Seeking Sustainable In Dubai

Seeking Sustainable In Dubai

In a city boasting the world’s tallest skyscrapers and motion theme parks, I was quite pessimistic about finding anything sustainable in Dubai. I will be the first to admit I was pleasantly surprised. The city is slowly embracing sustainability, you just have to dig much deeper.

I’ve been meaning to write this blog for some time now.  When everyday life chores come in the way as soon as you return from your holiday, it becomes almost impossible to remember what happened while on holiday.  In my case, a family trip to Dubai. Whilst I’m not a travel blogger, I’ve decided to mix up my blogs and occasionally write about some of our family travels.

For the trip to Dubai I really wanted to stay in an Eco-friendly hotel.  Turns out, they are beyond my budget.  One of my annoyances with Eco-friendly holidays is the cost. For some reason, hotels, travel agents and family blog sites assume that only the ‘rich’ think sustainably.  While researching for hotels for our trip, I came across some magnificent hotels, but the prices were alarmingly unaffordable. More than £1000 per night unaffordable. That’s just to stay the night and did not include flights, food and transport.  So this got me thinking. If I can’t afford an eco-friendly family holiday, I can certainly add elements of it to my otherwise non eco-friendly trip.

As mentioned in my first paragraph, Dubai is a city that pleasantly surprised me.  It is a city looking far ahead into the future.  For those seeking sustainability, you will find it, you just have to dig much deeper.

Let’s start with the hotel itself.  Having worked hard all year long, I was seeking a bit of luxury.  Holidays are the one time I get to relax and be pampered.  It’s the only time when I’m not worrying about work, cooking, laundry, packed lunches or school runs.  So when I decided that there was no way I could afford the eco-friendly hotels, I started to gaze lower into the more affordable range of hotels. That’s when I found Jumeriah Zabeel Saray, a hotel set within The Palm and within my budget.

 

 

The hotel gave me the luxury that I was looking for and a bit extra at a third of the price of an eco-friendly hotel.  In 2014, the hotel was awarded the Green Globe certification for its positive impact on sustainable tourism.

 

 

Amongst various initiatives, the hotel has concentrated largely on water and energy conservation, areas that are of high cost and consumption for any hotel. As I looked down from the hotel room balcony, I also noticed the roof tops boast an array of foliage which in turn is resulting in a niche ecosystem.

A project that really excited me is the turtle rehabilitation centre, run collectively by the Jumeirah group of hotels.  The centre is open to visitors staying in their hotels.  Visitors can witness the release of turtles back into the sea at particulars times of the year. This should have been the highlight of our trip as the kids were really looking forward to visiting the rehab centre.  Due to this year’s extreme global temperatures also affecting the sea temperature, the centre was unable to release any turtles during our stay.  Needless to say we were a bit disappointed, but it’s completely understandable.  This is definitely on my list for the next time we visit Dubai.

The hotel has made efforts in waste management by placing recyclable bins in ‘back of houses’ my only disappointed was to see single use plastic bottles. As part of their commitment to sustainability, I wish that they had moved away from these bottles to long lasting, refillable bottles instead.

 

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The hotel offers a free shuttle service to some of its other hotels, Wild Wadi Water Park and the Mall of Emirates, which was ideal. We were staying at the Zabeel Saray on a half board basis, so the food court at the mall was our second kitchen on most days.  This was our non eco-friendly part of the trip, but I’m not complaining.  The variety and food options were superb.

 

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Whilst on a visit to the Mall of Emirates, we came across a supermarket, Carrefour. I was pleasantly surprised when we came to the organic food aisle. Now this is something I wasn’t expecting. They had a much wider range of organic food available at this local supermarket than I’ve seen in the UK. It ranged from dried foods, to chilled and frozen. Needless to say, I had to pick up some goodies to bring home. So if you’re someone who is looking for organic foods whilst on holiday, check out Carrefour.

 

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As we were travelling with kids, we decided go for a slow paced desert safari trip rather that the dune bashing trip that is popular amongst families with teens. Putting my sustainability hat on, I booked the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve trip.  We booked via Desert Adventures.  The trip starts in the early hours of the morning. You are collected from your hotel by 6am and then dropped back to the hotel after a small picnic lunch. Don’t expect to see an array of ferocious wildlife as you might expect from an African Safari. The reserve is still in its infancy. You will however, get to see animals, birds and plants local to desert environments.

 

 

Whilst driving across the desert you start to realise that the reserve’s conservation efforts are starting to pay off.  There is an abundance of local flora and fauna. We also came across rows of date palms, a man-made lake and solar panel farms.

