How To Start Zero Waste Lifestyle in UAE?

It’s been more than an year I have adopted a minimalist lifestyle, I go everywhere with my reusables, don’t throw anything and try to reuse/ re purpose things. At start of this year when I invited all my readers to join Zero Waste UAE campaign, I  also decided to ditch fashion shopping, 2 months down the line I am feeling happy about my decision. Our family has survived more than 2 months without tissue papers or paper towels, we started our 3rd paperless month and we are going strong. It’s good to see our home is getting clutter free and free of plastic day by day. Plus who doesn’t like seeing your monthly living cost going down? Yes by adopting zero waste lifestyle, we are even saving Dirhams!

 

If you find all of this interesting, then here are my tried and tested tips to start your Zero Waste Lifestyle in UAE. If you are a bit scared or overwhelmed by the name ‘Zero Waste’ let me tell you, Zero Waste Lifestyle is just extension of our sustainable lifestyle; which we are discussing here since last 8 years so for my regular readers it will not be very difficult to adopt.

1. Take a break from Shopping

You are thinking now “Stop shopping, in UAE?” Yes, that’s exactly what my first tip is. Stop shopping for a while; may be a week, a month and go through things you already have. Ask your self do you really want those new things on your shopping list?

Biggest benefit of taking break from shopping is you suddenly get some time, which otherwise you were wasting in mall hopping and window shopping if not in actual shopping. You can use that time to do things which you like or even invest that time in learning something new. Remember, ‘own less, do more’? You can never have enough me-time, have that time spend free. Utilize it to think over your shopping habits. I rarely go to malls these days and believe me I am happier (and my husband too, seeing smaller credit card bills).

Best things is to make a list of things you need and things you want. You can keep your list of wants away for a while and look at list of needs. Now you need to think how can you get those things without adding to waste. Go through these tips to find out more.

2. Reuse things you already have

So many times we buy things for some dedicated use, but do we really need separate items for every use? If you look closely, do your home work and get creative; you don’t have to head to the malls for shopping every time. You can make so many things out of what you have. You can first invest in basic sewing kit, basil tool kit for home, some glues and that’s it. Also learn here what is difference between up cycling and re purposing? There are numerous probabilities of what can you make out of your unwanted things. And I am not taking about creating only home decor, you can make lots of function items. Read here 25 simple creative ways to reuse your household trash.

3. Invest in Reusables

You need to stop using disposable items all together. It’s not really as tough as you think. All you need to do is invest in good quality reusable items, which can last long and practice to carry them with you where ever you go till it becomes habit.

With reusable items you don’t just reduce waste and save environment but you can also save lot of money which you were wasting in disposables. Some people think, disposables are convenient, but that’s not really true. You still need to find a garbage bin to throw it, unless you are okay with littering. From my experience using reusable items is not very hard, I used to forget at start but then I started keeping a set of reusable cloth bags in car and all my essential reusable items in my purse.

By using these tea towels, napkins and handkerchief we are saving yearly at least 36 kitchen towel rolls (standard supermarket size) and 24 facial tissue boxes (standard size).

4. Shop Second Hand

This is really useful when you want to buy furniture or fashion pieces. Last year when I was already practicing my my less waste lifestyle, we suddenly had to replace our old dinning table. I found a a pre-loved dinning table, better quality and much more durable on Dubizzle. It was luckily even matched our other furniture. It’s a bit larger than we expected but we love it. We even play table tennis on it! 🙂

In buying pre-loved you always save money. You just need to check if item is not damaged. My suggestion is never buy a cheap quality stuff, how ever less money you are spending on it. Because that money is going to get waste. There are many online sites and even shops in UAE where you can buy second hand items. Read here our experience of Dubai Flea market, a popular second hand market.

5. Be a conscious consumer

Read labels, shop local and buy bulk this is my mantra for Zero Waste UAE shopping. Buy as much local as possible to reduce your carbon footprint and to consume fresh specially in case of food items. You need to read labels carefully, don’t just get carried away with words like Eco-friendly, green, healthy. Check ingredients for food items, check materials for other items. Search alternatives and compare (not just price but these all things as well). Head to our Green Consumer section to find about sustainable products and services available in UAE.

