Coming from the French word for “green”, SMU Verts is the environmental club of SMU. They are passionate about the cause and showcase it through their various events, whether on campus or externally to engage the larger community in Singapore.

They’re the team behind events such as Bring Your Own Tumbler Day, Save That Pen and Share-Thy-Shirt (a initiative to bring preloved shirts and water filters to families in Vietnam). Another memorable project is the Toa Payoh Dragon Playground. Made with 7,600 bottle caps, SMU Verts aimed to showcase the community’s collective efforts towards recycling plastic materials, and to recapture fond memories of our childhood.

We catch up with members of the SMU Verts exco, to find out more about what makes this club go. Sharing their experiences are Leonard Leong and Keefe Tan (from the logistics team), Sim Wan Yi (honorary general secretary), Mandy Ng (vice president) and Javier Ng (president). Let’s talk about the people and the culture at SMU Verts!

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Javier (second row, far left) with his fellow Verts members at the Toa Payoh Dragon Playground project, a recreation of an iconic scene for many Singaporeans.

What motivated you to join SMU Verts?

Leonard: I joined the SMU Verts exco because I’d want to spend time doing something meaningful, something that contributes back to society.

Keith: I’m fascinated by architecture, especially how we can incorporate green features into buildings. When it comes to SMU, we do quite a lot, like with the plants and green walls in our campus.

Mandy: I found the cause quite interesting. Although it’s an environmental club, it’s mainly run through events, which is something I like. So I thought: Why not join and see how I can grow through this experience?

Javier: The more I learned about the environment, the more interested I got. That’s basically why I decided to stay in the club. I decided to take on the role as president because it’s not an easy job. It’s super tough, super tiring. You have to juggle so many different commitments at once. I took it as a challenge to improve myself as a person.


Bring Your Own Tumbler Day encouraged students to buy and use their own tumblers and water bottles on campus.

What is the biggest challenge for you in SMU Verts?

Wanyi: Brainstorming and coming up with new events. The hard part is developing a strong concept that makes the event engaging. If we’re working with an external organisation, we want to make sure the concept fits well with their brand and goals. It’s exciting and challenging at the same time.

Leonard: Juggling all my work commitments. Besides SMU Verts, I’m also working part-time at SMU as a lifeguard. Sometimes, I really want to go for a conference but it’ll clash with my work schedule. I’m very thankful that everyone’s willing to chip in and help out.

Javier: For me, every day is a new challenge. It’s the same as every other student. We all have so many different commitments we’re passionate about. I try to do as many things as I can, and pack my schedule as tight as possible but that in itself isn’t a very good thing. It’s easy to burn out. In the end, it’s about persevering and focusing on what you’re aiming for. You must love what you do, because if you don’t, it won’t feel or be right. If you do, it gets better the more you do it.

You must love what you do, because if you don’t, it won’t feel or be right. If you do, it gets better the more you do it.
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Scenes from the Toa Payoh Dragon Playground project, with passers-by taking photos and getting instant prints with the dragon

What is your most satisfying moment in Verts so far?

Leonard: Organising the Toa Payoh Dragon Playground project. We collected bottle caps and recreated the iconic Dragon Playground, using thousands of recycled bottle caps. It reminds me of my childhood, because I used to play at one of these playgrounds whenever I visited my grandmother. It’s very satisfying to see people, especially the elderly, relive their past memories of what old Singapore was like, and how Singapore has changed over time.

Keith: Meeting and learning so much at an environmental conference in Hong Kong. Most of the participants were generally quite young, between 15 and 18 years old. What impressed me the most about these younger people is how passionate they are in spreading the message of being environmentally friendly. We were out on the streets, just pitching and approaching people. I realise that as we get older, we become more logical in the way we do things, and maybe lose some of that spontaneity and creativity. When we have younger kids do it, whether it’s developing an idea or taking action, they’re actually a lot more creative in the way that they think. You’ve got to keep your inner child. And it’s so heartening to see younger people caring and being passionate for the environment.

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What is one strength that you see in your fellow SMU Verts members?

Mandy: Wanyi’s very helpful. She’s always willing to step forward and give a hand.

Wanyi: Likewise for Keith. I would say he’s very selfless and responsible, and always willing to go for events.

Keith: Even though Leonard’s very busy with his own stuff, he always takes the initiative by asking if we need help.

Leonard: I really respect how Javier juggles all his responsibilities for CCAs and studies together. Whenever I talk to him, he looks very happy, a people person. But I know he’s also dealing with a lot of challenges and stress behind the scenes, and shouldering that burden so that we can focus on our individual responsibilities within the team. Ultimately, he’s a really good leader.

Javier: Every time I need help, Mandy’s always there. If I forget something, she’ll make sure to remember, and she’s come back to me on that. I know it’s the same thing for all of us here, but that’s definitely part of what make us a strong team.

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Verts collaborated with SMU Office of Facilities Management (OFM) for Earth Day. All non-critical lights on campus were switched off for an hour, as part of this global movement.

What is one area or quality that you’d like to improve as a club?

Wanyi: We usually meet as a team when we need to, so we’re very goal-driven and focused on our projects. It’ll be great to have more casual, informal outings to get to know one another better. We’re making Verts to be a place where we all can build really strong friendships together.

Leonard: Encouraging members to be cross-functional. This is the best time to be learning and picking up new skills. Besides focusing on your role, take up a new responsibility and give it a shot.

Javier: Camaraderie. It’s not that we’re not close, because we are. But we’re not super close, and we can build and foster that. When you’re more cohesive, you’ll perform better as one unit.

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Share Thy Shirt, another of Verts’ annual events to reuse and recycle, and give back to the community

What’s the best advice that you’ve ever received?

Mandy: You never know until you try it. Before I joined, I never thought that I’ll meet so many people, get to know them better and be friends with them.

Keith: Just work for it. This is from my dad. Everything you do, just work for it.

Javier: Be confident in yourself. You might be surprised at how much you actually achieve. Everyone has something within themselves that is actually untamed and unrealised. If you’re confident enough to try, you’ll definitely grow, learn and achieve it.

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See you at the next event!

SMU Verts’ mission is to encourage the SMU community to be environmentally responsible and adopt a sustainable lifestyle. Find out more about their eco-friendly community projects and activities on Facebook!

Do also check out Mervin Soon’s story here. Mervin was SMU Vert’s president in 2015 and one of the winners at the 2016 University Student Life awards.

© 2018 Snapshots by SMU