THERE is a rise in socially responsible initiatives by Malaysians which now make doing good easier than ever.
More and more apps and websites are being created to support campaigns and programmes that tackle issues such as poverty, education and deforestation in Malaysia, and who knows, perhaps even the world.
Redza Shahid wants to reduce, if not eradicate, food wastage. He is already on the right path with Grub Cycle, a social enterprise that raises awareness on the issue, and makes surplus food accessible at a bargain price.
It started with a chance meeting with three similar-minded individuals at a charity event two years ago. They all came from different professional backgrounds, but with a mutual aim to make a difference in the world, and encourage others to do the same.
“We discussed several ideas that we thought would make the most impact, and realised that there aren’t that many social enterprises that champion no food wastage. It is an important issue that is often overlooked and we wanted to do something about it,” said Grub Cycle co-founder Redza.
They took their idea to MaGIC (Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre) and received a RM30,000 grant to work on an app which eventually became Grub Cycle. So far, the team has received almost RM1mil in grants from several organisations that believe in their cause, which they have used to cover costs and expand their business.
Users can download the free Grub Cycle app on their Android or iOS devices, or go to the website (grubcycle.my). So far the app has almost 1,000 downloads with 40% returning customers.
Grub Cycle currently has four segments: Grub Groceries, Grub Home Made, Grub Bites and Grub Bag.
“With Grub Groceries, users can purchase surplus food products, items that are still in good to favourable conditions, and mostly found in ‘reduced to clear’ shelves,” shared Redza, who assured that the team checks on product packaging to ensure that the items aren’t too “damaged”.
The products will be delivered anywhere within the Klang Valley, and Redza said that they are planning to expand their venture to Penang, Sarawak, Johor and Singapore soon.
Grub Home Made features a selection of jams and kimchi made from surplus fruits and vegetables, while Grub Bites allows food business owners to sell their excess food at a discounted price.
“Users will get a notification on their app if a cafe lists its food. Using the generated code, customers will then be able to purchase the food at a cheaper price and even receive statistics on how much money they are saving,” said Redza.
Since its inception, Grub Cycle has been able to save 1,100kg of food from going to waste.
It also has a Grub Bag initiative where part of Grub Cycle’s profits goes to subsidising the cost of basic food necessities for lower income families.
“They can approach us themselves, or be nominated by another party. We then do the necessary vetting to conclude if the family is in actual need of our help,” said Redza.
So far, the company is supporting 36 families under this initiative. The public can also chip in, sponsoring a Grub Bag worth RM90, RM150 or RM300 to support a family.
In a similar vein as the above is Robin Food (www.myrobinfood.org/web), the winning idea of four teenagers – Ezra Adrian Robert, Allegra Chan Qin Hur, Joseph Chung and Ivan Avannus – at the Sime Darby Young Innovators Challenge 2016.
“Sime Darby Group Strategy and Innovation had incubated the idea and worked with the Robin Food team as well as external stakeholders such as Tesco Malaysia, Food Aid Foundation, Kechara Soup Kitchen Society and GetRight Malaysia to make the app a reality,” said a spokesperson from Yayasan Sime Darby.
The Robin Food – available as an app and on the Web – connects parties with surplus food from supermarkets, hotels and restaurants with food banks. The main food bank behind Robin Food is Food Aid Foundation.
“Robin Food enables charity organisations to easily access surplus food through the click of a button,” added the spokesperson.
A total of 56 Tesco stores nationwide and three Hilton hotels have already registered with Robin Food app. Tesco Mutiara Damansara and Tesco Cheras are also actively using the Robin Food app to channel their food surplus to Food Aid Foundation. Since the app’s launch in December last year, over 120,000 meals have been distributed and 30,000kg of food has been saved.
When Amelia Tan worked for Teach For Malaysia, she noticed that many of her fellow teachers had great ideas for their classes, but often struggled to raise funds for their projects.
