In light of World Environment Day 2018, we speak to green warriors advocating sustainability in their own passionate way. As our city grows, is it necessary for Mother Nature to bear the brunt of pollution, excessive waste and a lack of green spaces in the name of urbanisation? Elisa Khong, whose formative years were spent serving at Kechara Soup Kitchen shadowing her mother, Dato’ Ruby Khong, has gravitated to a life of compassion. From helping the homeless, to going vegan, Elisa’s enlightening journey has led to her very own #cityrooftopgarden, an experience that’s deepened her connection to Mother Nature.

1. What does being environmentally conscious mean to you?

“It’s been 2 years since I adapted a conscious lifestyle, I never intended to but life gravitated towards that direction. It was a series of decisions made over time, decisions that felt right in my heart, each of which led to this way of life. I can’t claim to lead a zero carbon-footprint lifestyle, but I am definitely conscious about leading a zero cruelty-footprint one.”

See also: Society Wish List: Elisa Khong, Kechara Soup Kitchen

2. What were the influences that sowed the seeds of this lifestyle?

“It was a series of inputs over the years that consistently instigated me to reevaluate my actions. Serving H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche for 5 years back in 2010 was a catalyst to living more consciously – it propelled an awareness of my actions. Questions like, ‘how do my personal actions impact other living beings and the earth we live on?’ ‘Am I supporting unethical companies through my purchasing power?’Am I contributing towards the planet’s overwhelming pollution and excess waste through my consumption?’ These gave more clarity on how I wanted to lead my life.”

See Also: #ZeroWaste KL: Meet Claire Sancelot, The UN Awardee Promoting A Chic Way (& Shop!) To Cope With Waste

3. Based on experience, what are the stepping-stones towards an environmentally responsible way of life?

"Open a new tab, and Google these:

• How much energy is needed to produce a beef patty?

• Which produces more green house gases: Cars or beef production?

• What is the life cycle of our clothes?

• What pesticides are used in crop production?

• How much plastic is in the ocean?

To produce 1 kg of potatoes, it requires 287 litres of water, but a kilo of beef requires 15,415 litres. Pretty incredible, eh?"

If you wish to embrace an environmentally respectful lifestyle, start with a plant-based diet

4. What are your favourite eco-conscious lifestyle brands?

“For clothing: Reformation, Everlane, Amour Verte and Patagonia.

For beauty: Juice Beauty, Neal's Yard Remedy, and Dr Bronner's. 

A massive lifesaver is the app, Think Dirty. It was a nightmare trying to remember the endless list of chemical names and reasons why they weren’t ‘good’. Think Dirty nails it all, it rates beauty products and helps navigate products to stay away from.”

See also: 5 Cruelty-Free Brands To Introduce To Your Beauty Habits

5. How do you approach eating organic, recycling waste, and growing your own food?

“I shop at the organic sections, every second Sunday of the month I pass my recyclable materials to Kechara Earth Project and grow my own vegetables on my rooftop.

My general approach is simple: If there are better ways to lead my life that doesn’t hurt others in the process, I’d be inclined to explore it and see if it sticks. If it doesn’t, try something else.” 

See also: This Social Entrepreneur Reveals 6 Easy Ways To Live More Sustainably

6. Your 2018 goal was to start a #cityrooftopgarden. How has the journey been?

“The goal was to grow my own food. I didn't know where to begin, so I called EcoCentric Transitions to help with the set up. They analysed my space, taught me how to optimise it, recommended plants and gave me a gardening 101. Once the set-up-frenzy dust settled, I was anxious at every growing stage of the plants, and 2 successful harvests later, it has thus far been a rewarding and delicious experience.”

See also: Grow Your Own With Eats, Shoots & Roots

7. How has this green fingers experience impacted you?

“Growing up in the city, there’s a huge disconnect from products we consume, especially food. Through my rooftop garden, I learnt that with not very much, we have the ability to grow our own food. The process was surprisingly simple. Take a seed as big as this comma, add a little water, soil, nutrients and plenty of sunshine.

The very food that we eat on our plate can continuously be supplied from our own pots... in our very own home!

The #cityrooftopgarden is serving it’s purpose as a taster, as I’m currently exploring the idea of creating an edible landscape on a 2-acre land that my partner and I are currently building our house on.”

See also: Sasibai Kimis Of Earth Heir: The Bigger Cause Behind Her Ethical Fashion Business

8. For those who are interested in urban gardening, what are some communities to join?

Kebun-Kebun Bangsar is an incredible initiative that was spearheaded by Seksan Ng. It’s a 24/7 community garden located smack in the middle of Bangsar. Everyone’s welcomed, and can either join in their random workshops (such as building bamboo structures), or drop by and volunteer at their gloriously flourishing garden. They grow herbs, vegetables, and flowers – and the produce is donated to those in need. Their great model can be replicated within your own community!”

See also: Food For Good: How Ili Sulaiman Is Nurturing The Foodie Community

9. How can city dwellers kickstart environmentally responsible habits?

“Eat less meat, try to shop locally, reuse/share/exchange existing clothing, and reduce plastic packaging. 

As insignificant as we may believe our actions to be in the larger scheme of things, individual actions create a greater collective impact.

Your desire to embrace a more conscious lifestyle may be perceived as being a little different in society, but... what's normal anyway?”

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