“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” sounds like the most retro phrase ever doesn’t it? It would be more effective if it were “Being sustainable saves you a ton of money” wouldn’t it?
Many people believe that being eco-friendly or sustainable means having to invest in expensive products that are bio degradable, or buy clothes that are organic or high quality so that they last longer, and okay maybe that is true to an extent, but being sustainable is not only free, it actually saves you money.
Here are tips on how to be sustainable, while also spending nothing and saving a lot.
Being sustainable with your energy: How to save money on your energy bill
1. Replace all your Halogen (bright yellow light bulbs) in your home with LEDs for indoor lighting because of their longer lifespan and high-energy efficiency compared to equivalent lamp and tubes. You can buy them anywhere these days. LED bulbs are usually 85 per cent more efficient than Incandescent or Halogen light bulbs. Consider replacing your lightbulbs with LED and save energy.
2. You ideally shouldn’t switch the light on during the day. The sun shines so bright here, you hardly need to switch it on.
3. The idea that lights use extra electricity to start up is a myth. So, turn off lights when you're not using them, even if you are leaving the room for just a few minutes. You'll save electricity every time you turn the lights off, no matter how short the duration, and whether they're regular lights or fluorescents.
4. If you have lights in your home that need to always stay on, then use the lowest-wattage bulbs. These 15-watt bulbs reduce energy usage by 80 per cent.
5. Walk through your home and count how many lightbulbs you have, but ask yourself how many you really need.
6. Clean your light bulbs regularly, as dirt limits diffusion of light and decreases illumination.
8. LED lights have no mercury content and no direct negative environmental impacts.
9. Use Induction Lamps, LED or solar powered lights for outdoor lighting because of their longer lifespan and higher-efficiency compared to equivalent conventional lamps.
1. Whether you are defrosting or making a cake, consider using your microwave oven instead of your main oven whenever possible, as this saves so much more energy.
2. To save time and energy, when you have to use your oven, cook more than one item at a time.
3. When buying pans, use flat-bottom pans for best contact with the heat, with tight-fitting lids to keep the heat in the pan.
4. You sometimes don’t need as much water in your cooking as you think. So try and use smaller amounts of water for cooking, this means it doesn’t take too long for the water to heat up or boil. Once the water boils, you can lower the heat.
5. Boil water in your kettle before putting it into the pot.
6. Preheat oven only 5 to 8 minutes when baking; do not preheat oven for broiling or roasting.
7. Self-cleaning ovens have thicker insulation and will retain heat, making these models more energy-efficient than regular ovens.
8. Pressure cookers use much less energy than ordinary pots and pans, so why not experiment with new recipes?
9. Use small cooking appliances (electric fry pans, toaster ovens, etc.) whenever possible.
1. Many of Dubai’s new developments use solar water heaters to generate hot water from the sun without using any electricity. Consider changing your electric one to solar.
2. Switch off the water heater during summer and water cooler during winter, this can save you up to 50 per cent on your water heating and cooling energy consumption. If you need hot water to bathe, switch it on 20 minutes before you shower, so that it’s not on all day.
3. The optimal lifetime of a water heater is 5 years. If yours is older, consider purchasing a new one with a high ESMA energy efficiency rating (5 or 4 stars) or one that is solar powered.
4. Try to take less baths and more showers.
5. Turn off the water when brushing your teeth or shaving and save more than 5 gallons per day.
6. Reuse the water used to wash vegetables to water houseplants or for cleaning.
7. If you wash dishes by hand, rinse them in a sink partially filled with clean water instead of under running water.
8. A full dishwasher is more water efficient than washing the same load by hand.
9. Wait till you have a full load of laundry before running the machine to save both water and energy. If you can't wait for a full load, use the right water level to match the size of the load.
10. Wash your clothes at 30-40C only. That will help keep your electricity bill in check.
1. Keep your refrigerator temperature at 4 degree Celsius.
2. Keep your freezer temperature at - 18 degree Celsius.
3. Defrost your freezer when ice or frost buildup is 1/4" or thicker.
4. Check your refrigerator/freezer door gasket periodically for signs of deterioration.
5. Vacuum or brush the cooling coils (in back) at least every six months.
6. Let hot food to cool down before placing in refrigerator.
Shopping sustainably: How to save money on your shopping:
Shopping is a major reason as to why the oceans are full of plastic and garbage landfills are piled up with our old clothes, electronics, plastic toys and more.
