Oceanx: Coming Soon to a Berth Near You!

The most advanced exploration, research, and media vessel ever built, OceanX, is going to be based in Singapore for half the year of 2024. She will explore our Pacific and Indian oceans and engage with scientists, educators, and students in Singapore.

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Oceanx: Coming Soon to a Berth Near You!

Written and Videographed by Mahboob Mahmood

Oceanx is a one-of-a-kind vessel: an innovation-packed platform to discover and engage with our incredible oceans and their inhabitants!

Oceanx and her crew — including marine scientists, biologists, data engineers, divers, filmmakers, and ocean discovery technicians — are dedicated to exploring the oceans and sharing their findings with everyone.

Starting in 2024, Oceanx will be based half the year in Singapore from where she will explore our Pacific and Indian oceans.

During the COP 28 summit in Dubai, I had the privilege of meeting Mark Dalio (Founder and Creative Director), Nicole Thomson (VP of Partnerships), Amy Freeland (VP of Communications), and other Oceanx team members. They invited me to explore Oceanx and I gladly took up their offer.

Neptune and Nadir

Colin Wollerman (Pilot and Technician) showed me around the two manned Triton submarines.

Neptune dives down to 1,000 meters to collect samples using both a vacuum tube and a robotic arm.

Nadir dives with a 2-person film crew who operate high-resolution cameras and powerful lights to film the ocean depths.

The Scuba Centre

Mark Ward next took me to the ship’s incredibly well-stocked scuba centre, complete with a dive boat and dive suits for most kinds of temperatures!

The Decompression Chamber

Oceanx has its own decompression chamber. This chamber, and other medical facilities, enables Oceanx to travel far and wide while safeguarding her crew.

The CTD Profiling System

Mark then showed me the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth) Profiling System. This is an unmanned system that can go down as deep as needed to collect samples of ocean water and tiny life forms.

The Remote Operated Vehicle

Andrew Craig (ROV Team Leader) showed me the ship’s 6,000-metre ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle). Capable of reaching 98% of the ocean, the ROV is tethered to the ship; it collects samples, takes videos, and gathers all kinds of information.

The Remote Control Centre

We then visited the space-age mission control centre, which acts as the brain and control centre for the ROV.

Who said playing immersive video games doesn’t build science skills?!

Other discovery vessels include an Otter Autonomous Surface Vehicle and a helicopter.

Photo: Oceanx

Data Collection

Underneath the ship’s hull is a gondola which contains equipment that maps the ocean floor!

Think about the many ways in which Oceanx can collect data on the shallows and depths of our oceans!

The Wet Lab

Mark then took us to the wet lab. In the wet lab, there are three tanks that can create different environments (salinity, temperature, etc.) to keep alive coral and other sea animals for further studies. A dark, cold tank room can recreate environments for creatures that live in the cold, dark, depths of the ocean. And freezers enable the preservation of specimens for later studies.

The Dry Labs

I then met Mattie Rodrigue (Science Program Lead), who introduced me to two of the ship’s three dry labs. The first lab we visited focuses on imaging and microscopy. Among many very cool things, Oceanx is making 3D images of sea life and will share these globally with scientists, educators, students, and people around the world!

The second dry lab — the Molecular Sequencing Facility — is even cooler! It sequences the DNA of specimens. Because the oceans are so underexplored, Oceanx has already started discovering specimens with new DNA structures!

Through the combination of information-gathering tools and labs, Oceanx is able to collect and analyse the oceans and her inhabitants on an almost real-time basis!!

And this is just the beginning: as the ship’s data streaming and community features get going, Oceanx will be sharing real-time information with and obtaining real-time inputs from scientists, educators, students, and observers around the world.

Stay tuned for the many ways Singapore’s scientists, educators, and students can engage with Oceanx — and through Oceanx with the incredible oceans and life around us!

To follow Oceanx, visit their website or follow them on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

The Weird and Wonderful: Hornbill

Hornbills, also known as forest farmers, play a vital ecological role in their natural habitats, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions. This nickname aptly describes their significant contribution to the spread and germination of seeds, especially those from big-fruited forest trees.

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In this series, we showcase the diversity of rare, peculiar, and fascinating native flora and fauna in Singapore. We enthusiastically invite you to explore our nature reserves and gardens, urging you to pause and observe your surroundings—whether by looking up or down—to see if you can catch a glimpse of these unique wonders.

Hornbills

Hornbills, also known as forest farmers, play a vital ecological role in their natural habitats, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions. This nickname aptly describes their significant contribution to the spread and germination of seeds, especially those from big-fruited forest trees. There are around 60 species of hornbills found in Africa and Asia.

These large black and white birds with contrasting-coloured beaks are not to be mistaken for toucans. Hornbills and toucans are both tropical fruit-eating birds and do the same job of spreading seeds to keep forests healthy, but their similarities end there. Most hornbills have a distinctive beak feature called a casque.

