Written by Kyra Chellam from Roots & Shoots
At its very core, what does it really mean to live a sustainable life? Is it the idea that our lifestyles mimic that of tree-huggers? Or would it be that our diets have to be completely plant-based?
These ways are definitely sustainable. In fact, incorporating these changes into our daily lives could potentially reduce our carbon footprint by up to 73%.
However, there is a misconception in Malaysian society that a sustainable lifestyle is limited to these extreme changes.
More often than not, people misunderstand what sustainability is. It’s not just about going vegan or becoming environmental advocates – sustainability is all about embracing the little ways that can make our life more eco-friendly.
For some, it might be to cut out red meat from meals twice a week, for others it’s about switching up their plastic bags for cotton bags when grocery shopping.
Whilst change can be challenging, here are seven easy ways to make your lifestyle and living space more sustainable.
1) Start A Herb Garden
Herb gardens are a great way to spice up our backyards and balconies. They make for impactful reductions in carbon emissions, even in confined spaces.
Local Malaysian herbs such as curry leaves and lemongrass are imperative to dishes in our country’s cuisine. Other herbs that are low in maintenance include pandan leaves and chillies.
By growing these herbs, not only will there be a higher standard of oxygen flow, but also convenience and cost benefits when you cook.
2) Switch To LED Light Bulbs
Did you know that switching from halogen incandescent to LED light bulbs drastically reduce your overall energy consumption levels, thus also saving you money in the long-run?
Traditional halogen incandescent light bulbs need a large amount of energy to produce light and emit CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect and eventually global warming.
By switching to LED light bulbs, 75% less energy is needed to generate light and it can last approximately 25 times longer than incandescent light bulbs.
3) Rainwater Harvesting
Living in Malaysia, it’s common for us to constantly experience rainy days, especially during the monsoon seasons (usually November to March, but then again, climate change).
Although rainy days are familiar to Malaysians, rainwater harvesting is not. Essentially, all you really need to do is to designate an area in your living compound where you can set up water catchment methods, such as tanks and buckets to collect the rainwater.
Once collected, the water can be used to irrigate crops and even be used to flush the toilet! Rainwater harvesting can reduce the consumption of water from taps or hoses, which can also make your pockets very happy.
4) Tailor The Tattered And Torn!
The 3 Rs – “Reuse, Reduce and Recycle” is a phrase that many of us are surely familiar with. But, do we actually apply this concept to our daily lives?
Instead of throwing out your old clothes, ones that you have outgrown or have holes peppered all over them, get creative by upcycling them into reusable items.
Some possible ideas include turning the fabrics into rags that can be used for cleaning. If you are more crafty, you could turn your old clothes into scrunchies, pencil cases, or even curtains!
5) Skylight Installation
While installing skylights is pricey, they will be able to alleviate costs on house lighting in the long-term. Skylights are a great source of natural light – vitamin D enriching too!
Similar to adding mirrors, skylights have the ability to make the room seem more spacious. This is because brighter spaces give a room the feeling of being open and airy.
And if eventually the house is not the one for you, the skylight installation will be in your favour because it can up the resale value and add equity to your property.
6) Use Of Eco-Paints
Has your nose ever gotten stung by the horrid, pungent smell of freshly painted walls? If they have, it’s probably because the paint used was high in chemicals, specifically volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
These chemicals found in paint are often high in content and can lead to serious health issues like respiratory problems and nervous system breakdowns.
However, by simply switching to eco-paints, which are low in VOCs, your nose, body and the environment will thank you for eliminating the strong odour and high toxicity of chemicals.
In Malaysia, many big brands already carry affordable, eco-friendly paints such as Nippon Paint, Dulux, TOA Ecocare and others which have a wide selection of colours.
7) ‘Tapao‘ With Your Own Tupperware
Due to the multiple on-again-off-again MCO restrictions, many Malaysians have found it convenient to ‘tapao’ food – it can get quite exhausting to cook our own meals every day.
Since we take away so much food, there is no doubt that plastic consumption levels have increased due to the copious amount of packaging and containers involved.
An easy and sustainable way to reduce this issue would be to bring your own tupperwares when taking away food.
A recent report showed that Malaysia’s expanding ‘tapao’ culture has accelerated the domestic plastic packaging generation and that a simple meal of take-away noodles can contain up to six different single-use plastics.
It doesn’t take much effort to grab a container from your cupboard on your way out to takeaway char kuey teow. It also doesn’t take much effort to pack a metal straw before purchasing that bubble tea!
No Rocket Science Needed To Live Sustainably!
There is no right or wrong when it comes to sustainable living, it really all comes down to how you can reduce your carbon footprint in a way that you are comfortable with.
The stigma surrounding sustainability makes it seem like an onerous task. Sustainable living is not only eco-friendly, but pocket friendly too!
In order to create a more sustainable future, we, as Malaysians, need to tackle this unattainable mindset against more environmentally cautious lifestyles.
Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots is a youth-led action programme aimed at young people of all ages. The programme was founded in 1991 by Dr Jane Goodall under the Jane Goodall Institute, and it promotes the values of compassion and respect for all living things, as well as intercultural understanding and solidarity among all peoples. You can find out more at rootsandshootsaward.my, follow them on Facebook (Roots & Shoots Malaysia), or Instagram (rootsandshootsmy).