Many people think that Dubai is just a sandpit with year-round sunshine! Dubai is much more than that and as we start living in this consumer’s paradise, most of us forget our time back home and get carried away with our new lifestyle here. If someone tries to follow the same rule back home (like recycling for example), they generally find it more difficult – as sadly, not everyone recycles here.
But the truth is it’s not as difficult to live a greener lifestyle in UAE as you think. Yes, you need to dig more and search for particular facilities but it is perfectly do-able! Here we list the basic things that we all can do in UAE to live more sustainably.
There are recycling facilities dotted around communities in Dubai. So all you need to do is collect recyclables, rinse them, segregate and store them somewhere inside or outside your home. You can designate under the sink and once a week take them with you when you go out, dropping them at the nearby recycling bins in your community. If you can’t find recycling bins near your home, you can always find them in malls, government offices and schools.
Electronics and Batteries
A little known fact for us British mums is that you can take in your old batteries and electronics to Spinneys supermarkets and they’ll arrange to have them recycled. You can also take them to Dubai Municipality offices and some companies offer recycling programmes of things like old laptops with IT@Home and Enviroserve will also take your old mobile phones for recycling.
There are also lots of charities in the UAE where you can donate your unwanted clothes, toys, furniture, medicines, glasses and much more. You can find the full list here: https://britishmums.com/dubai/donate-toys-clothes-furniture-food-needy-uae/
Say no to plastic
In the UK, gone are the days of getting free carrier bags in the Supermarket; instead you need to pay for those bags, but unfortunately in the UAE you still get as many plastic bags as you want for free. The sad part is that whilst some carriers bags are recycled, the majority goes to landfill sites. So do we really need those many bags? No! Keep re-usable bags with you in the car and you’ll never be without.
We all like a good takeaway on the weekend don’t we? But here you also get plastic cutlery given with any ready to eat food you purchase that’s delivered to your home. Who actually uses those? We don’t need them, so politely check the bag if they’re included and decline them rather than taking the bag and binning them anyway – it all helps.
Another example of plastic waste in our daily routine when living in the UAE is plastic water bottles. Use refillable bottles wherever and whenever you can. Statistics show that the UAE is facing a big issue of plastic waste and we can all do our bit.
The Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi published that the UAE consumes 1.5 million plastic bags annually and this number is only increasing.
The UAE is the highest per capita consuming country in the world of bottled water. This is staggering that 80% of plastic is not recycled and unfortunately even if you do recycle it, you cannot recycle it beyond certain recycling cycles.
There are really simple solutions to these problems. Just carry your own reusable cloth or jute bag. You can find tote bags, which can be folded and take up hardly any room in your handbag, making sure you have access to your reusable bag anytime you need it, so what’s your excuse?
For drinking water, Dubai municipal water is safe to drink, but you do need to install a filter at home as the water storage tanks in your building or villa and plumbing systems are not maintained regularly, and that can then add impurities into the municipal water. There are lots of companies here offering this, like Liquid of Life and once you have a tap water filter installed, you can always fill up your water bottle when going out and can completely avoid over-consumption of bottled water.
The consequences of not caring
So when finally the plastic we don’t recycle begins to degrade, it reaches the oceans and comes back to us through sea food or salt – horrible! Let’s not forget as well how camels and endangered sea turtles lose their lives after ingesting plastic bags here. It’s hardly creating a better world for our children.
Air-conditioning know how
Air-conditioning is the highest energy consuming equipment in the UAE’s households. You can save your electric bills by reducing air-conditioning needs, (and this will also help you to stay healthier indoors). Here are some tips for that British mums can do to be more energy efficient:
Set your AC on 23 to 24 degrees instead of reducing it to very low temperatures.
With air-conditioning, the same air keeps circulating with very little fresh air, so clean your air con filters at least twice a year (preferably before and after summer). Again loads of companies do this here and popular with British Mums are companies like The Healthy Home and Envida.
Try to avoid getting direct sunlight into your home when the sun is very hot as this will reduce your air-conditioning needs if you use curtains, blinds or tints at your windows wherever possible.
Use table fans or ceiling fans to help circulate the air and in cooler months like March and November you can avoid AC completely and use only fans.
Don’t leave your AC on when you go out to cool your house; instead use curtains to reduce the heat gain in your home.
Most of the times people feel that they can feel ill because of the AC but it’s also important to see how toxic your household is? Right from choosing your types of cleaning products, to buying rugs, paints to furniture can all make your house toxic and your air con will circulate those same toxins. This is the reason why many children get respiratory sickness in the summer months. Many supermarkets, especially Spinneys and Waitrose stock edit friendly cleaning products that can be surprisingly cheaper than regular alternatives.
Be greener with your car
It might be tempting to keep your car engine and the AC running whilst your run in to collect the kids from school, but if everyone did this its adding to unnecessary emissions and wasted energy. Instead use sun-shields ans always park cars in the shade. It’s better to tint the car windows and reduce the heating up of interiors in summer months, but remember to keep the tinting within the permitted levels. If you are keeping your AC on when you leave the car, your car is using either fuel or it’s battery, so it is better to avoid excess carbon emission or risk of even battery drain.
Which environment friendly cars are available in UAE?
There are some green saloon cars that are now available in UAE like the Tesla electric car or the Toyota Prius hybrid. Now there’s also beginning to be a great infrastructure for car recharging available in the UAE so it’s now much easier to own and drive electric cars here as there are recharging stations at some petrol stations, hotels and government offices.
