Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence

January 18, 2015 by  
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We would like to share a mindset for those who wish to work on environmental issues or projects. It’s adapted from the late Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and is called the Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence.

The Circle of Concern are things which you have little or no control over. The Circle of Influence are things you can do something about. The Circle of Influence is usually smaller and inside the Circle of Concern.

If you start by focusing your time and energy on the Circle of Concern, you tend to get nowhere and feel frustrated because you realised that things are not changing. This affects you and you start to lose interest or feel lost, thus making your Circle of Influence even smaller.

On the other hand, if you focus your time and energy on your Circle of Influence and change things that you have some control of, you feel better and more confident. You gain momentum gradually and start to be able to enlarge your Circle of Influence. And over time your Circle of Influence would be larger than your Circle of Concern.

It is time for Singapore to reduce plastic disposables

January 10, 2015 by  
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plastic disposables

We think it’s time for MEWR and NEA to look seriously into policies and regulations to reduce plastic disposables. What are the government’s plans and targets to reduce (or phase out) the use of plastic disposables over time?

Here’s some suggestions:

1) Expand the role and framework of the current Singapore Packaging Agreement to include plastic disposables, or set up a similar Governing Board or committee to look into plastic disposables holistically.

2) Engage and consult with the 3P (People, Private and Public) sectors to identify the key disposable plastics that should be phased out over time. Set a timeline on the eventual ban of those key plastic items but allow time for the industry and retailers to switch to more environmentally friendly alternatives.

3) Provide more data and info on the greener alternatives to plastic disposables such as comparison of environmental impacts and costs in the local context. Provide incentives and guidelines to help retailers switch to greener alternatives. Consumers and businesses must be given the right info and help to make the right choice.

What do you think? Share your thoughts with us!

We Need the Sharing Economy

December 11, 2014 by  
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Uber is a key representative of the sharing economy but it is not the only company (or business culture) representing the sharing economy. The negatives of Uber in recent news have resulted in some dismissing or rejecting the sharing economy. This is missing the big picture.

The sharing economy is here to stay. In fact I think it is an essential and important step towards a more sustainable (and viable) world. We can no longer operate in a linear economy where we take, make and throw. We have to move away from this old unsustainable model. One of the alternatives is the circular economy where the sharing economy is a subset of. We need to have new business models and consumption patterns that focus on sharing and encourage access over ownership, and resulting in less use of resources and less waste created.

It is unfortunate that Uber has cast a bad light on the sharing economy. No doubt it needs to relook its business model and culture, and put in place measures to reduce any further damage to its brand and better protect its users. However, one Uber does not make (or break) the sharing economy. There are many other sharing companies that are doing great decent work and deserve a chance to help us move towards a sustainable world.

The sharing economy is still in its infancy and taking baby steps. Like other new disruptive trends, it is still struggling with government regulations and policies, taxation and insurance issues, consumer protection and social issues, and vested interests. It needs time to grow and find its footing. But eventually it will and it must. Because the sharing economy is a necessary step towards our sustainable future on our only one Earth.

Sustainability Mentorship Programme 2015

December 2, 2014 by  
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“I’m trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.” – Morpheus, The Matrix

Sustainability Mentorship Programme 2015

The Sustainability Mentorship Programme is a new youth mentorship programme co-organised by sustainability advocates in Singapore, including:


Through this mentorship programme, we hope to:

  • Nurture a core group of youth (19 – 35 years old) with a holistic view of sustainability issues in Singapore
  • Inspire them to be sustainability champions and leaders in the public, private and NGO sectors
  • Support them to stay committed to the sustainability cause for the long-term
  • Help them to ask the right questions and find answers Read more

Going green: We need to get people more involved

November 22, 2014 by  
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I spoke to Walter Sim recently for The Straits Times Supper Club interview about the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015. You can read the interview here.

Enjoyed the almost 2-hour interview chat, and not everything was covered in print or some are edited out. Here’s some of the other points:

I would give this Sustainable Singapore Blueprint a ‘B’ grade. Like any report, the school teacher will always say: Have done well but can do better. There is always room for improvement.

That’s the usual style of the Government – it underpromises and overdelivers.

We have a pragmatic government which only makes promises it is confident of keeping. I mean, this is good, because when it sets a target it is going to meet it.

The government could be bolder in areas like domestic recycling and sustainable procurement. Maybe over time it will make bolder decisions or targets – not now, but in three to five years.

We’re not a static country or society, and I’m looking forward to this greater push over time.

I think the government will need the help of individuals and businesses from the ground-up. The more we can do together, the easier to meet the targets, and to set bolder ones.

I think the biggest issue is how people are not taking responsibility and feel divorced from nature. This manifests in our personal attitudes, how people do not take responsibility for the environment.

It’s an unintended consequence of efficient development, and of how the Government has been doing a great job, that we don’t really see a personal need to take action.

It is also evident that people do not see themselves as part of nature. In the blueprint itself, there is a diagram of three concentric circles representing the society, economy and environment, and where the overlapping portion is sustainability. That’s bullshit.

The economy is a subset of society because it’s the people who provide goods and services. Then the society is a subset of the environment because that’s where you get resources. We forget that we ultimately depend on nature and its ecosystem services.

So even as people are more aware of environmental issues now, there’s still a gap between awareness and action which has not been bridged. This is the most difficult part.

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