‘Sustainable’, ‘renewable’, ‘eco-friendly’, ‘green’; these are all terms we hear thrown around on a regular basis, but are enough of us actually taking effective action towards change? Think about all the plastic bags we go through on a weekly basis when we pick up this and that from the supermarket, or the sheer volume of plastic water bottles we throw away, particularly here in Dubai and in the summer, when we’re constantly stocking up on water. But how many of us actually make a conscious effort to ‘go green’ – to ditch the plastic bags for reusable canvas ones, or carry a refillable bottle instead of buying another plastic one. If I am completely honest, I am not the best example either, but it’s definitely something I am aware of, something I am making steps to be better at – particularly when it’s up to me to action it; I mean, nobody is forcing me to recycle, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it.
So what’s the plan here in the UAE? I know that there was a lot going on in the way of sustainability when I was living in the UK – recycling bins, canvas shopping bags, and more awareness on the whole, but it would be good to know how I can be more involved here in Dubai. I caught up with Dubai-based travel and wellness blogger Amanda Rushforth to talk all things eco, and to see how we can promote this in a bigger way, so that it’s not seen as effort, but rather it becomes second nature to people. Originally from the U.K. but with over 10 years in Dubai and a further 10+ in the Middle East, Amanda has a passion for homegrown concepts and champions all things eco, which she writes about in Women’s Health Middle East magazine. Amanda is also the Middle East ambassador for non-profit marine conservation campaign AZRAQ ME, and this is what she had to say about sustainability in the region.
1. What does ‘sustainability’ mean to you?
To me, it’s the ability to live well. Not just for us, but to live well for the planet – in other words, to ensure our footprints aren’t the last.
2. What are your top 3 goals when it comes to promoting sustainability?
I’d say furthering the awareness of the harm plastic causes and how single use items, like takeaway cutlery, cups and straws are redundant. Choosing to live better in my own life, removing these items and more from our household and being more of a conscious consumer. Lastly I’d say that encouraging people to pick up after themselves, especially in this region is a must.
3. How do you personally live an environmentally-friendly lifestyle?
I try, it’s not easy I admit, but I try to do little things on a daily basis – like refusing plastic bags when shopping, bringing my own hydro flask to the gym and choosing to buy eco-friendly materials as often as possible.
4. Sea or mountains? Pick your favourite, and why.
The sea, 100%. I’m a real water baby; I love the ocean with its beautiful endless wildness, but I’m also drawn to the incredibly diverse landscape underneath it and will be getting qualified as a free diver and scuba diver this summer to explore it more.
5. Who in your opinion does sustainability well/ is exemplary in the field?
I think brands like Patagonia who have pulled back their retail globally to help reduce their carbon footprint should be recognised, but also initiatives like Sea Shepherd and Sky News’ Ocean Hero Campaign are championing the way for real effective change.
6. What are 5 simple things that we can all do to support a more environmentally-friendly society?
1) Refuse plastic bags in the supermarket – better still, bring your own re-usable ones.
2) Refuse plastic straws in a restaurant and ask the delivery drivers not to bring any cutlery either.
3) Pick up litter, it’s as simple as that – even if it’s not yours, don’t just walk by it or it’ll end up in the sea.
4) Bring your own water bottles with you wherever you go. There are fountains in every gym and most malls too.
5) Don’t put your fruit and veg in plastic bags in the grocery store, just sticker the outside of it at the till.
8. What is Dubai doing to support sustainability?
Dubai is getting there in terms of it’s mission to become more eco-friendly; Sustainable City is of course leading the way in terms of a lifestyle and recycling, and was heralded by Leonardo di Caprio who visited it last year.
9. How can we get involved in initiatives here in Dubai?
Check out Azraq ME to register and volunteer for large-scale beach clean ups, dolphin awareness programmes and exclusive film days.
10. What’s on the cards for you and your plans for continuing to support an environmentally-friendly cause?
I’ll be helping out the amazing team at Azraq ME wherever I can and will continue to champion the #plasticfree life wherever I travel to.
So there’s just a few tips on basic ways to take a more eco-friendly approach to our everyday lives, and these aren’t big changes – it’s just a case of power in numbers, and the more of us who make these changes now, the more impactful the results will be in both the short- and long-term. Try changing one or two things this week, and see how simple it is to take a greener approach to life.