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Sowing the Seeds of Sustainability at LTA: Workmates and Green Advocates

Posted on | 31 Mar 2023

Steering the nation’s transport towards sustainability is part of their job, but amongst their colleagues and at home, the folks at LTA’s Transformation Office (TO) are advocates of the green lifestyle too.

Graphic of road made of eco-friendly material
A strategy for sustainability

When the Government announced a new target for the reduction of land transport emissions in March last year, LTA’s Transformation Office division received a mandate to accelerate its green agenda. Rebecca Toh, Manager at the TO, shares that this fit into LTA’s strategy, already two years in the planning.

It is an ambitious undertaking, the transport sector being the third largest contributor of carbon emissions in Singapore. Aiming to reduce land transport emissions in absolute terms will require not just a whole-of-organisation but a whole-of-nation effort.

Rebecca is part of an Environmental Sustainability Secretariat—jointly helmed by LTA’s Technology and Industry Development Group and the TO—that aligns LTA’s sustainability efforts. Towards that end, the 32-year-old works alongside public agencies such as the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment and the National Environment Agency, as well as internal groups within LTA.

Greening in more ways than one

If you’ve noticed more chatter about electric vehicles these days, whether bus, taxi or private car—it’s all part of the LTA’s push towards net zero emissions. Increasing the share of Walk Cycle Ride journeys in Singapore is part of the plan, too.

Encouraging his co-workers to also play a part in going green, is Edison Phang, Rebecca’s colleague in the TO. The Assistant Manager was part of the LTA team which last year threw down the gauntlet with a ‘Ride a Greener 100,000km’ challenge for staff. A public transport user himself, Edison was stoked to see many of his colleagues make the switch to Walk Cycle Ride. Some 80,570km of greener commutes were logged—no small number, given that staff were mostly working from home during the pandemic.

To commemorate the achievement, eight trees, representing every 10,000km replaced, were planted at LTA’s Hampshire campus.

Planting habits
Photo of Transformation Office colleagues at the LTA Secret Garden @ Hamsphire

The greening is not just happening out of doors. Step into the Transformation Office and you will be greeted by a profusion of potted plants, some nurtured by Grow-Lights. Edison, an avid gardener, even takes curious colleagues on a tour of the office to introduce the foliage—an office map charts sections and meeting rooms, which also display the actual plant species after which they are named.

It all began, Edison says, at his first Christmas with LTA four years back, when his then-boss gifted plants to everyone. He “adopted” another six from colleagues, and a collection was born. Today, in the HDB flat where he lives with his parents, Edison’s bedroom is a green sanctuary, with more than 40 plants (“I’ve lost count,” Edison laughs) helping him to relax and recharge.

Image showing LTA'S Transformation Office colleague, Edison Phang with his plants at home

He is the TO’s go-to guy when it comes to greens, and Rebecca is among colleagues who have tapped him for advice. While he laughingly disclaims, “I don’t talk to plants!”, Edison’s green fingers were put to good use when the campus recently established new community gardens for enthusiasts.

Developed and tended by staff volunteers, the plots, nicknamed Secret Gardens @ Hampshire, have forged connections within LTA that Edison is heartened to see.

Everyone has a role

The Secret Gardens is among the several green spots (including a butterfly garden) around LTA’s campuses where Edison, 29, now and then heads with his notebook to work. Here is also where he gets to mingle with like-minded staff and rejuvenate after a long day at work.

He notes that the first harvest is approaching. “It has been a long process, but at the end of it, we’re glad to see people excited,” he says.

Image of a moth pupa and butterfly resting at the Butterfly Gardens at LTA
A moth pupa and butterfly resting at the Butterfly Gardens at LTA

That is the kind of staff sentiment that Rebecca hopes to see develop around recycling, too.

She has already seeded the practice successfully with her extended family, having set up recycling bins for them in their various homes. At work, she is encouraging colleagues to embrace the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) as well.

Image of LTA's Transformation Office colleague, Rebecca Toh recycling

On World Environment Day in June 2022, Rebecca, together with colleagues from LTA’s Admin Services division, installed recycling bins on campus as part of a drive to recover unwanted clothes, books and other effects from staffers. “I was quite happy with the quantity deposited,” Rebecca shares. “People made the effort to bring things.”

Although eventually not all the items could be recycled as some food waste had ended up in the bin as well, Rebecca found in the exercise a lesson she hopes everyone can learn. “Going green is not just the effort of those interested; it takes everybody to make a difference,” she says.

Nurturing new norms

The episode has only made Rebecca want to inspire everyone to do their part, even more. Happily, she has found many colleagues equally passionate about sustainability and keen to keep the momentum going.

Edison notes that a lot of people know about going green but are unsure how to start. His mother had made it easy for him to pick up recycling habits when he was young, so he now tries to make it easy for others too. If the environment supports such practices, he believes, people will gradually adapt.

With colleagues from the Public Transport Operators and other divisions within LTA, the LTA-Green team, which includes Edison and Rebecca, continues to spread green messages to both public and staff.

Its initiatives, held in conjunction with key environmental days such as Earth Hour and World Car-free Day, spread awareness about environmental sustainability within the land transport sector.

Image of LTA's Transformation Office colleague, Rebecca Toh recycling

Indeed, the young officers at TO are hoping to push the envelope. Even as LTA works to fulfil its organisational responsibilities under the Singapore Green Plan, the individuals within the institution are cultivating a sustainable mindset, too.

There is confidence that one day, soon, daily green habits at LTA will be as natural as the greenery in the grounds.

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