 

 

The one thing I absolutely loved about the desert is the peace and tranquility surrounding it.  As our vehicle slowly drove across the sand dunes, I felt like I was part of a movie set. The trip made me wonder if this is how Dubai looked like before the introduction of skyscrapers.

 

 

So all in all, the trip was a success.  Whilst we didn’t get a full eco-friendly experience, we certainly added elements to our trip to make it greener.

GOAL 1: NO POVERTY, UN’s SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS, HOW DO YOU FIT IN?

GOAL 1: NO POVERTY, UN’s SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS, HOW DO YOU FIT IN?

If you think that eradicating poverty is an impossible mission, think again. According to UNDP’s statistics, the number of people living in extreme poverty dropped from 1.9 billion to 836 million between 1990 and 2015. That’s over half being raised from the poverty line. Why? Because the plight of those living in extreme poverty came to light thanks to social media. This in turn has led to governments, businesses, organisations and NGOs all working collectively to tackle the problem. Unfortunately, there are millions still living in poverty. We wouldn’t want to live in dire conditions, so why should we turn a blind eye to those who are? The world is rapidly changing, so for a business to thrive in the future it will have to start thinking more consciously and make a shift to sustainable business management very quickly.

Whilst large organisations should play a bigger role in eradicating poverty, there are initiatives small businesses can take to help achieve this goal. Lately, we have heard a lot about workers’ plight in developing countries. Strangely enough, as I was writing this blog, I came across a recent news article regarding workers conditions in factories producing toys for Walmart, Target and Costco etc. These businesses now have a lot of explaining to do.

So how can your small business get involved? Everyone has a different idea of how to eradicate poverty and the problems related to it. The journey starts with fair and equal pay. Most low paid workers will more than likely reside in countries where there is no such thing as free healthcare or free education. These are privileges that we have living in the West. So when employees are deprived of fair wages, it’s their families that suffer. They will struggle to feed their families, pay rent, educate their children, fulfil simple medicinal needs and even provide access to basic sanitary facilities. People, especially, children in such environments, are more likely to be exploited and continue to live in the cycle of poverty.

Globally, the best thing your business can do is to ensure that your supply chain is ethical. Workers producing goods for your business are paid fairly and in accordance with employment regulations. Ask your suppliers for copies of supply chain audits and/or certifications. Partner up with other businesses, consortiums and supply chain forums for better negotiating powers. Join an organisation which can carry out audits on behalf of its members. If you are in a position where you can visit the factory, do so, carry out an audit yourself.

Consider teaming up with a local charity to assist the community in accessing basic necessities. I recently came across a twitter account, @AmikaGeorge, for a campaign started by a ‘teenager campaigning for free menstrual products for schoolgirls from low-income families.’ Whether it’s access to basic needs such as sanitary, medicinal or raising literacy levels, there must be several local campaigns and charities that your business could positively contribute towards.

At home, the same initiatives apply, pay your employees fairly, in accordance with employment regulations. Consider making allowances in your budgets to pay the living wage allowance and close the gender pay gap. Women tend to be at a disadvantage when it comes to less pay in most countries, developed and less developed, a fact that has been highlighted time and time again in the media.

Do you allow flexible working hours? Staff pay hundreds of pounds every month for childcare or homecare for unwell family members. Flexible working hours enables staff to spend less on care, and more on their family’s needs. From a personal experience, a member of staff who does not have to worry about childcare provisions, for example, will be more diligent and responsible at work.

Many companies now offer a bonus scheme to all employees. The extra bit of unexpected income is another way to boost your employee’s wages and their confidence in their work ethics and the business.

Donate or contribute financially to charities locally. Everyone feels generous during Christmas and Easter, so think about committing to giving more often during other times of the year. It could be part of another religious day, a special birthday, in memory someone special, the anniversary of your business or even on the anniversary of reaching a milestone. You decide. It’s entirely up to you. By doing so, not only are you supporting individuals with basic necessities, you are also saving on the business’ waste disposal costs.

Finally, instead of discarding a piece of furniture, end of roll fabric or food item, for example, find out if there is a local company who could benefit from your unwanted items. Many parents have started up businesses by taking unwanted materials and turning them into products. Their creativity and hard work has been the difference between struggling to make ends meet and starting up a micro business. @BerryBerryUK a Nottingham based company, benefits from discarded materials. The company upcycles textile offcuts and magazines to create ethically sound handbags. Dealing with such companies can save your disposal cost and turn out to be an income earner for what you would otherwise throw away.

Every small initiative taken by your business will be your contribution towards the bigger global goals to end poverty, both locally and globally.

Thank you for reading. I would love to read your comments.

