SCOPES Spotlight:
Melissa Tan

READ: INTERVIEW

Melissa Tan, zero-waste advocate and earthday.org Ambassador, joins us on our IG Live talk series to explore the topic of consumption in the fashion industry.

Melissa Tan is a TV host, actress, climate activist and digital content producer. She champions grassroot efforts to engage the public in sustainable living.

Melissa is a trained Climate Reality Leader and the Country Coordinator for Fashion Revolution in Malaysia, the world’s largest fashion activism movement.

10 Questions with Melissa Tan

1. Describe yourself in 3 words.
Inquisitive, Connector, Always Learning (I know that's not really 3 words).

2. What project are you currently working and what can we expect from you?
I've recently taken over the helm for Fashion Revolution in Malaysia. The global movement has been a source of knowledge and inspiration for me, and I'm excited to be part of growing the consciousness of Malaysians around the change we need in the fashion industry.

I've been working on building the team of volunteers and student ambassadors; as well as collaborating with local brands, civil society organisations and institutes of learning. The aim is to build a generation of conscious, well-informed consumers that are equipped to look past the greenwashing and call for a fairer and cleaner fashion industry.

While most of our events and campaigns have to be virtual for now, I will continue to bring community events for people to reinvent our relationship with fashion with concepts like minimalism and the sharing economy (my next attempt will be a virtual Clothing Auction fundraiser!)

3. What do you consider as the highlight of your career?
It was the time I successfully organised my first environmental festival, just before the pandemic. I was truly humbled by the support from local NGOs, fellow activists and conscious brands. We came together for a 2 day festival right in the centre of a popular mall with a market featuring conscious businesses, anchored with talks on different areas of sustainability like the climate crisis, sustainable fashion, conservation, plant-based living, etc.

It was great for attracting the uninitiated into the climate conversation and introducing them to viable ways of taking action for our planet. Seeing the passersby who end up stopping to listen and engage was the icing on the cake. The fear of failing was intense, and it was a huge relief that it worked out well!

A close second would be when I was invited to be an EarthDay.org Ambassador! If the environmentalist kid in me could see it, she wouldn't believe it.

4. Where do you draw inspiration from?
I'm constantly inspired by both the local and international environmental community and their creativity in finding ways to evolve our society collectively. I am a product of their influence, and I am part of the ripple outwards to countless others who will go on to influence others.

I also draw from the diversity and inclusivity movement and great storytellers.

5. What was your first ever job?
My first job as a kid was working at a coffee chain for the summer. I was an avid recycler as a kid. But I never used to think twice about the impact of the plastic cups we get our iced drinks in (I can just recycle, right?) until I saw hundreds of them go into big, black garbage bags straight into the trash everyday at the cafe. It was one of my first realisations of how our individual actions can really accumulate and how businesses were a major source of waste. To the dismay of my manager, I took it upon myself to recover those cups, clean them and bring bags everyday to recycling. It was only a temporary fix for my stint there, what we need is to address these gaps and design waste out of processes.

6. Who do you find most interesting to follow on social media?
Some of my favourite personalities are @robjgreenfield @going.zero.waste @earthlinged, who hold a high level of compassion for people while advocating for change. I'm just so thankful the world is so connected and we have all these opportunities to learn at our fingertips.

7. What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
The one thing I am always reminded by those close to me: You have value, share it with the world. And be generous with it.

And from my dad, I learnt to be tenacious. Rome wasn't built in a day, and the world isn't going to change overnight ;)

8. What is your favorite local homecooked meal?
A good bowl of noodle soup with a kick-ass sambal. It's where I can go ape with the vegetables.

9. Are you a traditionalist or modernist?
I'm a little bit of both and I believe we need both. Society needs to evolve - to return to traditional values, learn from indigenous cultures and their stewardship of the Earth, while restoring them to their rightful place; coupled with the modernist views of a fair and just world for all.

10. What is your scope and how do you want to shape the future of sustainability and design?
My scope is to connect with people and businesses, and create space for people to engage in action.

I want to help shape a more connected and engaged community of humans who are in tune with their impact on the world around them - both positive and negative. Through storytelling and contextualising global issues to our doorsteps, I hope to empower people to take action by connecting them to solutions and activating their own influence in their communities and workplaces.

The solutions already exist. And everyday, we have countless opportunities to design a better world, one decision at a time.