As we at Secondsguru brace up for meeting a new cohort of eco initiated youngsters at the Zero Waste Bootcamp #5– kickstarting on Nov 21, 2020 and running for 16 weeks thereon, we wanted to put the spotlight on Team Oath, the winners of the Zero Waste Bootcamp #3. The team has come a long way, translating their passion for the planet to a meaningful proposition of a “clothes swap library”  that allows one to buy fashion sustainably.    

With the aim to encourage environmental stewardship, in 2019, Secondsguru launched a series of Zero Waste Bootcamps (ZWBs) aligned with Singapore’s “Towards Zero Waste” goals to equip the youth (18-35 yrs old) in Singapore with knowledge and skills on ways to embrace zero waste lifestyles, so that they, in turn, become change makers and shape their communities. We are really proud to share that our ‘sustainably’ motivated teams dealt with many top environmental issues from tackling food waste in Singapore to making the shift to reusable cups; it is no surprise that fashion would be on the agenda too! 

With sustainable and ethical fashion on their mind, Team Oath won our third Zero Waste Bootcamp (ZWB#3) held from August 2019 to December 2019. Some of the members of were top contenders at OCBC’s ‘The Green Pitch’ event and will be receiving funding from OCBC, MCCY and Seastainable to continue their work in the fashion sector. Read on, as the team shares their 8 week long journey over the bootcamp duration from being complete strangers to pulling off a successful campaign with a movie screening as well as clothes swap event.

This is a story of tenacity and patience. One of grit and humility. Oh and in case you haven’t already figured it out, a lot of FUN!

Esther Heng, Sindy Ong and Yin Ling Tan from Team Oath presenting at ZWB#3 review session
Esther Heng, Sindy Ong and Yin Ling Tan from Team Oath presenting at ZWB#3 review session

Introduction│ Who we are

We are Team Oath – Sindy Ong, Tan Yin Ling, Esther Heng and Grace.

Sindy is a finance professional specialising in design and implementation of wealth management and succession strategies as well as an eco ambassador for Mother Earth Toastmasters Club. She strongly advocates that through education and knowledge, people can be empowered to take better life decisions.

Yin Ling’s interest in animals and the environment has led her to choose a degree in Conservation Biology and Ecology. She currently works to raise public awareness about the environment through environmental education.

Esther believes that capitalism and consumerism is a problem that needs to be given a good though. While signing up for ZWB#3, she pledged to “buy and order food mindfully to minimise waste

Grace is UK based as she is doing a minor in sustainability at the University of Leeds. While signing up for ZWB#3, she pledged to “recycle properly on campus, in office and at home

The Problem│ Why we chose to create awareness about Fast Fashion

Towards the end of the last decade, the Pandora’s Box opened and out came tumbling the ugly truths about the fashion industry that the world so far had been blissfully unaware of. Considered to be among the top 5 most polluting industries, the fashion world is said to be responsible for 10% of global greenhouse emissions. Since 2000, clothing production has doubled itself with some brands offering as many as 24 collections per year BUT consumers ends up keeping these clothes for only half the time period before disposing of it; it is estimated that nearly 85% of textiles end up in landfills or are incinerated when they could be reused or recycled. This industry is also the second largest consumer of water worldwide – 700 gallons of water to produce one cotton shirt which is about eight cups of water for one person to drink per day for three and a half years. Did you know that 35% of all the microplastics found in the oceans came from washing our synthetic fibres like polyester? By the way, these are only a few of the many truths about the fashion industry and in a way they are quite literally ‘show stoppers’.

Two of us had watched the movie ‘The True Cost’ before and that opened our eyes to the reality of the fashion industry. We realised that fast fashion was harmful for both the environment as well as the people – the worker community who work in bad conditions and get paid laid wages to ensure the our clothing remains cheap.

On researching the topic a bit further, a can of worms just opened itself up – nearly 2625 kg of clothes end up in landfills per second and clothes made from non biodegradable fabric could remain in landfills for as long as 200 years!

On the personal front, most of us have been guilty of overbuying clothes, especially from online fast-fashion retailers, only to rarely or never wear them. As usual, those were set aside for a time when they would be donated or trashed. As we became more aware of the bigger problem ourselves, we realised that the self-created projects during ZWB #3 would be the right opportunity to learn more about the issue and create solutions for ourselves and those around us experiencing the same problems with ‘excess’ of clothing.

As the world realises the ‘true cost’ paid for being fashionable, it is imperative that both suppliers and consumers make the shift from fast to slow fashion. And change is taking place from big brands making their supply chains more transparent to consumers opting to change their mindsets fashion-wise including being open to swap and share instead of buying and throwing. 

The Process │ How we tackled the problem and plan to make this bigger

The primary aim of our campaign was to get people to RETHINK their consumption habits and REPURPOSE or REUSE old clothes. Through our research, we came to the conclusion that getting people to change their mindset is a two step process (in a simplified manner!) – First create awareness about the problem and then offer a solution to them. So, we did exactly that!

True cost of fashion- movie screening by Team Oath
True cost of fashion- community movie screening poster by Team Oath

In September 2019, we held a movie screening of ‘The True Cost’ with support from Secondsguru and it was attended by 28 people. Post the screening, when we asked the audience what their key takeaways were, most people said that they would be ‘more mindful of their consumption patterns’ from then on.