Here a few facts from the UNDPs SDG goals about poverty:
• 650 million people still live in extreme poverty globally.
• Every day in 2014, an average of 42,000 people had to abandon their homes due to conflict.
• 11% of the world’s population live in extreme poverty, down from 28% in 1999.
• About 1 in 5 persons in developing regions lives on less than US$1.25 per day.
• 80% of people living on less than $1.25 are in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
• Every day around the world, 250,000 people climb out of poverty

THE UNITED NATIONS’ SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS. HOW DO YOU FIT IN?

THE UNITED NATIONS’ SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS. HOW DO YOU FIT IN?

The United Nations (UN) have developed a total of 17 Sustainable Development Goals, also known as Global Goals or SDGs. These goals are a universal call to ‘address and end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.’ With the recent surge in the plight of the planet, the goals could not have come at a better time. These goals aim to unite the world in finding solutions which will enable us and our future generations to live on a planet that does not look like scenes from a doomsday, post-apocalyptic movie.

Each sustainable development goal has a specific objective and target. The goals cover a range of topics including climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice. The UNDP website emphasises the importance of the relationship between the individual goals ‘The goals are interconnected – often the key to success on one will involve tackling issues more commonly associated with another.’

If you are not familiar with the SDGs it can be very daunting to understand how to tackle the goals. If you are a micro or small business you probably don’t have the resources to allocate and play your part in meeting the UN’s SDGs, or you might think ‘it’s not for you’. However, in order to achieve the 17 goals, we all have a part to play. The world is rapidly changing, so for a business to thrive in the future it will have to start thinking more consciously and make a shift to sustainable business management very quickly.

So how do you fit in? As Smart Money Green Planet was started as a means to share with businesses how they can contribute and do what is good for the planet, I’ve decided to write blogs for each of the 17 goals. Over the coming weeks, you will find a new blog on the SDGs. These blogs will hopefully kickstart your journey to becoming a more sustainable business, or as I like to say, be a sustainable boss. For every positive change that you make, even a small one, the impact is big.

Will it be a Green Delivery For Christmas, Green Couriers, Do They Exist?

Will it be a Green Delivery For Christmas, Green Couriers, Do They Exist?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how goods are moved from one place to another lately.  How much of our online shopping habit is contributing to the ever growing concern over greenhouse gas emissions from transport?  This train of thought led to me think about the bigger picture, the world is changing; social media, innovation, technology and convenience are becoming the norm when it comes to how we spend our money and how we receive our goods.  Growth in the online shopping sector is exponential.  So whilst we argue about climate change, plastic pollution and fast fashion, what are companies doing to reduce their and our impact on the environment?

This opened up an array of ideas, but given that we are fast approaching a holiday season that sees the most amount of gifts being purchased with deliveries taking place almost 24 hours a day, I decided to focus on eco-friendly delivery services.  Do they exist?   I decided to do a little bit of research and find out who’s offering green delivery options.

The good news, if you live in central London, chances are, you will receive your parcels in an electric vehicle.  The bad news, this option is virtually non-existent outside London and other major cities.  I won’t be delving into why green delivery options are not offered outside major cities as that is a blog for another day.  I did find out that companies such as ParcelForce, Royal Mail, DPD and UPS have started making changes to their services.  They are either in the process of trialling electric vehicles or then they’ve already started making your delivery in an electric vehicle in central London.  

Green Courier, a London based logistics company, have invested in a fleet of eco-friendly vehicles.  Their logistics service, business to business, seems to extend outside London.  According to their website, Green Courier provide a haulage service across the UK, which sounds promising.  

With regards to direct deliveries, retailer to customers, I could not find much information.  If I did, then it was only by digging deeper.  ASOS, for example, have recognised that 69% of their total emissions are as a result of customer deliveries and returns.  Investing in electric vehicles to drastically reduce this figure is a commitment they have made for deliveries around central London.  M&S have been working on carbon neutrality programs for over a decade, but it is not information that is easily detectable on their website.  IKEA have pledged to commence home deliveries using zero emission vehicles in 5 major cities, Amsterdam, New York, Paris, Los Angeles and Shanghai by 2020.  Having said that, London does not make it into the initial plan.

The list of businesses leading on transport based carbon reduction initiatives goes on, but surprisingly, they do not seem to advertise their positive environmental impacts on customer facing web pages.  A lot of the good that retailers are doing is hidden away in a corporate report.  My question to them is why?  Social and sustainable responsibility initiatives are just as important to customers today as are other projects.  These should be celebrated not hidden away.

