Since its inception as a nation 40 years ago, the UAE has totted up many great achievements and world records. Yet one record the country may not be so proud of is its immense ecological footprint: the WWF Living Planet report, published last week, ranked the UAE as having the third-biggest ecological footprint per capita in the world, after Qatar and Kuwait. With these sobering statistics in the forefront of our minds (along with the fact that World Environment Day falls on Tuesday June 5), we thought it was high time to clean up our act. By this we mean recycle as much as we can, conserve energy and save some cash along the way.
We’ve talked to local experts to discover how we can live a cleaner life here, as well as finding out exactly what the UAE is doing to reduce its carbon footprint.
5 recycling tips (plus 16 handy recycling points)
From where to bin your rubbish responsibly to what the future holds for recycling in the UAE.
Throughout the UAE, each member of the population generates about 2.5kg of rubbish each day. This adds up to more than 900kg per person per year, which is approximately 400kg more per person than in countries such as France and Italy. Most of Dubai’s waste ends up in landfill. As a result, in February 2011, a number of environmentalists called for a ‘pay-as-you-throw’ scheme to be introduced, as an incentive for Dubai’s residents to start recycling more. A year on, no such scheme has been put into action, but there are recycling points throughout the city (see map, right), and they’re all begging to be used.
1 Invest in Tupperware
Pick up a snug Tupperware box (available from Al Maya for Dhs40) in which to take your sandwiches to work, instead of using cling-wrap or foil. Not only will this save you money in the long run, but will also have
a beneficial impact on the environment: cling wrap, for example, contains PVC, which has toxic properties, is difficult to recycle and does not decompose. Likewise, the extensive use of aluminium foil has been criticised because it costs a lot to make, a result of the large amount of electricity needed to extract and process the materials.
2 Ditch the plastic
When shopping in Carrefour, buy a ‘bag for life’ (for about Dhs10) in which to carry your shopping home, and re-use it every time you shop. It offers an alternative to conventional plastic bags, which are not only an eyesore when dumped in the desert (the UAE’s man-made answer to tumbleweed, if you will), but are also hazardous to wildlife – camels have been known to choke on the bags, while aquatic life, such as
turtles, can get caught in them.
3 Join the Freecycle Network
This entirely non-profit global movement is all about reusing goods by giving them away or exchanging them with others, instead of throwing them into the trash, and has a network of more than eight million
people worldwide who may be willing to take unwanted goods off your hands. The local Dubai group is growing slowly but surely, with nearly 1,000 members. www.freecycle.org, groups.freecycle.org/dubaifreecycle.
4 Get creative with your junk
Don’t throw things away just because you can’t find a recycling bin for them. Turn scratched DVDs into coasters by sticking a layer of felt underneath, or fold old, flat pillows in half and stuff them into a new square cushion cover for your sofa. Alternatively, call Take My Junk, an organisation that collects everything from old clothes and kitchenware to electronic appliances and sells the unwanted goods at low, affordable costs to labourers and other Dubai citizens in a low-income bracket.
www.takemyjunkuae.com (050 179 4045).
5 Reuse old toothbrushes
Once they’ve run their course with your teeth, mark them with a permanent pen and add them to your cleaning tools. They’re extremely useful for cleaning bathrooms and kitchens to tackle the build-up around faucets and between tiles. They’re also good for removing oil and grease marks from your household DIY tools and polishing intricately designed silver items – they can get into crevices that a cloth can’t reach. Just don’t mix up your tootbrushes.
Where to recycle
1 Apple International School For paper, plastic and cans.
Sun-Thu 4.30pm-6pm only. Off Baghdad Road, opp Emirates Driving Institute, Al Qusais (04 263 8989).
2 Emirates Driving Institute Plastic only.
Al Qusais (04 263 1100).
3 Happy Home Nursery For paper, plastic and cans.
Next to Rashidiya Shopping Centre (04 396 1995).
4 Emirates Aviation College For paper, plastic and cans.
Garhoud (04 282 4000).
5 Dubai Festival City For paper, plastic and cans.
Near Toys R Us, www.dubaifestivalcity.com (no number).
6 Al Rifaa Healthcare Center For paper, plastic and cans.
Khalid Bin Al Waleed Road, Bur Dubai (04 393 5115).
7 EEG Office For paper, plastic, cans, batteries, glass, printer cartridges and printer toner.
Beach Road, after Dubai Zoo, eeg-uae@org (04 344 8622).
8 Al Rabee Kindergarten For paper, plastic and cans.
79th Street, off Beach Road (04 349 1373).
9 Behind Town Centre For paper, plastic and cans.
Beach Road, www.towncentrejumeirah.com.
