Broke & Sustainable: A 23-year old’s sustainability journey

02 Feb 2022


Singapore has a way of casting almost an enamor-like blanket on visitors. It draws you in with its accessibility, hawker centres and the amount of great food. (Even for a vegetarian, YES!)

Yet,  single use plastics stared me in the face as I roamed around. Especially with the Covid pandemic, where extra layers of protection are in place, we have managed to rake up more than 8 million tonnes of plastic since it began. 

The normalcy of the amount of plastic being used shocked me, to be honest. So, for the first few months, I find myself going back to old habits. I used to carry around steel straws and reusable bags with me back home in India, but all of that stopped. Takeaway cups, plastic carriers, disposable cutlery both while eating out or ordering in – everything I had learnt, took me about a week to easily fall back into. 

Only when I came across my steel straws did I realise what I had been doing! 

Unlearning and Relearning

And so, the journey of unlearning and relearning began – making conscious decisions to carry my own cutlery, straws and reusable bags. However, the biggest problem I faced was that before I could take my bags out, my purchases had already been filled into plastic bags! 

And as an international student on a budget, I couldn’t really afford to shop for many items at the more ‘conscious’ stores since they came with a higher price.  However, it was a rather large hoop to jump through, so I learnt to get better at it. 

Another area I found myself lacking in was food waste. Due to the foods wrapped up in bundles, I found I couldn’t finish the produce fast enough. Thankfully, I found a friend who was willing to share some groceries, and we would then co-ordinate certain purchases. (Save money and no food waste? a win-win!)

Moving to other countries = lesser clothes in your closet! Which means you must go shopping for a few items. And with that obviously comes different dressing styles, new trends, shorter trend cycles and the urge to constantly follow said trends. Being trendy on a budget is surprisingly easy nowadays, since fast fashion really is everywhere. Buying clothes for prices as low as S$10, S$15 really sends you down the route of wanting to follow all trends. It took a lot of self-control and self-correction to get out of this habit, yet the dilemma remained – how do I not buy from fast fashion brands since they're all I can afford? 

To be honest, this is one of the issues I’m still working on – is it okay for me to buy from fast fashion brands, yet prolong the life of the product as much as possible?

Is it okay to buy from their sustainable lines and fabrics?

Or do I just buy basic, timeless designs within my budget?

Instead, start small. Every little effort counts.

Of course, there are many things that need to be taken into consideration on this journey of sustainability. The more I think about the looming problem, the more it gets to me. Instead, I decided to focus on what I CAN do rather than everything that I can’t. Hopefully, these minute changes I make will influence people around me to try them as well. At the end of the day, we can’t expect ourselves to make drastic changes in a bid to tackle climate change (although that will be great). Instead, start small. Every little effort counts.

Written By

Currently an intern, Avni came over to sunny Singapore to further her studies and is a firm believer of sustainable practices.