On this day in 1972, the United Nations Environment Programme was formulated. Over the years, thousands of people all over the world have vowed to make small changes in their everyday lives to mark the occasion — from riding a bike to work to planting a tree. Here’s what you can do.
Avoid plastic bags
More than 80 per cent of the UAE’s shoppers put everything into free shopping bags. People could go through as many as 60 bags a month. These single-use carrier bags are made from oil-based plastic, which is a non-renewable resource and can take up to 1,000 years to decompose.
Don’t be fooled by paper bags either — they are not an environmentally friendly alternative and still a waste of natural resources. Invest in reusable carrier bags instead. It makes a huge difference.
Door-to-door waste collection for recycling has begun in Al Barsha — the first stage of plans to roll it out across Dubai. Waste management company averda has provided bins to more than 3,500 villas. The company aims to collect 50 per cent of the volume of recyclable refuse such as plastic, aluminium cans, glass, paper and cardboard. Jeroen Vincent, CEO, averda, says the waste collected will be reprocessed locally where possible and not be dumped in landfills.
Hit the roads
Carpooling can make a huge difference to the environment. It is estimated that if everyone travelling to the same location (within a one-kilometre radius) carpooled instead of travelling alone, the number of cars on the road would be reduced by more than half.
If you can’t carpool, use public transport sometimes. Dubai’s reliable metro and bus networks have made the city easily accessible for many. Ride your bike on weekends or walk.
Switch off and save
According to the report Powering the Nation by the UK’s Energy Saving Trust, between 9 and 16 per cent of electricity consumed in homes powers appliances on standby. On a bill of £500 (Dh3,078) this could account for as much as £80.
Mohammad Abdullah, Energy Specialist at Dewa, says a TV on standby uses 106 kilowatts and costs up to Dh100 a year. “It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it all adds up.”
Bulbs are the future
Regular light bulbs are inefficient beasts, and up to 98 per cent of the energy they consume is wasted as heat. but compact fluorescent light bulbs are about 75 per cent more efficient. A household willing to replace all its bulbs with energy-saving ones, which are available at most big supermarkets, can seriously cut down on its electricity costs and energy consumption.
Dubai-based Transguard Group is planting 100 ghaf saplings in a greenhouse near Al Barari to celebrate World Environment Day and UN Biodiversity Day. Greenworks, a landscape organisation, will nurture them and plant them in various communities two years later when they are strong enough.
Mark Povey, Marketing Director, Transguard Group, says 20 management and staff members are planting the saplings. “The environment is integral to our CSR programme, and by planting ghaf trees we are not only supporting sustainability, but also reaching out to the local community.”
Get a garden
Given that most of us live in apartments in Dubai, pottering among the shrubs doesn’t quite apply. However, a balcony has enough room for a compost bin, whose components could be offered to nearby greens. Moreover, a balcony or a tiny garden can be used to grow food, herbs and spices.
If everyone went organic, most harmful pesticides would be stamped out and things would be more affordable, sustaining organic farming.
Fümé, an eatery in Dubai Marina, is offering a platter of organic greens free of charge for each table today. Angelo Rosato, Operations Manager, Fümé, says, “Sustainability is important to us, whether it’s conserving water and energy or managing our waste.”
Hotels lead the way
UAE-based hospitality group Time Hotels has launched the Middle East’s first carbon offset accommodation at two of its Dubai properties.The aim is to prevent more than 320 tonnes of carbon emissions by the end of the year.
Guests can donate Dh15 per stay to offset carbon emissions generated by consuming energy and water. The money will go to myclimate, a Swiss non-profit organisation.
“In the hospitality sector, carbon emissions are simply unavoidable,” says Mohamed Awadalla, CEO, Time Hotels. “But we remain focused on developing sustainability.”
Read up on information provided on Unep.org/wed to stay inspired as it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of what you’re doing, especially when things become time-consuming. It’s also a great place to register activities that groups you are part of are engaged in. You can also take the World Environment Day Challenge or read Tree-a-Day to learn about the importance of trees to the environment and to us.
ABU DHABI // Among the displays of guns, hunting gear and occasional stuffed lion, visitors to this year’s Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition (Adihex) can also find animal conservation agencies.
While the event might not seem the most logical place for such organisations, the animal experts and hunters both believe it is in their mutual interests to promote the protection of wildlife.
“Many people don’t understand that we, as hunters and fishermen, are more concerned with protecting wildlife than the average person,” said Ahmed Al Ghuferi, a hunting enthusiast from Ras Al Khaimah.
Mr Al Ghuferi has gone on hunting trips abroad and mostly fishes in the UAE.
“This is our sport so, of course, if we shoot everything then we will have nothing to fish, nothing to catch,” he said, “Most of us respect the laws, but we need to make them more concrete.”
Mohammed Al Baidani, director general of the International Fund for Houbara Conservation, said that the Government is working to tighten the country’s hunting regulations.
“This is what the Government of Abu Dhabi is doing now,” said Mr Al Baidani, whose organisation has helped the houbara population increase by 48,000.
“A few months ago, a decree was made to start organising official hunting grounds because there is still no clear law about hunting.”
He believed most hunters respected the suggestions of the UAE’s founding President, Sheikh Zayed, that the highway from Al Ain to Abu Dhabi should demarcate the hunting grounds.
“From that highway to the west, hunting is not allowed. Anything to the north and north-east it’s also allowed and that’s how falconers work,” he said.
While the regulations are being drawn up, Mr Al Baidani believes the IFHC and other environmental organisations must educate hunting enthusiasts.
“When they launched the hunting exhibition, we at IFHC were pleased to hear about it because for us it is very important to find an event where we can be in contact with the biggest number of hunters,” said Mr Al Baidani, who has been attending Adihex since its inception 13 years ago.
Furthermore, conservation of the animals is in the interest of both conservation organisations and hunters.
Mr Al Baidani said that it was his organisation’s role to impart information to hunters on the species and to educate them in how to practice sustainable hunting.
“It is our role to highlight to them the breeding seasons and the hunting areas,” he said.
The IFHC also had to “emphasise that traditional forms of hunting are the best”.
Mr Al Baidani quoted Sheikh Zayed, who said that it is important to practice prudence and not over-consume the wildlife.
“The funny thing is hunters are conservationists themselves, they have to have animals to hunt, so it’s in their vested interest to make sure that populations stay healthy,” said Dr Majid Al Qassimi, director of terrestrial wildlife at the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi.
Dr Al Qassimi said that it is in the mutual interest of hunters and wildlife conservation groups to make sure that the necessary actions are taken to ensure the continuation of all animal species.