Teaching kids to protect Earth

Where on Earth is the Environment? asks the title of the book by Allison Li Sin Hill. The book is the brainchild of Soo Siew Peng, co-founder and managing director of Buds Organics, a home-grown organic brand that’s eight years old.

When Soo first thought of the book, she had in mind a community project that would be able to generate some funds where it is most needed. She came up with a draft, and sent it to Hill for feedback. The two had been friends for a while, and Hill had been doing some freelance graphic work for Soo.

“I think I may have criticised (the draft) too much,” says Hill, laughing. “So Siew Peng said to me, why don’t you write it? So that was how it all started.”

A graphic designer by training, Hill had never written, but she gamely took it on. She based the heroine, Sophie, on her daughter, who is six years old. Because she was both writer and illustrator, she experimented with different ways to bring out the story.

“We both knew it should be a book to educate children about the environment, so we wanted to make it interesting,” says Hill.

She used three characters to bring the story together. The bird, which represents the air around us, the earthworm to represent Earth and the fish to represent the waterways.

Sophie first meets the bird, who tells her about cars, factories and power plants that emit carbon dioxide and make the air bad for us to breath.

Then she meets the earthworm who talks about the result of people cutting down trees and throwing rubbish indiscriminately. As she talks to the fish, she learns about the pollution in our rivers and oceans, and how humans keep building more and more factories.

As Sophie talks to each of these creatures, she starts to understand the impact humans have on the environment.

At the end of the book, there is a call to action, as readers are encouraged to write down ways they think they can help the environment.

“We think it is important that kids are involved in our crusade for a better Earth. They’re our conscience, really. If you tell a kid that we’re trying to cut down on plastic bags as they’re bad for the ecosystem, you can be sure they’ll notice it the next time you take a plastic bag from the supermarket. They will remind you not to do it!” says Hill.

In keeping with the spirit of the book, she “recycled” material from around her house for the illustrations. The tree trunk is done with a picture of her chopping board; the curtains are her sofa fabric; Sophie’s dress and the birds are from the materials she had; buildings are made with newspapers.

“Of course, we realise that environmental issues are complex and it’s never just about one aspect. So we wanted to simplify it for children, without lessening the urgency of the messages.

“The book tries to get kids to realise that we’re all connected.

“For example, the paper that we use is made from trees. If we cut down too many trees, animals lose their homes, and our air loses the filter to clean it.

“When we throw rubbish, they get taken to landfills. What happens when we run out of land to contain all this rubbish?

“So we ask questions, and we want to prompt kids to ask questions as well, and learn to make eco-conscious decisions,” says Hill.

Soo says she wanted to have a book that tied in with the philosophy of her brand.

“From day one, it was always about choosing plant-based ingredients that are grown and harvested in ways that do not harm the planet.

“Our ingredients and products are never tested on animals. We want to reach out to parents who are environmentally aware, and make products that are gentle on the skin of our youngest eco-warriors,” says Soo who founded Buds Organics with her brother.

She also wants to give back to the community through this project. As such, 10% of the proceeds from the sale of the book will go towards Children’s Home in Taiping, Perak, which is Soo’s hometown.

Today, this Malaysian brand is certified organic by EcoCert and carries the largest range of certified organic skincare in the world.

“We believe Buds’ future lies in the hands of the consumers. On our end, we are committed to ensure the consumer’s interest is consistently taken care of.

“We continue to adhere to our business ethic and charter to care for the people and the environment.”

* Where on Earth is the Environment? is available at MPH and Justlife Organic Stores. It is priced at RM19.90 and 10% of the sales will go towards Children’s Home Taiping in Perak.

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