Food Waste in Ramadan: An Infographic

The debate surrounding increased food waste generation during Ramadan has become a part of public discourse in Muslim communities worldwide. Almost one-fourth of the food purchased or prepared during Ramadan finds its way to trash bins. The staggering amount of food waste in Ramadan urgently demands a strong public-focused strategy for its minimization, sustainable utilization and eco-friendly disposal. This infographic will provide more insights into the magnitude of problem and plausible ways to tackle it.

 

Green Your Ramadan

Ramadan is a month which is very different than other months in terms of activities, praying and eating habits. The month call for not eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset to boost physical and mental endurance and to understand the hardships faced by the unprivileged human beings who do not have enough resources to satisfy their basic necessities. The true meaning of Ramadan is purifying ourselves, taking care of our body, soul, people, surrounding and ecosystems which is supporting us.

The month of Ramadan is a golden opportunity to consider making a shift towards a ‘green lifestyle’ that is environmental friendly, non-polluting, non-wasteful and aim toward saving of natural resources. The green lifestyle means improving the quality of life and achieving sustainable development.

Let us create awareness on our resources usage during Ramadan, think and act positively towards our environment and change our unfriendly habits which are impacting our ecosystem. Let us seize this opportunity provided by Ramadan and adopt a model for a green and responsible behavior that addresses the urgent environmental issues.

The month sees over consumption of meat, vegetables and fruits together with drinks, juices and syrups. We become more extravagant in terms of using food and resources. So, let us be patient on these consumptions, eat healthy and organic food in manageable quantities. Let us grow vegetables and fruits at our available land/ space. Use food items judiciously and avoid any wastage. Let us be away from our routine habits that pollute our air, soil and water resources. Let us be aware of our wasteful habits which are affecting the environment and our future generations. We need to understand that any mismanagement of our precious available resources will be having an irreversible impacts on our ecology and for our future generations. Let us make concerted effort to encourage and embrace "green" practices, especially during Ramadan.

Ramadan presents the perfect opportunity to recharge our spiritual batteries for the year. It is a time to seek forgiveness for our misgivings and to reflect upon the signs of creation from Allah. As human beings, we have a duty as stewards over this planet, and it is our responsibility to ensure that the resources and environment are used in a sustainable manner.

Use food items judiciously and avoid any wastage during Ramadan

Let this month not only harness our mental and physical ability but also be a turning point for respecting our resources and environment. Here are some basic thoughts:

  • Support and utilize local produce.
  • Plan food usage with no wastage.
  • Reducing the water usage, especially during making ‘wadoo’/ ablution. Be vigilant that the tap is closed. Any dripping should be eliminated to conserve precious water.
  • Reducing our energy and carbon footprint.
  • Generating less quantity of waste especially food waste. Support & practice recycling and reuse.
  • No littering especially in common areas, commercial and religious places and shopping areas.
  • Minimum or no use of plastic bags. Using less paper and stationery.
  • Switching off appliances after use like lights, ACs, fans, heaters, iron etc.
  • Using electrical appliances like washing machines, iron, vacuum cleaner and dishwashers in off peak hours.
  • Replacing lights bulbs from incandescent to compact fluorescent and turning off lights when they are not in use.
  • Eliminate use of disposables plates, cutlery, cups, containers etc. Avoid using Styrofoam containers and plastic cutlery.

Need of Sustainability Communication in the Middle East

sustainability-communicationEnvironmental and sustainability awareness has been around in the society for quite some time now; and buzzwords like ‘ecofriendly’, ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ seem to be omnipresent. In spite of the proliferation of these eco-buzzwords, the state of sustainability communications remains poor and lacking in authenticity. This poor state of sustainable communication, aided by insufficient focus on authenticity, further allows unscrupulous organizations to ‘green wash’ their business or products. The ‘greenwashing’, coupled with a lack of environmental knowledge on the consumer side engenders confused consumers who either despise any of the green eco-buzzwords or blindly accept green-washing as true sustainability.

Currently, sustainability initiatives, be it local government or international, do not reach the common man. People are still under impression that a few cursory steps towards ecofriendly lifestyle are enough. All in all sustainability is not yet properly understood in society. Most people wish to be more environmentally friendly but don’t know how. This is where sustainable communication can help.

