In 2016, actress Sharifah Sofia spent several months on the remote island of Perhentian.
“During my time there, I had the opportunity to talk with so many people who have dedicated their lives to protecting nature and wildlife,” said the 35-year-old, who has been an actress for more than 20 years.
She said the experience changed her tremendously, and she decided to make conservation an important part of her life.
Sharifah added that she does not see herself as an activist, but acts as an advocate for protecting nature.
She is determined to leave a healthier planet for her two daughters, nine-year-old Sharifah Ariana and seven-year-old Sharifah Nur Ameera.
“We must remember that the planet does not belong just to one generation,” said the actress, who shot to stardom with the cult television series Spanar Jaya that aired from 1999 to 2005.
She believes it is important that we do not hand a tainted planet to future generations.
Sharifah said she is glad to see that her actions have inspired her two daughters to care for nature as well.
“My daughters get upset when they see people throwing rubbish out of their car windows. They randomly pick up after others. I love how environmentally conscious they are.”
Tell us about your early childhood.
I have always been a tree hugger since young. I also loved watching the cartoon Captain Planet, which encourages us to take care of the planet. In my twenties, I was busy with my acting career, so I did not indulge in many activities related to the environment. I just used my voice to express my concerns to save the planet. Only in my thirties did I began to get involved in more environmental activities.
Can you describe some environmental activities that you have carried out over the years?
One activity involved turtle conservation. We scouted beaches for turtle nests. We then retrieved the eggs and transported them to a hatchery, to protect the eggs from poachers and natural predators. After 40 to 60 days, when the eggs hatched, we released the baby turtles into the sea.
I have also helped with making artificial reef blocks made of sand, cement and glass bottles. Once ready, we would plant them on the seabed, with coral fragments tied to the bottles, and allow nature to take over.
I have also participated in numerous mangrove replanting programmes on coasts and riversides in a number of states across the country. I was an avid volunteer at a local river clean up initiative in Ara Damansara (Selangor), and we would clean the river weekly. All the plastics we collected would be recycled with a homemade recycling machine to create awesome everyday items.
What kind of changes have you made to your lifestyle?
I now refuse to use plastic bags and straws. I have stopped buying shampoo and soap in bottles. I use bamboo toothbrushes instead of plastic ones. I also make my own body and face scrubs at home with common kitchen ingredients. My house cleaning products are purchased from refilling stations. I also cook at home more than I eat out or buy takeaway.
What is your best memory in your mission to save the planet?
The mangrove replanting I did in Kerteh, Terengannu last October. It was so much fun. Before we started planting, we looked for mangrove seeds and put them in planter pots. When we began, we were all prim and proper and clean. But when we got off the boat and stepped into the mud, it came up to our waist. Some of us lost our shoes, some just couldn’t move and needed help to regain mobility. It was so funny and so much fun.
What can we do to create more awareness among Malaysians on the importance of protecting nature?
There should be more environmental programmes in schools. Young adults, teenagers and primary schoolchildren should be our target audience. They are the future generation. They should know about climate change.
Is it true that you want to start an online talk show focusing on environmental issues?
Yes, the show will be on air sometime in the middle of this year. I want to have a discussion with people involved in environmental work.
I want to invite guests from different countries. I want people to understand that preserving nature doesn’t have to be troublesome.