Being green under grey skies: environmentally reponsible in Jakarta?

As global warming and environmental concerns sweep across the world, it seems many people have started doing their part. Without realizing, it appears I’ve slowly become part of that crowd.

Growing up in the States, my first two cars were 5.0 and 5.7 liter V8 sports cars – gloriously fast. Each got about 15 miles per gallon when I wasn’t getting into trouble. When I left the States in 2002, gas was around $1.50 / gallon – in 2001 it was 74 cents a gallon at one point. It was literally cheaper to buy a gallon of fuel than a gallon of milk. In an average year I was driving about 20,000 miles with a heavy foot and going through tires as frequently as taxes.

Fast forward to 2008. I now drive a Honda that utilizes two spark plugs per cylinder, effectively burning off even more of the fuel for higher efficiency – around 35 miles per gallon. Much of the week the only driving I do is to the gym, the mall, or perhaps downtown on the weekends. Day to day I actually ride my mountain bike to work. Did I make this life change due to global warming? Not at all. I simply find that I can get to work faster on my bike than in my car. (plus I let Novita have the car). In nearly three years since I bought the Honda, I’ve driven a grand total of 25,000 kilometers, or about 5,000 miles per year.

In regards to waste removal, I simply throw my trash away in the bins in front of my home. I don’t separate anything, nor do I take the time to drive it anywhere. But guess what happens? The trash gets separated for plastic, aluminum, and paper to sell. I’ve never been conscious of this, but it appears that in effect, Jakarta has a fair system for recycling.

Because of the ridiculous cost of dryers here, we simply air dry our laundry, therefore drastically cutting electric usage. This has its downsides; clothes aren’t always nice and soft, they don’t shrink back once stretched, and if the maid leaves them in the back room, they’ll smell like nasi goreng.

I switched to an efficient front-loading washer because I was tired of the el-cheapo washers breaking yearly.

Without huge lawns to water, we aren’t draining the water table for lush greenery – it’s humid enough here to provide ample moisture year round. (unfortunately, my neighbors feel the need to have their maids water their driveway and wash their cars twice daily).

By living on the equator, we don’t need to heat our homes throughout brutal winters. (but yes, we use air cons quite a lot).

I’ve changed many of our lightbulbs to the compact flourescent (warmer tone) after years of using scorchingly wasteful 500 watt halogens.

From what I gather, the green lifestyle is quickly becoming an obsession in America. My friends are trading in their Hummers for Pruis. I have other friends who have shifted their entire careers into environmentally oriented start-ups. It seems the world is waking up and the America I left will never be the same again.

What are other ways we who live in Indonesia can help assist this cause? Without meaning to, I’ve improved my own “carbon footprint“, but surely there are more ways we can improve. Perhaps if I start now, I’ll be better adjusted to the Greening of America if/when I do return.