x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

The Ali Column: It's time we do our part to save the planet

Here are a few simple steps we can take to help reduce our carbon footprint

Since my involvement as an environmental awareness ambassador for the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD), I've touched on many aspects of our environment. But I feel I have to do more and raise awareness to achieve every environmentalist's goal, which is to get people to act responsibly when it comes to consuming this planet's resources.

I had an amazing meeting with EAD's Gayatri Raghwa, an environmental education specialist. She was very generous about sharing ways in which we all can reduce our carbon footprint.

Before talking to her, I did not realise how much energy the GCC region wastes. It's believed that if the whole world starts consuming as much as our country does, we would need more than five planets to provide us with that amount of energy!

According to Raghwa, we have to be more aware of how we live because "not only you and I are affected; it's also the animals and the plants that get affected" by the global climate change. She assured me that it isn't hard to "enjoy the benefits of a modern life and also save the environment".

Becoming more eco-friendly means reducing one's "energy consumption" on the local level. This starts at our homes. So, here are ways we can all save money, water, electricity and the only planet we have.

Let's start with water: only use the washing machine or dishwasher when it is fully loaded and take short showers and baths. You save more water by taking a shower instead of a bath. Don't let the water run while brushing your teeth. Use water-saving devices for taps.

When it comes to electricity: buy energy-efficient devices (look for the Energy Saving Recommended or Energy Star logos), take out unused plugs and turn off devices that are on standby because they still consume energy. Turn the air conditioner two or three degrees higher than usual - this adds up to savings in money and energy. Use compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs as they consume far less energy and last longer than regular bulbs.

When it comes to food: buy local food; transportation of imported food contributes to high carbon emissions. Cook with the lids on and eat leftovers. The more food we waste, the more food gets decomposed, which in turn releases methane gases into the air and contributes to global warming.

These simple measures will help us live in a safer environment and one that costs less.

As The National reported a few weeks back, there are government initiatives to set up regulations that include "solar-powered heating and energy-efficient lighting" in newly constructed buildings in the city. The plan is to implement the "green building regulations" and "renovations" by the end of next year. Today, you can buy a solar panel or battery at Solar Mart at Dubai Creek Tower.

Just because we live in an oil-rich country, it doesn't mean we will always have oil and natural resources. Sadly, the reality is the opposite: we are living off scarce resources. Our planet is "running on low battery". So, let's make a difference now and use our natural resources wisely.

I'm hopeful about the next steps that each responsible entity will take to raise awareness, particularly at schools, so that our future generations treat the environment with even more care.