10 Al Raya School for Girls For paper, plastic and cans.
25A Street, off Al Wasl Road (04 344 8260).
11 Al Safa Secondary School For paper, plastic and cans.
Al Safa (04 349 1893).
12 Spinneys, Umm Suqeim For paper, plastic and cans.
Al Wasl Road, www.spinneys-dubai.com).
13 Higgs and Hills Company For paper only.
Al Shafar Investment Building, 7A Street, Al Quoz (04 339 1655).
14 Lakes Club For paper, plastic and cans.
Emirates Hills 3 (04 362 7791).
15 Springs Town Centre For paper, plastic and cans.
The Springs, Emirates Hills (04 427 1458).
16 Meadows Village For paper, plastic and cans.
The Springs, Emirates Hills (04 422 4222).
5 ways to save energy
We find out where our energy comes from, how you can save on your DEWA bill and what will be powering Dubai in the future.
According to the team at DEWA, Dubai currently gets its energy from an integrated, gas-fired facility in Jebel Ali, which generates electricity for the emirate. About 90 percent of Dubai’s power is gas-fired, but the emirate is hoping to reduce this to 70 percent by 2030, with the remainder coming from other sources including nuclear energy, clean coal and renewable energy.
In a bid to boost the uptake of renewable energy sources, earlier this year HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, unveiled a Dhs12 billion solar energy project in Dubai, which the emirate hopes will produce 1,000 megawatts of power by 2030. The plant will be located 30km from Dubai, in Seih Al Dahal.
So, that’s large-scale energy consumption covered, but how does your home measure up? In 2010, Dubai Municipality announced that all buildings in the emirate would be required to install energy insulation systems to double their efficiency by 2012. This has been implemented in new government buildings, and a recent announcement by Najeeb Zaafrani, secretary-general and CEO of Dubai Supreme Energy Council, stated the new green code will be mandatory in the private and public sectors by 2014. For a building to be considered ‘green’ by international standards it must meet five criteria relating to energy efficiency, water efficiency, waste management, design and liveability.
1 Change your bulbs
Switch from regular bulbs to LED lamps, which will reduce the cost of your lighting by up to 90 percent. According to the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA), non-energy-efficient light bulbs will be banned in the UAE from mid-2013.
Available at ACE Hardware, Dubai Festival City (800 275 223).
2 Install Eco3 devices
Improve the efficiency of your A/C system by installing an Eco3 device such as Smartcool, which boosts energy efficiency for all air-conditioning, refrigeration and heating systems. The device is mounted on your wall and reduces the energy usage of compressors by 15 to 20 percent, ensuring that the compressors work at maximum efficiency without overcycling. It needs to be fitted by a technician. The devices also reduce the cost of facilities operation and maintenance.
For information, contact US Chiller Services, www.uschillerservices.com (04 333 7644).
3 Use a water aerator
Water-saving devices such as aerators can help to reduce your DEWA bill and water consumption. Aerators screw straight onto the taps and use air to reduce the flow of water by half, without affecting the pressure. Showers can also be fitted with regulators to achieve a similar result. Faucet aerators can be found in most hardware stores or hypermarkets.
From Dhs15 at www.amazon.com.
4 Stop using your tumble dryer
Tumble dryers use a lot of energy and are expensive to run. In a climate as warm as Dubai’s, there is little need for dryers – laundry usually dries relatively quickly when hung on a clothes rack inside your home.
For those who can’t live without their dryer, try reducing the running time, as well as getting your hands on ‘spiker balls’, which are placed inside the dryer to separate clothing, decreasing the time they take to dry.
Dhs39 for two. Available at ACE Hardware, Sheikh Zayed Road (800 275 223).
5 Unplug everything
When you’ve finished charging your phone, do you unplug the charger at the wall? You should – every single electrical appliance uses some energy when you leave it plugged in, even when it’s switched off. So be sure to turn off laptops, TVs and stereos when not in use. By doing this, you can reduce your energy consumption by up to 20 percent.
Reduce your carbon footprint
How you can help the UAE curb the noxious gases released into the environment.
We have bad news for you. If you’re reading this as a resident of the UAE, you have a carbon footprint bigger than most (the UAE’s carbon footprint was calculated as being the third-biggest per capita in the world, according to the WWF’s Living Planet 2012 report). If everybody else on Earth lived like us, we would need 4.5 planets to regenerate resources and absorb your CO2 emissions.
Think you’re nothing to do with it? Private homes account for 30 percent of emissions, alongside 57 percent from the businesses you may work for. Elsewhere, blame has been pointed at the millions of taxi rides we take each year (70 million per year on our last count).
