Vanessa Lalasingh’s love for the environment was inculcated at a young age. As a child, the St Andrew-bred attorney spent holidays in Banks District on the vast Vere Plains of Clarendon where she climbed trees, ran barefooted on the sandy banks of the Rio Minho, in which she also swam, and frolicked at nearby beaches.
“From an early age, spending time with my family in the country, I came to believe life is simple until we complicate it, because the environment supports life and happiness,” she reminisced on her childhood holidays along the Clarendon coast.
Her love for the environment was deepened and further nourished in high school. At Ardenne High School in St Andrew, she was a member of the Environmental Club and held the post of President for many years.
“It was really a good club. At our club meetings we would create beautiful and useful things from recycled material, routinely selling some to fund the club. We talked about technology and ways to save water and preserve the environment,” she informed. “Every year we would create a two-storey Christmas tree entirely of recycled materials as the centrepiece of the school’s Christmas event. It was always elegant, and that cemented the fact in my mind that recycled things can easily be very chic instead of shabby.”
The Legal Counsel, who works at The Jamaica National Group, continued on the trajectory when she moved on to tertiary studies at The University of West Indies, Mona campus, where she volunteered at community clean-ups, among other environmental related activities.
She said life became hectic in those intensive years of studying, but after graduation, she continued to volunteer in whatever way she could on environmental projects.
“I never lost that love for nature and animals, so I have been the type who always has pets; encourages animals to come around; and subscribes to everything about sustainable living tips. I love plants so I started planting dwarfed fruit trees in pots and that became a hobby,” she said, explaining how she translates her love of nature while living in an urban area.
Today, her home is like an oasis, surrounded by plants and animals. She is keen on keeping indoor plants, such as Snake plants, also called Mother In-law’s Tongue, and ZZ plants (Zanzibar Gems) that purify the air. She also surrounds her house with birdfeeders and plants that invite pollinators so the birds can feed in a natural environment.
“I feel like living in the city we get so disconnected from the things that keep us both physically but especially mentally healthy. We complain about air quality and water shortages but make daily decisions that disrupt ecological cycles and create those problems. So, I kind of took an approach that anything that concerns me, I try to seek a natural remedy for it first instead of going for the easiest chemical or disposables to purchase,” she pointed out.
Her love for nature and caring for the environment has rubbed off on her friends and colleagues who she gifts plants and “drags” along on hikes outside of the city and to agricultural shows to deepen their appreciation for nature and encourage them to also become bastions of the environment.
Beyond ensuring that she is surrounded by nature, Ms Lalasingh is also very conscious about energy conservation and ensures that she installs energy and water saving devices in her home. She boasts that with the installation of these devices, her light and water bills are much lower than a household that does not have these devices.
“I’m a big advocate for using technology to save money in the long-term and plan my purchases that way. We all want to save money. We’ve come so far with technology and reducing the cost of it. I just think we need to pay attention to using it in a sustainable way. You don’t need a roof of solar panels to start. Solar lights, smart plugs and other small devices make a really noticeable impact with no additional effort and actually increase my daily comfort,” she said.
Today, she remains actively involved in environmental initiatives as a member of the ‘Don’t Count me Out’ Foundation, which was started in August 2020. The main focus areas of the foundation are community development, education, and the environment. They routinely carry out beach clean-up and tree planting exercises.
As a project manager at the Foundation, she said her position allows her to contribute meaningfully to protecting the environment and other uplifting activities. At The Jamaica National Group, where she works, she also participates in some of the JN Foundation’s outreach activities.
Ms Lalasingh’s encourages other to “Be open about your interest in the environment, however small it may feel. This attracts others with the same values and makes it into a lifestyle that you don’t even think about. You will always be getting tried and true tricks and ideas from likeminded people that will fit seamlessly into your everyday life and become impactful.”