The end-of-the-year celebrations have come and gone. The Christmas trees have been put away. But as residents of UAE, we are fortunate to have a lot to look forward to, other than just finding a ‘new you’ with New Year resolutions.
Sweeping resolutions are exciting to come up with, but difficult to keep up, so the husband and I decided to get more practical this year. He resolved to read a book for an hour every day before bedtime instead of toggling between the TV screen and the smartphone. The last few days, he has been seen sitting with a book, but has managed to get more sleep than reading.
As for me, here is how I came up with mine.
One evening, as I sat on the warm bed, I accidently ripped a portion of the bed sheet while measuring, cutting and fitting impossibly thin and slippery wrapping paper onto an irregularly-shaped box of puzzle that would accompany Sid to this friend’s birthday party.
Like everything that is shelved to be dealt with later, I wondered if it was best to put the torn bed sheet in the uppermost deck of the cupboard to be dealt with later. But ‘later’ will never be, so I put it aside for the house help to deal with it. And he dealt with it better than I did. He deftly cut the sheet into big rectangular pieces that would serve multiple purposes from being used as a dusting cloth to cleaning dirty surfaces. But was that not the most obvious thing to do?
I know that Mother would have done just that for even today she ensures that the chances of any of my family members back home stumbling upon a long-forgotten favourite dress during spring cleaning is close to impossible. Having lived a minimalistic life in a little hamlet where resources were both expensive and scarce, she told us that text books, stationery, and clothes were handed down from one sibling to another. Mother — the youngest of them all — was often the last one to use them, after which it was redesigned into anything that grandmother’s magically skilful fingers chose it to become.
On this day, where all our needs are at our fingertips, Mother’s stories of reuse often humoured us, but a visit to a beach resort during the winter holidays sowed the seeds for my green resolution.
It was the Christmas tree made with empty glass bottles that first caught my attention. Upon looking more closely, I noticed that the Christmas decor consisted of used tissue-paper rolls and empty tissue boxes wrapped in glittery coloured wrappers. The vases that adorned the rooms and dining halls were the bottoms of cut glass bottles — its edges taped for safety. Reindeers and ballerinas that decorated the walls were recycled paper skilfully cut to perfection.
My curiosity led me to meeting the head of the housekeeping division who was the brainchild behind this green initiative.
Upon a tour of the property with the gentleman, everything from a Christmas tree that was made from the discarded cushiony base of floral arrangements and old bed sheets to the old and damaged towels that were laundered, cut and embroidered to be reused in washrooms and old staff uniforms that were disposed of in the green donation bins — their initiatives directed towards sustainability were applaudable.
Being a resident of a country that is at the forefront of sustainability, it takes little effort — some of which many of us have already been doing — that will collectively go a long way in conservation of natural resources, landfill space and energy. If you, like me, do not possess magic fingers that can create beauty with reusables, we can all resolve to try something less disastrous — like ensuring that the newspapers, plastic bottles, cans and electronics are disposed of at recycling centres; drop off unused clothes, shoes, bed sheets and handbags in the designated green boxes and encourage children to follow the example of the little girl who collects discarded water bottles, using the water in them to water plants and recycling the plastic bottles.
As for ensuring that every item that goes into the shopping trolley will be optimally used and not simply discarded to decompose in landfills, we can be rest assured that VAT will do that for all of us.
Pranitha Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai.