Residents go green for eco challenge

TOH EE MING Today Online 15 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — Instead of switching on air conditioning in two bedrooms at night, training manager Corrine Ong, her husband and her three children slept together in one bedroom of their five-room flat for three months, so that they would only use the air-conditioning in one room.

Ms Ong would also remind her children, aged 3, 9 and 11, to cut down on their energy usage such as by switching off the main power if they are not watching the television.

Steps like these helped the family shave off about 10 per cent of their utility bill. “After some time, it’s (become) a (habit) that is ingrained in us… But of course, for the children, you need the constant reminders for them to do it,” said the 39-year-old, who is also chairman of the Boon Lay Zone J Residents’ Committee.

Ms Ong’s family was among the 700 households who took part in an energy-saving challenge called Power Savers-for-Charity @ South West, a joint initiative by the South West Community Development Council (CDC) and Singapore Power (SP).

Spanning between July to September last year, the 17 participating blocks managed to save about 50,000 kilowatt hours of energy — enough to power more than 160 three-room Housing Development Board flats for a month.

South West CDC and SP matched the energy savings with a S$50,000 donation to Touch Home Care and vulnerable residents in the district.

To get residents involved, volunteers at Boon Lay division for instance, which achieved the highest energy savings, put up large posters at lift landings to remind residents to go green. They also went door-to-door to educate residents about the initiative, and conducted monthly visits to each household to check their progress.

Electricity meter readings of each household were monitored between July and September, and compared against their June readings of electricity consumption, said a SP spokesperson. Residents could also track their progress on the SP Services mobile app.

While the challenge has ended, Ms Ong said she plans to continue with her green efforts, and will look into which are the most energy-consuming areas in the household and cut the family’s usage from there.

Another Boon Lay resident Nyeow Ai Hui, 40, reduced her electricity consumption by setting her air-con on a timer mode so it would switch off automatically after three or four hours. When the weather became too warm, they would turn on the fans. The payoffs from changing her habits were worth the 30 per cent of savings off her utility bill, she felt.

Speaking at the Eco Day Out 2017 @ South West event on Sunday (Jan 15), Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources and Health Amy Khor shared other ways through which residents could adopt “environmentally conscious” habits, like increasing the air-con’s temperature to 25 degrees, switching off lights and mains of all electrical appliances when they are not in use and using energy-efficient lights.

“Saving the environment is not some airy-fairy ideology… By conserving the environment, we are creating a better environment for ourselves and future generations and saving costs as well,” she said.

The pilot initiative will now be expanded to involve some 750,000 residents in the South West District, said Ms Low Yen Ling, mayor of the South West District. It will start on Earth Day in April.

To ramp up on education and outreach to encourage eco habits, the initiative will have community roadshows and residents are encouraged to pledge to save on resources, such as conserving water, minimising wastage and recycling more.