Aug 15, 2010

Three ways to cleanliness, eco-friendly life style

Anyone visiting India would agree that we folks treat the entire country or city as one big trashcan (dustbin). People of all race, religion, economic status and caste are united when it comes to one thing - throwing trash anywhere and everywhere, often right outside their own houses caring a damn for themselves and their health, let alone neighbours.

Anyone traveling to Singapore would also marvel at its cleanliness that is often compared to a hospital ward. Singapore has achieved it with two distinct measures - one positive and one negative. The positive aspect is that one need not often walk more than 10 feet to find a trashcan. They are everywhere, right under every table in offices and in front of every shop or eating joint and every bus stop, some even providing two of them. So you simply have no excuse not to use them. The other of course, is the famous and ubiquitous 'FINE's advertised by numerous signs and well publicised 'corrective work orders' where offenders don bright orange vests and clean streets with media clicking away to preserve your image for posterity..

But there is a third way - the TAIWAN way. There are no signs threatening financial and emotional ruin to recalcitrants. More importantly, there are NO dustbins or trashcans on the street especially in residential localities, away from city centers and their malls. Often I have walked hundreds of meters, holding a crumpled receipt or used can in my hand, looking for a dustbin, finding none. Finally I have to get back to hotel/residence to trash it. Yes, the streets are still kept clean because the biggest ingredient that matters, without which all other measures fail, is there - it is called decency, civic sense and responsibility.

In many ways, Taiwan shows the way to other Asians. Convenience stores, for years now, don't hand out plastic bags. Even stores selling more expensive stuff life clothing and supermarkets like Carrefour don't. In Singapore we expect plastic bags even for newspapers. In Hong Kong you not only get a plastic bag with your newspaper but also a free packet of white tissues, adding even more trees to the casualty list. People use  fold-able steel chopsticks and often bring their own instead of wooden throwaway ones.

Where there is a will, there is a way...

Aug 5, 2010

Talking down electric cars

Electric cars are going to hit the market in a big way, at least in the United States. And in so many ways US is like India - it never runs short of pessimists, party-poppers, skeptics, doubters and so on...pundits ready to give 1001 reasons why something will fail. Their arguments are all perfectly logical until you stop and think.

One of the biggest 'complaints' is that in comparison with petrol / gasoline driven cars, electric ones are poor in terms of return on investment - they will cost a lot more even with subsidies- so they will bomb. So they expect electric cars to match and exceed their petrol cousins on every parameter including cost, range etc., and until then they would not sell...

That is a strange argument. Since when did people started buying purely on cost and return on investment? People spend over $500 on mobiles when perfectly usable ones can be found for $20 and end up using 1% of the features, only to buy another one after a year. You can get a nice, good looking, functional and decent leather bag or watch for $30 for which some even spend $20,000 or more. People do fly first class, eat in super-expensive restaurants and in many cases spend money simply because something IS expensive, just to show off.

 What I mean is just like other such 'investments' that make no sense financially but deliver enormous value to those that have other criteria, electric cars too will have ready buyers, may be in thousands, tens of thousands,   and over the years, millions of them. Even if they are still expensive, limited in range and speed.

Who knows, they may become a rare political 'statement' that both the right and left would embrace proudly for their own reasons - the left because it is green and cool and the right because it sends less or no money to 'terrorist' pockets. Mr. Limbaugh are you listening?

Good luck to Leaf, Volt and other such pioneers!