We are all familiar with the haze that first emerged in 2015 and draped over the air, causing health risks and disrupting daily activities when it got bad enough. Indonesia has more than often faced the end of pointed fingers and blame for the haze. And yes, while the haze was originally caused by illegal agriculture fires due to the slash-and-burn practices in Indonesia, we, Singaporeans are not as much of a bystander as we like to think we are. One of the major reasons why the haze emerged was due to the uncontrolled expansion of palm oil and paper plantations, a product which the people in Singapore buy almost everyday, for uses like cooking oil. The government had announced that up to six Indonesian companies were suspected of contributing to the haze pollution and had delivered a clear message to everyone, be it Singaporeans or foreigners, that if they had violated the country’s laws, and if those laws allow the government to act within ambit, they will take the law to its full extent. The Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA) had went after those six companies and issued notices to them, having them to explain what steps they were taking to put out and prevent fires on their land but only two responded. The other four did not. It was said that the director of one of the companies has left the country but is required to return, and if he does not, it will be counted as a violation of the law and will be arrested upon entry and can be detained in Singapore. Enough of all the politics, moving on to how us Singaporeans can help to fight and prevent the return of haze.

Simple day-to-day activities can also contribute to haze, like grocery shopping. So, we can play a part by knowing what products not to buy, especially products that are linked to companies contributing to haze in Indonesia. First: avoid tissue paper brands like Jolly, NICE, Toply, Livi and Paseo as they are not environmentally friendly. Second: when buying vegetables, avoid going for the pre-bagged ones. Unless the packaging can be completely justified and recycled into something useful, there is no need to purchase items with the excess packaging, the more the packaging, the more the waste in form of rubbish and fuels used to make them, which will affect our environment and the air. Third: regarding paper products like tissue paper, look out for the FSC ‘tree checkmark’ logo on the packaging as that logo indicates that these wood-by products have been derived from sustainable and trusted sources that do not use slash & burn method. One such product would be the Kleenex brand, which are all FSC certified. We do not have to be an official of the country to make a change for the environment. We are the consumers, and without us purchasing from them, the business would not survive. So all we have to do is change out consumer demands and those companies will start listening and catching up with the trends of our interests. It’ll be a slow start, to get everyone on with the plan, but as long as a few of us start changing, there’ll be progress. Supporting eco-friendly companies is one way to help out.

With just a little bit of change we can make such a big difference, so why don’t we?

All The Love, M

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