It's not easy being green … but it's doable

A range of Abu Dhabi and Dubai residents, some with "green" credentials talk about environmentally friendly things they do at home and at work – and admit to some of their "guilty" green secrets.

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Christine Stewart, Newsreader, Radio 2

Old habits die hard, and I grew up in a household where waste was always a dirty word. Mum bottled, pickled or froze excess food grown by my organic-gardening dad. Nothing escaped. Yesterday's loaf became tomorrow's bread-and-butter pudding and anything deemed beyond saving was composted. We walked or used public transport until a car was considered an efficient idea and then we had one with the lowest fuel consumption. Our first microwave was bought to save energy, not time. Back then my parents were labelled eccentric; now they would be celebrated eco-warriors. My main battle is with packaging, so I buy items wrapped in the least cardboard or plastic. And I recycle. I can be a bit obsessive; I don't leave the WiFi on if I'm not using it and I'm constantly closing doors on public buildings to stop the chilled air escaping. But as I'm scared of the dark, I leave a light on - a habit I really should tackle at the age of 48!

Ghada Kunash, Architect and managing director of Vindemia art and antiques gallery, Jumeirah Beach Residence, Dubai

Ever since I can remember I was attracted to vintage and antique objects. I collected anything any member of my family didn't want any more. "Re-use, recycle" was not only a motto but a way of life. I used jewellery from my great aunt, I carried handbags that belonged to my grandmother, I collected tin boxes in which I kept all my knick-knacks. Now my antiques gallery supports a campaign that proclaims "Antiques are green - invest in the future, recycle the past". Antiques not only provide a unique individual style but also enable us to help the environment through "glamorous recycling". Buying antiques reduces landfill, reduces carbon emissions and consumption of new goods from abroad and preserves our heritage for future generations.

Chandan Mehta, Marketing director, Middle East, Fujitsu Techology Solutions

In Fujitsu's Middle East office, besides conserving resources such as paper, etc, we have an energy-efficient computing environment. More importantly, we have an automated and online workflow for most processes, and we encourage and promote the use of tools such as tele- and video-conferencing, which make for significant savings in terms of travel and time. For the same reason, through technology, we enable our employees to work from home. None of us is perfect, however. For example, I tend to turn off home appliances such as the television with the remote rather than making the effort to switch off the power at the wall. I am working on this bad habit.

Suhail Jashanmal, Artist and founder of the GreenAbu Dhabi project, which uses art to raise ecological awareness

My tip is simply to put trash in the bin instead of throwing it outside. If everyone did this, the amount of time and effort saved for the city would be tremendous. You don't even have to recycle it. My green guilty secret? Not turning off electrical appliances such as the TV. If it isn't turned off at the switch, it isn't really turned off.

Rima Jabado, Lead scientist, UAE Shark Research Project, Marine Biology Laboratory, UAE University

I try to do what I can, but it's never enough; I use energy-efficient bulbs around the house and I'm a vegetarian. I don't eat fish. When I was young I would feel bad for the fish, but now that I have a better understanding of what's going on with fisheries and the marine environment I am very happy I took that decision. Food miles is a concern. Almost everything is imported and often we don't know if it is from a sustainable resource. I would like to see the Government take a more active role. In supermarkets there has been a move to reduce the use of plastic bags, and that is a good start, but there is definitely still a lot lacking.

Ed Atkinson, Chief executive, AIP Renewable Energy FZ, in Abu Dhabi

My tip for a greener world would be for a greater emphasis on energy from waste. Waste is produced in greater quantities than ever as populations grow and cities become sprawls. This in turn means a greater demand for power, which can be fed by diverting waste from landfill to produce electricity. This can be a more consistent source of power than wind or solar, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. My guilty green secret is constant use of my car. I should cycle more or walk, but I drive every day, everywhere.

Clíodhna Fullam, Audience development manager, Abu Dhabi Film Festival

I am surprised at how quickly printing on both sides of the page has become one of my norms, aside, that is, from the occasional glitch when paper in one of the printer trays is on its second life and the reverse side of my document becomes a strange mix of two, now both illegible, documents. It's all part of the learning as enthusiastic colleagues and I do our bit for our environment. I am old school: I like to have paper files at work - a fact that I have justified to date because recycling is a fundamental part of my behaviour at home. A paperless office eludes me for now, but I'll get there eventually.

Greg White, Vice president (finance), Bee'ah, the Sharjah environment company

This Earth Day I am pledging to be more sarcastic. If I see somebody litter on the ground, I'll say: "If it wasn't for people like you, all those sanitation workers would be out of a job. Thank you, good sir!" Or to a Hummer owner: "I see you are waging war on the environment and good taste. Fight the good fight, comrade!" In the end, I'll probably do none of these things lest a more annoying environmentalist calls me out on my Nespresso machine: "Hey, Juan Valdez, I'm glad a great cup of coffee is worth all that aluminium smelting!" To which I might retort: "They've got a recycling programme in Switzerland," without spilling a drop of my evil beverage but feeling as guilty as ever. Then I'd go out and pick up other people's litter just to make myself feel better about the Nespresso machine, because you know I'm not giving that up. Maybe sarcasm will save the planet after all.

