Director and Co-founder of Build for Tomorrow www.facebook.com/ build4tmr
‘Nature’ always meant ‘fun’ for Rubén, who grew up around animals in Mexico City and looked forward to Saturday forest excursions with his family. However, things turned serious when he entered university and studied the effects of environmental issues on economic analysis and insurance policies. Later, his move to Cambodia saw him confronting the reality of economic greed at the expense of the environment and questioning everything he had learned.
After a hop over to Malaysia, he stumbled upon Wild Asia, one of the oldest social enterprises in Malaysia addressing environmental and societal issues. Instantly intrigued, he made contact with founder Dr Reza Azmi and joined a team on a public sector sustainability consulting job.
“I learned a lot on the project and finally got the chance to use my marketing skills for something I truly believed in. Then I proposed to Dr Azmi that we should promote what all these beautiful destinations in Malaysia were missing: buildings with low environmental footprints,” he says.
Thus, Wild Asia’s Sustainable Building Initiative became Build for Tomorrow, and Rubén threw himself into his newfound vocation. He and his international team help to advise business owners on what they can do to make their buildings more efficient as well as launching building projects of their own.
As a social enterprise, Build for Tomorrow also cross-subsidises their services to deliver affordable energy, water and waste solutions for community projects. One of their most significant projects came to fruition in late 2016, when they completed the first Earthship in Malaysia in collaboration with the local Temuan community in Negeri Sembilan. Together, they transformed over 600 tires and thousands of cans and bottles into a completely selfsustainable building.
It all sounds like a grand operation, but Rubén notes that the biggest agents of change are actually us – the people. “People complain about traffic, but imagine if the whole of Kuala Lumpur decided to start cycling tomorrow. Can you imagine all the emissions that we would cut down on and how much their health would improve? We can design great buildings and cities, but we also need to work with the people if you want to talk about sustainability,” he says.
Being environmentally friendly, according to Rubén, doesn’t have to mean big lifestyle changes. Fixing a leaking toilet, using shopping bags instead of plastic, boiling only the water you need for a cup of coffee instead of a whole jug, cleaning out the dust from the back of your fridge – these actions save energy and water usage, reducing the environmental toll and your bills at the same time.
To those who still think saving the environment is inconvenient or unprofitable, this is Rubén’s message: “You want to talk about inconvenience? Let’s continue doing business as usual and when there are wars for water, ecological refugees, and oceans with no fish, then we will understand ‘inconvenient’. Sure, it takes change to get there, but there are only gains to be had. We have to stop blaming each other and get some big changes happening. We need to do it for the next generations.” EL