The fashion insider-turned-zero waste champ: Jasmine Tuan
Who she is: Fashion and events folks here will have no problem ID-ing this 39-year-old – former designer, progressive proponent of independent designers with her now-defunct concept store Blackmarket, and It girl in the local clubbing scene during the late aughts. A brand consultant these days, she’s still involved in high-profile events like the Singapore edition of the annual Diner en Blanc, but she’s equally — if not more committed to — being a vocal force for #zerowaste.
Green efforts: Think of the growing movement as the next step up from recycling, with advocates taking a pre-emptive, preventive approach to waste management, generating as little trash as possible, and making sure that every purchase — if any — counts. Tuan says that she’s stopped shopping for new fashion items — her goal is to be able to fit her wardrobe in a 7kg duffel bag. She refuses all forms of plastic packaging (that also means saying no to plastic bottled water) and brings her own reusables — containers, cutlery, straws — wherever she goes. Last December, she helped organise the first Zero Waste festival in Kuala Lumpur, where she’s been based since 2015.
Her take on sustainability: Tuan says that every individual can do his or her part: “I know my power as a consumer, so I only support businesses that are good for us and the planet. After all, there isn’t a planet B for us to turn to.”
The voice for fighting climate change: Inch Chua
Who she is: Not so fun fact: If all the ice in Antarctica alone were to melt, it would raise global sea levels by reportedly more than a metre — and Singapore (being a low-lying island) is squarely in the crosshairs. Trump might not buy it, but this petite indie-pop singer-songwriter certainly does.
Green efforts: In February, she made headlines by travelling to the icy continent as part of an expedition with 2041, an NGO that aims to find solutions to protect the land and renew the Antarctic Treaty, which will be up for review in said year. Since returning in March, the 29-year-old has distilled her singular experience there into an intimate, one-night-only show — appropriately titled No Man’s Land — at Theatreworks in May. The hour-long set of new tunes inspired by the trip is her way of engaging what she says is a largely disenchanted crowd on environmental issues. Beyond its debut staging, No Man’s Land is in fact a collaborative work-in-progress with the veteran theatre company, and a full show (Chua bills it as an “anti-musical”) will be executed next May — also when her next album will drop.
Her take on sustainability: “New policies, scientific discoveries for green technologies, or the everyday fight (to be eco-minded, despite perceived inconveniences) cannot come to be if people lose hope in the ability to change our future. That’s where the arts can come in.”
The model rebel with a cause: Liv Lo
Who she is: TV presenter, fitness model, yoga instructor. Now add eco-advocate to the 32-year-old’s list of titles, in part thanks to Before The Flood (2016), the Leonardo DiCaprio-backed documentary on climate change. Watching the moving film was a turning point for her, she says, and she became an ambassador for Green Is The New Black, Singapore’s first Conscious Festival, that same year.
Green efforts: This June, she went a step further and started a petition urging Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, to reconsider her stance on implementing a small levy on plastic bag usage. (Khor had announced in her ministry’s budget in March that “imposing a charge or ban on disposable plastic bags and substituting them with other types of disposable bags is unlikely to improve environmental outcomes”.) The number of signatories Lo got: 13,000. (Plastic bag levies have in fact proven to be effective in countries as diverse as Ireland, Denmark, Britain and closer to home, Hong Kong and Taiwan, with usage dropping by more than 85 per cent in Britain with a five pence – or S$0.09 – levy.)
Her take on sustainability: “Simply hold on to your trash for one day instead of throwing it out. You’d be amazed by how much trash one person generates — and that’s just over the course of a day. People have this out of sight, out of mind mentality. They assume once it’s down the chute, it automatically disappears.” Dr Khor? Your move.
Read more on the next page.
The conscious creative honcho: Jacqui Hocking
Who she is: In Singapore, there’s a film festival nearly every week, but one specifically geared towards environmental causes was non-existent until this 28-year-old kick-started the inaugural Singapore Eco Film Festival (SGEFF) with biologist Adeline Seah. “When we started in 2016, we had no money, no venue, no films — just a crazy idea and a lot of passion,” she says. Still, the festival — free to the public — was a success with sold-out sessions, a crowd of over 4,000 over the past two years, and presenting with partners such as the Artscience Museum.
Green efforts: A third edition returns this November with a slate of critically acclaimed works like Jane, the award-winning documentary on primatologist Jane Goodall. The Singapore-based Aussie native is used to making things work. Last year, she was singled out for Forbes’ prestigious 30 Under 30 Asia list for various factors, including her media firm VSStory (short for Vision Strategy Storytelling), which creates films across Asia for clients like Procter & Gamble and Linkedin. Also notable is her work on expanding B Corps — an international movement that pushes for companies to meet verifiable standards in their social and environmental performances — in the region. She walks the talk — VSStory is one of only eight companies here to be certified.
Her take on sustainability: On what more could be done, she says: “More collaborations within the creative industries, and constructive conversations about finding solutions together, rather than working against each other.”
The dreamy eco-artist: Tan Zi Xi
Who she is: Going by the moniker Messymsxi, Tan’s best known for her whimsical illustrations that have netted her an illustrious clientele that includes luxury fashion houses, Kiehl’s and Facebook. Child-like fantasy-inducing quality aside though, most of her works address humanity’s mismanagement of natural resources — a topic she’s been obsessed with since school.
Green efforts: Take for example, “Plastic Ocean”, a large-scale installation commissioned by the Singapore Art Museum in 2016, and arguably the 33-year-old’s most prominent work to date. She collected and strung up over 20,000 pieces of discarded plastic to create the effect of being underwater – surrounded by trash. It was inspired by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a giant area of the ocean (estimated to be thrice the size of France and growing) choked with a high concentrations of plastic debris. The installation generated global headlines, and travelled to Mumbai for the Sassoon Dock Art Project last year, with Tan recreating it using 400kg of plastic bought from recycling centres there.
Her take on sustainability: When asked if going green might be a passing trend, Tan says: “Even if so, it can only be a good thing, but it’d be much more efficient and effective if there are more top-down initiatives from public institutions — like increasing education for everyone, and charging for plastic bags.”
Photography: Vee Chin & Zaphs Zhang
Styling: Adeline Eng
Hair & Makeup Benedict Choo, using Kevin.Murphy & YSL Beaute & Ashley Ng/Paletteinc, using Keune HairCosmetics & Nars
This story first appeared in Female’s September 2018 issue.