How the UAE is helping the global green drive, and how you can get involved
Dubai’s iconic skyline will see its lights switched off in support of Earth Hour on March 29.
On Saturday March 29, at 8.30pm, it’s going to get very dark in Dubai. There’s not a sandstorm coming, or a total eclipse – it’s Earth Hour 2014.
For one hour the twinkling lights of Dubai’s iconic buildings and beyond will be turned off to symbolise the need to reduce energy usage. Dubai will be joined by other cities all over the world switching off and joining this ecological movement.
The first Earth Hour was celebrated in Dubai in 2008, but it wasn’t until 2010 when the movement really began to gather pace. Reem Al Thawadi is communications manager at Emirates Wildlife Society, the organising body for the event in the UAE. ‘People often ask me, “what does one hour do for the environment?” But the idea of Earth Hour is a demonstration of what we can do when we put our minds together – as darkness encompasses the cities every hour it shows that if we put our minds to something we can actually do it. It’s not just the energy saving in the hour, it’s the symbolic action behind it. The goal of Earth Hour is to get a movement going – not for just one hour, or one event.’
This year The Emirates Wildlife Society is using Earth Hour to galvanise people to switch to using energy saving light bulbs. It’s a small change which Al Thawadi says could have a massive impact. ‘Studies show if the UAE switched to energy efficient lighting we’d save 940,000 tonnes of CO2 – the equivalent of removing 166,000 cars from our roads, so the switch can be of great benefit.’
According to Al Thawadi and the EWS, the UAE, like the rest of the world, needs to address its energy consumption levels. Last year more than 150 countries and 7,000 cities participated in Earth Hour, and the planet’s most famous landmarks descended into symbolic darkness: not only The Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, and Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in the UAE, but The Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Great Wall of China, the Tower of Pisa in Italy, and Russia’s Kremlin and Red Square. It’s a global event for a global problem.
‘A lot of the environmental issues we face locally are faced globally,’ adds Al Thawadi. ‘One of the things we encourage people to look into is consumption of natural resources, energy and water. We have a high per capita carbon footprint, and one of the drivers of that high footprint is the over consumption of resources. So looking at reductions in energy and water would have an impact on our overall carbon emissions, which is why we’re pushing for energy efficient lighting.’
Energy efficient light bulbs, LEDs or Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) use less energy to produce light, and cost less to run long-term. The older incandescent bulbs might be cheaper at local stores but they require frequent changing, meaning more cost to your pocket and the environment. ‘They are higher prices but they have a longer life span and the average investment on energy light bulbs is better than normal candescent bulbs. At the same time there’s an economical benefit to switching also – studies show that an average sized villa in Dubai would save Dhs2,100 annually in electricity bills.’
During Earth Hour a number of corporate and community events will take place where people will gather by candlelight. And when the hour is up, and the lights go on – what difference will it have made? Al Thawadi hopes it will change minds and habits. ‘I’d like to see Earth Hour be every hour in terms of taking the essence of Earth Hour, which is caring for our planet, and amplifying it so we do it every hour. Join in the events by switching off the lights at home – that’s a great way to engage, and when you switch on, switch on the right way – with energy efficient light bulbs.’ Earth Hour takes place across Dubai Saturday March 29, 8.30pm-9.30pm. For more details on how to save energy, visit www.uae.panda.org/earthhour.
Save energy every day • Switch to energy efficient light bulbs – they come in all shapes and sizes so finding the right one for your lamps and fittings in local stores should be easy.
• Set your room temperature one or two degrees higher. You’ll hardly notice the difference and you’ll save on your chiller fees.
• Switch electronic devices off and unplug, rather than leaving them on standby.
• Ditch the hose – use a bucket and sponge instead of a hose to clean the car. This can save 180 litres of water per wash.