Next was step 2 – giving the consumer an alternative solution to put their old clothes to good use instead of just throwing them away as well as an opportunity to own new without buying. We decided that we would organise a clothes swap event to address both. For the event to go off smoothly, we got a lot of help from City Development Ltd (CDL), Swapaholic and Secondsguru – it is always great to have partnerships and networks so we can tap into each other’s resources. We also learnt that it is important to establish long term relationships with your partners, so make the time to go meet with them and share your vision. Sincerity and trust are key ingredients in any successful collaboration.

Zero Waste Bootcamp #3 team, Team Oath running their first fashion swap at SSA, Singapore
First Swap: Zero Waste Bootcamp #3 team, Team Oath running their first fashion swap at SSA, Singapore

On 24 November 2019, we organised our first ever swap at the Singapore Sustainability Academy in City Square Mall! We were worried about attendance, however, on the day itself, people were coming and going excitedly and it was extremely heart-warming to see. We collected around 138 kgs of clothes (prior to the event), 300 items of clothing were available at the swap and a total of 58 items were exchanged!

Not one to give up, we wanted to take this campaign forward, we started  thinking on the lines of a clothes library – like a rental wardrobe so that people can borrow instead of having to buy new.

Challenges │ What were the main tumbling blocks for our campaign – professional and personal

For us, the biggest challenge was the mindset change we were trying to bring about – many of them were not very open to the idea of wearing pre-loved clothes. While some felt that wearing second hand clothes was a hygiene issue, some others felt ‘it is always nice to have something new.’ It was important for us to first understand the reasons behind their mental block for preloved clothes, so we could work on changing it in the long run.

Team Oath at the Zero waste Bootcamp ecothon session- ideation and goal setting in progress
Ideation and goal setting in progress.: Team Oath at the Zero waste Bootcamp ecothon session. Lots of laughs along the way!

As far as the team was concerned, our biggest challenge was the lack as well as lag in communication. The fact that we were complete strangers who had just met each other during the first workshop of ZWB# 3 made it hard for us to immediately open up and get down to work. However, soon enough Sindy took charge and started arranging the meetings and events, the rest of us started taking initiative as well to complete the tasks assigned to us.

Future│ How we plan to take our campaign to the next level

For us, Oath was a stepping stone for learning and we hope that it will remain a platform to raise awareness about fashion waste.

Two of our members, Sindy and Yin Ling were very passionate about the concept of introducing circularity in our fashion choices and spent more time researching the topic. They subsequently proposed the project concept to OCBC Cares and Youth Action Challenge for funding grants. Along with two other individuals who they met after the bootcamp, their team of four has received funding to start something new – a clothes library.

Their new initiative, Cloop, strives to provide sustainable fashion options to mainly women, entirely surrounding the concept of rescuing preloved, secondhand clothes to encourage clothing circularity within the community. They currently run monthly swap events where people can swap or buy carefully curated preloved clothes, and are working hard to bring this model online and accessible to more people. In case you are wondering, yes, they are accepting preloved clothes donations. Just connect with them via instagram or drop them an email on sg.cloop@gmail.com if you have any preloved clothes in mint condition to give away. CLOOP ran their first and very successful fashion swap event in collaboration with My Zero Waste Wardrobe at City Sprouts Singapore in October 2020.

ZWB#3 Bootcamp participant Sindy Ong and Yin Lin Tan with Jasmine Tuan, founder of My Zero Waste Wardrobe
ZWB#3 Bootcamp participant Sindy Ong and Yin Lin Tan with Jasmine Tuan, founder of My Zero Waste Wardrobe

Personal Impact│ What we learnt at ZWB #3

While each of us had different takeaways from this program, the most common ones were,

–  We learnt a lot about the environmental issues in Singapore and all the steps being taken by the Government to tackle them.

– In the process of our research, our eyes opened to the reality of the Fashion world; it has made us conscious of our choices and we will strive to be more sustainably fashionable from now on.

– To be successful in any endeavour, all you need is like minded people on your team. This bootcamp helped us meet those people as well as taught us how to go about building a campaign from scratch.

ZWB#3 kick off session with the entire cohort at Singapore sustainability Academy
Aug 31, 2019, the day the 3rd bootcamp began. ZWB#3 cohort at SSA, City Square mall.

Zero Waste Bootcamp by Secondsguru| Why we recommend it

Apart from learning about environmental issues and an opportunity to meet new people, this program offers you an opportunity to be a changemaker. Many people want to take action but do not know how or where to begin – this workshop is the perfect starting point! We recommend this workshop to all those who would like to get involved in the sustainability scene in Singapore as well as those who want to make a difference to our world. 

Sign up for Zero Waste Bootcamp #5! Kickstarting Nov 21, 2020 here

The 4 2019 Zero Waste bootcamps included working professionals as well as college students. In all, over 80 participants signed up in 2019, and joined/organised 30 community events. They established over 50 collaborations with local eco groups, eco businesses, community centres and corporates. Via these events, the bootcamp had a cascading impact as they connected with and had conversations with nearly 1500 individuals.

Some more inspiring Zero Waste Bootcamp stories:

Zero Waste Bootcamp│ The best way to REDUCE is to REUSE, say eco warriors at ReFeel

Zero Waste Bootcamp| Combating food waste at the grassroots in Singapore

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