Those who don’t know Ms Bhavani Prakash may wonder why a London-trained financial expert would give up her banking career to be a volunteer environmental
But her extraordinary passion on green-sustainability and environmental issues as a learned speaker, trainer and writer, giving talks and conducting workshops, has earned her the nickname “Green Lady”.
“I feel honoured to be called ‘Green Lady’, because the word ‘green’ helps to put the environment on people’s radar screens whenever they bump into me, or hear me talk or read what I write. It becomes a reminder that we have to take care of the environment and create a sustainable future for the world,” says the 43-year-old, who graduated from the Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata, and later completed her Master of Science (Financial Economics) at the University of London.
“Green, of course, goes beyond appreciation of beauty in nature. That may be an end in itself, but to me it’s a starting point, to learn to care for something that is not just beautiful, but equally importantly, the foundation of life and existence, and our societies and economies.
“The label is a huge blessing as it gives me several opportunities to engage with a wide spectrum of people in the community to share the message of sustainability — with students and non-profits, as well as with the corporate and government sectors, using both online and offline platforms,” she says.
Activist by accident
Ms Bhavani became a “green activist” by accident.
“Until 2008, I didn’t know I was going to be an environmental or sustainability advocate, given my finance and economics background. Although I have always enjoyed being in the presence of nature since childhood in India, I only began to appreciate the ecology of trees and plants as a volunteer rainforest guide in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, the year I came to Singapore in 2003,” says the mother of two girls, Ananya, 18, and Lavanya, 12. Her husband, Prakash, 49, is an IT specialist.
“I had an ‘epiphany’ of sorts that led to a strong sense of urgency about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It led me to set up Eco Walk The Talk in 2008, to raise awareness among the public about various environmental issues in Asia.”
The portal draws about 25,000 visitors a month, with a Facebook following of over 3,700 and Twitter following of over 1,700. The website was nominated in the finals of the Singapore Environment Journalism Awards in 2012.
“In 2011, I set up Green Collar Asia, a green jobs portal that helps me engage with an industry audience as well. The vocabulary and messaging are very different, but it keeps me on my toes as I toggle between these two diverse target audiences without losing my core authenticity,” she adds.
She gives the thumbs-up to her supportive family. “My two daughters and husband share the ‘green’ ethos of leading a simple, non-consumerist lifestyle,” she says.
Ms Bhavani lauds the vision and foresight of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who “used the strategy of greening the city to distinguish Singapore from other Third World countries and as a source of competitive advantage, as well as to see tree planting as a motivating vehicle for nation building”.
Mr Lee started the Tree Planting campaign in 1963, which has become an unbroken 50-year tradition, and this month the National Parks Board marked the half-century of tree-planting and greening Singapore by setting aside 1,963 trees for members of the public to plant. More than $470,000 raised went to enhance the biodiversity and heritage value of the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
Her crusade about the right green issues will be a “lifelong campaign”, she says.
Her longer-term dream: to move the younger generation of Singapreans from a “5 Cs” society that believes in car, condo, cash, country club and credit card to a “5 Gs” society: Gracious, Giving, Green, Grounded and Grateful.