Mention the words ‘eco friendly’ and many people of our generation will still conjure up a hazy ’70s-inspired mental image involving long-haired, slightly smelly hippies. (Thanks to the bells adorning their tie-dyed flares, we can hear them even before they drift into our mind’s eye and hug a tree.) Nowadays, however, having an environmental conscience is cool, which may explain why our kids are often more informed than us on global warming – and how to reduce it.
To prove the point, while Time Out Kids was very excited at the prospect of doing our bit by publishing this feature, when it came to actually writing it we were a bit stumped. On the surface, this is not a city that makes living in an environmentally friendly manner easy – in fact Dubai has the world’s highest carbon footprint per capita. But being a friend of the earth here is possible when you know how. We decided to go straight to the top and consult a gang of Year Five students with a difference.
Introducing the ‘Heroes of the UAE’, Captain Air Con, Earth Angel, Electra Efficient, Megawatt Boy and Princess Cool Rinse, who have been working alongside the Emirates Wildlife Society in association with the World Wildlife Fund (EWS-WWF) and the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) to encourage UAE residents to reduce their energy consumption and, ultimately, slow – or maybe even halt – the progress of global warming. If you want to redress your household’s kid-to-adult knowledge balance and get clued up on all things green, read the heroes’ tips and consider yourself taught – you never know, your little smartie pants may even start asking you for advice on how to save the planet...
Electra Efficient says… Switch off and unplug!
‘When I think about global warming and all the harm we’re doing to our planet, I get a little scared and I want to do anything I can to reverse the harmful impact our actions have already had. I have already started taking small steps, like turning off the TV when I leave the room, and switching appliances off at the mains. You know when you put your TV on standby and it looks switched off but the red light’s still on? Well, you’ve basically left your TV on, so you’re needlessly wasting energy – and making your bills higher. Also, if you have an extension lead connected to a wall point and it’s switched on at the mains, that’s still using power. Switching things off and unplugging them may be small steps, but that means they’re easy for everyone to do and the combined effect could be huge!’
A tv on standby uses 75% as much energy as when it’s on
Earth Angel says… Feel the power of the shower!
‘There is a reason why some people call our planet Mother Earth. Just like mothers are important for young children, the Earth is vital for all of us to survive. Imagine living without water, trees, animals and fresh air to breathe… life would not be possible. Imagine not even having enough energy to power a shower when you grow older. Instead of taking a long bubble bath and wasting all that water, we can take a quick shower. It uses around three times less water than a hot bath, and not only do we save energy, but time too! Also, parents shouldn’t put more water in the kettle than is needed – it goes to waste and takes more energy to boil. If we all want to go on living the lives we’re living now, let’s be more careful about using water and energy.’
Saving Dhs570 a year
Captain Air Con says… It’s cool to be a little warmer!
‘We’ve been taught in science classes at school that our atmosphere is crucial for sustaining life on earth. But when we use power in our homes, we are emitting green house gases and destroying our atmosphere. To help save the atmosphere, I have started adjusting the A/C temperature at home to two degrees higher than usual, and sometimes switching it off completely. The rest of the family hardly notices the difference, but when the energy bills come in they will. By adjusting the temperature upwards and just using a lighter blanket on your bed, not only do you save money but you also play a part in saving the planet – something we should all want to do. There are so many easy ways we can achieve this: as well as changing the A/C levels when we’re at home, we can also make sure we always remember to switch it off completely when we go out.’
Saving Dhs245 a year
Princess Cool Rinse says… Wash at 30°!
‘Could the UAE possibly get hotter than it already is? It might be hard to believe, but the answer is yes. Global warming means that the Earth’s climate becomes more unstable, causing less rainfall and more droughts and heat waves. I don’t want this to happen and I am going to do everything in my power to stop it. Lately, saving energy has become a family affair, with every one of us playing our part. Since I’m Princess Cool Rinse, I’ve made sure my mum runs the washing machine on 30° cycles. The clothes still get clean, but it’s saving energy. We now make sure that the water heater’s off when we don’t need it – after all, it only takes 20 minutes for it to warm water enough for a shower. We have three bathrooms all with separate water heaters but we have started only using one of them to save energy.
Also, since we live in such a hot sunny place, we make sure we hang all our clothes outside to dry instead of tumble drying them.’
