A new wave of celebrities are lending their voices to causes close to their heart, all in the name of making the world a better place. To commemorate Earth Day on April 22, we ask stars like Charmaine Yee, Carla Dunareanu, Julie Tan and Jean Danker, how they are helping Planet Earth – and humanity through their everyday actions:
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– Charmaine Yee, 31, KISS92 Deejay
When she’s not on-air keeping listeners entertained every weekday from 1 to 4 pm, Charmaine is pursuing her other passion: Keeping the planet green and clean!
“Saving the planet is important because we’ve got to look after our next generation. I would like my kids to enjoy the same travel locations that I’m travelling to right now, and taking care of Planet Earth is just one of the many ways I can do my part in making that a reality,” says Charmaine.
“My thing is using less plastic and Styrofoam. So, I play my part in lessening my impact on the environment by bringing my own Tupperware to work so I can ta bao (take away) my lunch from the canteen. I also love my metal straws. I stash a few at home and at the office so I’m never without one.”
The fitness enthusiast also uses technology to her advantage, saying that she eschews printing things on paper these days and instead, opts to bring her laptop or iPad to meetings or presentations. If she absolutely can’t do without paper, she tries to use both sides.
“Sustainability is important for long-term change. Changing your daily habits to be eco-friendly doesn’t have to be a 180-degree transformation. It comes from making small adjustments that can realistically fit into your lifestyle,” she explains.
“I think in the beginning it may seem like being eco-friendly is difficult but honestly, once things become a habit, it becomes part of everyday life. In my house, we have a recyclable bag hanging by the door to make it convenient to go grocery shopping. It’s the little things like this that make a difference and every little bit really does count.”
Charmaine adds that while having a voice on the radio to share her views is great fun, it’s also a privilege, “I have daily conversations on The Afternoon Scoop with our listeners and if sharing the topic could make at least one person say ‘Hey, switching to a metal straw instead of using a plastic one isn’t that hard’, then I’ve added to the big change in a small way.”
If I had a superpower that could change the world it would be… “the ability to snap my fingers and collect all the plastic in the ocean to make it disappear; and the ability to simply stare down the rising sea levels and cool intense heat waves!”
– Julie Tan, 27, Actress
Some critics have decried the use of metal straws saying they’re not as sustainable as we think, but Julie is paying those naysayers no mind. And she’s spreading the word among her fanbase that she’s had the last straw with plastic.
“In June last year, I was doing an overnight shoot at East Coast Park and I was appalled at the amount of plastic trash just strewn across the beach. It was heart breaking. I’m a diver too and on a recent dive trip to Pulau Tioman, I spotted something bright and red among the coral, which turned out to be a can of soda,” she laments.
“That’s when I decided to reach out to my fans and use my influence to re-educate people on the harms of plastic. Start with baby steps: Buy reusable straws, utensils or cups. Start refusing plastic ones given out at places you frequent. Any contribution to preserving our environment will eventually lead to something bigger because small acts multiplied by millions can make a world of difference.”
Her ban on plastic has lead Julie to collaborate with the Waterways Watch Society, an independent volunteer group that brings people together to foster a love for our waters and to inspire stewardship for the environment.
“My fan club came out and joined me in cleaning up the surrounding areas of Marina Reservoir last November. It was tedious work but fun too. You wouldn’t believe the kind of trash that we found just clogging up the waterways. I found a sanitary pad!”, exclaims Julie.
“People don’t understand that the water found in our waterways can also be treated and converted to drinking water so by raising awareness for this issue, I’m hoping people will think twice before just throwing their rubbish around absentmindedly.”
Julie, who is self-managed and has opened her own F&B venture this year, says ignoring the problem will have dire consequences.
“I admit it isn’t easy to reduce, reuse and recycle. There are days when I’m busy and I forget to bring along my reusable straw but I’ll make up for it in other ways. Maybe I’ll have a cappuccino for lunch instead so I don’t have to use a straw. We all need to be making small but conscious decisions like this because if we don’t, by 2025 we’ll be drowning in plastic,” she warns.
If I had a superpower that could change the world it would be… “the ability to teleport trash and just make it disappear. Right now, wealthier countries are compressing then exporting their trash to third world countries but this isn’t the solution. It’s just biding time. I don’t want my future children to be swimming in a sea of trash.”