Sustainability Communication for Businesses

There are two key elements to business sustainability communications:

  • Real Sustainability Efforts
  • Plentiful Sustainability Communication (external as well as internal).

Both of these elements are necessary. Without the former it’s a misleading greenwash, while without the latter, it’s a pocket of concentrated sustainability effort which will wither and die if the department handling this effort is disassembled.  

For sustainability communications to work for businesses in the Middle East, there has to be real sustainability commitment and efforts from the business to make their product and services more sustainable. In this day and age of the internet, transparency and traceability about products and services are indispensable features which can prove the authenticity of the commitment of a business to sustainability goals.

There has to be external as well as internal sustainability communication for any organization which is taking efforts towards sustainability. The employees should get to know better about practicing sustainability policies or actions planned and implemented by that business. The employees can also act as sustainability advocates of that organizations. In addition to having budget for CSR, organizations need to keep some time or fund aside for internal sustainability communication. In the long run these efforts can help organizations to stand out in the market.

Sustainable Communication in Media

If you open any newspaper or publication you are able to find some articles or information on the topic but most show a lack of clarity, and many appear to be written just as a formality. As an industry insider I can even reveal that most of the related news are mostly copy paste of original press releases sent by respective organizations. But if you look at other topics like lifestyle, fashion, those are well talked about, researched by in almost every publication.

Unfortunately we still don’t have enough qualified and expert sustainability journalists and writers in the region who actually understand what they are writing about. If you take example of Europe or Americas, they have many expert sustainability writers who write for main stream media and make sure the right information is reaching the society.

In general media in Middle East, though it’s newspaper or radio/TV channels need to give more attention to invest in qualified sustainability writers to acquire integrity and quality of sustainable communication.

Another issue of sustainable communication is it can take the form of an apocalyptic discussion, if you talk about environmental impact. People lose interest in such discussions quickly. Actually the statistic shows people in Middle East spend more time on internet than people from most other parts of world. But we need to accept that they prefer to have some light reading. We also need to create sustainability dialogue relevant to life of our readers and provide useful information for daily routine.

Instead of just talking about what is good and what is not, we need to show examples of doing good for environment, choosing sustainable options. So this takes me to my last point of sustainable communication, do what you preach. If we want our readers not just read but make changes in their lives; first we need to show how sustainable we practitioners are living. This will not only make sustainability relatable but also doable.

Demographics of Sustainability Communications

One important observation I have made, and many people in the field will agree, is that sustainability topic is well received by younger generation or millennials. These young people are pushing their parents and families to opt for more sustainable choices.

I would like to share one such personal experience. One of my readers contacted me and told her child insists on taking reusable bags with them all the time. Apart from how proud I felt about my reader and of course, her child, I was glad to know that the push of sustainable action is coming from young people.

When you communicate your sustainability efforts, be open for any feedback and criticism

When you communicate your sustainability efforts, be open for any feedback and criticism

During my eco-talks in schools, I always get positively surprised by how much these young kids know about environment and sustainability as compared to their adult counterparts. So we need to focus and include these young people in sustainable communication.

Consumer-Initiated Sustainable Communication

In this big market of consumers, we have almost no sustainable communication at consumer end. No surprise the region is facing larger issues like waste, waste recycling, and one of the highest rates of plastic consumption. We still lack sustainable communication initiated by consumers. What is needed in this region is a responsible consumer feedback.

Take the example of mending and renting services. The general shortage of mending and renting services a big indication of how the region has morphed itself a consumer’s paradise. This makes it critically difficult to create green consumerism as, market price, and availability in the market currently affects consumers much more than what the consumers really want.

However several consumers (more than we can perceive) would like to go back to the good old days when one really owned something, they used it for several years, got it mended over and over, and kept using it. It’s even better if the same brands are providing these mending and repair services of their own products in the region.

So if we could involve consumers in sustainability communication and dialogue, businesses can get feedback on what is truly missing, which will surely help them to make their business more sustainable.

Conclusion

Preaching what good you practice is not necessarily pompous if it is going to help the society be more sustainable. However at the core of any sustainable communication is a real effort in being sustainable, be it sustainability in energy, water, waste, or social. The golden rule is, there is no knowledge without feedback of your actions, so when you communicate your sustainability efforts, be open for any feedback and criticism. This way we can create a positive loop of real sustainability actions, active and transparent communications, feedback and improvement, and better, more effective sustainability actions.

