Li Jia Yang: Sustainable Palm Oil Activism on Campus

The students' quest to make NTU a haze-free campus

This article is part of a two-part series on individuals who have voluntarily stepped up within their own communities to try and bring change.

Bright and energetic, Jiayang arrives with a cheery smile on her dimpled face and a library book in hand. After a few awkward rounds of musical chairs to find a suitable table for our meeting, we, the staff of PM Haze, and Jia Yang’s team finally settle down. She handles the movement with both confidence and consideration, caring to make sure that everyone would be included in the discussion.

The first question we ask: what happened to your hair? Jia Yang laughs and explains that she has shaved it off to donate to charity. Indeed, this second year NTU student is truly dedicated to the social cause. Not only did she give up a full head of hair, she also originated a project to introduce sustainable palm oil to NTU’s 40 over food establishments. It is this initiative that is the object of our meeting.

Li Jia Yang, second year NTU student pursuing a Bachelor of Engineering at School of Materials Science and Engineering

The project commenced earlier this year. After coming up with the idea, Jia Yang approached PM Haze to support her initiative. Together with our staff and other student volunteers, she began with a survey to find out the receptivity of NTU students and staff to the use of sustainable palm oil on campus. The results are a cause for optimism: 89% of NTU staff and students were willing to pay ten times more than necessary for the use of sustainable palm oil in their eateries. In fact, 78% expressed concern over issues such as climate change and pollution. Given that 80% of the respondents were students, this demonstrates that our youth are committed to and willing to pay for sustainability. It echoes the Nielsen global survey claiming millennials to be a “green generation” of ethical consumerists.

So Jia yang is not the only environmentally conscious person on campus – she is just one of the few that are driven and daring enough to take action. Her motivation? A desire to “do something meaningful for the school community” in the most impactful way she could imagine.

Jia Yang’s spirit and activism is infectious. She is now no longer a one woman show, having recently been joined by four other students inspired by her cause. They are also environmental warriors in their own right, with three students coming from the NTU Asian School of the Environment and the last a previous volunteer of PM Haze. Their next step? To survey the various NTU vendors to try and get a feel of the situation on the ground. With this, they hope to gain a better understanding of ground sentiment before approaching the NTU administration on the topic. We wish Jia Yang and her team all the best and we look forward to the day we celebrate NTU as the first university in Singapore to go 100% sustainable palm oil.

The Current Team (names from left to right): Janice, Zee Wei, Jun Hao, Jia Yang, Clarice
Janice, Zee Wei and Clarice are pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Earth Systems Science, Jun Hao will be starting his studies at NTU this fall.

Written by Abigail Tan, Intern at PM Haze

Abigail is a third-year student of the NUS-Sciences Po Double Degree Programme.

To read the results of the survey on receptivity towards sustainable palm oil at NTU entitled Haze, NTU and You, download it from our publications page here.

To read the survey by Nielsen, a global information and data company, click here.