Groundup Features: I am Green
In this edition of Groundup Features: we speak with Mouli, founder of I am Green, an initiative that aims to create awareness of the climate issues we face today and encourage the community we live in to develop good recycling habits and lead a sustainable lifestyle. Hear from Mouli as he shares about the inspiration behind I am Green, what encourages him and lessons he has learnt as a groundup founder.
Hey Mouli, thanks for speaking with us today. Please tell us more about yourself!
My name is Mouli and I am currently working as an engineer in a chemical company. My family and I have been living in Singapore for more than 10 years now.
I am interested in environment and sustainability, which is why I started I am Green as my passion project. This is something new for me; it is the first time I have turned a vision into reality. I have done many things in the past, but this is the first time I put my foot forward and made it happen.
You mentioned starting I am Green as your passion project – could you share more about what your initiative does?
I once attended a training on climate change at the United Nations. From the training, I realised that there were many factors that could impact the climate, and that climate change will hurt our generation and future generations to come.
As a chemical engineer, I understand how environmental pollution works. I felt the need to do something about this pressing issue at hand. Initially, I started out recycling plastic waste by myself, and I would encourage my children to do the same. However, I found out that domestic recycling rates were very low, based on statistics from the National Environment Agency (NEA).
One day I decided, “Why not walk my talk and encourage people in Singapore to learn more about the environment?” and came up with three concepts to implement under I am Green.
First, to create and spread awareness of the impact of climate change. People ought to be aware of the adverse effects that climate change has on mankind.
Second, everyone can and should contribute to combat climate change in their own ways, be it volunteering or donating.
Third, to inculcate good habits as individuals. Going green and being eco-friendly should always be in the back of one’s mind. It is one thing to know about climate change, but there needs to be an action plan to form a habit.
I am Green is here to encourage and provide practical steps for residents in the neighbourhood to kickstart their recycling and sustainable journey.
What inspired you to kickstart I am Green?
Singapore has given me a lot. It is a good nation, with good people. I came from a poor background; I did not have slippers to wear until I was 16 years old. Sometimes, I only got to eat one meal a day. My family could not afford electricity and I studied in an unconducive environment. My current lifestyle is given by Singapore. So, I felt the need to give back otherwise it would not be fair. That is the reason why I push so hard all the time in all the initiatives I started.
I often teach my son that we should be like superheroes whenever there is a crisis for our humanity; that we should jump in and contribute. However, not just one person should be a superhero, everybody should contribute to a good cause and be a hero.
I first shared the idea of I am Green to my wife – who is also the gatekeeper of my ideas and helps me refine them. When she gave the green light, my confidence grew, and we emailed different organisations that we hoped to collaborate with. I had sent over hundreds of emails and thankfully, received replies from four organisations which are Hong Kah North Community Centre (CC), the Singapore Kindness Movement, the ALBA Group and Wah & Hua Pte Ltd (WH), and NVPC’s Groundup Central! I had interviews with them and explained about the initiative I had in mind. It was nerve-wracking because I did not know what to expect. However, after our discussion, they were more than happy to support my groundup initiative!
As I am working a full-time job, my wife is often behind the scenes managing I am Green. As per the saying, for every successful man, there is a woman behind – and that is my wife. My family is a huge inspiration to help me with this groundup initiative. My kids are always excited about the initiatives and contributing at their level.
We heard that you also started two other initiatives. Tell us more about them!
Besides I am Green, I also founded Sanitizer@HDB Lift and icarewalk.
When COVID-19 hit Singapore, I felt I ought to do something, but I had no idea how I could help. One day, I thought of something; to seize the opportunity to decrease the spread of this virus. It was rather impulsive of me, but I bought SGD$500 worth of sanitizers to place inside HDB lifts. I thought this was a good way to develop good spirit and hopefully curb the spread of the virus in my neighbourhood. I shared this plan with Hong Kah North CC and thankfully, the staff were extremely supportive of this project. I started to put sanitizers in HDB lifts for more than 33 blocks, in about 100 lifts. Of course, we hope that this will not be needed in the long run as we do not want COVID-19 to be prolonged. But we will do it for as long as COVID-19 is still around.
For icarewalk, it started when I was doing my outdoor exercises. I spotted a lot of items that were not in good shape, like uneven roads, that may cause the young and the old to fall. We see all these problems, but often, we do not do anything to resolve them. Many may feel their individual efforts are too insignificant and would choose to ignore the issue. That is how I got the idea of utilising the OneService app. With OneService app, we can highlight important issues such as safety hazards or cleanliness issues that we see while we are out and about. At first, I would use the app WHEN I am clocking in my workout. However, it should be the other way round. It should be me using the app WHILE still clocking in my work out!
icarewalk is under the same umbrella as I am Green, encouraging and advocating people to use the app and be a part of building a City of Good. I dream of getting a community of like-minded people to come together so that Singapore can continue to be a great place for all of us.