 

About the Author

Amruta Kshemkalyani, is an experienced sustainability professional and top sustainability influencer/advocate in UAE. While working in sustainable development field, she is also spreading environmental and sustainable living awareness in UAE through her blog www.sustainabilitytribe.com since 2009. 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/amrutant      

Linkedin: https://ae.linkedin.com/in/amrutakshemkalyanitavkar

 

Education for Sustainable Development: Key Challenges

education-for-sustainable-developmentThe basic aim of 'Education for Sustainable Development' is to nurture an individual who is capable to solve environmental challenges facing the world and to promote the formation of a sustainable society. The first challenge is to have an ethos in schools that openly and enthusiastically supports the development of ESD (Education for Sustainable Development). This is partly down to the curriculum the school follows, but is mainly as a result of the interest and effort shown by senior management in promoting integration and whole school engagement; a critical element being teacher training. It is also down to the expectations that are put upon schools by education authorities when it comes to ESD.

With trained and motivated teachers, it is far easier to inspire and motivate students. Teachers can often use the environment as a vehicle for teaching certain concepts in their own specific subject. Once teachers have decided that this is something they feel is worthwhile, they will increasingly find ways to do so.

Using environmental issues in student learning shows students the bigger picture, which can significantly improve motivation. By letting pupils know why the work they are completing is important, and showing them where it fits in on a local and global scale, you’re enabling them to see its value.

Another challenge is being able to bridge the gap between what happens at home and what is taught in schools. For example, if a child is learning about recycling at school, but parents are not open to supporting their learning by adopting recycling practices at home, then the child, especially at a young age, receives very conflicting messages.

Schools are busy places and there are increasing pressures on teachers within the workplace. These can create additional challenges such as gaps between awareness and understanding; motivation to and knowledge of how to become more sustainable; individual to collective empowerment; finding time; budget restraints; linking infrastructure change to mind set change and whole community engagement.

However, with a more directed focus and commitment towards ESD in schools, children generally need very little motivation to care for their environment. You just have to give them a voice and they are away! The problem often comes from adults not understanding the bigger picture about caring for the long term future of the planet.

Strategy for GCC Countries

When it comes to educating locals and expats in the GCC, it can be categorized into three parts:

The physical change: looking at how schools, households and businesses can reduce their waste, water and energy and focus on more sustainable resources in general.

The mind set change: this is all about raising environmental understanding, awareness and action programmes throughout the school and business communities through workshops, cross-curricular activities and presentations, so that everybody is on the 'same page', as well as giving students and employees a voice. This leads to a fundamental change in attitudes and the choices people make.

Learning to respect others and appreciate the environment, as well as giving back to society: this is focused around the opportunities to learn beyond the workplace and home, and connect back to nature, as well as help communities in need. In a nutshell, it about being more caring.

Partnerships and action orientated behaviour within all 3 parts are crucially important to their success. Environmental awareness in itself is not enough, simply because awareness without leading to meaningful action and behaviour change goes nowhere.

Using environmental issues in student learning shows children the bigger picture

Using environmental issues in student learning shows children the bigger picture

This approach can be illustrated in the Beyond COP21 Symposium series that I am currently running globally with the support of Eco-Schools. The event consists of themed high impact presentations from, and discussions with, guest speakers on the SDGs Agenda 2030 and climate negotiations in and beyond Paris; individual & community action; pledge- making and practical activities/workshops.

Local sustainable companies and organisations are invited to showcase their initiatives and engage with students from a variety of schools, both local and expat, in each city or region. Successfully run in Dubai twice and with an upcoming event in Jordan, the Middle East region has certainly embraced the partnership approach when it comes to supporting environmental education initiatives that benefit all those involved.

Role of Technology and Social Media

The greatest role it can play is through the spread of information and ideas, as well as the sharing of good practice within the GCC. Sometimes the hardest thing is to know where to start and how to become motivated, and certainly both can help. Also technology can help to source important resources for teachers. Bee’ah’s School of Environment, which I have been recently developing new online resources for, is a very good example of how well this can work.

