Dubai Municipality officials d
Dubai Municipality officials distributing jute bags during the launch of the “Say No To Plastic Bags?” campaign. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
John Bull, Director, Terra – The Sustainability Pavilion, Expo 2020 Dubai
John Bull, Director, Terra – The Sustainability Pavilion, Expo 2020 Dubai

“For me, being sustainable is about being more conscious,” says John Bull. “The decisions aren’t necessarily very difficult to make, but they require planning and effort.”

In undertaking the 5-day challenge that was all about going plastic-free, meat-free and eat and buy local, Bull says the biggest thing he learnt [during the challenge] was that it is possible to be more sustainable. “You just have to think about it,” he says.

Bull is serious about contributing to stopping the waste, not just with plastic, food and the farm-to-plate ethos but also in other areas. “I’m aware that textile waste in a massive pollutant – fast fashion, disposal clothing, it’s a horrendous waste of the Earth’s resources,” he says. “I’m lucky I’m a bit of a hoarder – I have a pair of shorts that I bought in 2005. I am making sure they live as long as they can, so I took them in to be patched for I think the seventh time since I’ve been in Dubai. They’re now more patch than original shorts, but I’m not going to give up on them.”

He is also making other small changes in, for example, giveaways. “I went to a trade fair, [made a] conscious decision ... not to pick up the free pens, key rings, USB sticks. Saying no at the source is a good way to stop these things being produced in the first place.

“And instead of giving out business cards, my work pass has a QR code that contains all of my details – tapping that against somebody’s phone or them taking a photo of it uploads [the] details. This is a way of being sustainable that makes life easier, too,” says Bull.

Here is his sustainable consumer diary:

1. Reduce plastic bags:

John Bull: My wife and I both work, so we tend to have food delivered. Over the past couple of years, I’ve discovered a few different options from supermarkets and other local suppliers that are more sustainable. I’ve opted for places that deliver my fruit and vegetables in paper bags.

I’ve got two kids, and we get through a lot [of food shopping]. I make sure I leave reusable bags in my car.

During the 5-day challenge, I did one large shop and four small shops. If I took plastic bags, I would have used 10 for the big shop and two for each of the small shops.

How much did I save? 18 plastic bags.

2. Going meatless for 5 days

“ I’ve gone ‘flexitarian’ – a slightly annoying way of saying that I don’t eat much meat anymore. When I do, I try to make sure that it’s sustainably sourced, organic and fair trade. There’s a massive trend for plant-based meat substitutes. I had a plant-based burger for my dinner [at a restaurant]– I couldn’t tell the difference.

“I also had pasta and vegetables, falafel. I didn’t miss the meat at all and felt healthier for [it].

“Previous to reducing my meat intake, I had two meat meals a day, and approximately 175g of meat per meal.

How much did I save: 1.750g of meat.

3. Eat local, buy local:

“I made the choice to buy seasonal and local products. It’s even better when they’re ‘ugly’ products that nobody is going to buy – they’re cheaper and they taste the same.

“In five days, I bought the following local produce: 500g tomatoes, 250g courgettes, 200g apples, 200g beetroot, 250g pasta – a total of 1,400gms.”