Did you know that by 2050, it’s projected that there will be more plastic than fish by weight in the ocean? With the problem of wastage ever increasing, and the news of endangered animals going extinct (the loss of the last male Northen white rhino was just one of several species), it’s clearer than ever that we need to make some lifestyle adjustments.
Enter the new green merchants who aren’t just teaching people how to tread lightly with their ecological footprint, but they are rethinking what it means to go green. Each of these Singaporean women are living life sustainably in their own way, and bringing us eco-friendly goods so that we too, can join the green revolution.
The Transformer: Tiffany Loy
Designer and founder, Parasolbag
Listening to Tiffany Loy wax lyrical about the humble fabric used to make awnings and beach umbrellas, you’d think she was talking about a super-luxe material like silk. “It’s really strong, light and water-resistant, and the colours are great,” she gushes. “The material looks beautiful.”
The 31-year-old textile-maker uses “offcuts” – scrap material in odd shapes and sizes that would normally be thrown away – from two local factories here, and turns them into stylish, made-to-order tote bags that can be used on a daily basis. The colourful, patterned bags, which are machine-stitched, sell for between $80 and $130.
Tiffany, who is trained as an industrial designer and runs her own studio, does not consider herself an eco-warrior. But she’s mindful of the waste that fast fashion generates, and of the buy-and-throw culture that pervades of the retail industry. Her bags then, are a statement against non-biodegradable factory wastage, as well as a way of encouraging people to understand and appreciate where their fashion comes from. “I want people to see that these things are made by people,” she says, adding that even stuff that’s bought off the rack has some kind of human touch to it.
Tiffany has always love textiles, and her fascination with textile-making motivated her to enroll in a weaving course in Kyoto, Japan, in 2015. “I wanted to learn how to make fabric so that I could truly understand it,” she explains. After her course, she brought a weaving loom home to Singapore and began creating hand-woven artwork. That no-waste mantra is a consistent theme running through her work – which has been exhibited in both local and international galleries. Her most recent work is wearable art pieces woven from single pieces of fabric – such that no cutting or sewing is required, and no balance fabric is wasted.
Through her art and her Parasolbags, Tiffany hopes to grow people’s environmental consciousness through what they wear. “It’s more relatable if your piece of work is connected to the human body. When it’s too abstract, sometimes it doesn’t make the connection,” she says.
For more, go to http://parasolbag.com/
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The Vegan E-tailor: Jaslyn Goh
Founder, Souley Green
You could call Jaslyn Goh an accidental vegan. She started cutting out meat and diary from her diet in 2015, as a last resort to fix her cystic acne. “I was on medication, but every time I stopped taking it the acne would come back, and it would be even worse,” she recalls. Jaslyn chanced on a video about a girl whose acne was cured by the vegan diet and decided to give it a go. It worked and over time, her skin began to clear up. As the 23-year-old dived into more research about veganism, she was appalled by the kind of conditions farm animals faced. And so, she quit buying animal products altogether – including clothing made from leather and wool, and skincare that had been tested on animals.
Jaslyn, who was working in retail management at the time, began to post pictures of her transition into the vegan lifestyle on Instagram – including granola bowls, smoothies, and even a biryani with tomato bean salad and tom yum lentil that she prepared herself. Her posts gained traction, and she amassed around 13,000 followers in just a short time. Many wanted to know where to buy the vegan cooking pastes and green powders (made from plant extract) that she used in her cooking. Jaslyn found herself constantly directing people to various vegan brands that she bought produce from. It was then that she realised there was a gap that needed filling, and hit on an idea to establish an e-commerce platform that would be a one-stop shop for people to buy plant-based and cruelty-free products. Jaslyn left her job in early 2016 to make that germ of an idea a reality – persuading vegan retailers, both local and international, to come on board. Four months later, Souley Green was up and running.
The Souley Green team at Earth Fest this year
“I started the website with about five to 10 different brands, ranging from food to beauty and lifestyle products,” Jaslyn says. Many of these brands had previously collaborated with her on Instagram, and were happy to come on board. The support came pouring in, especially from her fans on social media. Customers ranged from teens as young as 16 to housewives – all eager to go vegan to both improve their health, and do their part to end animal cruelty. Currently, she stocks 26 brands on her site – totalling over 150 products. These include lesser-known offerings like meat substitutes made from jackfruit and plant-based dessert sauces from Thailand, and bamboo toothbrushes from Australia that are 100 per cent biodegradable.