Please visit my website http://www.target4green.com for more information about my organization and its activities.

Green Resolutions for New Year

green-resolutionsThis year, in addition to our personal goals, let us make another New Year resolution: to make this year the year we really ‘go green’. Supporting environmental initiatives should be one of our main priorities and needs to be reflected through our resolutions and commitment to safeguard it against all forms of pollution and to protect our fragile and finite resources. Depending on our age, work, location etc., our priorities may be different but our actions should be in unison towards environmental protection.

We need to understand that we have very recklessly plundered the global resources in a short span of time that is causing many adversities and catastrophes, but we are the only species that have to take preventive measures to avoid any such occurrences in future. Let us make sincere pledges and serious commitments towards our planet and protecting our environment.

Let us, at the least, try to support the following activities and tasks starting from this year and onward, if we have not practiced earlier:

  • Protect and enhance the green spaces, parks and playgrounds.
  • Utilizing our roof for gardening and creating green areas.
  • Enviauditing of our household and office related activities. Improving tasks that require electricity and water usage.
  • Use minimum water for our daily activities.
  • Wash clothes in normal water and washing only when full loads are in the dishwasher and washing machine.
  • Turn off the faucet while we brush our teeth or shave.
  • Watering our lawn in the morning/ evening to reduce evaporation losses.
  • Changing incandescent bulbs for C.F.L.s.
  • Conserve energy in all forms. Switch lights when not in use.
  • Unplug mobile charger and computer after use as it wastes a lot of energy.
  • Avoid fast fashion. Reduce our insatiable appetite for design apparel and related clothing that we wear for only one season and throw it in next. Only buy what you need.
  • Do green shopping and donate items/ clothes we do not use.
  • Detox your home. Only use safe chemicals and detergents as household cleaning products for furniture, bathrooms and clothes including air fresheners.
  • Reuse and recycle material
  • Plan vehicle trips to avoid peak hours and traffic congestion.
  • Avoiding wasting any food items.
  • Avoid plastic bags and taking our own bag for shopping.
  • Avoid using Styrofoam cups, disposable cutlery and other related items.
  • Avoid un-necessary print outs and photocopy.
  • Minimize using bottled drinking water. This is expensive and generates plastic bottles waste. Instead use filtering equipment at home or use large refillable and reusable bottles.
  • Avoid using paper towels and napkins. Instead use cotton clothes and old used fabrics.
  • Enhancing our awareness by reading and knowing more on environment.

Let us make sincere pledges and serious commitments towards our planet and protecting our environment (Image Courtesy: www.inhabitat.com)

Let us make sincere pledges and serious commitments towards our planet and protecting our environment (Image Courtesy: www.inhabitat.com)

Enjoy the festivities of the season and be a more responsible citizen of the world. Happy New Year!

أسلوب حياة أخضر

green-lifestyle-arabicتبني "أسلوب حياة أخضر" هو محاولة لترشيد استغلال الفرد أو المجتمع للموارد الطبيعية عن طريق تغيير أساليب النقل واستهلاك الطاقة، واستخدام المياه وغيرها. ويعنى أسلوب الحياة الأخضر بتلبية الاحتياجات البيئية والاجتماعية، والاقتصادية الحالية دون المساس بقدرة الأجيال المقبلة على تلبية احتياجاتها. ويعد انخفاض حجم البصمة البيئية أو الكربونية هو النتيجة الطبيعية لأسلوب المعيشة المستدامة.

ويعتبر تلوث المياه، وتلوث التربة، وتلوث الهواء، والتخلص من النفايات والمحافظة على الموارد الطبيعية، وحماية الحياة البرية من التحديات البيئية الرئيسية التي تواجه البشرية. ولكلٍ منا دور يمكن أن يلعبه لتحقيق الاستدامة، وذلك من خلال تبني أسلوب حياة خضراء. وفيما يلي بعض النصائح التي يمكن أن تساعد في خلق بيئة صحية لك ولعائلتك، وللأرض كذلك:

