Asian Property Review finds out from Matthias Gelber aka ‘the man with the least carbon footprint on earth’ on how he walks the talk in today’s world.
Text and Photography by Jan Yong.
Matthias crosses several milestones this year – first, the birth of his baby girl and second, the ‘birth’ of arguably the ‘greenest’ tiny house in the world. The 50-year-old couldn’t contain his excitement at being a first-time father and vows to raise her up as another ‘green warrior’ – an eco-princess, so to speak.
Matthias doesn’t need much introduction. The German environmentalist who has a Master degree in Environmental Science from Brunel University in the UK, is a sought-after speaker and trainer on environmental issues. During a recent forum on green living in Selangor where he was one of the panellists, he noted that it seemed a little odd that water in plastic bottles were being served – an observation that had the audience laughing out loud.
It’s interesting to note that Matthias was born in rural Germany surrounded by forests. This was where he very likely developed his deep connection and respect for nature.
In 2008, he was voted the ‘Greenest Person on the Planet’ in an online competition by 3rdWhale in Canada. That’s how he came to be known as the ‘Green Man’. He’s continued living like that ever since – attempting to reduce his carbon footprint in every way possible in his life.
Matthias has lived in Malaysia for 14 years – in that time, he has not had a car and his monthly electricity bill was typically about RM30 per month as he doesn’t use an airconditioner. Since having a baby in the Philippines with his partner, he’s been dividing his time between the two countries with occasional trips to Europe and Panama.
To him, air-conditioners are one of the biggest producers of carbon footprint. He urges everyone to reduce or even cut out the use of air-conditioning completely. This can be done if architects and developers work together to build buildings that allow maximum air ventilation and cooling. “It’s all about efficiency – it’s down to how you design the building. If designed right, it doesn’t need air-conditioners or even artificial lighting,” Matthias says.
” To build houses with air conditioners is a crime against Mother Earth. ” — Mattbias
He adds: “To build houses with air conditioners is a crime against Mother Earth. We should go back to the old days of kampong houses. I would like to challenge all developers to rethink what they are doing. It’s not okay to build “heated-up homes that are not smart”.
He gave the example of a condominium in Butterworth which uses lightweight insulation with walls that don’t absorb heat resulting in a cooler home. As a result, the electricity for the entire unit is only about RM100 a month. This proves building this type of home is certainly doable, even on highrises.
“When people do things that only profit themselves at the expense of Mother Earth, it will harm their legacy. They have left a burden behind for their grandchildren.”
In addition to co-owning several eco-friendly companies, Matthias used to do a bit of writing on environmental issues – his first book, “The Greenman’s Guide to Green Living and Working” has been sold out and is due for a second printing.