Three species of hornbill are believed to be native to Singapore––the Oriental Pied Hornbill, Rhinoceros Hornbill, and Helmeted Hornbill. These birds flourished in the 1800s, but gradually disappeared from the landscape to the point of local extinction, falling victim to hunting, habitat loss due to deforestation, and other human activities.

In 1994, a pair of wild Oriental Pied Hornbill, believed to be visitors from Malaysia, was spotted at Pulau Ubin. Later on, the first local breeding was observed in 1997.

Hornbills nest in suitable holes in a tree. When a female hornbill is ready to lay eggs, she seals the entrance with mud, fibres, and regurgitated fruit delivered to her by the male. She leaves a narrow opening through which the male brings food to her and their young and breaks out only after a few months when the nestlings are fully fledged.

Natural tree holes for nesting are limited in Singapore’s natural environment. In an effort to encourage wild hornbills to breed, over 20 artificial nest-boxes were installed within trees all over Singapore. Since their re-introduction, Oriental Pied Hornbills have multiplied and thrived in Singapore. They are the only true wild hornbills in Singapore.

Common name: Oriental Pied Hornbill

Scientific name: Anthracoceros albirostris

The Oriental Pied Hornbill is a medium-sized hornbill with mostly black plumage with a distinctive white patch on its face, a pale yellowish bill and a small casque. Females have a smaller bill. It mainly feeds on fruit but also prey on small animals, such as small birds and reptiles. 

They can be found in wooded areas, forest edges, mangroves, gardens, and parks around Singapore. Most Asian hornbills require large areas of forest to survive, but the Oriental Pied Hornbill has demonstrated an ability to adapt to urban environments, making use of the remaining patches of forests within the city. They have been spotted in urban areas that border green spaces and can tolerate a moderate level of human presence and activity. Their population is currently stable and is not a concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Visitors spotted in Singapore

Non-breeding wild visitors from neighbouring countries have been sighted on our shores and offshore islands. It is suggested that the degradation of regional forests is driving these species to search for new suitable habitat. They include the White-crowned Hornbill and the Black Hornbill.

Common name: White-crowned Hornbill

Scientific name: Berenicornis comatus

For the first time this year, a female White-crowned Hornbill was sighted on Pulau Ubin. It is a large hornbill with a bushy, upright white crest and a white tail. Males are white from the head down to the belly, and females are predominantly black, with only a white crest. It is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Common name: Black Hornbill

Scientific name: Anthracoceros malayanus

The Black Hornbill is a medium-sized hornbill with black plumage and broad white tips on its outer tails. Males have a pale yellow bill and casque; and females have a black bill and casque. It has been spotted within Woodlands and on Pulau Ubin. It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Some of these insights into the population and distribution of the Oriental Pied Hornbill attributed to data from eBird and iNaturalist, collected and submitted by the community. You, too, can contribute to research by providing valuable data.

If you come across hornbills in the wild, we encourage you to (safely and respectfully) capture photos and document your observations. We especially recommend using the local SGBioAtlas app, the eBird app, or the iNaturalist app, which enables you to share and validate your findings within the community.

Discover the wonders of nature, observe the intricacies of the world around you, and let curiosity be your guide. Happy exploring!

📷 Post your findings on social media and tag us on Instagram or Facebook.

References and further reading:

📗 Conserving Hornbills in the Urban Environment

📃 A Note on Oriental Pied Hornbill reintroduction in Singapore and its dispersal from 2010–2021

📄 Aberrant Behaviour Of A Female Great Hornbill And A Female Rhinoceros Hornbill

Sustainable Packaging in Singapore: Opportunities and Challenges

As Singapore moves towards a sustainable future, addressing packaging waste will be crucial in achieving its net zero goals. The study underscores the importance of collaborative efforts between different stakeholders for long-term success. Recommendations include a focus on consumer education, government incentives, and innovative business models.

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In 2021, Singapore generated 1.82 million tonnes of domestic waste that needed to be incinerated. Almost one-third of it was domestic packaging waste, accounting for 523,000 tonnes (valued at S$1.8 billion), and incineration of the packaging waste alone generated over 3.15 million kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent (KgCO2e).

Identifying packaging waste as one of Singapore’s primary waste streams, the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) conducted a study, Unlocking Sustainable Packaging Opportunities in Singapore, in collaboration with KPMG in 2022 to assess the state of sustainable packaging, consumer attitudes, and opportunities for effective packaging waste management to realise Singapore’s vision of getting to net zero and closing the loop for packaging waste.  

The study surveyed over 1,000 respondents from diverse socio-economic backgrounds to understand how packaging is used in Singapore, people’s awareness of eco-labelling, and perceptions of stakeholder roles in sustainable packaging.

