“green” the new gold?

There are some encouraging signs that things are changing in the Middle East. And no I’m not referring to the Arab Spring movement or anything political. No the thing that is encouraging for me is that environmental issues are slowly becoming mainstream and being talked about in the newspapers; all kinds of people here are taking steps themselves to have less impact on the planet.

Stu and I do our small part; we recycle as much as we can, sadly there is no collection at the house and we have to take the recycling to a depot but that’s ok. The food scraps we turn into compost with our Bokashi, a great way to improve the poor desert sand in the garden. Other than that we turn off air-cons in rooms we aren’t using, turn off the water heaters, use LED globes in the lamps and turn lights and appliances off when not needed. We are also about to switch over to a chemical free cleaning product called Enjo, which cleans with water and fibres only. Apart from having a positive effect on our carbon footprint (which is the biggest in the world here in the UAE apparently) these changes have also had a positive effect on our utility bill each month. As the cost of water and electricity climbs all over the world this may be the thing that gets people motivated – the dollars and cents. Of course it’s great that we all do our bit at home, but in my opinion it’s not enough. The bigger consumers – the shopping malls, office blocks and other industries – must also start being mindful of their consumption. Small signs of this are starting to be seen and it’s very encouraging to me.


[Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre*]

Most of you will have heard about Masdar by now – touted to be the world’s first carbon neutral city built from scratch. An ambitious project in no uncertain terms, and I for one am watching it materialise with much interest. But there are other things happening here too. The Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre in Al Ain (under construction) is also to be one of the world’s most sustainable buildings. In fact the design has already received the highest sustainable building rating in the UAE, namely Five Pearls. The centre is expected to open by the end of the year and will promote nature, the environment and sustainability through interactive exhibits.

But what are pearls anyway? Well all new communities, buildings and villas must be designed to meet Estidama’s One Pearl requirements before they receive their permit to proceed. The ratings system is applied to each of three phases of a project: design, construction and operation. The Desert Learning Centre will use solar power, energy efficient windows and light fixtures and toilets that conserve water. Waste reduction and recycling is also incorporated into the building design. Air will be pre-cooled underground by the sand before being used in the cooling system. The centre is a tribute to the late Sheikh Zayed, and his commitment to the natural and cultural life of the UAE. Fantastic.

Two other stories in the paper yesterday continued this “green” theme. The first being about a family, the Badshahs, who spend most of their Fridays (their day off) scouring Sharjah for recyclable waste which they then store at home until they have enough to take to the offices of EEG (Emirates Environmental Group) for weighing. EEG then sends this on for recycling. This amazing family gives up their spare time to pursue this activity, so it’s only fitting they won 6 out of 8 awards this week as the country’s top recyclers. Between them they collected 3,474kg glass and cans; 16kgs of Tetrapaks; 7,640kg of paper and cardboard; 315kgs of old printer cartridges. Wow!

Another Dubai couple, David and Theresa Wernery, are planning a 160,000km drive through some 50 countries over 18 months to raise awareness of plastic pollution and the threat this litter is to both wildlife and domesticated animals when ingested. They are also now looking for a home for their dog as they plan this trip – so if you can help them with that, or for any more info, please see their “Plastic not so fantastic” website. They plan to camp in most of the places they visit, unless they are offered a bed by a local; they will also plant 170 trees in Africa. And in case you think that their driving all over isn’t so great they have calculated that the petrol they will burn will have a smaller carbon footprint than their living in a house for a year. Sounds like they have done their homework. Good luck guys, that sounds challenging and exhausting, but also very rewarding.

Fabulous really. I am even more inspired to keep making a difference. Turning off now! Bye 🙂

*image source: construction week online

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