PETALING JAYA: What started as a university excursion has inspired a young man to start advocating for the environment.

Nature advocate Beh Zeng Kang said the beach clean-up at Langkawi a few years ago was an eye opener for him to do more for Mother Nature.

“It was a trip to Langkawi where we cleaned up the beach in an effort headed by several retired foreign expatriates residing on the island.

“It was then that I saw the impact of waste, mainly plastic, piled up and I told myself that I have to do more,” said the 26-year-old, adding that he engaged with the volunteers to learn more about environmental advocacy.

Keeping beaches clean: Beh (front left) posing with his community of volunteers and nature lovers after cleaning a public park by a beach in Teluk Intan, Perak.

The international relations degree holder from Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) said the programme was simple but impactful.

Beh said there were no fancy tents, PA system or VIPs who came to officiate but it was still very meaningful.

It was there that he started to venture further into environmental advocacy and met his source of inspiration – another fellow advocate and Star Golden Hearts Award recipient Mohd Faisal Abdur Rani.

“Since I came from a different academic background, I have learned a lot from him about environmental issues.

“Together, we collaborated with a non-governmental organisation called Generasi Peduli Sampah to make the advocacy even more sustainable instead of just collecting trash,” he said in an interview.

Beh said one of their efforts was to audit waste where he would collect data on the waste collection, including separating them into several categories.

“Items that can be recycled such as glass bottles will be separated and upcycled into other products,” he said.

“After the data collection on the waste is done, we would then share it with the authorities to provide them with an insight of the waste collected and plan proper policies”, he said adding that they also collaborated with Rakan Muda under the Youth and Sports Ministry, as well as the Environment and Water Ministry.

During his journey as an environmental advocate, Beh managed to lobby and convince the authorities in Perak to reduce the use of plastics in events back in 2019.

Being a member of the Perak state legislative youth assembly, he put forward a motion – Perak towards Free Plastic Waste Policy – which was passed with a majority by the members.

The proposed policy included data and information collected, and highlighted possible solutions to be considered by the state government to realise the vision of Perak as an eco-green state.

Beh, who is currently pursuing his Master’s in international relations in UUM and a second degree in Law at Universiti Malaya, also won several awards for his initiatives.

The most significant recognition was the Asean Youth Eco Champion.

“It was an honour to receive the award but it also meant that I have to put more effort and do better in my field of advocacy.

“It’s also a recognition for society to drive the world to a better place and which comes with greater responsibilities,” he said.

Aiming to be an educator, Beh said it would provide him with a greater platform to reach out to the younger generation and create a chain of change to make the environment cleaner.

“Even if I don’t get to leave an impact globally, at least I want to create a change in Teluk Intan, my hometown,” he said.

Source: The Star