A touch of green: Of eco-friendly commuting, clean air and healthy wallets

Commuters travel along the Federal Highway in Kuala Lumpur December 18, 2013. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Commuters travel along the Federal Highway in Kuala Lumpur December 18, 2013. — Picture by Choo Choy May

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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 17 — The term “carbon footprint” is self-explanatory with carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions being the leading cause of air pollution, deteriorating air quality and worsening health conditions.

With over 22.7 million registered vehicles in Malaysia, road transportation is the second largest contributor to CO2 emissions, accounting for over 61.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2eq) in 2013. This air pollution is particularly evident and dangerous in urban centres with high concentrations of vehicles and people.

Malaysians’ dependence and preference for private vehicles ownership is not only polluting the air but also costing us precious time. For example, with over six million trips completed using private transport each day, the World Bank estimates that Klang Valley residents spend approximately 250 million hours a year, stuck in traffic!

To curb the adverse effect on our ecosystem, health and time, it is imperative that we reconsider travel habits and reduce carbon footprint during day-to-day commute.

For cleaner skies, healthier wallets and some extra time to yourself, perhaps it is time to consider incorporating some of these eco-friendly alternatives:

Be cool & carpool

A study of selected major highways in Kuala Lumpur during the morning peak hours noted that over 70 per cent of traffic monitored comprised single-occupancy vehicles (SOVs). This clearly indicates that SOVs are a primary cause of our traffic congestion conundrum.

Any reduction in the number of SOVs, i.e. through carpooling, would significantly reduce congestion and CO2 emissions.

As a carpooler, you can also potentially save up to 80 per cent on petrol expenses by sharing the cost amongst themselves.

Plus, if you are lucky enough to not be the driver, you can do away with the stress of driving and instead spend that extra time indulging in a good read, conversing with friends or simply relaxing and enjoying the ride.

Go public

Public transportation is another effective option to reduce the number of vehicles and thereby reducing CO2 emissions.

An integrated public transport network can potentially remove hundreds of thousands of cars from Malaysian roads. For example, a single four-carriage Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) train carries 1,200 passengers, this is equivalent to 700 cars or 1,200 single-occupancy vehicles.

Nevertheless, a recent study estimates that only 17 per cent of Klang Valley residents opt for public transport for their daily commute, a fairly low number when compared to Singapore, which reports 62 per cent residents opting for public transport.

However, this is set to change soon with the two new MRT lines, another Light Rail Transit (LRT) line and an extension of a current LRT line amongst others. All of these and the new Bus Rapid Transit line at Sunway utilise electricity to power their vehicles, which translates to zero emissions.

Plus, with someone else at the wheel, you are giving yourself more time to get other things done during your commute and reduce traffic related stress.

Efficiency is key

On occasions where public transport is not an option, there are still ways you can reduce your carbon footprint and save on fuel cost while driving private vehicles.

Some simple but effective tips you can adopt include turning off your engine when idling for longer periods of time, practising smooth acceleration, maintaining ideal tyre pressure and ensuring your vehicle is regularly serviced.

If you are in the market for a new car, consider the car’s fuel efficiency. Heavier cars with powerful engines typically have poor fuel economy. Instead think of buying a lighter car with an engine capacity of 1.5 litres or lower to both save on fuel cost and reduce CO2 emissions.

Switch to hybrid or electric

Taking it a step further, you could opt to buy a hybrid vehicle which utilises a secondary electric motor, powered by regenerative braking, to increase fuel economy and reduce CO2 emissions. In fact, hybrids only emit 90 grams of CO2 per km (or less) as compared to the average 124 grams per km from conventional cars.

Should you wish to be at the forefront of carbon mitigation could consider purchasing an electric vehicle (EVs) which relies wholly on electricity for power and generates zero tailpipe emissions!

Switching to an EV does not mean compromised power, performance or comfort. The streamlined internal mechanisms of EVs translate to a surprisingly smooth and silent drive as well as significant savings on maintenance costs. Plus, for you speed junkies, the direct transfer of power enables immediate torque resulting in instantaneous acceleration.

On top of that, as electricity is cheaper than petrol, you will be enjoying even more savings on a daily basis.

Work those legs

Another simple way of reducing your carbon footprint is choosing to walk or cycle to nearby locations instead of using a car or motorbike. Plus the extra exercise will do wonders for your health.

In fact, if more people walked or cycled instead of using cars for trips between one to five kilometres, it would slash up to 23 MtCO2eq of emissions from road transportation each year. Also, 30 minutes of walking a day has been reported to have significant health benefits beyond physical fitness, including warding off dementia and osteoporosis while acting as a great source of vitamin D.

These are some suggestions for reconsidering the way you travel. Some are quick and easy, while others may require longer term commitment. Either way incorporating these tips into your daily lives will contribute to reducing CO2 emissions while improving your health and saving your money.

Want to know more?

For a glimpse at the future of eco-friendly transport, visit the International Greentech and Eco Products Exhibition and Conference Malaysia (IGEM) 2015 on September 12, 2015 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

Organised by the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water together with Malaysian Green Technology Corporation, IGEM 2015 is expected to attract 400 exhibitors featuring the latest eco-friendly technologies from around the world. Admission is free!

For those interested in learning about international eco-transport policies and playing a part in influencing local automotive policies, register for the 3rd E-Mobilia World conference on September 10 and 11, organised by Koelnmesse and co-organised by Malaysian Green Technology Corporation.

For more information on IGEM 2015, please visit www.igem.my and for further details on the 3rd E-Mobilia World visit www.e-mobiliaworld.com.

* Next week, we examine how to keep your waste in check. Stay tuned and remember to add a touch of green into your life.

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