Tamara Withers, Corporate sustainablility officer, Emirates Wildlife Society-WWF

We can opt for eating more sustainable food. Overfishing is putting increasing strain on many popular types of fish, especially hamour, which was introduced to me as one of the best-tasting fish in the UAE, and I have a weak spot for fish! Ever since, armed with the Choose Wisely Consumer Guide and the Sustainable Fish Recipes Cookbook, I've stopped eating any fish that's on the red and orange lists. I've also turned my passion for cooking towards creating more sustainable fish dishes. Log on to and let me know what you think of my baked shaari eskheli (pink ear emperor).

Ian Connolly, Senior vice president, facilities management, Atlantis, The Palm

Before writing this, I did a Return on Investment calculation on replacing the 20 50-watt downlighters in the boardroom at Atlantis, The Palm with 3-watt LEDs. It's the equivalent lifetime savings of Dh600 a year, to build on the success of the 35 per cent saving of water consumption achieved at Atlantis by installing water restrictors and 15 per cent in irrigation savings made by altering the timings and durations on the automatic sprinklers. Then I stumbled across an article in The Times: two searches on Google release the same amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as boiling a kettle. I had been on the thing for an hour … so I turned it off and made myself a coffee (French press - more energy efficient).

Andrew Bean, Management consultant; excursion secretary, Emirates Natural History Group

At home we recycle, use organic cleaning products and recycled toilet paper and think about whether we can walk to places and whether we really need to take the car. At night, all the lights are left on in office buildings. Just turning them off during Earth Hour is not enough. I think it would help to raise people's green consciousness if they got out more into the natural environment. Our group has lectures twice a month and field trips every month during the cooler weather into the desert, out to the coast or up into the mountains, focused on understanding the environment and enjoying the sheer natural beauty of it; 5,000 years ago there was a very different climate here, with far more trees and grassland; it was a victim of a natural drying cycle to which man probably contributed.

Nils El Accad, Chief executive officer, Organic Foods & Cafe

Reuse whatever you can, especially bags. Use recycled paper bags, but cotton is better. Keep the light on only in the room you are in; this is so easy, yet so many have lights on all over the house. What for? Go for a walk; don't watch TV. Plant some vegetables and watch them grow to respect what it takes - and then eat them. Don't go on that trip if it's not really necessary. Use toilet paper made from recycled paper. The difference is huge. Most importantly, vote with your money - every time you buy anything, you vote for resources being driven in one direction or another. Vote organic, vote sustainable, vote recycled, vote low energy.

Tõnu Altosaar, Senior partner and managing director, Middle East B+H Architects

Reusing existing buildings - as opposed to scrapping them and building new - helps to retain classical architecture and remind us that what's old can still be beautiful and useful. B+H Architects is working on the retrofit of a five-tower office complex in Toronto that originally opened in 1967. We are renovating the whole complex aesthetically to maintain the Mies van der Rohe design and to bring it technologically into the 21st century. The first tower was completed this year and I'm proud to say it was the first building to receive LEED Gold Certification in the Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance category, by the Canada Green Building Council. I'm hoping this trend of embracing the value of older assets continues.

Patrick Rogers, Lawyer for Jones Day

I am from Vancouver, one of the healthiest and most environmentally conscious cities in the world. In Canada, the importance of recycling is drilled into the minds of citizens from a young age. For most of my life, I have been an active recycler. Unfortunately, this positive habit changed in 2008 after my wife and I moved to Dubai. Unlike in Canada, the UAE has yet to establish a comprehensive recycling framework that makes it easy for residents to recycle. Like many others in Dubai, I would happily recycle the goods I use as opposed to sending them off to a landfill - so long as it did not require a drive to the recycling depot! I plan on educating myself with regard to recycling options available to me in Dubai to engender better recycling habits and allow me to get back in line with my environmentally conscious roots.

Anu Agarwal, Founder and owner, Ekotribe, green products supplier

I use reusable bags for all my grocery shopping. You'll never catch me without my Envirosax. I stopped using plastic bags a few years back. Reducing plastic bags is the easiest way to go green. I always keep a few bags in my car and have them handy whenever I need to use them. I also use a solar mobile charger to power up my iPhone and iPod. However, I admit I drive an SUV and feel terribly guilty. I justify it by the fact that my 16-year-old son is 6ft 3in tall and he couldn't fit into anything smaller.