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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Design dilemma: On creating a more environmentally friendly existence

Charles-Jean Hameau, chief executive of My Green Chapter, offers his advice

Start an urban farming project over the winter months. Courtesy MyGreenChapter.com
Start an urban farming project over the winter months. Courtesy MyGreenChapter.com

You can have the best intentions in the world, but the idea of leading a more sustainable lifestyle can be overwhelming. Where to start?

To commence your journey towards a more-sustainable lifestyle, visit the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority’s revamped website. There, you will find a list of tips to help you protect our precious natural resources and reduce your carbon footprint. It is indeed possible to make a real impact, without a drastic change in lifestyle.

For example, keeping your air conditioning 1°C higher can translate into a 9 per cent reduction in your cooling costs. Replacing an old toilet can save up to 21,700 gallons of water annually. And adopting highly efficient LED, CFL or T5 lights, indoors and outdoors, will also help to slash your electricity consumption.

Public interest in recycling has increased dramatically in the past 15 years. If your community is not equipped with specific municipality bins, you can use the services of private recycling companies, which will collect from your doorstep all manner of paper, plastic, glass, metal cans and broken electronics.

Home composting is another effective way to make a difference. As many as 790,000 tonnes of food is discarded every year in the UAE – about 13 per cent of the waste that the country generates. Household food waste in landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more harmful than carbon dioxide, and also results in a variety of environmental issues, such as groundwater pollution. A range of indoor composters are now available in the country, and despite the hot weather, sand and a lack of earthworms, you can turn your kitchen scraps into a rich soil conditioner. It is great for our planet and good for your garden.

If gardening is your hobby, start an urban farming project in the winter months to lower your dependence on food grown a great distance away. The Food and Agriculture Organisation reports that 800 million people worldwide grow vegetable and fruits in cities, producing an astonishing 15 to 20 per cent of the world’s food.

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If you live in an apartment, join a community garden: 75 families were recently given a plot of land to grow herbs and leafy greens in Dubai Silicon Oasis, for example.

On a more global level, reduce your consumption of palm oil or purchase products from manufacturers using sustainable sources. These companies are usually members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, and are listed on www.rspo.org. An area of rainforest the size of 300 football fields is reportedly cleared each hour to cater for palm-oil production. If nothing changes, orang-utans and Sumatran tigers will be extinct in the wild in the next five years. On top of deforestation and animal cruelty, this industry is linked to other major issues, such as climate change and indigenous rights abuses.

Also, say no to plastic bags. A recent study claims that the equivalent of one dump truck full of plastic enters the ocean every minute. Scientists estimate that there will be more plastic in the ocean per tonne than fish by 2050. For each one of us, 216 plastic bags a year are handed out – a typical supermarket bag is used for an average of 20 minutes before it is thrown away. Take bags with you for each shopping trip, and tell your children how important it is for our future.

Charles-Jean Hameau, chief executive of My Green Chapter, www.mygreenchapter.com;

Instagram @mygreenchapter

Do you have any design dilemmas? Send them to homes@thenational.ae and we will get them answered by an expert