Text Lawrence Julius Photo Lee Chin Aik
Listen to your heart, follow and realize your potential before it is too late
The Malaysian property development business is often one that is not fully understood. A property developer is sometimes thought to be a greedy, money-grabbing ogre who squeezes every Ringgit that he possibly can from his projects.
As a kid, Matthias Gelber remembers how green was always on the agenda. He grew up around this notion of “let’s be green”, and it stuck with him. Matthias will eventually go on to win the title of Greenest Person on the Planet in 2008, as recognition for his environmental efforts and initiatives, accorded by a Canadian foundation, 3rdwhale.
“I come from a kampung,” Matthias says, hailed from a place called Lippe in West Germany, a little village community of about 500 people. It wasn’t the numbers that mattered though, it was the people; everyone knew each other in this little community and they cared for their environment.
“Even if they took from the forest, they’d give back.”
What we call eco-awareness today is the norm for the people in Lippe. The 3R concept of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle was nothing new, and this was 35 years ago, as Matthias recalls.
Although Matthias grew up in a green community, it was never regarded as a good business plan. “They didn’t even want me to further my studies,” he says but he eventually went abroad to major in chemistry.
“I figured some scientific knowledge would help me in dealing with the environment.”
Even if it wasn’t what his family wanted, Matthias had to follow his intuition and chase his passion. “I had to breakthrough these barriers living in a small village community.” And more certain than not, his family slowly, but finally accepted his path.
It was important that he did what his heart told him, and contribute as much as he could to the planet. This was and still is his calling. “This is not work to me.”. He tells the newer generation of humans to live life to the fullest and realize their potential before it is too late.
Today, Matthias is one of the leading experts when it comes to green and sustainable living. He is an outstanding speaker and has travelled to more than 35 countries around the globe giving talks and seminars. Also, he runs Maleki GmbH as a co-owner, a company specializing in green building materials and promotes the reduction of carbon footprint.
It is no surprise that he is one of the greenest men on the planet. He’s a minimalist when buying, rarely turns on the air-conditioning in his Kuala Lumpur home, involved with numerous green foundations, plants a lot of trees, doesn’t own a car, and is driven solely by his passion for the sun, trees, water…. – the environment. Even during this interview, Matthias confided that he’s cutting down on meat, and thinking about going vegetarian.
I guess the most important aspect here is the mindset we apply. Matthias agrees that green is an ongoing process that never really stops. For him, green is a way of life, it’s his daily routine, it’s his personality, it’s his character, it’s not just for show. And thank heavens that he followed his heart, and not the negative notion from his dad, else we wouldn’t have ended up with the perfect green ambassador.
So when did you realize green was your forte?
That’s a good question. My father thought I was wasting my time. – Matthias Gelber