Every organisation needs a vehicle to convey their message. In the case of this NGO, the Daihatsu Gran Max has quickly become more than a mere tool, but an icon for what the idea stands for. The Free Tree Society Kuala Lumpur (FTS) is an environmental organisation that spreads the environmental stewardship message through giving away trees for free to green our Earth. Since 2013, they have given away over36 650 plants to homeowners, schools, marginalized groups, community gardens and wildlife habitats to proliferate planting, to encourage biodiversity and to promote a love of nature.
Having received the vehicle last year and making its first appearance at MCVE 2019, FTS’ Green Van has since played a pivotal role in the Rewilding Roadshow campaign. Asian Trucker had the opportunity to talk to Baida Hercus, President from Free Tree Society (FTS) in an exclusive interview to find out more about how the vehicle is supporting the efforts of this NGO.
CSR Needs a Vehicle
As part of Daihatsu Malaysia’s CSR program, the brand supports local organisations. The Free Tree Society was chosen and approached in 2019 and the first appearance of the “Green Van” was during the Malaysia Commercial Vehicle Exhibition. Following the expo, FTS was then handed the van to become part of Daihatsu and FTS collaboration 2nd phase activities. She explained that FTS intended to use the van for two main purposes: to transport plants and to serve as mobile event space. The design for the vehicle was conceptualized in accordance with FTS requirements and the van was then built accordingly. “Daihatsu then start fabricating customised fittings taking into consideration on versatility and practicality of the van and ensured that the vehicle is projecting the image that we wanted. I am pleased to say that the Green Van has achieved that with the help of our partner.”
The concept was derived from successful initiatives abroad and FTS saw no reason why they should re-invent the wheel and incorporated some ideas for the Malaysian environment. The role of the activity is to bring awareness of the need to re-green urban environments. As such, FTS would need to be mobile in order to visit parks and suburbs; to drive up, park the vehicle and deliver their message on how planting various trees, bushes, hedges, edibles and flowers can help to enhance urban landscapes while bringing joy to the people and boost biodiversity. Since the launch of the “Rewilding Roadshow” campaign in January (Asian Trucker reported), some 700 plants have been given to families visiting the Green Van displayed at Taman Tugu. We have, of course, been stifled in our effort to go out and deliver plants as a result of the lockdown, but we are nonetheless pleased with the response to date.”
Planting Go Where
When parked and used as a mobile event space, the most remarkable feature a retractable awning, that can be deployed as part of the Green Van. “It is my favourite feature! This makes the van very attractive and immediately homely. Considering the weather, it is a fantastic feature to have instant shade for our visitors.” Hercus recounts that visitors are usually fascinated by the van as many would associate a commercial vehicle with more rugged work and not something that is more related to a lifestyle or a good cause. “It is a great conversation starter!” Stored within the customised fittings are the plants, gardening tools, pots, soil, as well as a TV to stream educational videos. Hercus and her team have been extremely happy with the space offered in the Gran Max with the only issue arising being that some compartments could be a little bigger to accommodate larger plants.
For the time being, the Green Van has been stationary at Taman Tugu Nursery, where it served as an event space that resembles a home driveway mock up. According to Hercus, many families come to get ideas for greening urban spaces, and take, not only plants, also pictures with the van as their centrepiece. However, Hercus is hopeful that soon the Green Van can be put to the originally intended task and go on the roadshow, visiting malls around the Klang valley and beyond. As it turned out, the lockdown also had its upsides as more people have become interested in sustainable living and issues of resilience. “Thus, we have actually benefited from this circumstance as more people seek awareness and solutions.”
“Our organisation also has a bigger truck and therefore, I have no issues driving the Green Van. It actually feels very easy to drive,” Hercus commented on the handling of the vehicle. She feels very safe in it, as all compartments can be latched, locked and secured. To ensure that the Green Van is ready to go at any time, Daihatsu looks after service and maintenance. Shortly after MCO, Daihatsu sent over the Mobile Service team to carry out onsite service due after six months.
Hercus, however, is also critical of the current state of things as she would prefer to not drive a vehicle that is using fossil fuels. We are in the space of environmental protection and as such, we should do everything in our powers to project this image. While a vehicle using fossil fuels is not acceptable, but as of now, there is no viable alternative in Malaysia.” She also laments that the protection of the environment is currently under one ministry, but in her view the protection of our planet should be on the agenda of every ministry. In her opinion, green transportation and its supporting infrastructure is not getting enough attention in Malaysia. “The moment that Daihatsu offers a sustainable electric truck or van, we will upgrade,” she promises. “Greenwashing is not acceptable! Anyone that is saying they are eco-friendly, needs to walk the talk. For now, that means building environmental awareness within the community in the hope that values towards environmental stewardship changes. We should all be prioritizing a healthy planet for a robust future and that includes low carbon solutions like electrification of our transportation.”
Mission Being Accomplished
Over the past months, the Green Van has certainly helped to achieve the mission’s targets. It has become a vehicle, not just in terms of the ability to carry goods, but also echoing Daihatsu and FTS value and message. It says Grow Wild on the bonnet and when you get a closer look, you will find that there are animals hidden in the plants and urbanscape decals. This is our message: to re-discover nature at home in the city.” Plants and vans seem to be working well together as more and more people enquire about how they can get hold of the free trees. “People are really excited about this campaign! We get more people visiting our special Rewilding Roadshow Green Van than the Daihatsu showroom,” Hercus joked.
Visit freetreesociety.org to learn more about the Rewilding Roadshow.