Public Awareness and Education

  • 7 out of 10 consumers lack a full understanding of what materials are recyclable and what are not.
  • 78% cited the absence of insufficient information and clear labelling on sustainable packaging as a hindrance to making sustainable choices.
  • Consumers also view the effort needed to wash and clean recyclables for recycling as the biggest challenge to recycling.

Challenges and Opportunities for Businesses

  • 95% of the respondents expressed a willingness to choose products with sustainable packaging, while price was a significant factor, with 53% stating they would only opt for sustainable packaging if it didn’t cost more.
  • 70% believed there should be a reduction in packaging material for most products.
  • 27% cited a willingness to use refillable bottles if they could cut down on costs.
  • Over half of the respondents would take part in take-back schemes if collection points were convenient and accessible across Singapore.  

Stakeholder Roles

  • Consumers rely on the Singapore government (29%) and corporates (22%) to implement and provide credible sources of information about eco-friendly packaging.
  • More educational campaigns, better recycling infrastructure, and compulsory eco-labelling are solutions deemed helpful for consumers to manage their packaging waste better.

diagram from SEC

Recommendations:

  • The study highlighted an urgent need for businesses to explore sustainable packaging options, presenting opportunities for cost savings.
  • Upstream players, such as manufacturers and suppliers, can play a pivotal role in redesigning packaging and reducing material use.
  • Businesses should collaborate with the government, supply chains, and consumers to address the carbon footprint across the product life cycle.
  • Government incentives, including tax relief and research grants, are crucial to supporting businesses in adopting sustainable practices.

As Singapore moves towards a sustainable future, addressing packaging waste will be crucial in achieving its net zero goals. The study underscores the importance of collaborative efforts between different stakeholders for long-term success. Recommendations include a focus on consumer education, government incentives, and innovative business models.

Read the full report here.

Features

Our Feature Articles highlight the inspiring work of community-based partners, green organisations, activists, and thought leaders. Explore their stories, initiatives, and the impact they’ve had on shaping a sustainable future for Kenya. These features celebrate the contributions of those who are at the forefront of positive change in our communities and beyond.

Our Feature Articles highlight the inspiring work of community-based partners, green organisations, activists, and thought leaders. Explore their stories, initiatives, and the impact they’ve had on shaping a sustainable future for Kenya. These features celebrate the contributions of those who are at the forefront of positive change in our communities and beyond.  

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Close the Loop for Fashion for Good

—An Exclusive Interview with Yinling Tan

Featuring Singapore’s environmental advocacy and innovation, Singapore Green Guardians (SGG) had the privilege of having an insightful conversation with Yinling Tan, the co-founder of Cloop. In this interview, Yinling shared her journey to circular fashion and the origin story of Cloop, a circular fashion enterprise focused on reducing fashion overconsumption and helping consumers close the textile loop with solutions for unwanted textiles and sustainable shopping alternatives.

SGG: How did it all start for you, Yinling?

Yinling: During my time studying in the UK, I found myself ensnared in the world of online shopping, accumulating a room full of unworn clothes I didn’t need.

In 2019, upon completing my degree in Environmental Science and returning to Singapore, I enrolled in a two-month zero-waste boot camp run by Secondsguru. Our final project, coincidentally, delved into the waste produced by the clothing industry, and the findings were shocking:

  • The fashion industry consumes a staggering 93 million litres of water. For perspective, the water used to produce a simple pair of jeans (3,781 litres) could sustain an individual for five and a half years.
  • The industry also contributes to 8% of the global carbon emissions every year, which is almost as much as all the international flights and shipping combined.
  • Fabric manufacturing accounts for 20% of worldwide wastewater.
  • 87% of the total fibre used to make clothes ends up incinerated or in landfills. (Quantis, 2018)

These eye-opening facts led me to reflect on my shopping habits, sparking a personal redemption arc and a commitment to champion sustainable fashion.

SGG: What did you do?

Yinling: I started to run swap events and eco-conscious campaigns. In 2020, I met my now business partner Jasmine Tuan, and we founded Cloop. Our mission is to close the loop for fashion for good. Yet, we soon realised clothes swapping had limitations—80% of donated clothes we received couldn’t be resold or swapped. Since Singapore doesn’t have its own textile recycling facility, it is difficult to track the actual textile recycling rate.

To address this, in March 2022, we collaborated with Life Line Clothing, a Malaysia-based textile recycler. Their facility collects, sorts, upcycles, and downcycles textile materials, providing a second life for textile waste.

Photo: Life Line Clothing

In July 2022, the first textile recycling bin in Singapore was launched, and a year later, we have more than 370 bins citywide and counting.

SGG: How much textile waste do you collect?

Yinling: Weekly, we collect up to 50 tonnes of textile waste, yet this represents only 1% of the total waste generated. Our goal is to install 600 bins across Singapore, doubling our textile waste recycling capacity.

SGG: What other initiatives does Cloop have?

