Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Caring for the environment can mean more than just changes to your lifestyle. It can also change how you raise your children.
Television presenter Charles Bonar Sirait drastically overhauled his family's habits after being 'enlightened' by seeing the impact small family lifestyle changes could make on the environment.
Like many parents, Charles used to keep two decorated, colorful and air-conditioned rooms, one for each of his two children.
Before, he kept the children in separate rooms because he wanted to teach them to be independent by sleeping separately from their parents from a young age.
"I taught my children to sleep in their own rooms since they were one-year-old. I wanted them to be independent," Charles told The Jakarta Post over the weekend.
But after Charles was elected an honorary member of the leading environmental group the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) last year he changed his family's lifestyle.
"I began to see what we can contribute from our homes. I tried to apply earth-friendly ideas to any decision I made," said Charles, who also teaches at the Tantowi Yahya Public Speaking School.
His first move was to redesign his main bedroom to allow his four-year-old and six-year-old children to sleep in the same room as him and his wife.
"We can sleep together in the room from Monday to Friday. My children are very happy and more importantly we can turn off the two air conditioners (in their rooms)."
On top of this change, Charles also cut the use of air conditioners during the daytime by opening up more ventilation in the house. He also matched his working schedule with his wife so they could go to work together in the same car.
"By doing all this, we could save at least Rp 1,500,000 (about US$161) a month in energy. It seems simple but it makes a difference for the environment," he said.
Charles is one of many people struggling to reduce their carbon emissions, which are blamed by the vast majority of scientists for global warming.
Global warming may sound like too big an issue to deal with, but individuals can make a difference.
The State Ministry for the Environment says Jakarta produces 60 percent of Indonesia's ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) emissions through its air conditioners and refrigerators, among other appliances.
The Jakarta administration argues it cannot force people to stop using CFCs because of a lack of reasonable alternatives.
However, an alternative is in fact readily available in the form of more ozone-friendly hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are more expensive than CFCs and widely used in much of the developed world, where CFCs are banned.
The CFCs used in Jakarta are imported from India and China.
A technician at an air conditioning company in Palmerah Barat, Winarly, said small to middle sized shops tended to be driven by the large price difference to opt for the cheaper CFCs.
"The price difference is threefold. We can't afford to buy the eco-friendly products since most customers also don't want to pay more," he said
Winarly said a 13.6 kilogram tank of CFC cost Rp 600,000, while HFC sold for Rp 2,000,000.
As the government began its CFC phaseout, Winarly said CFC suppliers began illegally filling tanks intended for other gases with CFCs.
"To make things worse, most technicians can't determine whether the freon (the broad family of substances to which both CFCs and HFCs belong) is eco-friendly or illegal since there's no equipment available to test it," he said.
He said many dealers preferred to sell CFCs in smaller one-kilogram tanks for Rp 20,000, finding the lower price to be popular with consumers.
"The quality of the freon in the one-kilogram containers is worse than the CFCs in the 13.6 kilogram tanks because it's leftovers from other countries dumped into Indonesia," he said.
Winarly's workshop uses at least four CFC containers per month.
"We release the freon residue (into the air) since the government doesn't provide a place for us to put it," he said.
CFCs have long been pinpointed as the major source of thinning of the earth's ozone layer, which helps to filter ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Intensive exposures to CFC residue also poses health hazards such as skin cancer and cataracts.
Indonesia ratified the Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol on ozone layer protection in 1992 which obliged it to phase out the use of ozone-depleting substances.
The protocol requires Indonesia to stop importing CFCs by December 2007.
Meanwhile, Muhammad Suhud of WWF-Indonesia said many air conditioning and refrigeration technicians did not understand how to prevent the escape of CFC residue.
"The solution lies on the hands of the government. They must cut the illegal import of CFCs into the country," he said.