Let’s change our wasteful lifestyle

MANY a foreign friend, as well as diplomat, cannot avoid saying that they are in awe over what they consider are some of the "wasteful" aspects of Malaysian lifestyle.

Let's begin with our eating culture.

All local government authorities can vouch for the fact that they are wrestling with the acute and costly problem of solid waste or garbage disposal especially in cities and major towns with high population.

And the bulk of the tens of thousands of tonnes of such waste is made up of leftover food that could otherwise reduce the world's hunger problem in very poor countries.

The biggest culprits are the restaurants and eateries, particularly the 24-hour outlets.

The garbage dump sites are bursting at the seams posing a huge headache for the poor migrant workers employed by the contractors.

Despite these places being infested with rats, nothing seems to change as far as the highly democratic manner in which licences for these round-the-clock food stations are being issued.

Do we need so many eateries all over the place? Are they not serving only one purpose which is to make people eat more than they should?

The habit of the average Malaysian in using water is another glaring example of wastage.

The secretary-general of the Ministry of Green Technology, Energy and Water, Datuk Seri Dr Zaini Ujang, keeps reminding me that our per capita consumption of water is the highest in the world while our clean water tariffs are the lowest.

All this is due to our wasteful habit of treating this vital life resource with little or no respect.

Readers of this column that I started way back in 2011 would by now be familiar that I have written consistently on water conservation and how it pains me to see the blatant carelessness over its usage.

I even sometimes make it a point to advise fellow Muslims who use water for ablution before performing their prayers at mosques and suraus to dispense with it sparingly.

Water abuse is even worse in Selangor, already frequently hit by supply disruptions and shortages. Blame it also on the state government's free water policy, which many of my friends unhesitatingly call a stupid policy.

Look at how water is being wasted at building sites and car-wash outlets, and the regular water-theft raids conducted by officials of the National Water Services Commission (SPAN).

Another wasteful dimension of precious water down the drain is the use of the 500ml plastic bottle for mineral and drinking water, the latter sourced from water supply utilities.

Why don't these bottled water manufacturers use the 250ml containers instead?

Most of the 500ml ones are not fully consumed because it's rather too much for the average person.

These bottles with unconsumed water clog the garbage areas and cause environmental issues because plastic is non-biodegradable.

The civil service is known for holding daily meetings in its departments and ministries and without fail, these meetings as well as events like prize-giving or certificate-presentation ceremonies end with lavish "refreshments" of food and drinks.

I have even attended four or five such meetings in a single day at government agencies where food was served, which strictly speaking, is quite unnecessary.

One way to cut the operating budget of the public service is to change the mindset associated with the catering expenditures related to food and drink.

We already have one of the highest incidence of obesity and diabetes among countries and over-eating is one of the causes.

Electricity wastage is yet another.

Most of highways and especially the tunnels are over-lit compared to even the most developed of countries.

We could certainly do with cutting down expenses at such places because after all, motor vehicles travelling after dark already have their headlights switched on.

It's also a common sight for streetlights to be left switched on during the day due to faulty timers that the local authorities don't seem bothered to repair.

It's a sheer waste of an expensive public utility.

There are several other related issues on our wasteful lifestyle that we ought to change that I will write about in this column in future.

Any effort at mindset change must start in schools with young minds taught to "waste not, want not".

Everyone of us must walk the talk on changing our wasteful lifestyle.

Comments: letters@thesundaily.com