Part of being a parent involves being responsible for the world that your children grow up in, says Indonesian-Australian eco-activist and television host Nadya Hutagalung.
The 42-year-old mother of three told The Straits Times last month: “As parents, we pay so much money for tuition for our children, we move house so they can get into the best schools, we get them immunised and we try to do what is best for them. But are we actually being responsible for the world that they are going to grow up in?”
The former model was in Singapore for the official launch of boutique yoga studio The Yoga School, for which she is an ambassador.
She lives in Bali with her husband, former Singapore national swimmer Desmond Koh, 43, and their three children – Tyrone, 22, Fynn, 15, and Nyla, nine. Tyrone and Fynn are children from Ms Hutagalung’s previous relationships.
Her love of the environment was sparked at a young age. She says her mother, who is Australian, was a strong role model for her. “I grew up in Australia and my mother was always talking about living off the grid and being self-sustainable. She grew her own veggies, did her own composting and also talked about having her own water source and what that meant.”
Her personal experiences have also made her see the importance of protecting Earth.
“Before I had my first child, I went diving in Thailand. At the time, the waters were full of life, colour and vibrancy. But after I gave birth, we went back and things had changed.”
She says looking at the grey waters and broken coral and realising how environments could be so quickly affected by people pushed her to be more vocal.
“If in such a short time there could be so much change, what would happen when my children were older?” she adds. “I knew I had a voice, so I started talking more about the environment and raising awareness about these issues.”
She started modelling when she was 12 and her show-business career took off when she became one of the first video jockeys on MTV Asia in 1995.
In 2009, she was voted one of Singapore’s top 20 most influential people by American TV news channel CNN. She is also known for being the host of the first two seasons of Asia’s Next Top Model (2012-2014). Her most recent TV-hosting gig was for American TV network TLC, for travel documentary Wondernesia, which aired last year.
She also uses her fame to spread the word about other causes she believes in.
In 2013, she founded Let Elephants Be Elephants, an ivory-reduction campaign targeted at the South-east Asian audience. Two years later, she was made a Grasp (Great Apes Survival Partnership) ambassador by the United Nations.
Most recently, as a UN Environment ambassador, she also helped launch #cleanseas, a global campaign to eliminate major sources of marine litter by encouraging governments to pass plastic-reduction policies.
When asked for tips on how to stay green, she says that it is more important that people educate themselves and start asking more questions.
“I don’t know if people will follow tips. But if they understand water scarcity, what over-consumption does, what fast fashion does, what food waste does, then that makes more impact,” she says.
“In Singapore, you don’t see these things. But recently, water prices here increased and so many people got upset. Well, it is time to wake up. There is a water crisis in the region and the climate is changing. It is all inter-connected.”
Things in her bag
I usually carry my own water bottle because I don’t buy disposable plastic bottles.
I carry these when I travel and use them in the shower. One at night and the other in the morning. They help me relax and they are also good for the skin.
AESOP REJUVENATE INTENSIVE BODY BALM
This is my favourite balm. I love the sandalwood, tangerine and vanilla scent because it is so comforting. I always have it when I travel and it reminds me of home.
SOLID PERFUME FROM LUSH
I stopped using regular perfume 15 years ago because of the chemicals in them, which are hormone disruptors and can cause cancer. This is one of my favourite natural plant-based scents. It smells like patchouli, orange and lemongrass.
Both my younger son and I have a shared interest in photography. I just picked this up as a gift for him. It is an adapter for a vintage Russian lens that he wants to use on his Lumix camera.
This is full of blessed items that I’ve collected over the years. They are amulets from temples that I have visited. I carry them for protection. I attached my DBS token to it since I carry both all the time.
YSL ROUGE PUR COUTURE LIPSTICK IN LE NU
I like neutral lipsticks and this is a basic nude shade. When I’m in the city, there is a red shade that I use. But a more natural lipstick is my go-to for everyday use.
HANDKERCHIEF FROM TRI HANDKERCHIEFS
This label was started by two brothers from Green School, a non-profit, private and international school in Bali that my children attend.
TRI Handkerchiefs is a social enterprise that encourages people to use less tissue paper. The handkerchief is made of recycled bedsheets from local hotels and dyed with natural dyes.
The initiative aims to raise awareness about deforestation while supporting grassroots organisations in Indonesia.