Yinling: Recognizing recycling as a last resort, we stress the importance of rethinking clothing purchases, advocating for waste reduction through swapping, second-hand shopping, and upcycling old textiles.

To foster awareness and behavioural change, we conduct upcycling workshops and deliver talks to corporates and schools. With six pop-up thrift stores and regular swap events, we provide avenues for those aiming to embrace sustainable fashion. To stay updated on our events, you can follow us @cloop.sg on Instagram.

Photo: Cloop

SGG: What’s the next step for Cloop?

Yinling: Another initiative is to assist corporates in reducing textile waste through Life Line Clothing’s Upcycle4Better programme. By upcycling old textiles like company uniforms and bed linens into new products—tote bags, pouches, and cleaning cloths—we aim to help organizations achieve their sustainability goals while creating community-based job opportunities for designers and sewers.

Photo: Cloop

News

Stay informed with our News Articles where we cover local and international events shaping the environmental landscape. Whether it’s ground-breaking policies, conservation efforts, climate-related developments, or noteworthy events, our news section keeps you up to date on the issues that matter.

Stay informed with our News Articles where we cover local and international events shaping the environmental landscape. Whether it’s ground-breaking policies, conservation efforts, climate-related developments, or noteworthy events, our news section keeps you up to date on the issues that matter. 

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On Tuesday (November 7th), The Earthshot Prize held its 2023 annual award at Mediacorp Theatre in Singapore. It is an initiative launched by Britain’s Prince William in 2020 to address critical environmental challenges. The award celebrated the achievements of five outstanding projects under five categories — building a waste-free world, cleaning our air, fixing our climate, reviving our oceans, and protecting and restoring nature. Each of the winners received a £1 million (S$1.7 million) prize to advance their projects.

Here are the five winners and their projects.

1. Protect and Restore Nature

Winner: ACCIÓN ANDINA

The Project:

Acción Andina brings together local and indigenous communities in the high Andes to collaborate on the protection and restoration of native forests and ecosystems. The initiative provides essential resources such as salary support, project and financial management, and technical training.

Impact:

Since 2018, the project has planted nearly 10 million native trees across five countries, restoring over 4,000 hectares of Andean forests and safeguarding more than 11,000 hectares of native forests from destruction.

Future Plans:

The goal by 2045 is to protect and restore one million hectares of high Andean native forest ecosystems across seven countries.

2. Revive Our Oceans

Winner: WildAid Marine Programme

The Project:

WildAid ensures marine protected areas (MPAs) worldwide continue to fulfill their conservation promises, create sustainable fishery zones, and combat overfishing threats.

Impact:

Operating in 96 MPAs across 16 countries, WildAid has improved protection for over 8,500 marine species.

Future Plans:

With a focus on expanding to 250 MPAs and coastal fishery zones in the next five years, WildAid is determined to strengthen the global efforts to conserve our oceans.

3. Clean Our Air

Winner: GRST

The Project:

GRST pioneers cleaner battery production by eliminating toxic adhesives in lithium-ion batteries and reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Impact:

GRST’s technologies enable a 35% reduction in energy consumption, a 40% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, and production of batteries that last 10% longer.

Future Plans:

Expanding to international markets, GRST plans to set up a manufacturing facility in Singapore.

4. Fix Our Climate

Winner: Boomitra

The Project:

Collaborating with 150,000 farmers worldwide, Boomitra focuses on improving agricultural practices to enhance soil health, increase crop yields, and sequester carbon dioxide.

Impact:

Since 2018, Boomitra has removed 15 million tonnes of CO2, with plans to provide at least US$200 million to farmers and ranchers by 2025.

Future Plans:

Boomitra is scaling their solutions internationally to help farmers improve soil health and increase crop yields. It also aims to store one gigaton of CO2 in the soil by 2030.

5. Build a Waste-free World

Winner: S4S Technologies

The Project:

S4S Technologies aids small-holder farmers in India by providing solar-powered dryers and food processing equipment, preventing unsold produce from going to waste and supporting women entrepreneurs.

Impact:

Over 100,000 farmers and 2,500 female entrepreneurs have experienced increased profits and doubled or tripled incomes since 2020.

Future Plans:

S4S aims to expand its network to one million small-holder farmers, help 10,000 entrepreneurs, and save half a million tonnes of food from waste in the next three years.

Photos: The Earthshot Prize

Lifestyle

Our Lifestyle Articles offer practical tips for the everyday Kenyan, making sustainable living accessible and achievable. From eco-friendly habits to conservation practices, we aim to guide you on incorporating simple yet effective changes into your daily routine to make a difference in your environmental impact.

Our Lifestyle Articles offer practical tips for the everyday Kenyan, making sustainable living accessible and achievable. From eco-friendly habits to conservation practices, we aim to guide you on incorporating simple yet effective changes into your daily routine to make a difference in your environmental impact. 

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In a world grappling with the repercussions of excessive plastic consumption, we, Singaporeans, are presented with an opportunity to lead the way in tackling plastic pollution.

