The value of sustainability has been ingrained in me since I was a child. I grew up in a household that sought to maximize the value of our resources. For example, we made it a point to turn the tap to a low flow whenever we used it, did not let food go to waste, and would frequent thrift stores. We also dive into creative projects from time to time – my dad built a bench out of scrap wood and wine crates! We always found it to be such a waste to dispose of things in good condition, so we often explored ways to repurpose items so that they may be used for as long as possible.

Such ‘sustainable’ practices felt like a norm to me, since that was how I was raised. It was only until I experienced how other families lived and witnessed how organizations handle their waste, that I saw that the way I had been brought up was in fact, not a norm in our society.

If I had to identify a point in my life that convicted me of the necessity to live and promote a sustainable lifestyle, it would be the time that I spent abroad in Australia. The responsibility of having to purchase and prepare for my daily necessities opened my eyes to my consumption habits. I experienced first-hand, the volume of goods I was using and discarding on a daily basis, and began to see that despite the sustainable lifestyle that I grew up with, I had nevertheless adopted so many other habits that were completely unnecessary. Since I was living on my own, endeavoring to make sustainable changes in my lifestyle was manageable. However, I struggled to deal with the amount of waste that I witnessed being produced in the industry that I was working in. From the oversupply of food to the excessive amount of packaging used for products, the volume of waste consistently produced overwhelms me till today. I wanted to understand the root cause of the problem and thus spoke to various stakeholders in search of answers.

Lynette and her dad, pictured with the bench pieced together from pieces of scrap wood!

The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.

There are so many factors going against normalising sustainable practices, and it is easier to turn a blind eye to it. However, as the great British Historian, Robert Swan accurately said,  “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” I wanted to do my part in making a change, no matter how small of an impact it might be.

God planted this desire in my heart to take action. I didn’t know where to start, but I knew that I had to start somewhere. Coming home to Singapore was difficult, given Singapore’s culture of convenience and emphasis on presentation over necessity. Moving back home was also a struggle, as my parents and close ones had to adapt to my change in lifestyle. However, I try my best to subtly influence those around me to be more conscious about their consumption patterns without being too overzealous. It does pain me when I see unsustainable practices being carried out, but I’m learning to let it go and to exercise gentleness towards others, for Jesus reminds us to “Forgive them for they know not what they’re doing.” I also feel God’s invitation for me to educate them by sharing what I have learned. After all, we cannot do better unless we know better.

It has been very comforting to know that Pope Francis values the importance of sustainability, and has invested much time and effort to write the Laudato Si encyclical. In it, he addresses over consumerism and irresponsible development, laments environmental degradation and global warming, and calls all people of the world to take swift and unified global action. I am thankful that the Pope, in his position of power and authority, is addressing the issue. I believe that this would bring greater awareness to the pressing problem of our common home and urge us all to take action. I take comfort in witnessing how Laudato Si has also brought about awareness in church communities and has influenced the practices of churches and parishioners. What used to seem like a lonely battle is now joined by many passionate individuals around the world for the common mission of protecting our common home.

While I often feel like we are fighting a losing battle because we have so little control over others’ choices and see so little progress despite the amount of effort invested, I refuse to let the feeling of discouragement and hopelessness overwhelm me. I am reminded that God created the world, and that we are safe in the palms of His hands. I will continue to do my best in living and promoting a sustainable life while surrendering the rest to God for Him to take care of.

Laudato Si reminds us that everything is interrelated and selfishness has no place in a just, equitable, and safe world.

There is an immense urgency to act on the ecological crisis. Laudato Si reminds us that everything is interrelated and selfishness has no place in a just, equitable, and safe world. We need to care for our common home not just for ourselves but for our future generations. With this sense of environmental consciousness, my hope is that we will begin to change habits that we have been used to so that we can lead a more sustainable lifestyle.

I encourage you to take your first step in making a difference because the slightest change can have a huge impact. If you are not able to promote a sustainable lifestyle to others just yet, the effort that you take in your sustainable actions may just stir the hearts of those around you. If you are just starting out on this journey, you may consider using these 5Rs to guide you along:  Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle.

Together, we can make sustainable living the new norm.

Lynette Lee
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