The instant expert: a big green machine?

Float through any social event with M's fast facts. This week Rick Arthur looks at the vast enterprise that is Ikea and its 'green' efforts.

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THE BASICS, PART ONE Unless you've been living in a cave (which you could kit out rather affordably and attractively, by the way), you know that Ikea designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture and home accessories. It is the largest furniture retailer on Planet Earth - and no doubt the largest consumer of birch, spruce and pine. Critics lambaste it as a landfill-waste generator because of its huge volume of products that don't last. Ikea also is a prodigious emitter of CO2.

THE BASICS, PART TWO Ikea is an acronym for Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd. It was founded in 1943 by Ingvar Kamprad. Elmtaryd is the farm where he grew up and Agunnaryd is his home parish in Småland, southern Sweden. It has more than 300 stores in almost 40 countries.

HOW IT WORKS, PART ONE Ikea's shelves, tables, chairs, desks, lamps and so on, sold unassembled, are packed flat in boxes and can fit into your SUV - and even, mostly, in a taxi. ("We don't ship air," the company trumpets.) Unless you spend enough in one trip to qualify for free delivery and assembly - Dh2,500 - or decide to pay for such, you'll tote your goods off and put them together yourself.

HOW IT WORKS, PART TWO Arrive home. Lug in your stuff. Uncrate it. Test your IQ on the instructions, which have been translated from Swedish to Sanskrit, and their diagrams, which have been drawn by MC Escher. Fumble around with tiny L-shaped tools. Throw up your arms. Find the maintenance guy and grease his palm with several dirhams to effortlessly succeed where you have miserably failed.

THE LITTLE MATCH BOY As a boy Kamprad is said to have bought matches in bulk and sold them individually to neighbours from his bicycle. When he was 17, his father gave him a cash reward for his good marks and he used the money to establish what has grown into Ikea. A Swiss resident since 1976, he is, says Forbes magazine, the 162nd richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of about US$6 billion (Dh22billion) in 2011.

GREEN LIGHT The "People & the Environment" section on Ikea's website totals 32 pages and details its sustainability initiatives. Its Wikipedia page notes that the company "is keen to show leadership in adopting more environmentally friendly manufacturing processes", a claim that prompts editors to acerbically add: "dubious - discuss". Ikea partners with Greenpeace and the World Wide Fund for Nature. The company concedes "that we are sometimes part of the problem", and adds: "But we work hard to be part of the solution".

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE Ikea ditched using plastic bags. It is investing millions of dollars in clean technology. More than 70 per cent of all its products are recyclable, made from recycled materials or both. It recycles more than 80 per cent of the waste its stores generate. When a country adopts tougher emissions rules, Ikea imposes the limits globally.

THE DISSENTING OPINION Three examples: Ikea sells paper lampshades that have to be replaced every few years because they cannot be cleaned, so you just toss them. And critics say the chain epitomises the Jevons paradox, which states that the more efficient energy is, the more people use it. Thus, compact fluorescent light bulbs use about 75 per cent less energy than standard bulbs and last up to 10 times longer, but when you fill your house with Ikea lamps that require multiples of them, you're defeating the purpose. Lastly, think how many of those catalogues are tossed into the rubbish every year.

Ikea on Yas Island by the numbers

Ikea opened on Yas Island on March 15, the day after the company shut its Marina Mall outlet. The new store is the biggest in the Mena region.

33,000 square metres of total floor space

18,100 sq m of sales area

6,150 sq m of showroom furniture space

6,000 sq m of home accessories space

2,100 sq m of restaurant space

1,355 parking spots

445 restaurant seats

300 employees

58 room sets

35 aisles

26 cash tills

5 the cost of a shawarma, in dirhams

4 the cost of a hot dog and a soft drink, in dirhams

1 the cost of an ice cream cone, in dirhams