Time Out Kids adds: Another good tip is not to use the washing machine unless you’re doing a full load. We know, we know, it’s easier said than done: the day after you’ve done the weekly white wash, they come clamouring down the stairs demanding to know where their PE shirt is; you realise with a groan that it’s where they left it, in the murky depths of their rucksack, and have to do a cycle with just one or two items. Avoid this in the future by sticking a wall chart on the fridge and adding reminder notes two days before all activities so you have enough advance warning to do a bigger load of washing.
Lleaving a water heater on is like boiling a kettle non-stop
Megawatt Boy says… Be bright and save money!
‘I have asked my family and friends to replace all their current bulbs with energy-saving ones. It makes sense to me because they last for years and years without burning out, and they’re just as bright as normal lights. In fact, they last 10 times longer – so dad won’t have to buy new ones for a while! I have also begun to remind my friends and my mum to switch lights off when they leave a room, as this is a great money-saving habit. If we don’t bother doing this now, we may not have the choice in the future – lights could stay out forever. I know people just forget sometimes, so I’ve started sticking notes on all the light switches at home saying “Don’t Forget!”’
Saving Dhs806 a year
Show me the money
Saving the planet can seem like a losing battle - after all, it's no mean feat, and one person isn't going to make much difference. But deep down, we know this argument doesn't work. It may be a cliche, but if we all do our bit, the combined effort will help immesurably. It that doesn't persuade you, think of the savings. We were amazed (and embarassed) to learn from the calculator on www. heroesoftheuae.ae that our house could save Dhs1,078 a year with a few small changes, compared to an average potential annual savings of a whopping Dhs2,200 for a two-bed flat.
A site to behold
Despite it being aimed at kids, we managed to get so involved with environmental awareness website www.envirospellathon.com that we whiled away several hours of office time (don’t tell the boss) playing the interactive games, while at the same time actually learning quite a bit. Using cartoon characters, the site highlights contemporary green concerns without leaving you feeling like you might as well give up all hope and drown yourself in the rapidly rising tide. The activities and education sections are all aimed at age-specific groups, ranging from simple animal facts and games for six-year-olds to practical tips for 12 to 13-year-olds on encouraging schools to recycle. There is also a guide to local wildlife and cards containing their key info, which younger children can print out and play with.
While we were researching this feature, we just couldn’t stop questions flying into our minds. It struck us that if we were puzzling over them, you might be too, so we got digging. Here’s what we found…
Why aren’t solar panels used more? We live in a desert, for goodness’ sake.
Regional managing director of PTL Solar Prabissh Thomas says, ‘Dubai offers one of the world’s cheapest utility tariffs – plus going solar is a long-term commitment, and many expatriates consider their life in Dubai as a stop-gap arrangement.’
He continues the slightly depressing explanation, ‘With current conditions, it would take around 15 years to make up the installation cost through utility bill savings.’ If this doesn’t put you off, check out www.ptlsolar.com.
There was talk of a recycling park being built in Dubai, which was due for completion some time this year. What happened to that?
‘The EnPark is going ahead slowly but surely,’ says Stuart Fleming, CEO of environmental awareness group Enviroserve (www.enviroserve.ae). ‘I don’t know what the expected completion date is, but Sharjah is forging ahead with a recycling plant, too.’
Why do we need to save water when there’s a continuous water cycle throughout the world?
Because we live in such a dry country, our water is sourced from the sea. It’s stripped of salt and other nasties at desalination plants, a process that uses a tremendous amount of energy. Dubai’s demand for water increased by 10 per cent last year alone. This excessive level of consumption is simply not sustainable.
We all know we should recycle, but where can this actually be done?
They’re easy to miss (after all, how exciting can a bin really be?) but there are recycling points all over the city. A few places we’ve spotted include Spinneys branches, bus stops, the basement car parks at JBR, Knowledge Village, Safa Park (the top left spot by Al Wasl Road), West Zone supermarket in Satwa, and the entire length of Jumeirah Beach Road. If you know of any more, let us know at email@example.com.
What happens to the stuff we recycle?
‘The recyclable waste that is collected by Emirates Environmental Group (EEG) is taken to recycling factories in the UAE,’ says Habiba Al Marashi, the company’s chairperson. ‘Different materials undergo different processes: for example, paper is turned into locally made cardboard boxes and tissue boxes, while all glass goes into the manufacturing of new glass, which, again, is done locally.’ She continues, ‘All aluminium cans are used to make new aluminium products, and plastic is ground into small granules, which are either used locally to make buckets, combs etcetera, or sent to China or India for recycling.’