The cleverness of marketing and advertising has made many of us think that we need more things. More toys, clothes and gadgets, so that we can feel happy. But in reality, we need to ask ourselves if our upcoming shopping trip is more for necessity than desire. So how do we shop sustainably?
1. The number one step to shopping more sustainably, is to buy things second hand. Second hand furniture, accessories, clothes and cars makes a massive difference. Shopping second hand means that instead of the person throwing away their item, you can recycle it, by making it your own.
2. Keep a reusable tote bag in your car. Always have it with you, so you can reduce how much plastic you use in the shop.
3. Shop less, but when you do, shop better. Buy items that you know are going to last you for a longer time. Don’t get the cheap plastic kettle, when you can get a better quality metal one that will last years longer. Change your mind-set, and buy longer lasting pieces.
4. Stop buying bottles of water. Instead use your reusable cup over and over and over again. If you can get yourself a glass one, that’s even better.
5. Buy your food from farmers markets. These are locally produced and locally grown baskets that are fresher, taste better and help farmers here grow. The price is also basically the same as from a super market. Win-win. Just make sure you bring your own reusable bag.
How to live sustainably in general
1. Be mindful about what you choose to buy. An eco-friendly choice is always the best!
2. Do trash audits: Take time to evaluate what you send to the landfills. Send only wet waste, if you can compost it.
3. Recycling / Downsizing is Expensive for the planet: With the single use trash, try and reduce or stop buying over packaged products. Try and source them from a platform that uses eco-friendly packaging. SustainableBrandz.com is one platform which helps you Save Money & Time.
4. Be a part of a community clean up event to conserve and teach your child to be mindful.
5. Don’t shop for clothes if there are enough in your closet. If you bring a new piece into your closet, recycle old ones by gifting it to a friend or family member.
6. Switch from plastic bottle soaps and shampoo to bars
7. Buy a bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic one
8. Bake cakes instead of buying them from bakeries
9. Make your own party decorations without any balloons
10. Learn to make toys from Art bins which carry single use trash.
How to real people do it?
Gulf News spoke to a number of eco-warriors in the UAE and asked them what sustainability means to them and the answers were varied and interesting.
Renuka Krishnan is a posture-alignment and Sujok therapist, yoga coach, nutritionist and a wellness coach.
Sustainability is being mindful about nature. We are here on earth for a given period of time. We all have been exploiting natural resources on Earth to make our lives more comfortable. “It is time we work the other way around,” said Krishnan. “It is time to consider ourselves as guardians of nature, enjoy it, sustain it and hand it over to the next generation responsibly. Sustainability should be practiced as a way of life,” she said.
Krishnan said being sustainable does not come with a hefty price tag and can be easily incorporated and practiced in our day to day lives. It starts at home altering your lifestyle a little bit and working around things lying in the house. “I believe if anything is expensive, it’s beyond the purview of majority of the population. Hence sustainability has to be practical and inexpensive,” she said.
“Personally I have worked around things in my house to live sustainable. My family and I help make teabags for friends and those interested in saving the environment. Basically I turn old t-shirts into teabags or to use them as bags to store veggies and fruits in the refrigerator. Our family has a policy - ‘No bags, No shopping’ and we stick to it strongly. We carry our own glass containers for buying olives and hummus, use fountain pens rather than ball point pens as they have an external plastic element.”
Krishnan has installed a water ioniser at home, thereby avoiding water in plastic bottles. The family carries their own steel water bottles when they step out of the home.
“We have only one car at home and use metro or car-pooling as alternatives. As a family, we eat one cooked meal and the other two meals are raw. This saves a lot of time and ‘time is money’. We have moved from buying physical books to downloading them on a Kindle. This saves us space and the hassle of not worrying how to dispose them off once done with reading,” she said.
