A strong sense of community spirit pervaded the air as we joined hands in the celebration of Earth Hour on March 31. More than 200 members of the Emirates Environmental Group (EEG) joined other like-minded environmentalists, government officials and individuals in the Earth Hour 2012 activities organised by Dewa and held under the patronage of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, at the foot of the Burj Khalifa.
Across the UAE and in 150 other countries around the world, people highlighted the importance of saving energy. Efforts to mobilise our students, academics, corporate and individual members and employing creative means such as having our very own EEG mascot called Kan-Kan to entertain and educate the kids, contributed to yielding positive results.
In Dubai alone, Earth Hour celebration resulted in the reduction of 130,000 kg of carbon emissions and savings of 216 megawatts of power, a 6 per cent increase in the energy saved compared to last year.
We will continue highlighting our environmental stewardship with the World Earth Day celebration on April 22. Protecting the environment is a relentless pursuit which we should inculcate in our daily lives as even the smallest change in our consumer behaviour can make a big difference to sustaining our resources.
To this end, I would like to call on everyone to participate in EEG's Can Collection Campaign. We have set a target to collect 25,000 kg of aluminium cans to be sent for recycling this year. Everybody can contribute to achieve this goal simply by being conscious that every time you consume a canned drink, dispose of it properly and contribute effectively to our next action day which is set on May 5 at drop-off points across the country.
Pick up the aluminium cans you see littering the streets, parks, neighbourhood grocery or in your workplace; encourage your families, friends, neighbours, and colleagues to participate in this drive eagerly. As we always say, let us give back to our planet by actively promoting recycling.
Another ‘simple' way of nurturing our planet is by reducing our consumption of resources — particularly our water. The UAE has one of the highest average daily consumptions of water per person at 364 litres compared to the global average of 200 litres per person per day and way above the average 10 litres per person per day in less developed countries.
I remember my childhood days when water was scarce; but now clean potable water is readily available from our faucets. Where there was once a desert, we now see green patches and beautifully landscaped gardens because of proper irrigation. We see dancing fountains, water parks and man-made lakes.
Maybe because of massive development and technological advancements in the process of desalination, people think that we're not living in a desert and that there is no apparent scarcity of water!
We need to understand that water production has a significant contribution to our overall carbon emissions as we mainly source water from the sea which undergoes a highly energy-intensive desalination process. Conserving water means saving energy which we can direct to our other needs and water conservation is fundamental to ensuring sustainable social and economic progress.
Taking care of the environment is a compelling task, but there actually is no hardship in it if we make it a collective endeavour like what we did during the last Earth Hour.
Our message was clear: more than turning off the lights for one hour, it was a moment to reflect on our actions against climate change and to work towards a more sustainable use of our resources, which we owe to our future generations. Therefore, let us consciously make environmental stewardship a daily pursuit.
Let's make every hour an Earth Hour and every day an Earth Day!
Habiba Al Marashi is the Chairperson, Emirates Environmental Group and Board Member of UN Global Compact.