x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Cometh the hour

People across the planet will power down tomorrow night in aid of Earth Hour. But it needn’t stop there: Andrea Anastasiou has 10 ways to make sure that you’re more sustainable throughout the year.

Earth hour.
Earth hour.

Earth Hour takes place tomorrow, with thousands of people expected to switch off their lights for 60 minutes in an effort to raise environmental awareness. If you’re thinking of taking part, we suggest going the extra mile by pledging to make lasting changes to your home and lifestyle that will not only help save the planet, but will also ensure that you reduce your utility bills. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Decorate your home with non-toxic paints

According to Tatiana Antonelli Abella, the chief executive of Goumbook.com and the founder of Gecostore.com (a Dubai-based online store that sells green products), indoor air is three times more polluted than outdoor air, and is considered to be one of the top five hazards to human health. “Paints and finishes release low-level toxic emissions into the air for years after application,” she explains. “The source of these toxins is a variety of volatile organic compounds [VOCs], which, until recently, were essential to the performance of the paint.”

Abella says that new environmental regulations and consumer demand have led to the development of low-VOC paints and finishes that are durable, cost-effective and less harmful to human and environmental health. Jotun offers a good range of non-toxic paints for the home.

Service your AC units on a regular basis

With the sweltering UAE summer just around the corner, now is the perfect time to have your AC units checked and serviced. Edurne Gil, the sustainability manager at The Change Initiative in Dubai, says that a poorly maintained air conditioner must work much harder. “This means higher energy bills, more repairs and a reduced lifetime for the compressor,” explains Gill.

With this in mind, Dewa recommends that you clean or replace your air conditioner filters every month, while cooling experts say that it’s advisable to have the units inspected for full repairs at least once a year.

Switch to energy-efficient lighting

It has been found that energy-efficient lighting typically uses about 25 to 80 per cent less energy than traditional lighting, and can also last three to 25 times longer. Emirates Wildlife Society, in association with the World Wildlife Fund, is appealing to all UAE residents to switch to energy-efficient lighting to coincide with Earth Hour. According to the organisations, by making the switch, the average villa can save up to Dh2,315 in electricity bills annually.

The alternatives to traditional bulbs include compact fluorescent lights and LEDs. These are readily available in the UAE at supermarkets and department stores such as Ace Hardware, Carrefour, Choithrams, Ikea and Spinneys.

Choose eco-friendly fibres

The Natural Resources Defense Council cautions how the production of both natural and synthetic fibres has significant negative effects on the environment. It advises that you look for organic fibres or recycled clothing, which require fewer resources. While it may be difficult to find organic clothes in the UAE, it’s very easy to find preloved clothing and second-hand items. Check out My Ex Wardrobe (www.myexwardrobe.com) for clothing and Dubizzle for items such as curtains.

Buy houseplants

Experts say that houseplants improve the air quality in your home. “Common indoor plants may provide a valuable weapon in the fight against rising levels of indoor air pollution,” says Tatiana Antonelli Abella. “Nasa scientists are finding them to be surprisingly useful in absorbing potentially harmful gases and cleaning the air inside homes, indoor public spaces and office buildings.”

Spider plants, peace lilies and bamboo palms are thought to be the best houseplants for improving air quality.

Make environment-friendly decorating choices

Think about incorporating nature into your indoor spaces. Some ideas include using pine cones, seashells and stones as design features; the more adventurous can try to create a chandelier from old tree branches, for example. Not only does this cut down on the consumption of man-made products and the subsequent wastage involved, but it also allows us to reconnect with nature and serves as a reminder to be kinder to our planet.

Another suggestion is to consider painting a wall green — not only does the colour symbolise nature, but it’s also known to have psychologically soothing effects. Neutral shades such as sage and olive are good options for the home.

Recycle and get rewarded for it

We all know that we should be recycling, but for most UAE residents it’s an arduous, impossible task rather than an everyday necessity. Now, however, you can recycle and get rewarded for doing so by using the reverse vending machines by Averda — a Middle East and North Africa environmental solutions provider. The vending machines accept your plastic bottles and aluminium cans, and, in return, you receive rewards from Air Miles.

“We believe the best way to change behaviour is to reward people for their positive actions,” explains Patrick Lloyd-Bradley, the brand and marketing communications director at Averda. “By installing reverse vending machines at easily accessible points, recycling will become second nature, rather than a choice.”

There are 65 reverse vending machines across the UAE, including at Adnec in Abu Dhabi and Tecom Business Parks at internet City, Knowledge Village and Media City in Dubai.

Drink filtered water

Bottled water is extremely bad for the environment. Its production wastes fossil fuels; worst still, following consumption, most empty plastic bottles end up in landfills. Consider buying a water filter that will provide water that’s good enough to drink and use in cooking. Liquid of Life in Dubai offers filters that are National Safety Foundation and American National Standards Institute approved. For more information, visit ­www.liquidoflife.net.

Limit the use of household appliances between noon and 5pm

According to Dewa, most electricity is used between noon and 5pm. Therefore, it’s advised that you turn off all non-essential appliances, such as irons, dishwashers, ovens, water heaters and washing machines during these times in order for electricity to be provided more efficiently. This also helps save the additional fuel used to create electricity and reduces CO2 emissions.

Buy used furniture

When living in a highly transient place like the UAE, the odds are that you won’t be using your sofa or coffee table for a very long time. Every time that something new is made, the use of resources and effect on human health is enormous, so be gentler to the environment by buying second-hand furniture. A used sofa can easily be spruced up with new upholstery at a small price, while wooden furniture can be given new life with a coat of paint.

Earth Hour takes place tomorrow between 8.30pm and 9.30pm.