One small step for environment, a great leap for EJC. Have you been spotting metal straws around EJ lately? Have you been seeing people reject plastic straws? Well, Instagram account @strawfreeej has been working hand-in-hand with participative Eunoians to make a change and do their part to protect the environment. Here is my interview with EJ’s latest changemaker, Hong Jing (17-U4).
- How did this account start off?
I’ve known about the straw free movement since about a year ago, as I’m friends with the person who initiated @strawfreecj, and she happens to be an SN Alumni. I’ve always had an interest in this sort of thing, I just didn’t have time to fully act on it. However, one day, as a result of impulse and free time after MYEs, I decided to create the @strawfreeej account, and it just went from there. On my first day, I only had 90 followers, and I initially thought it was going to be a bust. I always noticed that there are lots of people that like bring their own containers in EJ, as well as SN having a really environmentally friendly culture, so I started to get support by asking my friends to send in submissions when they reject plastic carriers or bring their own containers and straws. This whole strawfreeej thing is relatively recent, it only started 1-2 weeks ago, but it has taken off quite fast!
- What motivates you to source for metal straws and cater them to Eunoians?
My motivation in doing so goes both ways. Caring for the environment is fun, it does not take much effort to not use plastic straws or plastic bags. On the other hand, I’m also really lucky to have a such a helpful and supportive community. When I first started @strawfreeej, I followed the people I knew to firstly build up followers, and other environmental accounts slowly started to follow me as well. This was when another environmental account, @byobottlesg, discovered my account. I was kind of wary of the account at first, however, the account admin reached out and offered to help in any way that she could, so that’s actually where I get the metal straws from. She sells the straws at cost price, while other companies sell metal straws that are more expensive but more aesthetic. A member of Hwa Chong’s green council also reached out to me with resources from Plastic-Lite (a community that raises awareness about the over-use of disposable plastics in Singapore) that we plan to use soon. Apart from that, @strawfreesingapore will provide some straw free stickers which we plan to introduce to the drinks stall and lounge to discourage Eunoians from unnecessary straw usage.
- How has the responses been so far?
A lot of people post about this on Snapchat and Instagram now, but initially, I had to force my friends to do it. During the first week, I had to wait until Friday to accumulate 10 photos for the ‘shoutout Fridays’ segment. But submissions are picking up and I hope it continues. Some J1s also got interested and wanted to join in, which they did, so now the account has 2 more co-admins.
- How many metal straws have you sold in total?
I ordered 91 straws, they are all sold out now. Many are still interested in buying as they did not see the ordering form posted on Instagram, so I do plan to have another round of ordering. I’ve also received complaints that people are only allowed to order 1 metal straw per person, and often they’d like to get both the normal and bubble tea straw. My explanation for this was that it is not good for the environment if we bought things that are unnecessary. Bubble tea straw can be used as normal straw too, so there is no point in getting both and creating extra carbon footprint.
- What is the main message that you want to bring across?
I don’t want people to be using a metal straw now just because it is popular, since it is more of understanding the meaning behind it. Truth is, the carbon footprint of a metal straw is much greater than a plastic straw, so using a metal straw is only good for environment if it is used repeatedly, and over a long period of time. At the same time, there are many other things that use a lot of plastic, like bottle caps and plastic cups, hence maybe this will also encourage more people to bring their own reusable cups. Green conservation movements have always been associated with hippies who bring their own tupperware, and with that, comes a bad reputation. In general, I hope to make conservation movements more mainstream, and more convenient.
- Do you have any future plans for strawfreeej?
The straws are sold at a very slight marked-up price (that is still very cheap so anyone who wants to live a green lifestyle can afford to do so) to raise funds to subsidise biodegradable utensils to be used in the lounge, which currently uses a lot of plastic utensils. However, this plan does not seem very sustainable, so we might just launch it for a short while as an experiment to show that Eunoians prefer biodegradable utensils, and hope that the cafe will introduce their own rewashable cutlery. As of now, I just want to focus on the school community as it is more effective. There are some plans to completely ban straws in EJ, since most drinks don’t even need straws. Other than that, I hope to be able to involve teachers as many of them do already bring their own containers to school.
That’s all we have for the interview with strawfreeej, meanwhile, follow @strawfreeej on Instagram, and look out for the next round of ordering of metal straws if you’re keen on getting one!
Special thanks to Hong Jing for agreeing to be interviewed, thanks a bunch 🙂