x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Online shoppers bag green products

Ekotribe originally targeted at corporate clients until individual consumers stepped in who can now fill their eco-friendly shopping bags, virtually, from home.

Ekotribe will sell products online ranging from shower timers to organic beds for pets.
Ekotribe will sell products online ranging from shower timers to organic beds for pets.

Consumers looking to go green can now fill their eco-friendly shopping bags, virtually, from the comfort of their homes.

Anu Agarwal, a partner in Ekotribe, a Dubai distributor of environmentally friendly goods, has launched an online retail portal selling products ranging from shower timers to cut down on water waste to organic beds for pets.

Ms Agarwal said Ekotribe was originally targeted at corporate and institutional clients, but she began to get requests from individual consumers, which pushed her to launch a web store.

"There was a lot of demand from people who wanted to buy them [the products] individually for private use. We used to get a lot of questions: 'where can I buy them for myself'?" she said. "And I wanted to go online because you're talking about eco-friendly products and trying to reduce your carbon footprint. The best thing is to go online."

As the Government goes green, with projects such as Masdar City, Abu Dhabi's carbon-neutral development, and the "Heroes of the UAE" campaign to promote good habits, analysts say consumers are becoming more aware of environmentally friendly practices.

"Many [in the UAE] have shifted their spending habits, preferring to buy more eco-friendly products," said Euromonitor International in a recent report.

"For example, many now opt to choose light bulbs and consumer appliances that use up less energy, while others buy furniture and other household furnishings that are made with sustainable or recycled materials. On a smaller scale still, others given the choice at supermarkets between plastic bags and eco-friendly bags increasingly choose the latter."

Goumbook.com, a directory of green businesses in the region, was launched last year to cater to this growing sector of consumers. It now has more than 700 companies listed.

Many food producers in the Emirates are also tweaking their processes to cut down on water and energy wastage. Masafi, which makes drinking water, juices and snack foods, has introduced a biodegradeable wrap for its bottles. Al Ghurair, which makes flour and oil, has recently changed its manufacturing facility to cut its daily waste water from 300 tonnes to 40 tonnes.

Changes are also happening at the shops. This year McDonald's replaced its styrofoam containers with cardboard take-out boxes, in line with its global counterparts.

Ms Agarwal said the biggest shift towards environmentally friendly practices was happening on the corporate and government level. Ekotribe has had growing demand from companies such as Jotun Paints and government agencies such as the Ministry of Environment and Water. "The companies are now starting to think about this seriously," said Ms Agarwal. "Gradually, it's going to go into the homes and families because the same people that work in the offices, they're going to take the message back home and it's just going to spread."

The real tipping point will come as governments adopt regulations that encourage environmentally friendly habits, she said.

The Abu Dhabi hospitality industry has begun to take steps by introducing a green-rating "pearl" system for hotels. It will range from one pearl, the minimum to meet the standards, to a maximum of five pearls, which will be posted alongside the hotel's star ranking.

Consumers in the UAE will increasingly seek similar guarantees on the items they purchase, according to Euromonitor International.

"Consumers are expected to increasingly demand over coming years that the products and services they buy be certified to ensure that they meet stringent environmental standards," it said.

 

aligaya@thenational.ae