There are also also hybrid SUV’s available in the UAE like the Nissan Pathfinder hybrid, the Porsche Cayenne 2017 hybrid, the Lexus RX hybrid or smaller cross over cars like the Lexus CT hybrid. These cars will save both the amount of fuel used and your bills for fuel and they’ll also reduce your carbon footprint significantly.
If however you are unable to buy a hybrid or electric car, it’s better to go for fuel efficient “GDI” technology that your car dealer will know about.
How to teach your children about healthy green habits
Like any other parenting rule, we need to remember that children learn things by watching their parents. So the most important thing is to start to develop green habits as parents and then our children will follow in our footsteps.
Like avoiding plastic bags, bottles or segregating waste and recycling or even simple habits or switching the lights off when not in use. You can involve your children in these daily activities and if you’ve got a designated space to collect your recyclables, ask your tiny toddlers to drop these in your recycle bins.
Eco focussed things to do
There are many places in the UAE where you can take your children to get them to know more about the UAE’s natural system of wild life. The Arabian Wildlife Centre or the Wasit Wetland Centre, both in Sharjah, or the Al Hefaiya Mountain Conservancy in Kalba are all centres that have indoors viewing areas so you can go there any month of the year.
There are some play areas in the UAE that also offer some eco-educational games like Fun Works that you’ll find in Abu Dhabi and Duabi. They teach children about the environment and stress that an eco friendly lifestyle needs to be a fun learning activity. Popular events exist to educate children about nature such as the release of turtles into the sea from the enclosure at Jumeirah’s Al Naseem hotel. Check out Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project on Facebook for further details.
At home you can do lots of activities like making crafts out of waste materials. Give your toddlers items from the kitchen to play with like pasta, and flour for home-made play dough or grains. Always explain things to children why you are choosing certain things or why you are switching off lights – it helps them to understand why.
Avoid screen time and rather invest in face to face time or reading. But if it’s unavoidable, there are some fun and educational environmental program for kids online that will develop their interest in it. MarcoPolo Arctic and Go Green are just two apps that nurture this in children but search the App Store for literally hundreds more!
Select their toys based on what they are made of to avoid exposure of your child to toxic material.
In winter months, go outside with your children regularly and let them get dirty. It’s good to let them explore nature or figure out their own games.
If they are collecting stones or twigs don’t discourage them as they can always learn things through it or create something out of it. Most importantly, if their schools are taking some eco-friendly initiatives, don’t complain at home (some parents do that), and instead, support them.
Environmental and sustainability education is not optional anymore; everyone needs to learn it and our children are going to need it more than we did.
Being a green consumer
Many of us love shopping here but it can add a lot of carbon footprint if we don’t chose to be a green consumer. Buying things in our reusable bags is not enough really. We need to focus on what material the item is made of? How long it can be used? How to dispose the product? Is it recyclable, and, if yes then how many times? And asking where the product is made, how much transportation is used to reach the product to us – especially for fruit and veg, is something we can all do.
It applies to almost everything – right from food, fashion, electronics or any household items too. Sustainable products are not always necessarily pricey – but you do need to start asking all these questions when choosing what to shop.
The ethical aspect of products is also very important so of course it’s much better to select fair trade items and support the wider society.
But most importantly, think before buying as sometimes we end up adding so much clutter to our homes that its not only good for environment but very important for a healthier home.
Most expats that have stayed here for long time say there are so many things here to experience that it’s always better to invest your Dirhams in experiences or learning new things, rather than just spending money on shopping.
Take part in green initiatives
There are some organised environmental and sustainability initiatives happening around the UAE, (either by government or by non-government organisations) that families are welcome to join and learn more about how they can live a more greener life.
Here’s the calendar of green events for British mums to know about:
Dubai’s Car free Day by Dubai Municipality generally falls in February each year.
Earth Hour- Switch off your own lights in March every year, where a huge number of the UAE’s restaurants and buildings also participate.
EEG’s Clean Up UAE campaign- You can volunteer for cleaning up of the beach or desert. For more info visit www.eeg-uae.com
The Drop It campaign – to reduce use of plastic water bottles. For more info visit www.dropit.ae
#ZeroWasteUAE campaign by Sustainability Tribe- designed to reduce waste and live healthier & more sustainable – For more info visit
Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week – This will be held on the – 13th January incorporating a festival held at Masdar City for families. For more info see www.abudhabisustainabilityweek.com
These are just some of the simple steps that is British mums can take towards a greener lifestyle in the UAE. Like any good practices, if we take these efforts regularly we can develop green habits.
This will help us not just in reducing the burden on ecology, but it can also save us precious Dirhams. Most importantly these green habits can lead us to healthier, mindful lifestyle and can create a good example for our children.
About the author
Amruta Kshemkalyani is an expert sustainability professional and founder of the UAE’s pioneering sustainable lifestyle blog www.sustainabilitytribe.com
She has been spreading environmental & sustainability awareness across the UAE since 2009. She shares her experience on living sustainable, traveling responsibly, green parenting along with her volunteering work with different environmental NGOs. She also works as an Eco Educator and delivers lectures in schools across the UAE to raise awareness. You can follow her journey on Facebook, Instagram(@sustainabilitytribe) orTwitter (@amrutant).
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