We are all responsible for polluting our planet. Simple everyday tasks such as taking a shower, driving to work or drinking coffee from a disposable cup take a toll on our natural resources. The World Wildlife Fund refers to this as our “human footprint” on the planet. Aware of the impact that its unprecedented growth can have on the environment, Qatar is committed to sustainable development—“a process that seeks to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs,” reads the Qatar National Vision 2030.
Sustainable Living in Qatar
by Rita Di Antonio
Be a green hero
Qatar Foundation and the Qatar Green Building Council (QGBC), a non-profit whose mission is to develop green building design best practices, have taken a leading role to raise awareness and foster eco-friendly practices in Qatar.
As part of Green Life—a campaign aimed at educating Qatar residents, businesses and institutions about sustainability—QGBC has launched a mobile application called Green Life Hero. The app features tips on how to develop environmentally friendly habits at home and work, information on dedicated events, and special offers for “green heroes”, who accumulate points within the app by making eco-friendly choices in their lives. QGBC has also run the No Paper Day Qatar campaign for the past five years to urge residents and businesses to reduce waste. This year, companies and individuals participating in the events around No Paper Day Qatar were able to bring items to the QGBC building to be recycled. Qatar Charity was also on hand to collect gently used toys and clothes.
How you can help
There are small steps that we can all take every day to reduce our human footprint. Incorporating some of those steps into our routine can be a little time-consuming at first, but it will come with the additional reward of setting an example for those around us—our children, neighbours or colleagues. Good habits are terribly contagious.
Water is the first and most precious resource whose use and waste we ought to reduce, especially in Doha. The Qatar National Development Strategy 2011-2016 points out that “Among the various environmental concerns facing Qatar, the most pressing is linked to the country’s most acute scarcity—that of water.”
A National Water Act that will comprehensively regulate water use in Qatar is in the works. Meanwhile, Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation (KAHRAHMAA) has launched a national water and electricity conservation campaign, Tarsheed. The campaign’s mission is to encourage Qatar residents to reduce their daily consumption of water and electricity. The Tarsheed section on the KAHRAMAA website features a site entirely dedicated to children. It includes games, songs and colouring pages to help children understand the importance of saving water.
To reduce water waste, simple gestures like teaching your kids to turn off the tap while brushing their teeth can go a long way. This little habit can save more than 30 litres of water a day per person, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Running the dishwasher on full load only is also a great rule to teach little helpers.
Washing your vegetables and fruit in a bowl, as opposed to under a running tap, is also a simple but very effective way to save water. Feed your plants with the water that remains in the bowl to make sure nothing goes to waste.
De-cluttering your home can also help towards lowering your human footprint, as it will encourage you to buy less. Not to mention, it may come in handy if you live in a rental home; moving to another house—or country—will be much easier if you know where everything is.
“I can’t count how many times people have complained to me that they don’t have enough room,” organising consultant and author Marie Kondo wrote in her New York Times bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, “but I have yet to see a house that lacked sufﬁcient storage. The real problem is that we have far more than we need or want.”
Before you grab a trash bag and start tidying up your closets and cupboards, consider whether some of the items you want to throw away can be reused or donated. You can sell, swap, or just give away household items, furniture, toys, electronic devices and much more on Facebook groups such as Buy It, Sell It, Swap It Qatar. Most compounds and residential areas have their own buy and sell groups.
Qatar Charity also runs a programme called Tayf to collect donations including clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, electronic appliances, jewellery and even cars. Tayf’s slogan is: You don’t need it—others don’t have it.
Used books can be donated to Katara Gallery by leaving them in the red phone booths. The Doha Mums Children’s Library also accepts gently used children’s books.
Every day, we use—and discard—a staggering amount of disposable items. The figures on plastic packaging are particularly worrying. According to a 2016 report by the World Economic Forum and Ellen MacArthur Foundation, only 14% of plastic packaging is currently recycled worldwide. Unless adequate global solutions to reuse and recycle more plastic packaging are put in place, the report predicts that, by 2050, the weight of the plastic in our oceans will exceed the weight of all the fish. As pointed out by Dominic Waughray of the World Economic Forum, “No one actor can work on this alone; the public, private sector and civil society all need to mobilise.”
