DUBAI // Solar powered cars, shopping bags that melt in warm water and a mock-up of a home of the future were all features of a Canadian sustainable living exhibition that opened in the emirate this week.
For three days, the Epic expo has taken over the Fashion Avenue of Dubai Mall under the slogan "style meets sustainability", as part of the launch of the Dubai Summer Surprises sales.
Epic has been run since 2007 in Vancouver, but this is the first time it has been hosted outside Canada. Organisers here are hoping to make it an annual feature. "We came to Dubai to look around and we felt there was a real appetite for it here," said Nancy Wright, the vice president of the Globe Foundation, which organises the event in Canada.
Ms Wright's organisation signed a joint venture with SS Lootah Group several years ago to create Sustainable Media Group (SMG), which has been responsible for organising the Epic expo. First scheduled but cancelled in 2009, Ms Wright said the idea behind Epic was to encourage ethical shopping.
"We want to show consumers that they have choices in the products they buy," she said. "We're not encouraging them to shop more, but to shop smarter. Put your dollars where your values are, because you as consumers can shape the market." The expo has about 60 stalls, most from local suppliers. The electronics firm Philips built a mock-up "home of the future" room to showcase its energy-saving appliances.
The sports brand Puma had a stall showcasing a prototype of its "clever little shopper" - a shopping bag made of corn starch rather than plastic that melts in water hotter than 45°C.
It was unclear, though, what effect summer temperatures in Dubai would have on the product. Marketing representative Karan Shah said the bag was still being tested along those lines.
The star of the show on Wednesday was a cavalcade of solar, electric and hybrid cars that were driven from the Burj Al Arab to Dubai Mall around noon.
One of the drivers, Eissa Lootah, complained there was no air conditioning in the vehicle. "It's very tiring to drive them because it's very hot and so bumpy," he said. The two cars, which represented six months' work and about Dh50,000 of investment, are part of a solar transport project by SS Lootah Group.
"We've been experimenting with solar technology for quite some time," said Denis Lefrancois, the general manager of SMG. "This will accelerate now. For next year's event, you'll see something much more developed and different."