“We Breathe What We Buy”, a campaign to combat Singapore’s annual haze problem

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Leading non-governmental groups in Singapore join forces to launch “We Breathe What We Buy”, a campaign initiated by concerned citizens for the purpose of raising awareness, educating and empowering the public to be part of the solution to Singapore’s annual haze problem.

In 2013, Singapore’s 3-hour PSI shot to a record high of 401. The haze is largely caused by the unsustainable clearing of land fuelled by growing global demand for pulp/paper and palm oil. Palm oil is the world’s most widely used vegetable oil, commonly found in many consumer products, such as lipsticks, toothpaste, pizza and ice-cream – more than half of the products typically found in a supermarket contain palm oil. By 2020, the use of palm oil is expected to double as the population grows and people become more affluent[1]. Currently, 85% of the world’s supply is produced in plantations located mainly in Indonesia and Malaysia[2], with plantations many times the size of Singapore[3].

Elaine Tan, CEO of WWF-Singapore asserts, “While Singaporeans are faced with the harsh realities of the haze, we need to work harder at getting consumers to establish the direct impact of our consumption. It is for this reason that the campaign is titled “We Breathe What We Buy”, where we aim to drive mass public consumer awareness, to create demand for certified sustainable palm oil, and bring about a market transformation that can help to stop the haze.”

United on a common vision, WWF-Singapore, People’s Movement to Stop Haze (PM.Haze), and Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) will work together to heighten public awareness of the solutions available and where we – as consumers – can also drive positive change through direct consumer action. A series of educational outreach programs will be conducted, supported by a mass media / public engagement campaign featuring bus stop ad placements, nature walks, mall exhibitions, school talks, art installations and social media content driven by a strong cast of social influencers. One of the key goals of the campaign is to collect 50,000 pledges from people in Singapore to support companies that go ‘haze-free’.

Tan Yi Han, Co-founder of PM.Haze said, “Through social media, conversations with the general public and surveys, we saw that the vast majority of people in Singapore were unaware of their role in the haze problem as a consumer. And so, whenever the haze hits, people would only feel fear and frustration. From today onwards, we are giving people the tools to transform this negativity into positive action. We want everyone to realise that we can already start protecting our clean air with these 5 actions: consume less edible oil, use less paper, choose certified sustainable palm oil and paper products, and take the pledge to encourage companies to go ‘haze-free’.”

With the pledges collected, WWF-Singapore will engage with companies in Singapore to work on long term transformative solutions that will encourage the adoption and use of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). Europe is leading the charge internationally, with the European palm oil industry setting the course for 100% CSPO by 2020. Working in concert with both end consumers and producers / businesses the campaign hopes to achieve a similar milestone in Singapore.

Darrel Webber, Secretary General of RSPO said, “It’s great to see Singapore-based NGOs working together to find solutions to what has become an annual scourge for the region. The benefits of sustainable development in South East Asia will be enjoyed by South East Asians. It’s about time for the ask for sustainable development not to be seen as a Western demand but as a demand from South East Asians. Singaporeans can pave the way for others in the region to follow. We urge every Singaporean to play their part by asking companies to act today for a sustainable future.”

The campaign website http://webreathewhatwebuy.com opens for pledge-taking today. Members of the public can also learn more about the haze through an interactive exhibition on 25th and 26th July at City Square Mall (B1 Fountain Square) and “Air Your Views”, a nature walk cum outdoor forum on haze, organized by PM.Haze on 1st August at Admiralty Park.

[1] http://www.wwf.org.au/our_work/saving_the_natural_world/forests/palm_oil/
[2] http://www.wwf.org.au/our_work/saving_the_natural_world/forests/palm_oil/
[3] https://www.hazetracker.org/about-haze