Dubai: Why let sand patches stay idle in your school ground when you can turn them into an oasis with indigenous trees that not only provide shade to students but also help the environment?

This is the message the Emirates Environmental Group (EEG) has been championing since 2015 through the ‘Planting a Greener Future’ initiative in collaboration with McDonald’s UAE.

So in celebration of the Arab Environment Day on Monday, EEG inaugurated the third phase of the initiative where some 350 indigenous trees will be planted in seven public schools across the seven emirates.

“These trees upon maturity are able to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions and we expect at least 4.5 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions will be mitigated annually from finishing these two phases and of course with phase three that number will increase,” Habiba Al Marashi, EEG Chairperson, told Gulf News.

Greening idle school grounds is an effective educational-urban-afforestation programme that engages governmental schools and prepares students for the future to adopt a responsible and ethical approach to the environment.

The programme also compliments several of the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals and on a national level supports the “Sustainable Environment and Infrastructure” chapter included in UAE Vision 2021 national agenda.

Al Marashi said the programme will enable schoolchildren to be hands-on custodians.

“The schoolchildren after receiving the workshops and giving them the knowledge base, we will take them out to the garden and they will be the ones digging holes and planting these trees. And after planting they will be tasked with taking care of the trees to ensure that everything is going well,” Al Marashi said.

Rafic Fakih, partner and managing director at McDonald’s UAE, said: “Over the past two decades, we have worked closely with EEG to identify meaningful ways to contribute to our local environment and take a more proactive approach to sustainability.”

Since 2015, the programme has reached 2,800 students across 14 government schools. Through the planting of 760 indigenous trees in the first two phases, the program has so far restored 7,000m2 of land.