Raising temperatures indoors to keep temperatures outdoors from rising, and other practices for sustainability

Singapore is populated with buildings that consume a lot of energy.

By Natalie Tham
April 20, 2020

Due to the coronavirus situation, most of us have been WFH, and especially with hot weather recently, many of us have our fans and air-conditioners turned on at temperatures closer to the natural habitat of the penguins at the bird park. The higher energy consumption at home naturally results in a higher carbon footprint. So how do we balance the need to work from home without increasing our carbon footprint unnecessarily?

Sitting just 1 degree from the equator, Singapore is perpetually hot and humid all year around. And everywhere you go in Singapore - from offices and malls to public transport - Singapore has just the remedy for you: Air-conditioning.

It's convenient: Every time it feels like it's too hot outside, we quickly escape into and find respite in an air-conditioned area. But the irony is that the more we keep ourselves cool indoors, the more we contribute to the warming of our climate over time - since air-conditioners emit harmful gases that exacerbate the depletion of the ozone layer.

Editorial credit: Sergio Delle Vedove / Shutterstock.com
A typical sight in Singapore: Air-conditioner systems stacked atop one another behind buildings.

But how can we address this issue? Based on a report by Channel News Asia, every individual in Singapore controls about 30% of all the energy consumed or produced here. Of the 52.5 million tonnes of emissions generated in 2017, buildings and households accounted for 19% of emissions, with air-conditioning contributing a large proportion.

Use fans, not air-cons

On a personal level, we should use fans as our go-to source of ventilation as frequently as possible. However, when the weather is unbearably hot and we turn to air-conditioners, we should ensure that the temperature is around 25 degree Celsius or higher. Moreover, something as minute as a 1 degree Celsius increase in air-conditioner temperatures has been reported to cause a significant drop of 5% in electricity bills.

Between air-conditioners and fans, fans are more cost-effective and eco-friendly.

Another cause for concern is emissions from industrial production. In the 2017 report, the industrial sector contributed a whopping 60% of total emissions. The industrial sector includes companies involved in manufacturing and construction. Now you're probably thinking, how do I play a role in curbing emissions from industrial production? Well actually, all individuals have the ability to affect these emissions.

Purchase only what you need

Firstly, individuals can control their wants for material goods. Industrial production responds to a demand in the market. If we lower demand for material items, firms will produce less, hence less emissions will be generated. This may explain the rising trend of "minimalism", where people choose to own very few belongings to live sustainable lifestyles. Such lifestyles are indeed very relevant to helping the environment! The next time you purchase something, ask yourself: Do I really need this?

Preparing a shopping list will help prevent over-buying.

Call on firms to do more for the environment

Secondly, individuals can urge firms to adopt sustainable practices! Individuals can urge firms to operate using solar energy as their main source of energy, replace plastic use with other materials, or incentivize customers for engaging in sustainable practices.

Let us continue taking ownership of our carbon footprint, and continue living sustainable lifestyles that will positively impact our future generations for a long time to come.