Are We Still Clean and Green?

It is sad but true. Singapore's claim to fame as a clean and green city may be under threat if we do not buck up.

In a recent news report on Channelnewsasia, it was cited that littering is on the rise in Singapore. In the first 10 months of this year, a staggering 4,800 were caught littering compared to only 3,800 for the whole of last year! One only has to look into the grisly photos submitted on STOMP to verify that we are indeed degenerating in hygiene and civic mindedness.

What is alarming is that education apparently has little impact on "filthy" attitudes. A recent Straits Times poll show that more than 50% of youths are nonchalant about littering and feel that it is either the government or somebody else's job to clean up after them.

Certainly, they cannot plead ignorance. A recent study conducted by the National Environment Agency cited that most students were aware of environmental issues, scoring 90 out of 100. Yet, it seems that dirty habits still persist.

Is there something that we can do to address this? Yes!

We need to start from our own immediate spheres of influence. Let us all be environmental crusaders and do what we say. Some suggestions include the following:

1) Lead by individual example. Instead of pointing fingers at others to throw away their rubbish, why don't we show a good example and throw it away instead. Let's do this openly in the view of others and explain to them why we are doing so.

2) Form neighbourhood "anti-litter watch groups". Let's band a few people in our immediate circles - at home, at work, at school, and wherever else. We can look out for offenders and gently explain to them that we all love a clean environment to live, work and play.

3) Start from the home. Let us inculcate the values of cleanliness, picking up after themselves, and social mindedness to our kids and children regardless of their ages. Good habits start from an early age. Instead of getting our maids to keep their toys or throw away their litter, we should insist in getting them to do it themselves.

4) Showcase best and worst practices. An idea I have is to consistently profile our environmental heroes. Maybe we can work with both new and traditional media channels to showcase our unsung heroes - cleaners who braved the odds to keep estates, food courts and toilets clean. Similarly, we should also shame worst practices and be more transparent in naming the housing blocks, residential areas, restaurants and so on in a hall of shame.

5) Spread an ideavirus or create a word-of-mouth campaign. Perhaps we can initiate a crusade for cleanliness and civic consciousness using online blogging channels. If individually we share our ideas and spread it far and wide, it may take off.

I believe that keeping our environment clean, just like other desirable end states like service excellence, is something that should come from individual responsibility. There is no use in pointing fingers or pontificating over what went wrong.
The buck should stop and start here.

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