There are however small changes you can make today. Wherever possible, invest in items that you can use again and again: refillable five-gallons water jugs instead of small bottles, microfiber cloths instead of one-time-use dusters, metal cutlery instead of plastic forks. Bring your own reusable bags when you go grocery shopping and remember to ask the checkout staff to use those. If you do forget your shopping tote, don’t throw away the plastic bags provided at the till—they don’t take up a lot of storage space and can be used numerous times before ending up in the bin. You can also buy eco-friendly produce bags to weigh your fruit and vegetable at the supermarket and avoid using the disposable clear plastic bags provided. Reusable mesh produce bags that can be washed after use can be bought on Amazon and Lakeland sells durable plastic bags for fruit and vegetables.
According to the Qatar National Development Strategy 2011-2016, Qatar produces 7,000 tonnes of solid waste each year. Currently, only a fraction of the waste produced in Qatar is recycled. The government-owned Domestic Solid Waste Management Center in Mesaieed is equipped to treat 2,300 tonnes of mixed solid waste per day. The center can recycle 90% of the metals and 50% of the plastic it receives. It also converts organic waste into compost. The waste that cannot be recycled or composted goes through a waste-to-energy incineration process that generates steam and electricity.
There are also a number of private recycling companies operating in Doha: Al-Suwaidi Paper Factory and Lucky Star Alloys respectively recycle paper and scrap metal and aluminium, including food tins and drink cans.
Rassas Battery Recycling Factory in Mesaieed treats car batteries. Al Haya collects electronic waste and ink cartridges, which are then sent to Singapore for recycling. Some companies can arrange to pick up your recyclables for a fee if you have the patience of sorting and storing them—IKEA sells waste sorting bins for QR 39 each. Al Haya will provide storage boxes for e-waste and will collect once a considerable amount has been accumulated. Alternatively, you can drop off your recyclables at one of the recycling banks dotted around Doha: there is one in Katara Cultural Village and one in Al Rumailah Park.
Recycling bins are also available throughout Education City. IKEA has a recycling station in its store to collect plastic, paper and cardboard, and used light bulbs and batteries. Doha Festival City has plastic and paper bins positioned around the mall, however, they are not equipped for people to bring in their recyclables from home.
Global Metals LLC offers home bins and regular waste collection services to Doha residents and businesses. They will deliver a 120- or 240-litre recycling bin to your home and empty it every fortnight for a nominal fee. The bin can be used to throw away recyclable plastic (water and milk bottles, yoghurt pots, soap and detergent tubs), aluminium (tins and cans but also aluminium foil), metal (including old pots and cutlery, broken faucets, small metal appliances and barbeque grills), and paper.
“Every month, we receive between 200 and 300 tonnes of plastic,” said Global Metals Marketing Manager Shiela Licuanan. “It’s overwhelming to think about the amount of plastic that ends up in our landfills and oceans.”
Based in the Industrial Area, Global Metals is equipped to collect metal, aluminium, plastic and paper for recycling. The materials are then sent to factories in Doha or prepped for recycling abroad.
At present, there are no recycling facilities for glass in Doha. If you can, refrain from throwing away glass jars and bottles—chances are an art teacher or crafty neighbour can give them a new life. “I hoard glass jars as I don’t have the heart to throw them away,” said Doha resident Jennifer Keramianakis. “A few months ago I came across a Facebook post on the Pearl-Qatar residents group: a neighbour was looking exactly for glass jars. Needless to say, I have been donating my jars to her ever since. She uses them to make home-made pickles and sends me pictures of my old jars living their new life every now and then.”
According to Katrin Scholz-Barth, president of volunteer-run Sustainable Qatar, “Composting in Doha is very possible—it just takes a bit more effort and dedication than in a temperate climate.”
EcoMENA has recently put together composting guidelines for those who are ready to give composting at home a try. Check it out at ecomena.org/tag/composting.
“You can compost with coffee grounds and all of your household organic waste,” said Scholz-Barth, who built her own composting bin using a wooden shipping crate. “It is very rewarding.”
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