This checklist focuses on reducing single-use plastics, a pressing concern in a densely populated urban environment like Singapore. By minimizing plastic waste through reusable alternatives and fostering a culture of conscious consumption, we can help alleviate the burden on landfills and marine ecosystems, preserving Singapore’s natural beauty for generations to come.

A checklist to help you become more environmentally conscious and build good habits regarding single-use plastics:

  • Carry a reusable water bottle and coffee cup to reduce reliance on plastic bottles and cups.

Use a reusable water bottle instead of purchasing single-use plastic bottles.

Using a reusable water bottle and coffee cup reduces the need for single-use plastic containers, decreasing plastic waste in Singapore’s landfills and waterways.

  • Use reusable shopping bags or bring your own tote bag when shopping to avoid plastic bags.

Bring your own reusable shopping bag instead of taking a new plastic bag.

Reusable shopping bags reduce the demand for disposable plastic bags, which are a major source of litter and pollution and require resources to produce.

  • Decline plastic straws and utensils when dining out and choose venues that support this initiative.

Use metal or glass reusable straws instead of plastic straws. Or ditch straws altogether!

Plastic straws and utensils are often not recyclable and can harm wildlife when they enter ecosystems. It also reduces the carbon footprint associated with plastic production. Bring your own reusable straws if you prefer to enjoy your beverage with a straw.

  • Choose products with minimal plastic packaging or opt for items sold in bulk or with eco-friendly packaging.

Bulk food stores often provide ec0-friendly paper or glass packaging. You can also bring your own containers from home.

Choosing products with minimal plastic packaging lowers the demand for plastic production and reduces waste generation.

  • Encourage friends and family in Singapore to participate in plastic reduction efforts, such as BYO (Bring Your Own) campaigns.

Bring your own container when you purchase cut fruits from the fruit and juice stall.

Encouraging friends and family to participate in plastic reduction efforts spreads awareness and promotes a culture of sustainability in Singapore.

Image courtesy of BYO Singapore

Which eco-friendly habits are you adding to your everyday life, and which are you already doing? 

Educational

Our Educational Articles cultivate environmental awareness. Gain insights into both local and global issues affecting Kenya’s ecosystem, and discover fascinating facts about the native flora, fauna, and wildlife. We aim to inform, inspire, and foster a deeper understanding of the environmental challenges and successes in the region.

Our Educational Articles cultivate environmental awareness.

Gain insights into both local and global issues affecting Kenya’s ecosystem, and discover fascinating facts about the native flora, fauna, and wildlife. We aim to inform, inspire, and foster a deeper understanding of the environmental challenges and successes in the region. 

The Weird and Wonderful: Mangrove

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In this series, we showcase the diversity of rare, peculiar, and fascinating native flora and fauna in Singapore. We enthusiastically invite you to explore our nature reserves and gardens, urging you to pause and observe your surroundings—whether by looking up or down—to see if you can catch a glimpse of these unique wonders.

Mangroves

Mangroves are a group of shrub and tree species that live along shores, rivers, and estuaries in the tropics, subtropics, and even some temperate coastal areas. Although used to describe the species, plant, or forest, the term mangrove is also commonly used collectively to describe the unique ecosystem these plants form.

These inter-tidal forests, comprising salt-tolerant trees featuring a partially exposed network of roots, are possibly the world’s most productive type of wetland. They provide shelter and food for an immense diversity of wildlife. They physically protect coastlines. They provide sustenance, raw materials, and medicine to communities who continue to depend on the land for their livelihoods. They are extremely resilient and are able to withstand the worst of storms, hurricanes, and flooding. 

During high tide, the roots of mangrove plants are completely submerged in seawater. And during low tide they are exposed to the sun. While the distinctive roots of mangroves play a crucial role in facilitating the respiration of these plants, their significance extends beyond that singular function.

Mangrove root systems provide a safe haven for fish fry and juvenile animals and host a variety of species, including mudskippers, otters, and water monitor lizards.

Their roots act as natural filters, trapping sediments and pollutants, and enhancing water quality. They protect marine life, and provide a natural buffer against storm surges and coastal erosion.

In the current era where climate change is a pressing concern, mangrove forests stand out for their remarkable ability to efficiently sequester carbon, trapping significant amounts of carbon dioxide by storing carbon in their biomass and the surrounding soil. 

However, the combined impacts of rising sea levels and activities such as agriculture, aquaculture, urban development, and harvesting have resulted in the erosion and deforestation of mangrove forests, causing the loss of more than a quarter of these vital ecosystems in the past 50 years. In the 1820s, mangroves accounted for 13 percent of Singapore’s land area. Today, less than 1 percent of the mangroves in Singapore remain.

