The Green Man www.greenmanspeaks.com
Matthias has always been involved in basic ‘green’ practices like recycling since he was a teenager in rural Germany, but two major events catalysed his transformation from casual environmentalist to eco-emissary: acid rain destroying the pine forests, and radioactive pollution from the Chernobyl disaster making it impossible to eat the vegetables from his own garden.
“I knew then that my mission on the planet was to help prevent pollution and to inspire people to live a green lifestyle,” he says.
After campaigning for the German government to tighten legislation against pollution and to clean up the environment, Matthias began giving environmental talks in Southeast Asia around 1996 and found that he had a natural affinity for public speaking. He chose to stay in the region and help to spread awareness through campaigns, activities and talks as it was seeing a boom in population and industrial growth.
In 2008, Matthias was voted the first-ever ‘Greenest Person on the Planet’ through a competition by 3rdwhale, a Canadian-based environmental organisation. While he appreciates the recognition, he sees it mainly as motivation for him to walk the talk.
Having made Malaysia his home base for over 12 years, Matthias has been busy – 2008 was the same year that he founded Ecowarriors Malaysia, which has supported the Shah Alam City Council and sponsors with tree-planting events; two years ago, he launched the Negawatt Revolution, which aims to reduce Malaysia’s energy consumption by 10 per cent; and just last month, construction on his Tiny Home was completed and is an entirely self-contained mobile home that occupies the size of a standard car park space!
Matthias observes that a big reason why Malaysians might be complacent about being environmentally friendly is the subsidies on electricity and water. Cheap utilities don’t encourage people to embrace renewable energy or save resources, and they cost the government a lot of money. It also contributes towards the perception of ‘living green’ being ‘inconvenient’ and ‘expensive’, but to him, it’s all just a question of mindset.
“Holistic green living saves you a lot of money. I don’t spend on car loans because I use public transport, Uber, Grab or walk. But be practical. I took an Uber here because public transport doesn’t reach here. You need to look at the big picture,” he says.
He believes that more educational efforts are needed to promote a green lifestyle at a grassroots level and implementation should be done in gradual stages. People, he says, need to shift away from associating happiness with material possessions and take back control over their lives and lifestyle. His book, The Greenman’s Guide To Green Living And Working, was written to help Malaysians take practical action towards making a positive impact on the world.
In the end, he says, living green isn’t just about preventing doomsday from happening. “There have been many positive experiences on my journey. It’s more fun being green. I’m not perfect. You don’t need to be perfect, but work on improving and creating more of a positive than negative impact. You can be the change.”