Three Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students have won themselves a study trip to Switzerland with their solution for sustainability that led to a significant reduction in water and electricity consumption.
Working with iTea Café, a Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME), the students recommended the café to reduce the amount of ice given to customers who purchase chilled drinks by 50 per cent.
Less ice please
The winning team is made of ITE College East students Budi Kurniawan Bin Ismail, Nurul Ernisah Lydiawati, and Chong Huey Huey, Amber.
Based on their observations at the iTEA Café outlet in their school compound, the team found that customers at the drinks stall often disposed of leftover ice in their cold beverages, leading to ice wastage.
In an experiment, the students recruited 30 participants, who were blindfolded and taste-tested chilled drinks with different amounts of ice in them.
"Most participants found that just filling the cup with 50 per cent of ice is just right for them," said Amber, now a Higher Nitec Chemical Technology student in ITE, along with Budi.
"We changed the ladle to a smaller one, so one full scoop of ice is already 50 per cent of the cup," she added.
Small change, big impact
"The project led to a 14 per cent reduction in electricity consumption, and reduced water consumption by 21 per cent," shared Budi.
In a year, that's a projected two tonnes of CO2 emissions avoided, and 16kg of water saved for a beverage stall.
"For our project, we don't need the SME to fork out money or make any major changes in their operations. By just changing the amount of ice used, it's impactful enough, without creating anything new," said Nurul.
"Basically, something small can have a great impact," said the Environmental and Marine Science student at Republic Polytechnic.
According to the students, the owner of iTea Café were delighted that their solution helped them save money without any upfront capital cost, or any decrease in customer satisfaction.
For coming up with an innovative and impactful solution, the trio earned a fully-sponsored study trip to Switzerland to understudy the Swiss Sustainability Programme in 2022.
Sustainability for SMEs
The ITE-SME Climate Change Mitigation Project was launched in early 2020, and took place over nine months.
48 students from the three ITE colleges were attached to 15 SMEs to find ways for these businesses to be more sustainable in their operations.
The 15 teams conducted environmental reviews for the companies with help and training from the National Youth Achievement Award Council (NYAA), and support from HSBC Singapore.
The projects also culminated in an ebook, titled "Shaping a Sustainable Future".
Other projects include repurposing coffee ground waste as an ingredient in soap, and developing sensors to save electricity by limiting temperature fluctuations in freezer units.
Sustainability does not increase cost for businesses
According to a study by HSBC, while 85 per cent of businesses see environmental sustainability as a priority, only 26 per cent of businesses are motivated to improve operational efficiency and become sustainable.
"Businesses, especially SMEs, face a multitude of barriers when it comes to integrating sustainability," said the CEO of HSBC Singapore Wong Kee Joo.
"Adopting sustainability is perceived as additional costs," he added.
On the contrary, SMEs prove to benefit from sustainable practices in terms of cost structure and supply chain operations, said the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu in her address at the award ceremony.The 15 projects conserved water, fuel, electricity, and plastic resources, amounting to an annual reduction of 144 tonnes of CO2 emissions and saved the SMEs a total of S$76,000 a year.
If projected to the rest of the SME industry, it could mean a reduction of more than two million tonnes of CO2 per year and a business cost saving of S$1.1 billion every year, said Jeff Obbard, a professor and climate change advisor at the NYAA.
Top image by ITE.