– Carla Dunareanu, 30, Fly Entertainment Artiste
Not just a pretty face, Carla is proving she has a big heart too by recently signing on as an ambassador for Habitat for Humanity, a global charity that works alongside low-income communities to provide safe and affordable housing.
“The mission is very straightforward: It’s to build houses for people. When we think about it, it’s such a common thing we take for granted. Everyone needs a roof over their head, everyone needs to feel safe at night with a door that locks, in a home that’s not going to be washed away,” says the recently-wed actress.
As part of her duties, Carla gets her hands dirty by visiting Singaporean homes belonging to the poor or vulnerable and gives them a thorough cleaning. Does that make her a local Marie Kondo of sorts then? The 30-year-old says no.
“I was like we’re going to go in, we’re going to sweep some floors, and we’re going to dust some windows, maybe like tidy or Marie Kondo some stuff. And then we go in and the whole house is covered in powder because the elderly lady who lived there thought it would deter bed bugs and I’m like ‘Where are we? What is this place? Are we in Singapore?” recalls Carla.
“It was very eye-opening to some situations that Singaporeans live in that we are just unaware of. We don’t get exposed much to homeless people and poverty – it’s so well-hidden that when you do see it, it’s very humbling.”
Calling herself a hands-on person, Carla reveals she likes that she’s not just building a hypothetical dream for people, she’s literally building their dream house. “As an artist, it’s easy to get caught up in the whole idolisation of it but I realised that all this attention doesn’t mean anything if I have nothing good to say.
“It becomes wasted energy. I’ve never chased to be famous or get awards. That has never been the goal. But if all of these avenues are giving me the spotlight, then I should use this platform to guide my fans to be better people.”
If I had a superpower that could change the world it would be… “to convert any body of water into clean, drinking water. There are many countries in the world, including Singapore, who do not have their own reserve of clean water. Water is the one of basic human needs. You can go without food for an extended period of time but you can’t go without water. It is the source of life.”
– Jean Danker, 40, Radio Deejay
What hasn’t Jean done? In addition to having a successful career on the airwaves, she’s also hosted the National Day Parade several times and is happily married to fellow deejay, Glenn Ong. But her dedication to charity work is often an afterthought that many people forget about.
“I am very blessed, and I’m acutely aware there are many people out there who aren’t as blessed as I am. So I feel like, I will give if I can, in any way, shape or form that I can help, like lending my voice or presence. Each and every one of us should help the needy, less fortunate or underprivileged whenever possible,” explains Jean.
“And if I can help push the message because of my profession, then all the more I feel I have to use it. As a woman of a certain privilege, it’s a very natural thing to want to give back and help, and to be kind to others. Women generally are caretakers and nurturers. We like to take care of everyone around us.”
A supporter of Singapore’s Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), the 40-year-old says animal causes are near and dear to her because she’s a fur-mum to two of her very own pups: Biscuit and Bella.
“The wildlife rescue team at Acres does an amazing job helping wild animals in Singapore that may be injured or displaced. I recently did a story on them to highlight the work that they do with the over 200 animals in their care who were injured or abandoned and need medical attention and rehabilitation,” she shares.
“I also raise awareness for the Animal Lover’s League, Singapore’s largest and longest-running no-kill shelter. The non-profit charity provides over 500 cats and dogs with a home, regular meals and essential medical care all year round; and connects them with new loving, committed owners who responsibly adopt, not buy.”
If I had a superpower that could change the world it would be… “the ability to heal and uplift everything and everyone with the touch of a hand. Broken hearts, insecurities, depression, physical ailments, you name it, I can heal it. I believe if everyone felt better in mind and body, we’ll make the best decisions that would naturally steer us away from all the bad stuff that ultimately causes all sorts of crime, from rape and murder to wars.”
Art Direction: Ivy Choong
Styling: Jerome Awasthi, assisted by Nadia Rashid
Hair: Isaac Ng/Toni&Guy & Den Ng/Prep Luxe
Makeup: Dollei Seah/Makeup Entourage & Audrey Wee & Ginger Lynette
A version of this article first appeared in the April 2019 print issue of The Singapore Women’s Weekly.