Gina Fernandes, 41, Art Director and UX specialist at Garrycooper Technologies and an Educator for the Environment at Sustainable Brandz, said: “Sustainability is to live a simple life that doesn’t harm the environment. It means understanding that we don’t own the planet, but it belongs to our children.
And no, being sustainable does not come with a hefty price tag at all,” she said. “We must refuse to accept any single use (non-biodegradable) products,” said Fernandes.
What is bio-degradable?
When you throw anything into the bin, the air, soil and water must not get contaminated or polluted, it should break down and become soil. And when it does not happen, these things fill up your landfill and do little for the benefit of the environment.
For example, when you buy a toothbrush, pick a bamboo toothbrush, these bio-degrade faster. Always carry a reusable bag in your purse, laptop bag, etc. and refuse a plastic bag. When you pick up groceries, carry a reusable sustainable bag to put your veggies and fruits in. If you want to refuse any plastic package and you like a brand, talk to me, I work with any brand to help them go plastic free. When you see garbage on the ground, pick it up and dispose them correctly.
My husband Swithun and sons Gareth and Cooper are with me in my environmental goals. Together we try and live a responsible life, one that goes a long way in saving the environment.
In the 22 years that my husband has lived in the UAE, he has never used the plastic bags from groceries. We do not buy water from plastic cans and have always kept a water filter. My sons Gareth, 9, and Cooper, 5, also have started becoming conscious of the waste generated in the house. The boys have also launched a program called Balloon Blow in Dubai two years ago to let everyone know how latex and aluminium foil balloons damage our planet. They took their project to their school. The boys also averted a balloon release overseas on a Cancer Dance Balloon Release by speaking to the organisers. I am proud of my children who are genuinely concerned about the planet.
Fernandes is also in good company. Her friends who she calls the ‘Spectacular 8’ collect cigarette butts every Friday from beaches across the UAE. Since the time we initiated this project, we have helped stop over two million cigarette butts from entering the ocean. It is indeed a massive achievement for us. On Saturday, we had a farewell beach clean-up for our friend Moustafa Ebraheim who has been working towards stopping cigarette butts from entering the ocean along with Dubai Municipality. He is our hero and we wish him the very best for all his endeavours. We collected over 19,000 cigarette butts and tons of single use plastic and micro plastic.
We have not spent anything extra to live sustainable. In fact we have managed to save money by Reusing.
According to American expat, Nila McCann, 35, “Sustain” means to keep going. “The way we’re living our lives right now, it will be hard for us to sustain. We are overusing natural resources and don’t know how to deal with the mess we have created environmentally. We are destroying our own habitat,” said McCann.
Sustainability does not come with a price tag at all. “In fact, when we consume irresponsibly, we end up discarding a lot of “disposable” items. When we use reusable utilities, we save on the cost of having to buy them again and reduce the environmental impact. It does require additional effort. However, I’m confident that reusable items will become more and more widely used as we become aware of our global impact. This shift will make living more sustainably also more convenient, thus reducing the time cost as well.
McCann claims she has been plastic free for nearly two years. She also has not purchased clothes for the last three years. “I use reusables whenever possible, like napkins, towels, cutlery, and even the shaving razor. I cook for myself rather that ordering delivery, which is a massive cost reduction as well as a lowered environmental impact. When I can’t find a plastic-free alternative, I make products myself, like kitchen and bathroom products, which is another cost effective solution. I never buy new clothes. Instead I purchase pre-loved items or do clothing swaps with friends.”
Hannah of Dive Arabia said “Ideally, sustainability means being able to live without leaving a lasting footprint, whether that pertains to carbon emissions, water usage, consumer products, or even eating habits. It is a big leap to make, so to me, sustainability means minimising my impact wherever possible. It involves being open to change, and understanding my choices and options as a consumer - research is crucial!
The nature of reusable products means they usually do have a higher initial investment cost, however because they can be used so many times, consistent usage will show saving over a longer period. Also, one has to consider that when we use cheap, unsustainable methods, the price is usually paid elsewhere by animals, humans in general, or the wider environment.