Reading through days and days of research, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you live in central London, then you are more likely to receive your deliveries in an energy efficient vehicle this Christmas.  If you live outside of London, then chances are that some of it may be carbon neutral, not all. 

On a positive note, there is a shift in how major retailers are viewing their commitments to the environment.  For those of us living outside London, a change today in London deliveries means that we will eventually receive the same service wherever we are in the UK.

A few questions to think about.  Would you pay more if you were given the choice of receiving your parcels in an eco-friendly vehicle? Do you know of companies offering green delivery services? Would you start or amend your existing business to offer eco-friendly delivery services outside London?  There clearly is a gap in the market, why not take it up?

 

Bamboo Facewipes, Are They Worth It?

Bamboo Facewipes, Are They Worth It?

I recently received a pack of reusable organic bamboo face wipes from a startup business, Our Earth Beauty Co., to use and review.  I must say, I’m not at all disappointed.  In fact, I love the wipes and I can see myself buying them when the ones I have are no longer reusable.  Having said that, the wipes are made from organic bamboo and are designed to last a very long time so it’s not something I will have to spend money on for at least 6 months or longer.  That’s how good I think they are. Of course, this will depend on how much you use the wipes. 

I’m not an avid fan of makeup, so my daily makeup consists mainly of a concealer and eyeliner, with occasional foundation.  Every night, I use the Tropic Skincare products to remove make-up and tone my skin.  However, there are days when I can’t be bothered to do a nightly regime and that’s where these wipes are very useful. 

I’ve been using the wipes with organic coconut oil to remove the makeup for the last 2 months.  Each wipe lasts 2 removals as both sides of the wipe are usable.  The make-up gently slides off my skin and so does the coconut oil.  I have to admit, the wipes are very soft and gentle on the skin, much better than disposable face wipes or single use cotton wipes.

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When I wash the wipes using the accompanying mesh laundry bag, the wipes look as good as new.  So far they’ve had 6 washes and they continue to do the job well.

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The pack, available from, Amazon for $13.99, approximately £10 and arrives with 10 pieces 100% Organic Bamboo Velvet makeup remover pads, 2 pieces 100% microfiber facial cleansing gloves and 1 reusable laundry bag.  

In the past I would have spent at least £4 a month on disposable face wipes.  Now, I can’t see myself going back.  The only down side is the company is US based, so you do have to pay duty.  However, if the product fits your ethos and is worth it, then why not make the switch?

Bamboo Straws, A Quick Review

Bamboo Straws, A Quick Review

Have you ever wondered what the alternatives to plastic straws would be? Whilst the answer should be no straw, paper straws are growing fast in popularity.  Although paper straws are a better alternative to plastic ones, these too are often single use straws that will end up either in the rubbish or the recycling bin, depending on their usage.

In the process of becoming more sustainable I came across an eco-friendly alternative which ditches the single use concept, Bamboo Straws.   I have seen  Bamboo products such as toothbrushes on social media, but I hadn’t seen straws made from Bamboo until recently.

A start up business, White Spring, offered Ethical Influencer bloggers the opportunity to try out the new straws and post a review.  Naturally, I reached out.

Given that I’ve now been using the straws for a week, what’s my verdict?

I like them, they’re different, definitely a conversation starter.  My kids are intrigued and think they’re cool.   My son, 9 years old, had 3 friends over after school last week and he came up to me and said “mummy, don’t forget to give us the new bamboo straws, they’re so cool”.   So they’re a hit with the young ones. As for me, the I find the straws useful for most drinks, juices and soft drinks, not sure about homemade smoothies as they tend to be thicker than the shop bought drinks.

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Whilst I’m a bit wary of the internal fibres, giving them a good wash before every use should remove them.  The pack from White Spring comes with 2 skinny brushes perfect for washing the inside of the straws.  There are 8 straws in the pack which come in a white bag.   The bag is useful especially if you need to take the straws out with you.

White Spring started the company because the current trend of using and disposing millions of plastic straws did not feel right.  They believed there must be another alternative, and that’s when they started to sell the bamboo straws on Amazon.

Bamboo is grown naturally without pesticides.   The straws are 100% biodegradable, reusable and compostable. These straws are BPA, Phthalate and PCP free.  No dyes, inks or preservatives are used in the making of the straws.  With good care the straws should last a long time.

The pack is currently on offer for £8.99 which comes with 8 natural bamboo straws.  They are reusable and will last months.  The pack also contains 2 cleaning brushes and a travel cotton bag.  When you think about how many plastic straws you’ll be saving from going into our landfills, rivers and oceans, it’s suddenly not that big a price to pay.

