This young environmentalist and her team were willing to protect the environment, even if it meant getting complaints from their schoolmates.
Say hello to Mother Earth – outlets like KFC and Starbucks have announced they will no longer provide plastic straws at their local outlets. But they are not the first to do so.
While most teenagers are still using plastic straws unsparingly at eateries, junior college student Sharmayne Lim, 18, managed to get her whole school to reduce their usage of straws .
She had noticed excessive plastic waste in her school, such as the widespread use of plastic straws, utensils provided by canteen vendors and even a new initiative to promote healthy eating.
The environmentalist explained: "This initiative aimed to promote healthy eating, but it ended up worsening the problem of plastic waste as fruits that were individually packaged in plastic bags were added to all students' meals.
"There was an insurmountable amount of plastic waste that was generated, which I simply could not turn a blind eye to."
As the chairperson of her school's CCA One Earth, a group which engages in environmental service and advocacy, Sharmayne and her team introduced a Plastic Straw Initiative to the school in July 2017. It aimed to reduce students' usage of plastic straws by discouraging stall vendors from freely dispensing straws when serving beverages.
Sharmayne (front row, second from right) and the One Earth team worked with the school administration to implement the Plastic Straw Initiative.
PHOTO CREDIT: SHARMAYNE LIM
However, her attempt to implement the Plastic Straw Initiative soon drew flak from schoolmates.
"Some of my friends complained about how drinking their beverages directly from the cup was both inconvenient and unsanitary," the second year student shared.
Though her team were initially vexed by the criticisms, they realised these gripes were reflective of how youths are indifferent toward environmental protection efforts, and even turn irate when such endeavours encroach on convenience.
Sharmayne said: "I think the reason many youths don't make a conscious effort to reduce, reuse, or recycle is because they are unable to see the direct consequences of their actions.
"The dire effects of global warming will not be experienced by them, but by future generations."
Thankfully, the students' complaints did not stop the Plastic Straw Initiative. Over time, the school eventually learnt to accepted the movement and started to reduce their usage of plastic.
The passionate youth has been an environmentalist since 2015.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/ANISAH AZMI
Beyond straws, Sharmayne has embarked on other environmental projects over the years.
In the 2015 Environment Challenge for Schools, her team created a machine prototype to incentivise the recycling of plastic bottles for members of the public.
Recyclers would receive a five to ten cent remuneration for disposing plastic bottles into the machine. These bottles would be used to make 3D printing filaments.
The team presented their prototype to a panel of judges from the National Environment Agency and won the merit prize.
Sharmayne and her team scored the opportunity to present their invention titled "Bottlament" to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Clean and Green SG50 Carnival.
PHOTO CREDIT: SHARMAYNE LIM
Despite her achievements, Sharmayne believes that efforts to protect the environment do not necessarily have to come in the form of large-scale initiatives and projects.
"To make a difference, we just need to change small parts of our lifestyles. When we buy things, we can politely turn down a plastic bag. When we buy drinks, we can decline the straw that's usually provided, or bring a reusable cup with us," she suggested.
To Sharmayne, taking care of the environment is more of a responsibility rather than a passion.
"We're all individuals living on this earth. We all have a part to play," she said with a smile.
BANNER PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/ANISAH AZMI