  1. اتبع/ي التسلسل الهرمي للتعامل مع النفايات: يمكن تحقيق ذلك من خلال التدرج ابتداءً من تقليل الاستهلاك، ثم إعادة الاستخدام ثم إعادة تدوير ما تبقى.
  2. جرب/ي تغيير استخدام الاشياء: وذلك بتحويل النفايات إلى مواد أو منتجات ذات جودة أو قيمة أعلى من السلعة الأصلية، على سبيل المثال تحويل كيس من البلاستيك إلى بطانة داخلية لحاويات القمامة أو تحويل عبوة بلاستيكية إلى حاضنة بذور.
  3. حول/ي المواد العضوية إلى سماد: حيث يمكن انتاج السماد بتخمير المواد العضوية لإضافة المواد المغذية لتربة حديقة المنزل وتقليل نفاياتك المنزلية في نفس الوقت.
  4. أعد/أعيدي استخدام المياه: على الرغم من أهمية المياه كمورد لا يمكن الاستغناء عنه إلا أن محدوديتها تقضي بضرورة تدويرها و إعادة استخدامها؛ كاستخدام المياه الرمادية -بعد معالجتها -في نظام التدفق في المراحيض، وفي ري الحدائق. كما يوفر تجميع مياه الأمطار مصدرا اخر من المياه ذات النوعية الجيدة.
  5. بادر/ي بترشيد استخدام الطاقة: تعتبر الطاقة هي القوة الدافعة للتنمية، ويمكن القيام ببعض الممارسات للتقليل من هدرها كإطفاء أجهزة الكمبيوتر ليلاً، واستبدال المصابيح بتلك الموفرة للطاقة وتجنب وضع الأجهزة في وضع الاستعداد في حال عدم الحاجة لها.
  6. أعد/أعيدي التفكير في حاجتك للمياه المعبأة في عبوات بلاستيكية: لابد أن نتنبه إلى أن عبوات المياه البلاستيكية تستغرق آلاف السنين لتتحلل.لذا من الأجدر الاستغناء عنها بعبوة قابلة لإعادة الاستخدام.
  7. حاول/ي إعادة تدوير الهواتف المحمولة القديمة: يتم الاستغناء عن مئات الملايين من الهواتف المحمولة في كل عام مما يتسبب بإدخال العديد من المواد السامة إلى الأنظمة البيئية، في حال التخلص منها في مكبات النفايات المنزلية. هناك العديد من المشاريع التي تقوم بإعادة تدوير الهواتف ,أغلبها لتمويل مبادرات نبيلة.
  8. أعد/أعيدي تدوير الألومنيوم والزجاج: يمكن انتاج عشرين علبة ألمنيوم معاد تدويرها بنفس كمية الطاقة اللازمة لتصنيع علبة واحدة جديدة. وبالمثل، فإن كل طن من الزجاج المعاد تدويره يوفر ما يعادل تسعة غالونات من زيت الوقود اللازم لصنع الزجاج من المواد الخام.
  9. تجنب/ي استخدام الأكياس البلاستيكية: يتم استهلاك حوالي تريليون كيس في جميع أنحاء العالم كل عام مما يتسبب بأضرار عديدة في الأنظمة البيئية. ويمكن الاستعاضة بأكياس القماش القابلة للتحلل والتي يمكن إعادة استخدامها.
  10. نمي الأفكار: المعيشة المستدامة ليست مهمة صعبة المنال. يمكن لأشياء بسيطة، مثل زرع شجرة، أن تحدث فرقا ملموسا.

 

green_living_middle-east

ترجمه

سمر طه

يوسف بنغزواني

 

Effective Energy Management for Businesses

energy-management-middle-east-businessesMiddle East has been witnessing a rapid increase in energy consumption due to high degree of industrialization, high standards of living and exponential increase in population. Infact, the level of primary energy consumption in the Middle East is among the highest worldwide.  These factors have made businesses in Middle East to realize that effective energy management is not only good for the businesses but also an essential requirement.

In recent years, many businesses in the Middle East have come up with dynamic strategies to achieve immediate reduction in energy consumption. This trend towards effective energy management is expected to continue to grow in the region in the coming years on account on changing regulations and growing awareness on energy conservation.