You can buy the straws from Amazon.  So if you’re thinking of giving an environmentally friendly gift this Christmas, make sure you add the White Spring Bamboo pack to your list.

Overall, given the nature of the material, its environmentally friendly disposal option, rustic and natural look, I think Bamboo straws from sustainable sources could be the way forward.

Thanks for reading, I’d love to read your comments.

Greening The Office, A Quick Guide to Sustainable Procurement

Greening The Office, A Quick Guide to Sustainable Procurement

When it comes to purchasing products and services, we are all customers. Whether it is a business to business, or a business to customer purchase, our custom should be valued. If you live in North America, you’ll be accustomed to the phrase ‘the customer is always right’. Unfortunately, here in the UK, this phrase does not hold much value. As customers, we follow what a business will tell us we need instead of us demanding what we need. Packaging waste is a classic example. When we receive our products, they are enshrined in packaging. We look at the parcel and ask ourselves, did it need to arrive in so much packaging? The thought remains with most of us, but it is not fed back to the business. Why not? As a customer, we are in a strong position to influence change in how businesses operate. The small changes we make to everyday purchases are just as important to a sustainable future as the large changes being led by legislation and collective public pressure.

This week, I engaged in discussions about how small businesses can be more sustainable in their procurement. Whilst most large organisations will have sustainable procurement policies to which their suppliers and internal departments should adhere to, small businesses are not sure how to go about it. So here’s a quick guide of how to be more sustainable and less wasteful in the office. Whether you work in an office with 100 people or it’s just you running your own business, with the right measures in place, you should see a reduction in unwanted supplies taking over office space and benefit from cost savings both in terms of reduced purchases and waste disposal.

1. Before you can start the improvement process, it is vital you understand which areas are wasteful or inefficient. For example, carry out an audit of your supply cupboards. People often find that they order products without checking what they already have in stock. If you have several cupboards around the offices stashing away office supplies, check them all before placing the next order.

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2. Keep an up to date inventory of office supplies.  Include everyday kitchen and cleaning supplies such as tea, sugar, coffee, sponges, washing liquids etc. Most businesses will keep an inventory of their factory and warehouse materials but tend to forget office spaces. Create a simple spreadsheet with the titles of the information you want to capture. This could include: name of product, supplier, date of order, quantity ordered, cost, and requested by. By maintaining an up to date spreadsheet, you will start to see the products that are being ordered frequently. This will enable you to investigate further as to why a product is ordered so often and if you actually need it.

3. When ordering products, do you consider their environmental impacts? Have you ever looked past the image to see where the product is made, what material it’s made from, does it carry certification logos, for example, is the printer paper from sustainable sources, is it recyclable or refillable? When you start to pay attention to the finer details on the products, you suddenly start to make sound environmental choices. If the information is not there, ask the supplier.  Most suppliers, including small scale will be happy to share this information with you, unless they have something to hide.

4. When selecting a supplier, have a look on their website or ask them questions about their environmental policies. Large organisations will have an environmental or sustainability policy and reports in place. Their reports should outline their commitments and achievements to date.  Office Depot, for example, have published their Sustainability Report 2018. Amongst various metrics, Office Depot, have published the success of the take back scheme set up to close loop recycling of various items. As a customer, there is no reason why we cannot start a dialogue for the take back scheme to include additional waste streams such as plastic packaging waste.

If you are dealing with small scale businesses whose primary concern is profit, start engaging with them by asking them what they are doing or plan to do. Large or small, no business wants to lose a customer, but if they’re not willing to listen, I’m sure their competitor will.

5. Have you considered setting an improvement target for office products? My favourite method of reducing anything, whether it is waste, energy, fuel or even my personal shopping bill, is setting a target. Most large organisations will set up key performance indicators (KPIs) which they then report on an annual basis and set improvement targets for the following year. There is no reason why a small business should not follow the same practice.

Setting improvement targets is a good way to get the office in order. For example, if you are looking to reduce the amount of paper in the office, when you carry out an audit and start to establish an inventory spreadsheet, you will know how much paper you are using and how much it is costing. You can then decide to set a reduction target, monitor and record your consumption on a quarterly basis and then set up a further target in the following year. This can be done for virtually every product you purchase.

6. Finally, I started this blog by asking if we communicate our thoughts to our suppliers or do they just remain buried in our minds? Most of us are guilty of not passing feedback to our suppliers when it comes to packaging waste or asking about the carbon footprint of a product. We should engage with our suppliers on a more regular basis. Communication as most will tell you, is key to a successful business, hence the rise of social media influencers. We need our thoughts to transcend. Communicate those thoughts with suppliers. If we don’t tell them what we need or don’t need, how will they know?