As environmental protection is a big component of the vegan lifestyle, Souley Green’s products are sent to its customers in recycled cardboard boxes, and Jaslyn is big on encouraging them to reuse or recycle the same boxes. The company also gets actively involved in green festivals that promote sustainability, like Earthfest and Green is the New Black. The site also acts as a resource for vegans – where Jaslyn shares her own recipes, as well as links to educational material and documentaries for those keen on learning more about veganism. The wider goal – to grow the community beyond her current enthusiastic Instagram following.
Next up for Jaslyn – opening a concept store where vegans can dine and shop. “I want to change people’s perceptions of the vegan lifestyle. It isn’t just about eating salads,” she says. “By incorporating vegan items into my menu, people can learn how to use them properly, buy them home and try it for themselves.”
For more, go to https://souleygreen.com/
The Upcycler: Lyn Ng
Carpenter, Triple Eyelid Studio
Lyn Ng is an “upcycler” – someone who converts unwanted wood into new products. That’s because everything she makes – from tables, chairs, and household items like table lamps – is constructed from planks of pallet wood, the kind typically used to transport goods.
The 26-year-old is a carpenter, and makes bespoke, customized furniture out of these discarded pieces of wood. Her pieces go for between $15 (for a namecard holder) and $2,000 (for larger home pieces). She also regularly conducts two-hour workshops to teach others how to upcycle wood, so that they can make their own home decor. This environmentally-friendly approach to carpentry has been gaining momentum overseas, and is now slowly catching on here. Triple Eyelid Studios – where she’s honing her skills as a carpenter and product designer under its founder Jackie Tan – gets most of its used pallet wood from a local company, though from time to time, people bring certain types of wood over, so they can get a beautiful piece of furniture made from it.
Working with discarded wood, in particular, is tedious. First, she has to remove the nails from the pallets. Then, she sends the planks for heat treatment to remove moisture, chemicals and as well as to kill pests. After that, she planes the wood and puts it through a machine to be trimmed to a consistent thickness. Only then is it ready for use. Sounds like a lot of work? It is. But Lyn enjoys the process. “There’s something therapeutic about working with tools and machines,” she says, adding that pallet wood is a relatively light material, so there’s not much heavy-lifting involved.
For all the buzz that Lyn gets for being one of the few female carpenters in Singapore, she’s actually pretty new to the game. Her interest in woodwork was sparked last year, when she and her family moved into a new home. “I wanted to design my own furniture. So I bought planks from Ikea and tried my hand at it.” Although none of the furniture made the cut, Lyn discovered she enjoyed working with her hands.
This bag (which is a lot lighter than it looks) is an example of her playful approach to wood products.
So much so, that she decided to quit her marketing job, and with just a few thousand dollars in her bank account, flew to Taiwan to apprentice under an experienced carpenter for six months. “After every marketing campaign I worked on, I didn’t feel satisfaction because I wouldn’t get to see the end result. With woodwork, I get to hold the finished product, and it’s really satisfying,” she says. There, she learnt to use small hand tools, before moving on to power tools (like drills) and finally machines. What started out as a break from corporate life grew to become a personal mission.
The more time Lyn spent working with wood, the more she felt furniture-making generated a lot of wood waste. This drove her to seek alternative sources for her products. That was when she came across Triple Eyelid Studios online, and when she realised Jackie would often scour local industrial parks for used pallet wood to incorporate into his creations, she was sold.
Since Lyn joined Triple Eyelid Studios in mid-2017, she has helped Jackie to engage with people through social media and digital marketing. “A lot of women sign up for our workshops. We have those in their 20s and 30s, as well as stay-at-home mothers,” she says, dispelling the notion that carpentry is too rough for women. “Upcycling prolongs the life of the discarded items and also reduces the burning of wood (to dispose of it), which harms the environment. If more people take on upcycling, it also minimises the amount of trees that are cut down.”
This article was first published in the April 2018 issue of Her World magazine.