Keep it clean, keep it green

An Italian expatriate writer and publisher is bringing out a new guidebook, called CleanUAE, which looks at organic agriculture and the water-saving potential of vegetarianism.

Dubai, 2nd february 2011.  Lisa Durante the publisher of Clean UAE book, which will be launch tomorrow, held at The Desert Palm Resort and Hotel.  (Jeffrey E Biteng / The National)
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DUBAI // An Italian expatriate is hoping to inspire us all to live and work more sustainably.With high-impact lifestyles and rapid development, the UAE has a long way to go, says Lisa Durante.But the good news is, the nation has the means and opportunity to do so.

Ms Durante, who spent a decade working as a development journalist in India before moving to Dubai, is publishing a book CleanUAE.

She is the managing group editor for the book's publishers, GVP Media, a company known for its "best of" annual book series, which started with Dubai guidebooks and spread to Belgium, Singapore, South Africa and Australia.

The company plans to update CleanUAE on an annual basis and expand to the region, with Bahrain and Saudi Arabia the initial targets. The book, which was showcased to the press yesterday in Dubai, covers a variety of topics including organic agriculture and the water-saving potential of vegetarianism.

It lists ways to reduce waste and trim individual carbon footprints and highlights companies that offer responsible products and services or have implemented their own sustainability programmes.

"The book does not aim to be an in-depth scientific compendium on sustainability, we will leave this to the experts … but rather something that people can pick up and have a sprinkling of inspiration," said Ms Durante. "I got the idea by looking at the kinds of key messages in the West, where … consumer choices are made based on the sustainability criteria applied by companies."

The biggest hurdle was finding reliable, objective information on individual companies: those that ended up being included in it became a "coalition of the willing".

"In terms of doing the research, it has been a big challenge," she said. "I invited companies to participate and tell me their stories. Many have and many have not."

Ensuring greater transparency - both from companies and the Government - is a key factor to starting meaningful dialogue on sustainability and incorporating it in people's lives," she said.

The UAE has "got the highest tower and the biggest shopping mall," she says. "Let us start building our infrastructure in a sustainable way."

While environmental performance - reducing pollution and waste and protecting habitats - is a key focus of sustainability, social and economic considerations matter too.

"It is just as important to look after people, it is just as important to have good labour laws," she said.

At the official book launch tonight, which comes the day before the UAE National Environment Day, a high -profile US politician best known for her work on human rights and peace activism, will be addressing guests.

Cynthia McKinney was the Green Party presidential candidate in the 2008 elections. Speaking in advance of tonight's launch, she said that control of precious resources can often motivate state policy in a way that violates basic principles of human rights - even in western democracies such as the US.

"My personal self-definition would involve the struggle to have the promotion and protection of human rights at the centre of US policy," she added.

"In the past, it might have been difficult [to rally people around such issues] because things were going very well. As long as you would put cheap gas in the car or there was employment for almost everybody, there was little incentives to question. Today, things are greatly changing.

"The winners and losers are becoming more clearly evident and the vast majority of the people are losers, and Mother Nature is a loser, too," said Ms McKinney.

Not facing the significant financial constraints experienced by other countries, the UAE can make quick steps towards a sustainable future, she said.

"They have the means, they have the opportunity, all they need is the motive," she said. "Perhaps the UAE can show the US a thing or two about how to live sustainably."