Smugly, I thought that by cutting out meat, dairy and eggs, I had cut down tonnes of my carbon footprint.
I thought I had cut down at least 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, and that I was not emitting much despite driving every day.
Boy, was I wrong!
Here’s an estimate of my carbon footprint:
Here’s the thing with data and facts: they are relative to something else most of the time.
In the case of “Animal Agriculture being responsible for 18% of GHG emissions, more than combined exhaust from all transportation”, this is relative to the industry-level output, not personal output.
So no, by going vegan, I don’t think I had reduced my GHG emissions by 18%.
My emissions might have reduced to a certain extent, but I’m still emitting quite a bit, especially since I still drive.
Driving alone = 3.5 tonnes of CO2 per year
Public transport = 0.5 tonnes of CO2 per year
So why am I not using public transport?
The Thing About Driving
I had been driving to work because it was much more convenient than taking Grab (taxi) and LRT (Light Rail Transit).
Honestly, I don’t mind the act of driving itself. But what I don’t like is the responsibility that comes with it.
Paying a monthly loan.
Paying for petrol.
Paying for maintenance.
Paying for yearly insurance and road tax.
Paying more than I can comfortably afford, basically.
So why the hell am I not using public transport??
For many including myself here in Malaysia, we kinda don’t have much choice.
If your house and workplace are near LRT stations, then you absolutely do not need a car.
Otherwise, it’s either you get a car or you depend on Grab or taxi, which may cost you a lot either way.
When I started working here in Malaysia two years ago, I bought (loaned) a car, as per mum’s advice. I didn’t want to but I had to.
The nearest train station from my parents’ house where I lived would take me about 10-15 minutes drive, or RM15 by Grab.
So it was still better to drive. “Better” in the sense that it was easier and relatively cheaper to drive than take the taxi and train.
When Life Changed
In February 2019, I moved into an apartment which is nearby an LRT station.
Now I have choices.
I could continue driving my car to work, or I could take the LRT.
So I decided to experiment with taking the LRT for one whole working week.
Overview of the Commute
From the apartment, I would walk for about 7 mins to the LRT. I would then hop on the train that’s going towards Putra Heights, which is the opposite direction from Kuala Lumpur. This means I am spared from facing the rush hour madness.
Six stops later, I’d alight at Putra Heights station, which is at one end of the Kelana Jaya line. I’d then have to change to the Sri Petaling line, which means waiting for a few minutes more for the next train to arrive.
Five stops later, I’d be at Pusat Bandar Puchong station. The whole train journey would take me around 30-45 mins. Then, I’d have to walk for about 10 mins to my office.
Total time commute via LRT and foot would be around 45-60 minutes.
If I drive, it would take me around 20 minutes.
When the LRT Stopped Working
On the following Monday after a week of riding the LRT, I drove to work.
This was mainly because there was a signalling fault on the Kelana Jaya line.
I didn’t check the status update online and so I walked to the station that morning. As I got to the platform, I saw a lot of people standing around.
Then, I heard the service announcement that the trains are delayed.
Considering the number of people already on the platform, I guessed it had been quite a while since the signalling breakdown. And I doubted that it would be resolved anytime soon.
So I walked back to the apartment, went to my car and drove to work.
Later I found out that there were buses ferrying passengers along the train line route. If I didn’t have a car, I’d either take a half day off (or get my salary cut) and go to work later when the problem was resolved, or I would’ve not gone to work at all.
There’s no way I’d take the bus. It would be such a long journey considering the traffic on the road. Not worth my time.
And that’s another inconvenience — the buses here are inefficient. They are never regular or on time so it would only add to the anxiety of not being on time for meetings or events.
But it’s okay, we’re in a developing country, remember?
One Week of Petrol is Roughly Equal to One Week of LRT
I had been pumping RM50 of petrol each week regardless of the fluctuation in litres. It’s a nearly-full tank.
Tolls for 5 working days would, on average, be around RM30. So that’s around RM80 a week if I drive.
One way of LRT from my apartment to work is RM4.50. I calculated my expenses for that week including the commute to Bukit Jalil where I went for dance classes three times a week. Adding it all up, it cost me nearly RM50.
If include Grab, the total commute cost could probably reach RM100 a week.
So in terms of the upfront cost of commuting, LRT (without Grab) is only slightly cheaper or roughly the same with petrol cost. But if add up tolls vs Grab, honestly, it’ll probably still be roughly the same.
Considering the monthly loan, maintenance cost, road tax and insurance, owning a car on a whole is definitely much more expensive than using public transport or ride-sharing methods.
What I LIKE About the LRT
Contrary to mainstream interest, I like walking. It’s a form of freedom that we take for granted. If we have a pair of fine legs, shouldn’t we walk them more often?
Of course, it would be much better if the weather is much more tolerable and less humid. A bit of autumn would be perfect.
I also like the tranquillity on the train. The only thing that’s loud is the whizzing of the train on the tracks. People aren’t often loud. Even if they were, I won’t realise it thanks to the pair of earphones in my ears.
And that’s another thing I like — just being in my own world either listening to a podcast or some upbeat music and not having to think about the road.
But then again, it’s not like I don’t listen to podcast or music while driving. I do. So there isn’t much difference on that actually.
Mostly, I find the LRT a sort of therapy in a way that I could allow my mind to relax, let it wander and hopefully come up with creative ideas that would help in my writing or dancing.
I could tap into the state of mind similar to when taking a shower.
What I DISLIKE About the LRT
I am generally a patient person but waiting for the LRT especially when I’m late or in a rush can be a bit irritating.
I don’t like that I have to walk in the heat. It does not mean I don’t like walking per se. I just prefer the weather to be cooler.
I don’t like that there are not enough train lines that connect to more areas. This means that it would take me longer to get to certain places than it would be by car.
Oh and I don’t like inhaling the polluted air when walking.
I’m legit confused – was I getting healthier by walking quite a lot more or was I compromising my lungs and that the carbon-whatever-oxides were killing me softly?
Have I mentioned I don’t like sweating all the time in this hot and humid weather? Yeah, I just don’t.
Autumn, come soon.
What’s My Daily Commute Like Now?
I used the LRT for the most part of February.
In March, I used less of the LRT.
Now, I have completely fallen back to the old way.
Having felt the convenience of driving, and the inconvenience of the LRT, I’ve decided to drive to work.
Any excuse I give wouldn’t be pleasing to the climate change police, so I won’t try to justify my decision.
But I would just say that in my situation, it’s just easier and quicker to drive than to use the LRT and taxi when commuting to work and classes.
You would probably think me a fake environmentalist now that I’ve told you my flaw.
My housemate uses this against me whenever I try to sound like an eco-warrior.
You have every right to chastise me.
Suffice to say, I’m struggling to sustain a sustainable lifestyle.
However, I still stand by my preference of not owning a car and having to pay insurance, road tax, maintenance and petrol… if my situation is different.
Well then, it seems like I have to pack only 7 of my belongings and move to an organic permaculture farm!
Featured image credit: People photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com