Nov 2, 2017
5 min read

5 ways to make your home sustainable and save money

Leading a waste-free lifestyle starts at home. These five tips show how greening your house and life is easier and cheaper than you think

Sustainability is at the core of everything we do at Temasek. In this ongoing series, we look at ways and people who create a better world for future generations through innovation and sustainable practices.

Being green doesn’t actually require you to spend a lot of money on fancy gadgets. Find out how you can save the Earth from home in five incredibly simple and low-cost ways.

1. From Rubbish Bin to Compost Bin

In 2016, Singapore generated over 790,000 tonnes of food waste — that’s equivalent to the weight of more than 4,600 Circle Line trains! Turn your food scraps into compost for gardening instead of letting them go to waste. It’ll reduce your use of chemical fertilisers, which are primarily made from non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels; this in turn will help you to save money on fertiliser.

You’ll need a bin, cardboard and wood chips to get started. Line the bin with cardboard and wood chips, then fill it with dead leaves, newspaper, egg trays and food scraps, such as fruit and vegetable waste, stale bread and coffee grounds. Many cafés in Singapore, including selected Starbucks outlets, give out bags of coffee grounds for free!

Craving a snack? Besides composting, you can also turn your food scraps into small bites.

Keep the contents of the bin moist, but not too wet. After three to six months, you should have organic compost for growing plants!

Food waste can enrich plant soil with nutrients.

2. Grow Your Own Greens

We all have a half-used pack of basil wilting somewhere in the deep recesses of our fridges. You can avoid unnecessary food waste by growing your own food garden. It’s inexpensive and allows you to use only what you require from your garden.

All you need is an outdoor space that gets adequate sunlight. Plant microgreens such as arugula, basil and pak choi, which can be harvested in as little as two weeks.

Edible Garden City, a local urban farming social enterprise, offers interactive workshops that teach both parents and children to design and grow their own patch of microgreens.

Grow your very own salad garden with this step-by-step guide by Edible Garden City

3. Visit A Kopitiam, But Not Your Usual One

This kopitiam serves nuts and bolts instead of kopi and toast. Powered by Sustainable Living Lab, Repair Kopitiam is a social enterprise that promotes a sustainable future through community repair sessions held at void decks at locations across the island.

Volunteers from Repair Kopitiam and residents hard at work fixing broken household appliances at a void deck in Tampines.

The initiative, launched in 2014, is modelled after the Repair Café concept in the Netherlands that brings together members of the public with broken items to be fixed and specialists from various fields with repair skills.

But Repair Kopitiam is more than just a place to get your belongings fixed. It also operates as a makerspace, where the public can learn simple repair tips to combat the buy-and-throw-away culture in Singapore.

“We live in a finite world with finite resources but we behave like everything is infinite. Anybody who pulls up an Excel sheet can immediately see that this is not sustainable,” says Veerappan Swaminathan, 32, co-founder of Sustainable Living Lab and Repair Kopitiam.

The group conducts free sessions every last Sunday of the month with the aim of equipping people with simple but effective skills to fix things like electrical appliances, furniture and even clothing!

The humble fan, for instance, is one of the most common items at these sessions, according to Veerappan.

When it has stopped working, chances are that the capacitor needs to be replaced. So instead of throwing it out, do the environment — and your bank account — a favour by learning how to replace the capacitor, which costs just $1.

“We don’t get a true reflection of the [environmental and economic] price of consumerism, which is why people would rather just buy a new product to replace an old one. I think change can only happen if we make it socially unacceptable to be wasteful,” says Veerappan.

Learn to restore old or broken household items at one of Repair Kopitiam’s community sessions

4. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy

When life gives you lemons, make them work for you.

Create cleaners from common household ingredients like lemons! Not only are they kinder on the environment compared to most cleaning agents on the market, but they are also safer for the whole family.

As well as using lemon to wipe clean your microwave or cutting board, raid the kitchen cupboard for some other ingredients like white vinegar, which is acidic, to remove grease and grime, or baking soda, an alkali that is thought to have viral-killing properties. Use vinegar to clean glass and a mix of lemon juice and baking soda as a toilet cleaner.

Did you know? Lemon juice is a natural cleaner for microwaves and cutting boards

5. Filter Your Indoor Air

Did you know that air conditioners double up as air filters?

Instead of buying a brand-new air purifier to beat the haze, simply clean and replace the filters in your air-conditioning system regularly. Clean filters increase the energy efficiency of your air conditioners and improve indoor air quality at the same time.

Beat the haze with your air-conditioner! Most units come equipped with an air filter, which purifies polluted air

If you’re unsure about how to clean and replace your filters, did we already mention how you can learn to do so at Repair Kopitiam sessions? (See point #3)

A little elbow grease, ingenuity and know-how are all you need to live a little greener. Get started today!