My biggest spend (and waste producer) is food, so I try to carry all the necessary equipment with me in the car in case I decide to shop, eat out, or grab a drink from a cafe. Buying local is another way to live sustainably and cut out expensive import fees. Again, investing in the beginning may seem more expensive, but over time reusing your products will help you to save in future. I swapped out my bathroom products to include only reusable/packaging-free/zero-plastic products! Even my partner has swapped out the majority of his bathroom throwaways (razors, plastic bottles, etc.) to tins, reusable metal containers, and solid shampoos/conditioners/moisturizers and more. I love the satisfaction of incorporating more environmentally friendly techniques into my normal routine; and starting small means you have plenty of those moments to look forward to!
Dive Against Debris
I am an avid SCUBA diver and instructor, and often see the results of casual pollution in the underwater world. For anyone who loves to blow bubbles in their spare time, I highly recommend looking into Project AWARE's Dive Against Debris campaign, and taking steps to collect debris on dives. Emirates Diving Association has an annual event - Clean Up Arabia which is excellent for those who want to join the movement.
Mariska Nell, a 32-year old artist and environmentalist said: “Currently, we are dumping one garbage truck of plastic in the oceans every single minute. That number is set to increase, and by 2050, we will have more plastic in the ocean than fish. This plastic has made its way into our food chain and is also the cause of many animal deaths when the animals mistake the plastic for food or get entangled in it.”
“Single-use plastic use is not sustainable. So for me, sustainability means to do my best every day to limit my impact and reduce the amount of waste I send to a landfill.”
“Sustainability does not have to cost you more. It is all about learning ways to go about your normal life introducing minor (or major) adjustments that are better for the environment as well as for you. Living a zero waste life is not about adding more to your life but learning to get on with less.
The limited waste resulting from the food prep I freeze and when I have enough I create yummy stocks to use in our meals. I try to purchase most of my food package-free by taking my own containers to the store, this has the added benefit of letting me purchase exactly the right amount. Bulk and unpackaged food are almost always less expensive than their packaged counter parts.
We have a wonderful take-out restaurant around the corner from our house and I often walk to the restaurant with my own containers to make sure I create no waste while grabbing take out. My containers are a little bigger than their standard take out containers and I have found that I mostly get a bit extra, it might also be because the team in the kitchen love it when I come round with my containers.
I am very proud that our household is almost zero waste, and we have no bin meaning nothing goes to landfill. I have now also started to offset my carbon footprint when I fly, by planting trees. These are just a few things I feel are personal achievements on my sustainability journey.
I love turning trash into treasure, it combines my passions (art, sustainability and the environment) and gives me great joy.”
British expat Vanessa Woodthorpe-Wright, founder of WomanSpace and a Womb Wisdom mentor said: “Sustainability is about shifting our mindset from “more is better” and that “I must have new.” Conscious buying means less waste and less waste will always mean less cost, in the long term. This is about moving from the idea that nature is there to be controlled and used to a respectful relationship where we honour all that ‘She’ is. This way we live in alignment with nature and we find alternative ways for our needs to be met. This way no one or the planet suffers.
In my efforts to create less waste I use reusable items whenever I can, and this saves me money. One of the biggest savings I have encountered on this journey is the use of cloth menstrual pads. And I now make and sell these here in Dubai, my company is called WomanSpace.
Imagine just one woman can use 17,000 disposable pads in her lifetime, and this is not including the daily panty liners she may use and these pads will take between 500-800 years to biodegrade. And then think about all the other women doing the same...and then think of all that money wasted!
My motto is “let’s do this one pad at a time.” And this is key. The idea of saving the planet is overwhelmingly huge, and what’s more it is not about saving Her, She will be fine, it is us who needs saving from the damage we have done and continue to do.
Each disposable pad has single use plastic in them, so just imagine the damage it is doing to the environment – whether it ends up in landfills or in the ocean.
“We have been led to believe that we need to keep buying disposable pads and throwing them away to be clean and hygienic. There is an initial cost involved to buy a set of good cloth pads that you can trust and that will last. Remember this is about buying what you need and what works and not about buying anymore rubbish. You and the planet does not deserve anymore rubbish. I have no idea how much the disposables cost these days...haven’t bought any for years.”