Our condo in Kuala Lumpur was in a 9-story building which was common since Kuala Lumpur was so densely populated that people built upward and not outward. The 3-bedroom apartment was spacious by Asian standards. Actually, it was luxurious. I noticed some fundamental differences that made me reevaluate my concepts of conservation. I thought owning a hybrid made me on the cutting edge as a conserver. No. That was scratching the surface.
Each outlet has it’s own on and off switch. When you leave something plugged in but current is still running, you are still using electricity. Also, the key card that opened our door was required in a key slot once you entered the condo as a master key to turn on all the electricity. So, when you leave, you are meant to take your key and turn off all the electricity. This turns off all the lights, any device you left on, etc. The only thing that this doesn’t turn off is the refrigerator. Yes, this includes the air conditioning even when it’s 90 degrees.
Hot water hot water is another commodity that the Malaysians and many Asians conserve as well. Many in fact actually don’t have the luxury of hot water but those that do have to turn on the hot water tank about 5-10 minutes before a shower. Then, you turn off the hot water tank afterward. Brilliant. Naturally, showers do not last long. To wash dishes, I heated water in the tea maker just to help kill germs. That’s the other thing. Dishwashers are nonexistent.
Recycling is a given and refrigerators are not large. Neither are kitchens for that matter. Our condo building was in a posh area and was considered a posh building and we had a kitchen smaller than our master bathroom at home. We had a stovetop but no oven. But, then again, many Asian families I’ve heard do not bake so ovens are unnecessary. And the stovetop consisted of 2 burners.
So, what to take away from all of this? If I had switches with every electrical outlet, I would turn off appliances when not in use. I do find myself unplugging appliances I don’t use every day. I turn lights off more now. I use all halogen light bulbs. I set my heat lower and my air conditioning set higher. I still drive a hybrid. My husband and I installed a tank less hot water heater. However, we have a long way to go personally and as a culture.