Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

On this day in 1972, the United Nations Environment Programme was formulated. Over the years, thousands of people all over the world have vowed to make small changes in their everyday lives to mark the occasion — from riding a bike to work to planting a tree. Here’s what you can do.

Avoid plastic bags

More than 80 per cent of the UAE’s shoppers put everything into free shopping bags. People could go through as many as 60 bags a month. These single-use carrier bags are made from oil-based plastic, which is a non-renewable resource and can take up to 1,000 years to decompose.

Don’t be fooled by paper bags either — they are not an environmentally friendly alternative and still a waste of natural resources. Invest in reusable carrier bags instead. It makes a huge difference.

Recycle much

Door-to-door waste collection for recycling has begun in Al Barsha — the first stage of plans to roll it out across Dubai. Waste management company averda has provided bins to more than 3,500 villas. The company aims to collect 50 per cent of the volume of recyclable refuse such as plastic, aluminium cans, glass, paper and cardboard. Jeroen Vincent, CEO, averda, says the waste collected will be reprocessed locally where possible and not be dumped in landfills.

Hit the roads

Carpooling can make a huge difference to the environment. It is estimated that if everyone travelling to the same location (within a one-kilometre radius) carpooled instead of travelling alone, the number of cars on the road would be reduced by more than half.

If you can’t carpool, use public transport sometimes. Dubai’s reliable metro and bus networks have made the city easily accessible for many. Ride your bike on weekends or walk.

Switch off and save

According to the report Powering the Nation by the UK’s Energy Saving Trust, between 9 and 16 per cent of electricity consumed in homes powers appliances on standby. On a bill of £500 (Dh3,078) this could account for as much as £80.

Mohammad Abdullah, Energy Specialist at Dewa, says a TV on standby uses 106 kilowatts and costs up to Dh100 a year. “It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it all adds up.”

Bulbs are the future

Regular light bulbs are inefficient beasts, and up to 98 per cent of the energy they consume is wasted as heat. but compact fluorescent light bulbs are about 75 per cent more efficient. A household willing to replace all its bulbs with energy-saving ones, which are available at most big supermarkets, can seriously cut down on its electricity costs and energy consumption.

Plant trees

Dubai-based Transguard Group is planting 100 ghaf saplings in a greenhouse near Al Barari to celebrate World Environment Day and UN Biodiversity Day. Greenworks, a landscape organisation, will nurture them and plant them in various communities two years later when they are strong enough.

Mark Povey, Marketing Director, Transguard Group, says 20 management and staff members are planting the saplings. “The environment is integral to our CSR programme, and by planting ghaf trees we are not only supporting sustainability, but also reaching out to the local community.”

Get a garden

Given that most of us live in apartments in Dubai, pottering among the shrubs doesn’t quite apply. However, a balcony has enough room for a compost bin, whose components could be offered to nearby greens. Moreover, a balcony or a tiny garden can be used to grow food, herbs and spices.

Go organic

If everyone went organic, most harmful pesticides would be stamped out and things would be more affordable, sustaining organic farming.

Fümé, an eatery in Dubai Marina, is offering a platter of organic greens free of charge for each table today. Angelo Rosato, Operations Manager, Fümé, says, “Sustainability is important to us, whether it’s conserving water and energy or managing our waste.”

Hotels lead the way

UAE-based hospitality group Time Hotels has launched the Middle East’s first carbon offset accommodation at two of its Dubai properties.The aim is to prevent more than 320 tonnes of carbon emissions by the end of the year.

Guests can donate Dh15 per stay to offset carbon emissions generated by consuming energy and water. The money will go to myclimate, a Swiss non-profit organisation.

“In the hospitality sector, carbon emissions are simply unavoidable,” says Mohamed Awadalla, CEO, Time Hotels. “But we remain focused on developing sustainability.”

Go online

Read up on information provided on Unep.org/wed to stay inspired as it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of what you’re doing, especially when things become time-consuming. It’s also a great place to register activities that groups you are part of are engaged in. You can also take the World Environment Day Challenge or read Tree-a-Day to learn about the importance of trees to the environment and to us.