“Some wouldn’t know where to begin and some would be too busy with day to day tasks at school that they didn’t have the time. I was working as a fundraiser and would constantly meet people who expressed interest in directly contributing to schools.
“That’s when I realised that there wasn’t a lack of teachers doing great things or generous people wanting to contribute funds to education, but rather these two groups of people weren’t connecting,” she said in an email interview.
That in a nutshell, is the reason behind the birth of 100% Project (www.100percentproject.org), a crowdfunding website through which people can discover and directly fund impactful classroom projects initiated by primary and secondary school teachers across Malaysia.
“We hope to do a few things with 100% Project. The most obvious is to help lift the financial burden off teachers when it comes to implementing classroom projects.
“We want teachers to know that they are never alone in their quest to provide the best learning experience for their students and that they will always have our support,” said Tan of the project approved by the Education Ministry.
The 100% Project also hopes to elevate the teaching profession by bringing to light the stories of the many inspiring teachers out there who are working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure our children have the best education.
“They are the unsung heroes of the country and we would like to raise awareness and restore a sense of pride in the profession,” said Tan.
“Lastly, we hope to build a community of education advocates who will collectively empower our teachers and educators. We think that education is a collective responsibility and it takes all of us to contribute in our own capacity to move education forward.”
Teachers don’t have to pay a fee for assistance, but that’s where the selection process comes in – teachers submit their project proposals online and the 100% Project team will vet them and consult the teachers to ensure that every project on their platform is of high quality with clearly defined problems in their classroom/school/community, impactful and that the funds requested are reasonable.
As for the public, they have the choice to donate a minimum amount of RM10 to their chosen projects. They are also given the option to pay a 15% service fee on top of their contribution to help the 100% Project team sustain their platform. “As donors, they will also be entitled to different types of rewards depending on the amount of contributions they have made. These rewards will be in the form of thank you notes, drawings from students or even an invitation to visit a school,” shared Tan.
Three friends, Wallace Fong, Zac Tan and Bryan Chang, are environmentally-conscious watchmakers. Their brand Project Woodworks (projectwoodworks.co), created over two years ago, uses wood waste to make watch cases and bracelets.
“Zac has deep connection with wooden products because he came from a family that used to manufacture wooden antique furniture. Unfortunately, his dad’s business was forced to close down in 2008 because wood prices had drastically increased due to irresponsible and non-sustainable logging practices.
The idea of making products using waste wood was sparked when he was doing research for his final year architecture project,” said Wong.
The friends’ reason behind the endeavour is simple but effective. Every year, billions of trees are cut down and tonnes of unused or waste wood is created. So why not utilise the unused wood to create something beautiful and exclusive, while giving back to the planet at the same time?
Project Woodworks is built upon three pillars of belief – impact, responsibility and sustainability.
The young men have created a movement that involves their consumers in the process of solving social/environmental problems; they design their products based on the virtuous consumption cycle where products are manufactured greenly, fairly and thoughtfully; and they utilise sustainable wood materials to create their products.
Wood is 100% biodegradable and will not compromise the well-being of the planet. The waste wood materials are sourced from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified providers, ensuring that their products come from well-managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits.
“We are also up-cycling the local under-utilised wood and turning it into our products, hence reducing the wood waste,” added Wong.
The watches from Project Woodworks are priced between RM300 to RM500 a piece, and a portion of the proceeds benefit the Tropical Rainforest Conservation and Research Centre (TRCRC).
For every watch sold, Project Woodworks will plant, preserve, and nurture one endangered tree species on behalf of the consumer.
“We’re currently developing a system to include coordinates of the planted trees with our collaboration partner TRCRC.
Customers will receive a QR code with the GPS coordinates of the tree planted thanks to their purchase,” said Wong.
“We believe that it is important to change the consumption behaviour of people in Malaysia. People have to be more socially and environmentally conscious when they make purchases, in order to achieve sustainability.”