Meet Azurah, chef and founder of Wilder, a café that promotes sustainable living by minimising food waste. Check out her #ClimateActionSG story here!
Hi there, I’m Azurah. Sports is a huge part of me, I’ve been a competitive athlete most of my life and am blessed to be representing Singapore in two sports. I founded Wilder (pronounced Will-der) 4 years ago as a space that advocates #morethanjustfood which brings people together, to have beautiful conversations and connect through food. At Wilder, having a more hands-on approach and working with food behind the scenes, I started to rethink the way I appreciate the food that’s on my table from start to finish. With a deeper appreciation, in July 2016, I started a personal journey to be a weekday vegetarian and now I am adapting to a purely plant-based diet. My grandfather had a farm so I grew up being able to see where food came from, respected all living things, tasted fresh food straight from the garden and had the opportunity to understand the connection.
It really is hard to explain how I got interested, I just felt this connection and that I could contribute to make the world a better place no matter how small the contribution is. I was curious about a lot of things therefore I found information by reading articles, watching documentaries, and learned from others to better understand and was exposed to all these issues at a very young age.
How did you first get started on your climate action journey?
I first got started when I was working part-time at a coffee chain back in 2000. We were throwing so much away, I saw so much waste and I just could not grasp the idea of throwing away plastic bottles, glass bottles and etc. There had to be a solution for what happens to all that’s been thrown away. So I went on and did my own research. Back then, it was harder to convince and get people to understand why we should reduce, reuse and recycle. So I started small initiatives on my own, sharing within the inner circles, my team-mates, people I worked with and places I worked at.
While doing my research, I reached out and further learnt that nature does not
create waste. Everything in nature is used up in a closed continuous cycle with waste being the end of the beginning. For example, an apple can be broken down into compost that can be nutrients for your plants. That has been something that has been nurturing me for a very long time. Once I began to understand, I shared what I learnt, to approach and think about being a bit more conscious with our choices. Being environmentally
conscious is hard but everything worth doing starts somewhere.
Tell us more about your initiatives on minimising waste.
I started many small independent initiatives, like one to get bins to contain the plastic and glass bottles to be collected instead of being thrown away. I emailed every possible collector out there that could provide bins for the recyclable materials and even got to visit how they process the materials. Just to list some of the initiatives:
To reduce the waste thrown out at coffee places that I worked at and independent cafes. At any place that I chanced upon that threw away beer/wine bottles to have the glass bottles recycled instead of thrown away.
At sports events, I persuaded them to have their cans and bottles recycled. I am a walking garang guni when there’s no recycling bin nearby, I’ll bring recyclables with me and drop them off at the next closest recycling bin.
In 2011, I collected drink can tabs to be used to make artificial limbs overseas. We managed to collect 4 full boxes.
Tell us about Wilder’s Initiatives.
We believe it starts from the leader and is passed on to the team that you work with. It is important to educate and advocate the team first for them to better understand why we do what we do. For example, why we advocate to not leave the tap running if not in use or not to open the tap fully just to wash a cup. People might question why they are so uptight about such things or why are they so cheapskate? Therefore we have to share with them that water is such an important resource and that we really do have to treasure it. Just to list some, these are the things we practice.
- We reduce water wastage.
- We reduce food wastage by managing our menu and only cook when the order is placed.
- We minimise food wastage by maximising every food ingredient.
- We keep our used coffee beans for compost.
- We recycle everything that is recyclable.
- We initiated our Say No to Plastic policy, where we do not provide single-use
- Participated in Earth Hour
- Participated in Feeding the 5000 Initiative
How was your experience volunteering in “Feeding the 5000”? In what
ways were you involved?
I was invited to be a guest to demonstrate how we can use ‘ugly food’ that is still in good condition to make yourself an awesome meal. We went on a hunt for ugly food and used the ingredients to whip up a dish.
Why do you think taking climate action is important for Singapore and
how can we encourage more people to be part of climate action?
I would love to approach it as not only being for Singapore because we are all sharing one planet. Mother Earth has given us so much, it’s time for us to give back. You do not have to be an eco-warrior but the little steps do make a difference. I believe it begins with the people around you. For you to share what it means for example – for us to refuse to take a straw, which we only use one time, or when we over-order only for us to throw it in the bin. Everyone accepts, understands and appreciates at their own pace so start with the little things, start by sharing the stories by planting seeds and the reasons behind it.
Start with WHY, create conversations and share the love.
In addition, what could help is re-introducing the 3Rs, this time with an additional REFUSE. I truly believe if we Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – to address here that recycling comes last and that some might have forgotten that recycling is the last resort. If we explore the possibilities of these 4Rs, it is a start. If everyone comes together, we can find solutions.
Most importantly, I wanted to share that even as an individual, you
are not alone and should not be afraid to stand up for something you believe can
make a difference. Don’t wait for change, create change! Every initiative and idea can make a difference no matter how small. Think about it, we only have one Earth.
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