Dubai: A British humanitarian is encouraging people across the UAE to be more mindful of living a sustainable lifestyle. Anthea Ayache’s passion for limiting her carbon footprint sees her actively living an eco-friendly lifestyle and hopes others will follow suit.
Her day typically begins with an espresso, usually from a roastery in Al Quoz that sources fair-trade coffee, before heading to work, to which she wears only sustainable clothing - fast fashion is a big no-go for the environmentalist whose wardrobe contains some items that are 10 years old.
Her work bag is made from recycled bottles, which contains a reusable water bottle, as she refuses to buy water in a plastic one. At home, Ayache has filled her house with only natural fabrics, including local UAE sustainable bedding. Her skincare routine involves only products that are vegan and cruelty-free, and she also makes the most her make-up by adding drops of saline eye drops to otherwise-dry mascara, making it last longer.
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Ayache shops locally as much as possible at farmer markets for fresh local produce and if that’s not always possible she opts for local produce from supermarkets. Her bathroom doesn’t contain any products loaded with chemicals and instead she uses eco-friendly shampoos, toothpaste and a bamboo toothbrush. She insists that everyone can live more sustainably just by being more mindful.
“You don’t have to turn your world upside down to make a difference,” she tells Gulf News.
“Nearly every facet of our lifestyle, from our dependence on fossil fuels to overfishing, unsustainable meat and dairy consumption, and the fast fashion frenzy, screams unsustainability. While learning about our environmental impact can be terrifying, I try to empower rather than dishearten. My mission is to shed light on these issues, offering hopeful solutions that inspire positive change in people’s lives.”
She makes a conscious effort to live sustainably by making mindful choices in her daily habits to minimise her impact on the environment. Along with natural fabric at home, she also has water filters fitted to prevent the use of big plastic water bottles, which can take hundreds of years to biodegrade. Ayache’s food waste is drastically reduced by composting, which she gives away to the “surprising amount of people always wanting compost”. Any other food or household waste is collected and re-used via a recycling scheme she’s subscribed to.
In the UAE, environmental efforts are being ramped up by implementing bans on single-use plastic across the country. Recently, the ban on single-use plastic bags, which is part of a larger initiative to completely phase out single-use plastic products, came into effect. In mid-2024 other items will also be banned and this time next year further products including plastic stirrers, cups, straws and cotton swabs will also be unavailable. From January 2026 more plastic items, such as plates, cutlery, containers and boxes will be banned as the UAE looks to protect the environment from plastic pollution, something which is being welcomed by Ayache.
“We produce 400 million tonnes of plastic every year, most of which is single-use and discarded after being used once so any bans like this is a step in the right direction,” she explains.
“There is so much happening in the UAE in terms of sustainability – the Net Zero by 2050 initiative for example and the Green Agenda 2030 - which is incredibly exciting to see.”
Ayache hopes that on the back of the single-use plastic bans will come an even bigger change in the long term. “I think we need to see a real transition towards a renewable energy landscape and a reduced dependence on fossil fuels. While recycling is really just a bandage on a wound, I’d like to see more circular economy principles, emphasising recycling, reusing, and reducing waste. This would include comprehensive recycling programs and policies encouraging more sustainable consumption patterns.”
Ayache believes that with the UAE government getting on board with increasing the nation’s sustainable practices, along with naming 2023 as the Year of Sustainability - which has now been extended to 2024 - and being the host nation of COP28 (which was held in December 2023), the country has been galvanised. “Suddenly all sorts of companies and brands are thinking about ways they and their businesses could be more accountable.”