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5 Women on Sustainable Living in the UAE

Their everyday tips are surprisingly easy.

As climate change rapidly accelerates and our planet pays the price, the onus is on us to breathe life back into our environment. Several governments, companies, and other organisations have pledged to work towards building a greener future. But what can the average person do? Here, we tap five UAE-based women for their everyday tips when it comes to living sustainably.

Charlene Nawar

Why is being sustainable important to you?

Sustainable living meant so much to me that I gave up my job as a lawyer to pursue a new career in sustainability in order to make a difference. Our current consumption habits are depleting the planet’s finite resources, and we are constantly living in ecological overshoot. But it is also about my family and the future generations – they will be the ones who really have to deal with the impact of climate change. That’s why, even though I know that I cannot make enough of a difference alone, I hope to inspire and encourage more people to make a few positive changes in order to have a big impact!

What one sustainability tip do you use to ‘do better, be better’ in your everyday life? 

I compost all my food scraps and use this compost for my garden. I started with the Bokashi composting method, which seemed quite easy to begin with. You put all your food scraps in an airtight bucket under your sink and all you must later do is dig a hole and bury the compost.

Where did you get the idea and how long have you been doing it?

I’ve been composting my food waste for approximately three years now. It all started when I looked at my trash bin and realised that food waste was a large part of it – and I don’t mean actual wasted food, but food scraps from fruit, vegetable peels etc. I had heard a lot about composting, but was afraid to try it as it sounded quite overwhelming. I also wasn’t ready for bugs or mice. But after learning about the Bokashi method, I decided to give it a try. I ended up making quite a few mistakes along the way, but I’ve never looked back since then!

Is there anything else you do to lead a more sustainable lifestyle?

Yes! There are so many small changes that I have managed to incorporate into my lifestyle. In fact, they now come naturally and don’t feel like big changes anymore. This includes taking my own reusable bags for shopping and fresh produce bags when grocery shopping, and always carrying a reusable bottle with water from my water filter at home to avoid buying plastic bottles when I am out.

Learn more about Charlene Nawar at @theunwrappedco.

Jude Al Qubaisi

Why is being sustainable important to you?

Sustainability is not a choice. If anything, I believe that all humans are naturally sustainable. The issue is the disconnect that many people experience when it comes to sustainability in the UAE – consumerism along with a convenience culture that is extremely wasteful has taken over. As an Arab, I believe that we are naturally collectivists, and we had to be sustainable once upon a time. But today, we can afford to not live sustainably because of the nature of the existing framework. I live a three-minute walk from a mall and, to this day, my friends are shocked when I suggest walking because they can afford gas. Sustainability is the natural way of things, and it’s us who can make a choice to live sustainably or take a more convenient approach.

What one sustainability tip do you use to ‘do better, be better’ in your everyday life? 

I collect candle wax to use from old candles whose wick has died out. All you need to do is take an old candle, put it into a glass bowl over hot water on a stove, and wait for the wax to melt. Once it’s melted, you can scoop it out and store it in recycled empty bottles – I usually use an old cheese spread or ketchup glass container – and add in a wick. They cost about AED 0.50 each. 

Where did you get the idea and how long have you been doing it?

I have a lot of candles at home, and I mostly use scented ones to keep my room smelling nice. But scented candles are expensive and, at some point, the wick would just give out and you’d have a lot of wax left. Eventually, I started collecting it, and then, one day, I noticed my mother’s empty glass jar collection. So, a few months ago I went to a craft store, bought some wick rope, and started experimenting. I was influenced by watching soap-making and candle-making videos. I mean, if you can melt wax pellets, why not leftover wax?

Is there anything else you do to lead a more sustainable lifestyle?

I recently started a thrift store that aims to recycle and repurpose items to counteract consumerism in the UAE. I sell the candles that I make to fund the store, and I keep costs low by painting on select thrifted clothes and pricing them a bit higher.

Learn more about Jude Al Qubaisi at @jude.queue.

Haani Abdul Qayoom

Why is being sustainable important to you?

With every lifestyle change that I make to be more sustainable comes a little effort, to begin with, but it has the best long-term effects. It saves money, it’s healthier, and it’s rewarding. From a wider perspective, it saves resources. These are a few benefits among others. Trying to live sustainably is the only logical way of life, according to me.

