Interview by Cassie Ang
Photography by Davy Lingar; courtesy of Edward Hutabarat
Perhaps the two most prominent areas of Nadya’s life are her television work and her eco-friendly work, but the latter was not a result of the former. She has pursued a sustainable life long before green was the new black. Heavily influenced by her stay in the Australian countryside as a child and her mother’s sustainable living habits, she is now the Asian face of eco-friendliness.
Her practices however, seem to be at odds with the urban way of life, where modern habits have had adverse effects on nature, especially in Singapore where few necessities are native to the land. We speak to Nadya on finding harmony between city living and sustainability, with a focus on the fashion habits that shape her public image.
Hi Nadya! We heard you’ve just returned from Kenya. Tell us about what you did there.
This is a project that I’ve been working on for most of this year, which is basically to reduce the demand for ivory in Asia. It’s a campaign to raise awareness about this issue because Asia is leading the demand. At the moment, 30,000 elephants are being killed for ivory.
Wow, that’s an astounding number! You’re a well-known eco-activist now. When did you start becoming one? What motivated you?
I was inspired by my mum. When I was a kid, she was always talking about “living off the grid” and “being self-sustainable”. These were terms that I didn’t really understand at that age. She also rescued two orangutans before I was born, so I grew up with pictures of these orangutans named Michael and Oli and listened to her stories about them. These are things that left an impression on me at a young age.
I grew up and started getting busy and famous, then I realised that I had a voice. As early as my MTV days (Nadya used to be a video jockey), I would speak about the issues that were important to me. At that time, those were simple things like “reduce, reuse, recycle”—general awareness stuff. It was still an opportunity to plant those seeds in the minds of people who would not normally think about them. As I started to move further on in life, I started to build businesses and a home. Each of those actions has a huge impact on the community and on the planet and therefore, has to be done responsibly.
I wanted to start a jewellery line. I quickly realised, after doing some research, the impact of gold mining. A simple gold wedding band creates around 30 tons of mine waste so I wanted to use recycled gold, pre-loved diamonds and sustainably sourced gems.
Quickly after that, my husband and I started to build our own home. We built the home as sustainably as possible, given the building code restrictions, budget and accessibility to technology at that time in Singapore. It’s a house that not only uses green materials but is also a passive house in terms of not needing much heating or cooling and low energy consumption.
I’m also on the board of The Green School in Bali, which has been nominated as The Greenest School on Earth by the U.S. Green Building Council. It’s just about being part of an organisation that plants the seeds for environmental awareness in the minds of the kids. If you plant those seeds at an early age, they are there for life.
Read more in The U Press N˚3 (Singapore edition).