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Being Green: ‘Am I the only hippy in Singapore?’

By: Liz McCabe

I barely qualify as a hippie – I hate tie-dye and I don’t know how to cook quinoa. But it doesn’t take much to be a hippie in Singapore; let’s be honest, it’s not the most environmentally aware country. Here, the fact that I compost my kitchen scraps and give dreamcatchers as kids’ birthday presents sets me apart as a bit “earthy”.

I’m not without some alternative credentials, mind you. My father is a nudist who grows his own vegetables (he obviously doesn’t live in Singapore) and, prior to our move here, I lived in one of Australia’s most rainbow-loving country towns, a place called Bellingen. You could get run out of that town for having lollies at a birthday party.

We'd all be hippies if we looked like this 

But we could all embrace our inner hippie in light of the recent UN Climate Report which predicts “virtually certain” climate change, leading to rising seas, acidified oceans, longer heat waves and severe crop failures. Not till next year, thankfully.

Yes, it’s the job of governments to cut global greenhouse gas emissions and research alternative energy sources, but that’s not an excuse for doing nothing on the home front. So, here are my top five tips for being a hippie in Singapore:

  1. Say no to plastic bags. Watch the confusion unfold at the supermarket when you produce your own reusable bags. Add to the poor Aunty’s anxiety by repacking anything she tries to sneak into a plastic bag. You can make an exception for leaking packets of meat.
  2. Eat less meat. The meat industry is apparently the second-biggest environmental hazard facing the earth. (Number one is fossil-fuel vehicles.) A staggering 51 percent or more of global greenhouse-gas emissions is caused by animal agriculture. It also solves the problem mentioned in the first tip.
  3. Reduce your waste. Boring I know, but important. Compost if you can, recycle of course, and think about what you buy. Individually packed single serves of biscuits might seem convenient for school lunches, but you are paying for extra air and plastic. Buy in bulk and use Tupperware to separate portions. If that seems like a stretch, just remember, polar bears are at stake here.
  4. Don’t drive a car or do any air travel. Only joking! But I do seriously recommend the public transport here in Singapore; you can travel 40km on a bus for $2, and that’s taking into account the 2014 fare hike. If you’re a child under 0.9m, or a short adult who can pass yourself off as a kid, it’s free. Find a double-decker public bus, take the kids upstairs and head across Singapore. Pretend it’s a tour, bore them with some made-up facts – it’s a cheaper family day out than going to Sentosa.
  5. Go nude. Not sure how it helps the environment, but as long as you’re making the peace sign it should identify you as a hippie (or a lunatic). Make sure plenty of people see you before you get arrested!