What one sustainability tip do you use to ‘do better, be better’ in your everyday life? 

I collect all the wastewater from the kitchen and the air conditioning to water my plants after filtration.

Where did you get the idea and how long have you been doing it?

The idea actually came from my dad! I got inspired by watching him do it, and I’ve now been doing it for as long as I can remember. 

Is there anything else you do to lead a more sustainable lifestyle?

One way in which I’m trying to be more sustainable includes raising my cats more sustainably. I have three cats and I’m trying to switch their cat products to more sustainable options, such as switching to home food instead of wet food. One of my cats loves home-cooked food, so all the protein that’s leftover on my plate goes to him! I’m also trying to switch to sustainable tofu litter for all three of them.

Learn more about Haani Abdul Qayoom at @wasteduae.

Beenish Khan

Why is being sustainable important to you?

Sustainability is important to me because we are now approaching a dead end while accelerating at full speed. If we were hypothetically sitting in a speeding car like that, would it be possible to ignore it? Our future is going to be deadly, and that’s why I believe we must act now to slow down.

What one sustainability tip do you use to ‘do better, be better’ in your everyday life? 

Water conservation is very important to me – that’s why I don’t wash all my clothes very frequently. You do not need to put your clothes in the washing machine after wearing them just once. You can re-wear them three to four times unless there’s a stain or you were sweating. Denim is one type of clothing that I believe can be worn the most without washing regularly, depending on your usage. I have even been able to make it last a whole month! 

Where did you get the idea and how long have you been doing it?

I learned about water conservation in my childhood from my parents who taught me that wasting water was a sin. My mom used to tell me which clothes needed to be washed and which could be worn again, depending on various factors when doing her laundry. I’ve been using this hack most of my life, initially for ethical reasons such as how wasting resources can deprive someone else and now also keeping sustainability in mind.

Is there anything else you do to lead a more sustainable lifestyle?

Yes! I have installed water-efficient taps to save water and painted my home in light tones so that the sunlight reflects off it and brightens the room – that way, I don’t need to turn on the lights during the day. I also try not to follow fashion trends and stick to my own aesthetic.

Learn more about Beenish Khan at @thesustainablefemme.

Samira V. Banat

Why is being sustainable important to you?

Most of us are familiar with the brooding effects of climate change and may have personally experienced them. When I was younger, I knew that I had to start making a difference in my lifestyle. When you’re learning about who you are and figuring out how to become a better person, you may start to understand that sustainability, kindness, and an overall better standard of life are intertwined. This was the case for me. I spent most of my teenage years following a vegetarian diet, implementing vegan practices, and even founded an environmental club at my high school. As someone who strongly wishes to become a mother one day, I feel obliged to educate others, spread awareness, and improve the environmental and ethical conditions in which we live. Otherwise, verdant jungles, golden dunes, and azure waters filled with the most extraordinary life will just be tales of the past.

What one sustainability tip do you use to ‘do better, be better’ in your everyday life? 

A tip that’s simple yet effective is opting out of printing everything, whether it be documents, your bills, or receipts. If you’re using an ATM, choose the ‘Green’ or ‘Eco’ option and don’t print a receipt. If you need to keep a record of something – even a receipt – take a picture. It may require more time and effort, but writing things down works as well. And if you find yourself with a collection of receipts and other printed documents that you don’t necessarily need, give them away for recycling. 

Where did you get the idea and how long have you been doing it?

I’ve been choosing the ‘Eco’ option at ATMs for two years since I got my bank account at 18. However, I would always encourage my parents and friends to do it even before that, especially considering bank statements are sent via text to your phone anyway. I don’t recall exactly when this started, but the idea stemmed from simply seeing the eco-friendly, no-print option on the UAE’s ATM machines when I was younger. As for all the other printing-related habits I picked up, it was just a part of the natural process. I became more conscious of my paper usage and learned to acknowledge that certain areas of my actions required some work – and so I put in the work.

Is there anything else you do to lead a more sustainable lifestyle?

I always make sure to choose my mode of transport wisely. Of course, this depends on where you live, access to sidewalks and public transport, as well as how well it suits your lifestyle. However, I believe walking to wherever you need to go is the best thing you can do to lessen your carbon footprint. Plus, it’s highly beneficial for your physical and mental health. 

Learn more about Samira V. Banat at @samiraavb.

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