Approximations suggest that Singapore’s remaining mangrove patches may store 450,570.7 megagrams of carbon, an equivalent to the average annual carbon emissions of 621,000 residents

The most extensive expanse of mangrove area on mainland Singapore is loacted within Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve. They can also be found within areas such as Mandai, Labrador Nature Reserve, and Pasir Ris Park, as well as offshore islands like Pulau Semakau and Pulau Ubin. 

There are about 35 mangrove species found in Singapore, here are a few to look out for: 

Common name: Bakau Minyak 

Scientific name: Rhizophora apiculata

The Bakau Minyak is one of the two most common mangrove species in Singapore and native to Singapore. They have the potential to grow upwards of 30 metres or more. Boasting a smooth dark grey bark that can reach up to 50cm in diameter, the bakau minyak is distinguished by its characteristic arching prop or stilt roots connected to the trunk, along with aerial roots emerging from its branches. 

Common name: Bakau Putih, Black Mangrove

Scientific name: Bruguiera cylindrica

The Bakau Putih, also known as Black Mangrove, is another common mangrove species and native to Singapore. These mangroves can reach heights of up to 20 meters but are frequently spotted on nature trails as compact shrubs or modest trees ranging from 2 to 3 meters in height. The trees have a greyish bark and are notably recognised for their lateral roots that stick out from the mud surface, bearing a resemblance to a person’s bent knees.

Common name: Nipah Palm, Water Coconut, Mangrove Palm, Attap

Scientific name: Nypa fruticans

You may already be familiar with this plant based on your knowledge of a popular local dessert. Ice kacang is a local favourite of red beans, creamed corn, grass jelly and the gem of all gems––attap chee, topped with a mountain of ice drizzled with gula melaka. Attap chee is the fruit of the nipah palm. And gula melaka (palm sugar) is made from its sap. The Nipah Palm is a mangrove palm native to Singapore. It is a medium to large-sized stemless palm that frequently grows in small clumps, characterized by its expansive leaf fronds.

If you come across mangroves in the wild, we encourage you to capture photos and document your observations. We especially recommend using the local SGBioAtlas app or the iNaturalist app, which enables you to share and validate your findings within the community.

Discover the wonders of nature, observe the intricacies of the world around you, and let curiosity be your guide. Happy exploring!

📷 Post your findings on social media and tag us on Instagram or Facebook.

The Weird and Wonderful: Otter

Otters are highly social creatures and like to forage and travel in groups of up to twelve or more. They are also incredibly resilient. In Singapore, the smooth-coated otter has adapted well to our urban cityscape.

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In this series, we showcase the diversity of rare, peculiar, and fascinating native flora and fauna in Singapore. We enthusiastically invite you to explore our nature reserves and gardens, urging you to pause and observe your surroundings—whether by looking up or down—to see if you can catch a glimpse of these unique wonders.

Otters

In recent years, Singapore has seen a rise in otter sightings. Once on the brink of local extinction, these critically endangered creatures are now thriving.

Otters can be found in wetlands, mangrove forests, rivers, lakes, and rice paddies. They find shelter in mangroves, where they breed and hunt for an array of prey. However, pollution and habitat loss from the decline of mangroves due to deforestation threatened their survival in the 1970s. 

When Singapore started its greening movements, cleaning up its waterways in the 1980s, expanding conservation efforts, and integrating more green and blue spaces within urban areas in 2001, the otter population rebounded. 

You can find two otter species in Singapore—the small-clawed otter and the smooth-clawed otter. They are both listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In certain regions of Asia, these otters face the threat of poaching for their skins. The ongoing illegal trade further threatens the species. 

Common name: Smooth-coated Otter

Scientific name: Lutrogale perspicillata 

The smooth-coated otter is most common species in Singapore. They are the largest otter in Southeast Asia and have a distinctive smooth, velvety coat. They forage for larger fish most of the time. Their also feed on crabs, shrimp, mudskippers, frogs, and birds. They are regularly seen at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve but have been spotted in locations like Singapore Botanic Gardens, Marina Bay, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, and reservoirs. According to Nparks, there currently about 170 smooth-coated otters island wide. 

Common name: Small-clawed Otter

Scientific name: Aonyx cinerea

The small-clawed otter is more elusive and mainly found in off-shore islands such Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong. It is the smallest species of all 13 species of otters found around the world. As their name implies, they have very small claws that don’t extend beyond their webbed feet. They have brown to light brown fur and a pale chest, throat, cheeks and chin. They primarily feed on crustaceans and molluscs like crabs and snails but will also eat small fish, insects, frogs, bird eggs and other small aquatic animals. 

Otters are highly social creatures. They use body language and touch, smells, and calls to communicate. And they like to forage and travel in groups of up to twelve or more. They are also incredibly resilient. In Singapore, the smooth-coated otter has adapted well to our urban cityscape. They have been seen using concrete and grass for grooming, and choosing small gaps and crevices under bridges as resting sites or dens. 