Ingredients of Effective Energy Management Plan

For an energy management plan to succeed, the entire organization including its employees and management team, should be committed to the implementation of energy management strategy whose main elements are:

  • Goal-setting: how much energy reduction do you want to achieve?
  • Number-crunching: how much energy do you consume?
  • Identifying energy-guzzlers: What are major consumption units and what measures can be taken to reduce consumption
  • Technology and automation: Smart metering, schedule-based lighting, occupancy sensors, HVAC control and latest technological innovation provides an active approach to energy management
  • Continuous review and management: Regular performance monitoring is essential to check the progress towards your energy-saving goals. 

Hurdles to Overcome

​Lack of incentives to reduce energy consumption is a major hurdle faced by businesses in the Middle East. In the GCC region, electricity is usually provided at heavily subsidized rates which fail to provide the motivation to the consumer to reduce energy consumption. Most of the commercial buildings in the Middle East consume huge amount of energy in the form of HVAC, lighting, ventilation etc., and there is a real need to make such buildings ‘ energy smart’ in the real sense of the word.

An energy smart building - Siemens headquarters at Masdar

An energy smart building – Siemens headquarters at Masdar

Role of Technology

Technology plays a vital role in reducing energy consumption as energy-savings are not limited to power consumption by HVAC, lighting or ventilations, but also encompass optimization of energy use, building infrastructure, supply chain networks, product design, transportation networks etc. Businesses in the Middle East may strive for energy-smart buildings, smart grid systems and renewable energy sources (like rooptop solar and biogas systems) to improve their long-term sustainability and more effective cost-management.

World Habitat Day – Shelter for All

world-habitat-dayWorld Habitat Day is observed every year on the first Monday of October throughout the world. It was established in 1985 by the United Nations General Assembly through Resolution 40/202 and was first celebrated in 1986 with the theme “Shelter is My Right”. The purpose of the day is to reflect on the state of our urban areas and the basic human right regarding provision of adequate shelter to all human beings. World Habitat Day (or WHD) also aims to remind the planners and government officials of the collective responsibility for the habitat of future generations and a day to encourage grassroots action from civil society organizations to advocate for universal decent housing.

Shelter for All

Each year, World Habitat Day takes on a new theme chosen by the United Nations based on current issues relevant to the Habitat Agenda. The themes of WHD are selected to bring attention to UN-Habitat’s mandate to promote sustainable development policies that ensure adequate shelter for all. These themes often promote important subjects such as housing and social services, a safe and healthy living environment, affordable and sustainable transport and energy, promotion, protection and restoration of green urban spaces, safe and clean drinking water and sanitation, healthy air quality, employment generation, improved urban planning, slum upgrading and better waste management.

WHD 2016 – Housing at the Center

World Habitat Day 2016 will be celebrated on 3 October 2016 under the theme ‘Housing at the Centre’ encouraging that every individual has a right to a decent housing/ shelter with basic amenities to survive. It will also mark the official beginning of Urban October month of celebrations, events and activities. The day is a reminder to everyone to join together as one global network in communicating the message that every one of us deserves the opportunity for a better living and future.

The purpose of World Habitat Day is to pay serious attention towards the need for better shelter all over the world, to share the priority of affordable, adequate and sustainable housing, to bring the positive changes in the systems including policies and attitudes, to reflect on the states and towns and pay attention on the basic human rights for adequate shelter and to increase the awareness worldwide of joint responsibility for the future generation’s shelter.

Global Housing Crisis

We need to understand that with a population of over seven billion, there is an acute global housing crisis, as approximately 1.6 billion people worldwide are living in the substandard housing/ slums and almost 100 million people are homeless. The WHD aims to draw the people attention towards the urgent need of adequate housing especially for the poor people.

Providing and improving housing is a gigantic task and cannot be dealt only by the governmental authorities. It require involvement of all stakeholders including communities, NGOs and experienced developers to optimize urban densities and provide land zoning with efficient services and utilities that are environmental friendly and have minimum carbon footprint. With the shortage of urban space, we need to develop in a sustainable manner to keep room for future growth and accommodate population in coming decades.

More than a billion people worldwide are living in substandard living conditions.

More than a billion people worldwide are living in substandard living conditions.

In the GCC countries including Bahrain, the concerned authorities are giving due attention to the subject of planning and providing decent housing to citizens and to avoid any social, health and environmental problems. 

Let us whole-heartedly support and celebrate the World Habitat Day and organize any activity or event in our own community including an awareness campaign, a fun activity, area cleanliness and get together in parks and public spaces.