On the 1st of December, I had the opportunity to attend a 3-day workshop or conference organised by WWF Malaysia and EcoKnights. This was the first youth conference on sustainable consumption and production (SCP) in this country. Therefore, I was one of the pioneers, which was obviously a great honour.
Most of the participants were university students, which was not a surprise since that was the organiser’s target group. But anyone between the ages of 18 and 30 could attend. I fit into the category just fine and so I asked permission from my employer to attend this conference as part of the training hours that each employee is given.
Thankfully, my colleague also attended the conference so at least I had a familiar face to go to. But really I got along with the attendees there that I hardly felt alienated. We all shared a similar interest in conserving the environment albeit in different ways. And that was enough to create an easy friendship.
The first day consisted of ice-breaking sessions and various introductory talks on the topic of sustainability, namely sustainable wood, palm oil and fishing. I might write individual blog posts on each topic, as it is difficult to summarise such big and important topics. But generally, the talks given highlighted the realness of climate change backed up by science facts. And most of the impacts we see today are the direct result of human intervention.
We were indeed active participants. Many of us asked questions and give our opinions, which was quite unlike the general perception of Malaysian students. But then again, we were not the typical sort. Our minds are progressive and our hearts compassionate. Even so, those of us who preferred to not speak our thoughts had a chance to write them onto sticky notes that were put on a designated wall and probably collected by the organisers for future perusal. In any case, they made a point that our thoughts will – and must – be heard.
On our second day, we were split into two groups for an outdoor excursion — one group was to visit a wet market, and the other to the headquarters of the Energy Commission. I was in the latter group, which was a relief because I wouldn’t want to go to a wet market to witness various sea creatures being sold as food. As the only vegan at the conference, I don’t think I could bear it regardless of them being caught sustainably.
The Energy Commission or Suruhanjaya Tenaga was located in Putrajaya. It is known as the Diamond Building because of — you guessed it — the Diamond shape of the building! Well, actually you can’t really see it from the ground but looking at aerial shots of the building, it is indeed a Diamond.
What’s special about this building is the green technology incorporated into its design. There are photo voltaic (solar) panels on the rooftop, which contribute to 10% of the energy consumption. There were also water tanks on the roof to harvest rainwater for irrigation for plants grown around the building. The rainwater is also used to supply water in the toilet.
The Diamond structure of the building was purposeful. Sunlight is able to be reflected from the ground and into the building without the heat because the walls lined with glass windows were at an angle, not allowing direct sunlight to enter. The dome in the middle of the building allows an abundance of natural sunlight to enter thus minimising the need for fluorescent lamps in the building. Furthermore, the white painted walls play a role in reflecting sunlight within the building. Basically, good lighting (for selfies) can be got almost everywhere in the building!
The building was no doubt specifically constructed to be efficient, reflecting the profile of the Energy Commission. A couple of talks were given mostly about energy efficiency and renewable energy. I was very much interested in where Malaysia is going in terms of renewable energy and so I was quite pleased on hearing that solar energy is taking root. What many may not know is that solar panels can be installed within the home compound such as on roofs or on a considerably sized land, and you may use the energy generated or effectively sell it to the grid and you would only pay a lesser amount for your electricity bills.
There are of course certain conditions to installing solar panels. For example, if you use more than a certain amount of energy from your solar panels i.e. more than 72 kWh, you would have to let the energy commissions know. That means you can’t really live off-grid in luxury. You can live off-grid without the need to tell anyone if your energy consumption (from solar) is less than 72 kWh. At least I think that’s what they meant.
On the final day, we headed to Encorp Strand Mall for the public forum. There was the guest of honour, Jens Brinckmann, who is from Germany and currently works at the German embassy in KL as a counsellor for economic, commercial and environmental affairs. One thing to note is that this event was supported by WWF Germany. Hence, the presence of Herr Brinckmann.
A few other speakers gave their talks: Thiagarajan Nadeson, the head of market and education at WWF Malaysia, who summarised the role and importance of SCP nationally and internationally; Benjamin Loh, manager of WWF Malaysia who spoke about sustainable palm oil; and Oga Chan, a community builder, who presented about the various sustainable small businesses and efforts in this country.
The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around the fair and getting know the various ecocentric small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Biji-biji is by far my favourite because they are geared towards upcycling materials and turning into bags or wallets — embracing the ethical fashion. They also teach woodworking and simple electronics engineering for a greener lifestyle.
I really enjoyed this event and I’m truly grateful to have experienced it with like-minded, environmentally aware and passionate people. Not only was this my first time attending an event focused on the environment, but it was also my first experience living in a dorm with 11 other girls – it was great!
This conference really fueled my passion for being a guardian or khalifah of the Earth. I got to learn more about the environmental issues in Malaysia and the move towards sustainable consumption. I also got to watch Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”, which I had been wanting to see for many months! It’s crazy to think that despite it being produced 10 years ago, it is still very much relevant.
So with all the knowledge I’ve gathered, it is now my duty to spread it around. It is so important for each human being to care as much for the Earth as they do the people they love. This is simply because without the fertile land we currently live on, there can be no people to love.
for more info about the event, visit the BB4SCP website!