What were some moments that had encouraged you, in your journey as a groundup founder?
For the past 15 to 20 years, I have been practising what I am Green is advocating for – without publicity or a name to it. After publicising, I realised that there is a community of people who will come onboard this journey together with me and I did not expect this kind of support. For example, Si Ying of Groundup Central joined me on an initiative last week, to refill the sanitizers in the HDB blocks. The response rate and participation from residents are also increasing; they are spending their valuable time volunteering with us. As a result, responsibilities are increasing for me. Nevertheless, this motivates me to work harder and makes me even more accountable to do my job well as they are participating in this because of my initiative.
What about some of the challenges you faced, and how did you actively solve them?
The first and biggest challenge I faced while starting I am Green was myself. I had the ideas but did not know how to put it onto paper.
As mentioned earlier, I was also expecting some companies to get back to me, as I had sent out emails to them. However, I did not hear back from all of them. Instead of looking at the situation as a challenge, I likened it to a game. 96 people may have rejected me, but that is okay because this is how games work. The more rejections I get, the more motivated I am to put in effort to ‘win’ it.
Another challenge I had was the habit of checking the volunteer/participant sign-up rates for I am Green every day. Day 1 was zero, day 2 was zero, day 3 was zero, and that kept going on. I jokingly told my wife to sign up under her name so I could at least see one sign-up. I had spoken to a few people about I am Green and so I was expecting some sign-ups, but no one signed up. I thought perhaps the sign-up form had glitches!
After a week, I saw one to two sign-ups. I joked with my wife again and said that once we reached eight or nine sign-ups, she should include her name to make it 10 sign-ups! But after two weeks, I opened the sign-up sheet and found that there were 28 sign-ups! I was over the moon that day. I went on to set a target of 50 sign-ups, and it was easily reached. I then moved to 75, 100 and currently, I am happy to share that we have around 130 sign-ups.
I think the challenge was not so much on the number of sign-ups but whether I could grow the initiative and produce results. The fact that companies and individuals had dedicated their time to talk to me about my plans and trusted in my work, made me want to reciprocate the effort.
I would prefer to think of these challenges as interesting opportunities. If something does not work out, I will find out the reason behind it and approach the situation with other methods.
What is one lesson you took away from your time as a groundup founder?
The one lesson I learnt as a groundup founder is that if anyone has good intentions and good thoughts, they will get positive support. For anyone who has thought about an idea – if they can grow the idea from a little seed to a plant and believe in it wholeheartedly, they can do it! I may be putting in my time and money, but I am also getting the support I need. My family is a huge pillar of strength that has helped keep me going too.
How can our readers support I am Green?
For the next version of I am Green “Gold for Trash” campaign, we hope to run it nationwide where the winners will get gold coins as prizes. This program will start on 15 October 2021. For more details, visit www.iamgreensg.com or www.facebook.com/sust.sg.
Currently, we are running it in the Jurong region where I can manage it and I have a contact with our CC. But I do not have any contacts with CCs from other areas of Singapore. I hope to collaborate and partner with individuals/organisations who can communicate with personnel from other constituencies. I hope that through this interview with Groundup Central, it can serve as a call-out for individuals, who have interest and ideas on environmental and sustainability topics, to reach out to me.
Finally, how do you hope your initiative helps Singapore become the City of Good?
A City of Good to me requires a good environment for people to be in. With I am Green, we are trying to save the environment for current and future generations. We also hope to create awareness and educate those in our community. Even if just one person takes the decision to combat climate change through their habits, it is a respectable and rewarding action – though it may seem like an intangible effort. I am Green aims to contribute to the Singapore Government initiatives such as Singapore Green Plan, SG Clean and Zero waste nation.
My three initiatives, it all covers different parts - I am Green covers the environmental aspect, refilling sanitizers around HDBs covers COVID-19 well-being, and icarewalk covers the neighbourhood safety.
With these three initiatives, I hope it helps Singapore become the City of Good.
Fun-fact question! Are you a Coffee or Tea person?
Neither, surprisingly! But if I must choose, I guess coffee. *laughs*
* This feature has been edited for clarity
About the authors:
Millanda is a volunteer writer from Skills For Good, who hopes to inspire and value-add to others through her writing pieces.
Jannelle is Content Producer at Groundup Central. Armed with her camera, she looks forward to meeting & documenting the everyday heroes of our lives.