Today was one of those hectic days with so many people to catch up with and running errands in between everything. I drove to a few places today and as usual, traffic’s always bad especially now the weather has gone gloomy most afternoons. So while I was carefully driving the car, making sure I don’t accidentally ‘make’ an accident, my mind was wandering about my favorite topic ; sustainable living and it sort of started with me being thirsty in the car but I forgot to bring my water bottle today. I made a mental note to always bring a bottle with me wherever I go. This is so that I can avoid purchasing plastic bottles repeatedly. But then, because I’ll be away from home for the next 3 weeks, staying in a dormitory of sorts I started thinking how is it that bringing one bottle of water is enough? I probably or most likely will need to purchase plastic bottles and even stock them up (what a nightmare!). It’s different when I am at home, I can boil the water and refill the bottle as much as I want.
But what if I’m at a place that doesn’t have such electrical facilities? The tap water in Malaysia is clean, but is it safe for consumption?
I am not entirely sure about that but even if it claims to be, I prefer to be on the safe side and boil the water first usually. This means that even if I want to reduce plastic bottles consumption, I may not be able to do so under certain circumstances. It’s similar like how we preach about reducing the usage of air condition, but you know very well that most of the offices and buildings are air conditioned the whole day, some even until at night which is definitely more than the daily air condition usage in an average household. Also, at the same time we can’t tell those buildings to turn off the air condition because how will they circulate air in the buildings?
You can’t have your employees in suits and blazers in an enclosed office with no air condition. Its not easy, especially if the buildings are huge. So, in cases like this they have no choice but to use airconds.
Then, what? Do we tell ourselves its okay because we can’t help it?
At the same time preaching to others about reducing the usage of air condition? It is difficult and I do agree pushing forward the concept of sustainable living is not easy and some might even say its impossible because of situations like this. It’s good that we spread words about reduce usage so we contribute less to environmental problems but a bigger solution is needed in the long run and it has to be feasible.
A main concern on the long run innovation is change. Some might be afraid of change, or its probably not a good investment for them in terms of monetary point of view. For example, if you want a to drive a green car, you need to change your existing car with a new one and that’s not something everyone can afford to do. Lets say a household has 3 cars and these are bought within a time span of 10 years. For them to change their existing cars to green ones will require them another 10 years or more since its new technology, therefore more expensive. That itself is a big question mark of when will we fully shift towards a greener lifestyle. But then, what happens with the old cars? Do they send it to the junkyard for scrap metals? Some of the components of the cars will go to waste landfill.
If every household does the same thing, evolving to a green environment may cause the landfill to be overcrowded, pushing the need to create more landfills for waste. By then, we need to be ready by creating an efficient waste management efforts if we don’t want to lose more lands to fill it with just toxic waste. It is indeed a major concern especially when it comes to properties and development. There has to be a balance of reusing the existing technologies with the new green technologies. While it is great to encourage reduction of consumption that contributes to pollution, we also need to come up with solutions for the longer run.
Coming back to my earlier remark about water bottle, we could look into supplying clean and hygienic water so that even tap water is okay for us to drink. It may have started in Malaysia, but there are many factors that needs to be taken into account when you talk about clean and hygienic water. Its not just about the filtration but the condition of the pipeline, the condition of the water when it comes out from our taps at home. I’m sure Malaysia is progressing towards that, though this is still a main factor as to why people consume plastic bottles daily. So it’s not just about reducing plastic bottle consumption by bringing our own bottles but also finding ways for us to have access to water without the need to purchase it off the shelves. We also need to think about the shift to using our own bottles, what happens then to the plastic bottles that have been produced? Do we just discard them and if that is the case then how do we intend to do it without further harming the environment? Do we put it to good use for other things or reproduce it to create something else?
There are so many factors that need to be taken into account when we touch the subject on sustainable living and development. I’ve only used plastic bottles as an example here but what about plastic toys, how do we allow usage of air condition without polluting the environment? I doubt companies would want to put in fans in their sky high buildings, especially those where the workplace requires them to wear suits daily. What about the components we use to build houses? Houses today are not made of wood which is easily reused and recycled, so then there’s a question about how do we minimize waste in that perspective. Even fashion is a contribution towards environmental pollution which I did a specific post on how it affects the environment. We can’t replace everything to achieve sustainability because then we’ll have new problems on where to dump all this waste now.
The subject is so vast that every day you learn something new and every day you realize that the more you focus on it, the more you can tell how the issues are all linked together and therefore, the problem solving needs to be done by looking at the whole chain, moving together towards a bigger solution simultaneously rather than focusing on just one part of the big issue. I do applaud Malaysia’s initiative on the 2018 budget to set aside fund for research in sustainable development and their participation with other countries in tackling climate change and other environmental problems. I do hope that in tackling environmental problems, our creation not only leads to replacement of something better but also finding a conducive way to shift our existing products to a greener technology without having to replace it all together and of course reducing and reusing what we have which is one way that is commonly practiced by individuals so we can help lessen the problems on environment we deal daily. The shift between creation, innovation and reduction needs to move together in order for us to make an actual impact in making sustainable living something more than just an ideal concept.
And on a side note, don’t ever think that as an individual you cannot bring about an impact. You can by utilizing the different platforms available and it’s not impossible. What truly matters is you taking the first step to educate yourselves about your surrounding, opening your eyes to the problems that are right in front of your eyes and actually doing something about it. Ignorance is always easier but we can’t just ignore the bad things that happens in our own home.