Living in a city where nature intertwines with urban life through parks and water bodies, we must learn to live alongside with wildlife. How can we share our rivers, reservoirs, and coastal wetlands with the otters? 

What to do when you encounter otters? 

  • Keep your hands to yourself. Do not touch, chase or corner the otters. They may look cute, but they are carnivores with sharp teeth (remember the otter in Zootopia?).
  • Observe them from a distance. Getting too close to the otters may frighten them.
  • Keep your snacks to yourself. Do not feed the otters. They have food in the natural environment. And their eating habits keep the ecosystem balanced and healthy. 
  • Pick up any trash you see. Do not litter or leave any sharp objects in the water. Clean and safe waterways filled with fish make healthy habitats for the otters to swim and feed in.

If you come across otters in the wild, we encourage you to (safely) capture photos and document your observations. We especially recommend using the local SGBioAtlas app or the iNaturalist app, which enables you to share and validate your findings within the community.

Discover the wonders of nature, observe the intricacies of the world around you, and let curiosity be your guide. Happy exploring!

📷 Post your findings on social media and tag us on Instagram or Facebook.

Recommended resources:

📗 International Union for Conservation of Nature, Otter Report

👀 How to keep otters out of your home?

🦦 Our Wild Neighbours

December Events in Singapore

December events in Singapore that help you raise awareness, take action, connect with nature, be a part of the environmental movement, and meet like-minded people.

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1. Sustainability Open Innovation Challenge 2023

Organiser: Enterprise Singapore

Description:

The fifth edition of the Sustainability Open Innovation Challenge, organised by Enterprise Singapore, seeks innovative minds to devise sustainable solutions under key themes: Climate Change, Green Buildings, Sustainable Agriculture & Trade, Sustainable Materials, and an Open Category

Successful innovators will gain a unique opportunity to engage in co-innovation with corporate partners. In addition, prizes include potential grant support, S$75,000 from Hexagon Group, as well as funding and real-world testing facilitated by industry pioneers. Learn more

2. Fashion Swap — Festive Edition

Time: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m., 1st – 3rd December

Place: AnchorPoint

Organiser: Cloop

Description:

Get ready to unwrap the most wonderful time of the year with Cloop’s festive edition Fashion Swap! Whether you’re gearing up for travelling, Christmas, NYE, or CNY celebrations, Cloop’s got your style needs covered sustainably!

Learn more about the event here.

3. East Coast Beach Plan Cleanups

Time: Friday, 1st December, Friday, 8th December, Friday, 15th December, Friday, 22nd December, Friday, 29th December 

Place: East Coast Park

Organiser: @eastcoastbeachplan

Description:

The East Coast Beach Plan is a ground-up initiative for anyone interested to join or self-organise clean-ups to do their part to reduce plastic pollution from entering the ocean. Note that all sessions are ad-hoc and self-organised by interested individuals, nothing is really centrally organised. Do participate safely and at your own discretion and risk.

Read this document before you go!

4. Death of a T-shirt?

Time: 7 p.m., Thursday, 7th December 

Place: Punggol Regional Library – Programme Room (Level 5) | Zoom

Organiser: Punggol Regional Library

Description:

In this programme, Jasmine Tuan, co-founder of Cloop, and Kevin Kho, Centre Manager of the RGE-NTU Sustainable Textile Research Centre will talk about the afterlives of our clothes. Find out what Singaporeans are doing to tackle the problem of textile waste, and how technology can help to give our clothes a second chance of life.

Get tickets here.

5. Zero • Market – Eco Xmas Edition

Time: 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., 16th & 17th December

Place: Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre, 30A Yishun Central 1, Singapore 768796

Organiser: Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre 慈济人文青年中心

Description:

The Zero • Market is a sustainable lifestyle market, where fresh produce and sustainable goods are available! They are working towards Zero Waste, starting with Zero Meat and Zero Plastic (except for unavoidable plastic packaging). It takes place every 1st and 3rd Weekend (Saturday and Sunday) of the month unless otherwise stated. Visit the Zero • Market and don’t forget to bring your own bag!

Learn more here.

6. Project Blue Wave Ambassador Workshop Part 1 & 2

Time: 9:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., Saturday, 16th December

Place: PAssion Wave@Marina Bay

Organiser: PAssion Wave@Marina Bay x Stridy

Description: Learn about marine biodiversity and environmental conservation with PAssion Wave @ Marina Bay and Stridy. Complete the sessions below to be an ambassador:
Part 1: Theory 
Part 2: Waterway / Park Cleanup 
Part 3: Volunteer with us

The minimum age of participation is 12, and participants are expected to register as volunteers and volunteer with PAssion Wave.

Online registration closes on 11 December. Use this link to register.