So what’s being done to solve it? Every year environmentalists from across the globe meet in Abu Dhabi for the World Future Energy Summit to thrash out ideas. And residents are keen to do their bit to celebrate Earth Hour – remember the candlelit walk round the darkened Burj Khalifa in March? Meanwhile, the Abu Dhabi-based Environment Agency recently launched the Ecological Footprint initiative, tasked with finding ways of reducing the UAE’s emissions up to the year 2030. Want to be part of the solution, not the problem? Read on.
5 top tips to help cut emissions
1 Take the metro
It goes without saying that the electrically powered Dubai Metro is a greener option than taking cabs or your own car, but if you were in any doubt, the metro recently won three awards – Rail Project of the Year 2012, Rail Visionary of the Year and, poignantly, the Special Merit Award for Commitment to the Environment.
What’s more, tickets are as cheap as Dhs2.50.
For those who can’t bear the thought of public transport, try battling the morning commute via a carpool: aka sharing a lift to work with your colleagues or friends. Not only will this mean you don’t always have to worry about driving every morning, but you’ll also be reducing your carbon footprint.
See www.sharekni.ae or www.carpoolworld.com for carpool options.
3 Take direct flights
Dubai Airport is the fourth busiest airport in the world, serving more than 150 airlines flying to over 220 destinations across six continents. In short, there’s a lot of flying involved when it comes to living here (after all, the majority of Dubai’s population is expatriate). While we all need to get home (or take a holiday) now and then, it’s important to keep your carbon footprint in mind. Where possible, fly direct or, better still, keep tabs on your carbon footprint with websites such as www.carbonfootprint.com. You could also donate to tree-planting initiatives and other charitable schemes every time you hop onto a plane (see www.cambridgecarbonfootprint.org).
4 Turn your hot water off
Why waste cash leaving your hot water on when you only need to use it for a few short periods of the day? Do your bit by ensuring your water heater is off whenever you’re not using it. And, over summer, we find that using the cold tap is warm enough anyway.
5 Buy second-hand
Every single item you buy has a carbon footprint. So help your wallet and the world by keeping your wardrobe in circulation for longer. Buy quality second-hand vintage clothes from Garderobe on Beach Road
(04 394 2753), or go to Dubai Flea Market (www.dubaifleamarket.com), now inside until September at Al Safa Hall on the first and third Friday of the month.
3 tips for preserving the local environment
Spare a thought for the UAE’s non-human inhabitants and the country’s natural beauty.
‘On the face of it, our beaches are very clean, but you don’t have to dig far to see they’re not half as clean as you think,’ says Volunteer in Dubai founder Lola Lopez, who organises regular voluntary beach clean-ups. She says the biggest problem is cigarette butts – during one clean-up drive, her team uncovered more than 550,000 butts on Dubai’s beaches in just 14 hours.
1 Don’t throw cigarette butts on the beach – use a bin
‘The filter of a cigarette is the most poisonous part, designed to protect humans from the most harmful chemicals, and fish will mistake it for food and nibble it,’ says Lola. ‘It’s killing our marine life. Use a bin or a drinks can to dispose of your butts – don’t just throw them on the ground.’
2 Pick up all rubbish
Ayesha Kelaif, founder of Dubai Animal Rescue Centre, says litter puts wildlife at risk on a daily basis. The biggest risk is to the UAE’s bird population: bids swoop in looking for scraps, only to become trapped or poisoned by what we throw away. ‘Our beaches are littered with rubbish left behind by tourists who fail to clean up after a day at the beach,’ she explains. ‘Animals looking for food sometimes begin to eat the rubbish left behind, leaving most animals ill or, in some cases, killing them.’
While you might not be a litter bug, there’s no harm in picking up other people’s litter. If you see some potentially hazardous litter that could harm an animal, don’t take the attitude that it’s nothing to do with you. We can all do our bit to help.
3 Be a happy (and careful) camper
For some reason, many people who would never normally drop litter seem to think it’s acceptable to leave the remnants of a camping adventure in the midst of the desert – where it could remain for years. The upshot is that desert animals, such as the endangered Arabian oryx, can become fatally trapped or injured while foraging for food. In short: always leave without a trace.
The world’s greenest cities
The global Green City Index takes into account energy and CO2, sanitation, land use, buildings, water, transport, waste management and environmental governance. According to its findings, Europe’s greenest city is Copenhagen in Denmark, while Accra in Ghana tops the top of Africa’s list. Singapore, meanwhile, is top in Asia, while San Francisco and Vancouver lead the way in Northern America.