pilot.

Ms Pek told The Straits Times she was grateful for the award, but noted that it was the help of many other people, such as Zero Waste SG's team and founder, various ministries, corporate partners, volunteers and green groups that had made the award possible.

 
 
 

And her work is far from done.

She said: "There's still a really long way to go. We are hardly there in terms of getting people to take action. It's mostly the Government doing the job right now, and we can't just rely on it because it's the people that drive the way corporations react and change."

She said her organisation is constantly trying to give the public the knowledge and tools to take action through talks, workshops and roadshows.

And although the road is sometimes tough, her passion keeps her going with an air of "hopeful realism" - being realistic about the constraints and challenges organisations like hers face today, but hopeful that things can change if people push for them strategically.

She said: "Sometimes we may feel small, but we can do things strategically to amplify our voices, like rallying for change in our companies. Someone has to start saying something or at least modelling behaviour to start conversations."