Interviews · Singapore

Income Eco Run Participant, Neil Humphreys is Optimistic That Singapore Can be a Zero Waste Nation

by On Feb 6, 2018

The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.

Neil Humphreys is Optimistic That Singapore Can be a Zero Waste Nation

Neil Humphreys is no stranger when it comes to saving the environment. This English author, who lives and works in Singapore, brings food containers to hawker centre to avoid littering the planet with single-use plastics. So, it is only fitting that Neil register as a Zero Waste Runner in Income Eco Run 2018, and take part in #RUNHOMESG.

#RUNHOMESG is a new initiative launched by Income Eco Run that encourages everyone to run home from work in order to reduce carbon footprint. To participate in #RUNHOMESG’s goal to clock 10,000km by 27 April 2018, runners can track their runs with their preferred activity and upload screenshots of their completed runs on #RUNHOMESG Facebook group. 10 winners will be picked every month from January to March 2018 to win awesome goodies.

On 16 January 2018, to kickstart #RUNHOMESG, Neil ran 13km home from Marina Bay to Kovan, together with other runners. Neil shares his experience on running home, his running journey and his optimistic views about how Singapore can be a zero-waste nation.

Neil Humphreys is Optimistic That Singapore Can be a Zero Waste Nation

Launch of #RUNHOMESG (Photo Credit: Income Eco Run)

RS: How was your experience running home on the launch day of #RUNHOMESG?

Neil: It was a wonderful experience. The highlight was the camaraderie. I usually run alone so it was lovely to be a part of a group, spurring each other on. As we made our way along Serangoon Road, we needed all the support we could get. Running 13km is so much more fun when you’re not alone.

RS: Tell us about your experience running home from your actual workplace.

Neil: Actually, I run away from home and back again. I work from home, so I’m constantly aware that I’m somewhat sedentary for most of the day. Typing doesn’t really burn too many calories so I’m paranoid about getting regular exercise. So, I make a point of running reasonably regularly. I put away the laptop, do between 8-10km and then return to the laptop. I have to do that because the distance between my living room and my workplace is two metres. I live in a small apartment!

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The biggest challenge with running to and from my work/home is motivation. I’m always alone and it’s usually in the evening when I’ve finished work. So, the temptation to not bother and head to the hawker centre instead can be overwhelming! That said, the physical and mental benefits are fantastic. Once I’m home, showered and eaten, I’m completely refreshed and ready to go again. I’m always more tired and less productive at work when I haven’t been running. The exercise sharpens body and mind.

RS: Do you have advice for people who want to run home from the office?

Neil: Do it! Don’t over-think it. Don’t procrastinate. Just do it! Don’t worry about speed, timing or even distance. Don’t worry if you don’t make it all the way home. Start slowly. Run to the nearest MRT station, and then the next one, and so on. Build up the kilometres in the body. Do it gradually and don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember, it doesn’t matter how long you take to run home, you still have a huge advantage over every single person who didn’t run home!

Neil Humphreys is Optimistic That Singapore Can be a Zero Waste Nation

Photo Credit: Income Eco Run

RS: Have you joined Income Eco Run in the past?

Neil: Yes. I think this will be my third time. In the past, I have taken part in both the running and the scooting events. I’m particularly keen on the eco-friendly aspects of the event, minimising waste and so on. I’ve made videos in the past about the importance of reusing and recycling. It’s such an important issue for me, particularly in Singapore, where we’re just too small to be drowning in single-use plastics. And these races also give me an incentive to go out and train (and a valid excuse with my wife when I tell her I can’t do the washing-up because I need to prepare for the Income Eco Run! I’ll be doing the 10k race this time, which will keep me out the of the house for a while.

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RS: Tell us about your running journey. Do your family members run as well?

Neil: I’m not a runner in the sense that I’ve got absolutely no talent, stamina or pedigree! I’m not one of the guys who find running easy. I run simply because I try to keep reasonably fit for my daughter and because I also enjoy the solitude and greenery of running through the park connectors, around the Punggol Waterway and Coney Island and so forth. My wife was a school sprint champion, so she’ll run with me once in a while and my daughter, who’s nine, does seem to have the making of a half-decent distance runner. She has run a few charity races with me. We get fitter and raise a few bucks for a good cause. Win-win!

RS: You bring your own containers to the food court to save the planet. Tell us about it.

Neil: Yes, I do actually. It’s something I’m increasingly aware of as I get older. First, there’s a practical reason. My daughter is the world’s slowest eater. So, she eats half at the hawker centre as we finish our meals and then she eats the other half when we get home. It’s easier to ask the hawker to fill up our own container. Singapore’s track record when it comes to recycling isn’t great, to be diplomatic, and I’ve written many times about the need to raise awareness about such a pressing issue.

Neil Humphreys is Optimistic That Singapore Can be a Zero Waste Nation

Photo Credit: Income Eco Run

RS: What are other things Singaporeans can do to move towards a “Zero Waste” society?

Neil: On a broader level, I believe every housing block and street in Singapore should have access to recycling bins – plastic, paper and tin at the very least. In other developed countries, it’s the norm to separate rubbish into different dustbins. But we’re very reluctant to follow suit.

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Part of the reason is the way we dispose of our rubbish, straight down a single chute, so everything tends to get chucked in. Ideally, every block would have two chutes, one each for waste and recycling, but that’s probably a little fanciful and expensive. But recycling bins beneath every block, somewhere discreet, near the lift lobbies or the bins, would be a start.

Sadly, we often need legal or financial incentives to be pushed into action, i.e. fines for those who don’t recycle, which nobody wants. So rather than the stick, go with the carrot. Reward those who take containers to food courts. Give a tiny discount (it’s saving the hawker in packaging and plastic cutlery anyway). Give points or a discount to those who take along recyclable bags to supermarkets. Take your own water bottle to hawker centres and foods courts.

Admittedly, this can occasionally irritate the drinks stall owner, so I might buy one drink from him for the table, to keep him happy! But I just can’t waste all those plastic cups and straws and tin cans every time I eat out. Still, these are tiny, simple changes, but they’d have a profound impact on our small island if we all adopted them. Luckily, younger Singaporeans are much more on-message when it comes to “zero waste” so I’m still optimistic!

Let’s do our part towards a zero-waste nation

As runners, this is our chance to save the earth doing what we love. Let’s minimise carbon footprint by using transportation methods that don’t exhaust the non-renewable resources. Let’s opt-out race pack entitlements if we don’t desperately need another race singlet, finisher’s tee and medals, and save S$4 in the process.

Join the #RUNHOMESG for a greener future at the Income Eco Run 2018.

Eva is a casual runner who has been hooked on marathons since her first race in 2011. She’s content to spend her weekends only on running. She is also a hiking enthusiast and traveling addict. When she’s not doing outdoor activities, she indulges in reading.

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