Aishah Sinclair may have cared for nature from a young age, but here’s how motherhood further fuelled her passion for the environment.
If there’s one thing radio announcer and TV host Aishah Sinclair has learnt about life and purpose, it’s to find a reason for everything that you do.
“My kids are my motivation, not my excuse” reads her Instagram bio, revealing the fundamental reason behind her life choices. The mother of two – Soraya Ann and Aina Elisabeth, aged eight and four – sees the motto as a reminder that life doesn’t stop at motherhood, despite the challenges she faces and sacrifices she has to make along the way.
“It is very easy for you to put aside your own needs and focus on your children. But the whole point of me using them as my motivation is to make myself better, to pursue what I want, to pursue my dreams,” she explains.
And what she wants, what she dreams of is a world where her children and the future generation can live in harmony with nature. This has further fuelled her passion for the environment, though she had been involved with environmental efforts from a young age.
Today, she is a proud spokesperson for Yayasan Anak Warisan Alam (YAWA), which promotes youth awareness on ecological issues and sustainable development; a co-founder of the Free Tree Society, which gives away free plants and trees to encourage a greener society; and a volunteer in WWF Malaysia’s recent Journey of Water, an educational programme on nature’s water resources.
Appreciating Mother Nature
Interestingly, Aishah’s appreciation for nature was passed down from her own mother. Growing up, it was her mother who made it a point to spend time with her and her two brothers outdoors.
“I remember one time when I was about ten, she took all of us to Kuala Selangor to see the fireflies. When we were there walking around, one of us thought the idea was so great that we had to start a group,” she recollects of her childhood.
Said group initially consisted of her mother’s siblings, friends and their kids; but it slowly grew from there and thus, the Junior Environmental Group of Malaysia (JEGOM) was born. JEGOM then changed its name to YAWA and registered as a foundation limited by guarantee in October 1996.
Thanks to the foundation, she and her brothers had matured with the values of conservation, recycling and sustainability – which they still hold till this day.
“It became a way of life even more so when I became a mum because that’s when you want the best education for your kids, the best food, the best this, the best that; but then when it comes to the environment, are you guaranteeing the best for your kids? What kind of a world will they grow up in?” she ponders.
That’s why she continues to nurture her daughters the same way she was brought up – to be aware of their interdependence on natural resources and not take them for granted. Now, she jokes, they would parrot the little lessons she has taught them to others – including herself.
What’s her secret?
“I nag,” she admits with a laugh, before adding, “To be honest, I just tell them through the little things we do like when we’re shopping, I explain why we’re pack our own shopping bags. Or whenever I can, I choose organic produce, and they see that.”
Becoming a vegan
In November last year, Aishah decided to give up meat for two reasons.
“One, I wanted to know if I would have a little bit more energy if I cut out meat, because our body digests meat differently – it’s a lot slower and takes more energy,” she says.
She found no difference, however, because the nature of her work requires her to wake up at four in the morning. Vegetarian or not, she would understandably be tired by two in the afternoon.
“The second reason is – and I remember someone told me this – a vegetarian in a Hummer has a smaller carbon footprint than a beef eater in a hybrid car,” she tells in utmost perplexity, as if it was the first time hearing the fact herself.
“We fail to see the huge impact the meat industry has on our planet, so I started reading books, articles, websites and watching documentaries and then I thought maybe I’d just try to go on a plant-based diet.”
“If you have a strong enough reason for something, then you will do it, so find your strong enough reason.”
It started with a day, then a week, then a month and eventually it became her permanent lifestyle. But she kept the decision a secret from her family for two months and when she finally told her mother and in-laws, it was “akin to coming out of the vegetarian closet”.
Fortunately, they were supportive of the change, and gradually made a few dietary adjustments of their own – much to her amazement.
More recently, she has transitioned from being vegetarian to vegan, at least in part.
“I’m vegan at home, so whenever I cook, I’ll prepare a vegan meal. I’ll do the whole tofu with no eggs, no dairy, and take supplements on the side. When I’m out, it’s a lot harder, so then I will take eggs and dairy especially if it’s been cooked into a meal,” she divulges.
Though she doesn’t impose the change on her daughters, they share in the same vegan meal whenever she cooks at home. Unlike many kids, she says they enjoy their greens as much as she does – to which she quips, “I always joke that my elder daughter will grow up to be a vegetarian one day because she doesn’t like chicken.”
Changing lifestyle habits
Food aside, even Aishah’s travelling options are steered towards natural surroundings rather than cities. This especially so that her daughters can be exposed to actual green jungles and not just more concrete ones.
“When we go for a holiday, we make sure to go to places that are well-connected with nature. And bless them – my daughters can be happy running around in a big, green field,” she beams.
Eco-friendliness is another factor of consideration when she picks an accommodation. Since hotels are generally known to produce a large carbon footprint, she often opts to stay at Airbnbs.
“If there’s a hotel with an option for eco-friendly practices, that’s obviously going to be the preference for us. Of course, there are certain choices that you can’t avoid, but we can try to balance it out in other ways.”
At the end of the day, she believes that small acts can make a bigger difference on the world than we realise. It only takes a spark to get the fire going, after all.
“When it comes to conservation of the environment, it sounds like a huge responsibility but all we need to do is really just make small lifestyle changes. That’s pretty much how it starts – it starts at home, from you, the consumer,” she says.
“You don’t have to join all these big NGOs or chain yourself to a tree – that’s activism. If you want to do that, great. But at the same time, there are small things that you can do and practice at home that will make you equally as active in this cause.”
It sounds intimidating when we look at it as saving the environment, but in fact, change begins with reducing our own carbon footprint. She offers a few easy examples: recycling your waste, turning off the switches when they’re not in use, and using digital alternatives to printing paper wherever possible.
The first step comes back to finding a drive to make the change.
“You must always have hope and a reason for doing things and this pretty much applies to everything in life. If you have a strong enough reason for something, then you will do it, so find your strong enough reason.”
Watch the video above to see Aishah’s eco-friendly stay at her Home Away From Home.
Photography: Gan Yew Chin
Videography: Zac Lam
Styling: R. Yogash
Hair and makeup: Ling Chong
Shot on location at Element Hotel by Westin