Melissa, aka Bamboo Straw Girl, is a local activist working to change how Singaporeans view sustainable lifestyle.
Through her outreach programmes and website, Bamboo Straw Girl is taking small steps to change social norms and values surrounding plastic consumption.
Melissa, aka Bamboo Straw Girl, was like every other teen – struck by wanderlust and wanting to see everything the world had to offer. However, she could never have anticipated how one of these trips would change her life.
“During a barbecue one night on a riverbank, I looked at a photo my friend had taken of us around the campfire and was struck by the irony of it – in such a beautiful moment, in the middle of amazing nature, we were surrounded by plastic bags, wrappers and bottles!” Melissa said.
With that realisation, Melissa and her crew knew they needed to clean up. Empowered by a sense of social responsibility and armed with the torchlight on their phones, Melissa and her friends picked up all the trash they had left lying around. It was then that Melissa was struck with the thought that leading a zero waste life was simply not intuitive, and something had to be done to make it a norm among Singaporeans.
“In a busy city like Singapore, we are so far removed from our land that we forget the impact that we have on it,” Melissa explained.
But how exactly did Melissa end up making bamboo straws? Well after posting about a bamboo straw she made from scraps found in a craftsman’s storeroom, she had a sudden influx of DMs from all over the world. People wanted to know how they could get their hands on one. That’s when she decided to set up an online store to make the straws more accessible.
However, Melissa’s goal isn’t to sell a ton of bamboo straws. “I do emphasise to people that they should first look for things they can use at home before looking in stores – the main idea is to reduce our consumption,” she shared. She has been using the bamboo straws and her business to start a conversation about adopting a sustainable lifestyle. She encourages her customers to consider what they truly need and inculcate a habit of only purchasing what they don’t already have.
Melissa lives by the adage, “Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without,” which easily explains the fundamentals of a zero waste lifestyle. She urges customers to think of the following questions before making a purchase:
– Do I already have this item?
– Is it really necessary?
– Where and how was it made?
– Will it add value to my life?
By getting them to consider all these questions, she helps them inculcate a more conscious approach to consumption – one that extends far beyond that singular transaction.
As a business owner, Melissa has found a way to balance her mission with keeping her company afloat. For one she does not hard sell her reusable merchandise and does not produce solutions that already exist. “We have moved on to produce more “essentials” such as bar soaps and toothbrushes besides our original range of “reusables” in order to keep our business sustainable in the long run,” she said.
Even when it comes to purchasing and sourcing for her company, Melissa takes a moment to consider all options and ensure she is making the best choice. “These are all things that we can do, and it will come easily or subconsciously once you make a habit of it!” she shared.
In 2020, Melissa hopes to drive more systemic changes. For one, she hopes to change the perception that the most sustainable option is always the most expensive one. “This year we are looking at doing more outreach programmes in schools and with companies to help drive mindset shifts,” she said, “We believe that the first step to changing social structures and driving systemic change is to change the individual consciousness, mindset and values.”
Do you think sustainable products are always more expensive? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
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