IF YOU ever come across a woman cycling along a road or highway in the Klang Valley, chances are it is Smita Sharma making her way to an appointment.
Smita said she picked up a love for cycling in a college in Iowa, United States, and got herself a folding bicycle when she came back to Malaysia.
The 25-year-old freelance writer spent about RM800 on her bicycle and RM250 for safety gear.
“I have cycled from my home in Sentul to Subang Jaya, Ampang and Gombak.
“I will fold up my bike and bring it aboard the LRT (during off-peak hours), then unfold it to head to my destination,” she said.
The philosophy major started re-thinking her lifestyle shortly after graduation three years ago, when she spent a year as a research assistant to develop a human rights curriculum.
“One book in particular persuaded me to start re-thinking life and how essential something is to happiness,” said Smita.
“Reading Animal Liberation by Australian bioethicist Peter Singer convinced me that I was a hypocrite as I was consuming meat, yet supporting the environment.
“I started questioning my values. I wanted to care about consistency and became more conscious about my choices,” she said.
Smita also embraced vegetarianism and even minimised use of disposable items.
While it is challenging to deal with smog, lack of civic consciousness from motorists and roads that are not bicycle-friendly, she enjoys cycling as she gets to see the sights, sounds and smells of the city.
“Cycling connects me to the environment and is a great exercise,” said Smita.
Wong Ee Lynn, a humanitarian services professional, has been practising an eco-friendly lifestyle even before “going green” initiatives were introduced.
“My parents instilled a strong sense of environmental responsibility in me and reading made me more conscious about my choices and habits.
“There is so much an individual can do. I share ideas with family and friends to keep motivating them,” she said.
Wong said the trouble with the “No Plastic Bag” policy was that most people did not understand the importance of reducing packaging and waste.
“A lot of Malaysians feel there is nothing wrong in using plastic bags,” said the 33-year-old.
“The goal for all households should be to find ways to reduce unnecessary waste, such as buying groceries in bulk with the least amount of packaging, and using the bag for bulk packaging as bin liners.”
As for reusable bags, Wong said those made from fabric like cotton or canvas were the best as they were of high quality and durable.
“I keep at least one or two reusable bags in my backpack and car and more when I go shopping,” she said.
When Wong travels, she either drives her car that runs on both natural gas and petrol or takes public transport.
“I also car pool, use organic waste to make composts, recycle as much as possible, and buy only what I need,” she said.
“I have set up a simple greywater harvesting system at home, so water from domestic activities like dishwashing is reused to flush the toilet and to clean my pet litter trays.”
The animal lover and vegetarian dines in when possible or brings her own tiffin carrier to pack food.
College student Chris Yong, 19, is taking baby steps with his eco-friendly habits, but plans to do more in the future.
“I started this practice about a year ago, when I got involved in green campaigns. I make it a point to use public transport whenever possible, separate my garbage and recycle,” he said.
Yong keeps reusable bags for shopping and buys only the necessities.
“I’m trying to make my family more conscious about their lifestyle.
“One of the things I plan to do is to run awareness campaigns to educate my friends and everybody on campus about the environment,” said the Inti International College Environment Club chairman.