7. Repair Kopitiam

Time: Sunday, 17th December 

Place: Various locations 

Organiser: Repair Kopitiam 

Description:

Repair Kopitiam is an initiative designed to combat the disposable culture by offering a platform where individuals can mend their personal belongings with guidance and assistance from volunteer “Repair Coaches”. This do-it-yourself (DIY) repair event takes place on the final Sunday of each month at different locations throughout the country. To participate, attendees need to schedule a specific timeslot and are allowed to bring up to two items for repair during each session.

Booking opens on 1st December through 13th December. Read event house rules here.

8. Sustainable Creative Artwork by Visual Arts Centre X NTU ADM

Time: 10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., Saturday, 30th December

Place: Visual Arts Centre

Organiser: Visual Arts Centre x NTU ADM

Description:

This immersive experience is perfect for aspiring eco-conscious artists and individuals of all ages. Learn to merge artistic expression with a commitment to environmental responsibility. Dive into techniques that bring your ideas to life while championing sustainability. From recycled materials to nature-inspired themes, the workshop will ignite your passion for art and the planet.

The minimum age of participation is 10.

Learn more about the workshop here.

7 Practical Ways to Reduce Textile Waste

The fashion industry has long been synonymous with change and innovation, yet with these advancements comes a controversial side – the problem of textile waste. Here are some practical ways to reduce textile waste and make a positive impact on the planet. 

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The fashion industry has long been synonymous with change and innovation, yet with these advancements comes a controversial side – the problem of textile waste. Textile waste is pollution caused by the production and disposal of textiles such as clothes, shoes, accessories, towels, sheets, curtains, mattresses and more. It has adverse impacts on the environment.

In production, various toxic chemicals, dyes, and heavy metals used in the making of textiles, when not properly managed, find their way into water systems through run-off, which can affect the water quality of water bodies like rivers and lakes and underground aquifers. Run-off contamination also poses health risks to local communities that consume or come into contact with contaminated water, poisons the soil, and disrupts the balance of aquatic ecosystems.

The fast-fashion industry contributes to textile waste in a significant way. In response to the demand for budget-friendly trendy clothing, companies produce products quickly with synthetic materials. Polyester, for example, is a type of plastic fabric that is made from petroleum-based substances. During its manufacturing process, greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. Notably, the fashion industry produces 2-8% of global greenhouse gas emissions every year. 

The combination of low prices, subpar quality, and fleeting trendy styles also perpetuates a cycle of disposable consumption, where items are bought and discarded shortly after.

When polyester textile ends up in a landfill, it does not break down. It only degrades over time into microplastics and further pollutes the land and water.

In Singapore, textile that does not get recycled gets incinerated along with the rest of our waste and further generates emissions and air pollutants. Particularly concerning is the incineration of garments crafted from synthetic fibres, as it may release microfibers into the atmosphere.

Fashion is a powerful form of storytelling through self-expression. When we don clothing, footwear, and accessories, it evokes a sense of self-confidence and positivity. We use it to communicate our identity, values and personal style. Fashion serves as a visual representation of who we are. Not to forget, fashion also serves a practical function, providing us with clothing suitable for different weather conditions or activities. 

As individuals, we can make a difference by adopting sustainable practices in our fashion choices. Here are seven practical ways to reduce textile waste and make a positive impact on the planet. 

Mindful Consumption

Before making a new purchase, ask yourself if you need it. Consider the quality, versatility, and timelessness of the item. Choosing timeless pieces that can be styled in different ways extends the lifespan of your wardrobe. 

Second-hand Shopping

Explore thrift stores, vintage shops, and second-hand online platforms. Buying pre-loved clothing not only gives garments a second life but also helps to reduce the demand for new production. 

Clothing Swaps

Host or participate in clothing swaps with friends, family, or colleagues. Clothing swaps are a fun and sustainable way to refresh your wardrobe without spending money or contributing to textile waste. Cloop, Swapaholic, and The Fashion Pulpit are a few local organisations to look out for. Connect with them to stay updated on their upcoming events.

Upcycle or Repair

Transform old or worn-out clothing into something new through upcycling. Turn old jeans into shorts, create a tote bag or a pouch from an old t-shirt, embroider designs or add patches to revive old garments. 

Proper Clothing Care

Extend the life of your clothing by following proper care instructions. Wash clothes in cold water, air dry when possible, and avoid over-washing. Proper clothing care helps maintain the integrity of the fabric and prevents premature wear and tear, reducing your need to replace them. 

Support Sustainable Brands

When purchasing new items, support brands that prioritise sustainability. Look for companies that use recycled materials, eco-friendly materials, have ethical manufacturing practices, and take-back programmes. By supporting these brands, you can contribute to a shift in the fashion industry towards more responsible and sustainable practices. 

Donate or Recycle Responsibly

If you find yourself with clothing you no longer need, donate it to local charities or clothing banks. Ensure that the items are clean and in good condition. If the items are not fit for donations, explore recycling options. Cloop’s yellow bins, for example, accept items in any condition.

What are some practices you adopt to make less textile waste?