Buy bulk when you know your household is going to consume it before expiry. It’s not a good idea to buy perishable in bulk else you will end up increasing your food waste. But buying bulk can help you saving money and reducing waste significantly. By buying this bulk honey bottle, which we use on daily basis I could avoid 3 plastic bottles plus I have observed you can keep these glass honey bottles in fridge without crystallizing, which otherwise occurs when honey is in plastic bottle. Plus once honey is finished I am reusing the glass jar for shopping or at home.

6. Buy Package Free

Most of the time you buy an item and the packing material is pure waste. I try to keep packaging materials like boxes, bubble wrap to reuse it or re purpose in my DIYs most of packaging items are just waste like plastic cling film and foam tray with vegetables. I keep glass bottles and jars and recycle plastic items. So now I try to buy items as much package free as possible.

With plastic bags and packaging items, we need to keep in mind that these items can be recycled only few times to it’s necessary to reduce their use. But when you do zero waste shopping, you refuse all packaging material and buy naked items that means without packaging. I like to buy local organic vegetables from Farmer’s market. Most of the supermarkets have counters where you can buy some package free food items which include grains, cereals, spices, honey, cheese, nuts, snacks etc. But I am still unable to find essential items like milk, oil package free.

7. Refuse

Most of the times when you attend an event, conference people give corporate gifts, literature which generally goes to garbage bin. So I have started politely refusing these items, I even explain to them why I don’t want it and people understand it and even get curious of this lifestyle.

But sadly I am still not there in refusing gifts from friends which I don’t want. Frankly most of the times my friends and dear ones give me sustainable gifts. But sometimes people give you gift with so much love that I don’t feel like saying no.

8. Make your own

Instead buying ready made packaged items, try making your own beauty, skin care, hair care products or home cleaning products out of natural ingredients or from your kitchen.

This way you can reduce significant waste and lot of money too. In every culture there are grandma’s home remedies and they work great. But sadly as our society progressed and started using ready products. Now in supermarkets, you can find so many items from different brands for separate application. I mean do we really need a face wash, body wash, shampoo, conditioner and what not separate for men, women and children for lot many types and from even many more brands? I don’t think so. This is just an example. Plus rarely you get any package free or zero waste refillable product.

So instead I buy basic product either from local companies like Camel Soap Factory or naked products from Lush cosmetics. Otherwise I just browse my kitchen or fridge to find if any lone fruit or vegetable is over ripped? And I use it to make my own products. I have even tried using food waste or scraps for skin or hair care and results are amazing.

So many items from kitchen can be used even for cleaning home. Read here how I use dry or over ripped lemon for cleaning oven and microwave.

9. Repair and Mend

Since years I have been witnessing how UAE residents, buy new items if their old item is damaged or broken. Very rarely people take efforts to find a place to repair or mend their broken items. I agree it is difficult to find these repair shops or you really need to drive another end of city to get it done which makes it inconvenient. But there are repair shops in UAE and you can get so many of your damaged items mended. Since years I have been getting repairs done in UAE on items like shoes, bags, electronics, furniture, kitchen utensils and home appliances.

The cost of repair is higher here, but that is because demand is low. If we increase demand of such services, the cost of repair will go down. But first we need to keep in mind that we need to invest in quality items. Let me share my experience, one leg of this solid wood side table from Pride of Kashmir came out after few years of use. I tried to fix it at home, but it needed some special tools which I don’t have. Then I checked with the store manager and asked if they can fix it. Fortunately the manager agreed and I got it repaired. I think the key is to ask first.

10. Cook at home

I don’t need to tell you advantage of fresh, home made meal and how healthy it is. But food is one of huge waste in garbage bin of any household and we need to control food waste with high priority. Specially when half of the world faces hunger and malnutrition problem. Read this article about some statistics on food waste in UAE.

We generally have a day in week before food shopping where we try to use up some last items to empty our fridge. For example, once I left with these last few items in fridge and made this yummy past out of it. But not all such ‘let’s empty fridge’ days are success every time.

Generally world wide when people talk about sustainable lifestyle or Zero waste lifestyle, many people talk about being vegan. Vegan is great for health and is really good for planet in many countries. But when we talk about a country like UAE where there is almost no source of natural drinking water and farmers are not necessarily using grey water for farming. Eating only vegan food could be actually burden on natural resources! Read this article about Sustainable Food in UAE to know more.

11. Compost

Compost is ultimate solution for stopping organic or food waste going to landfill. But compost is useful in UAE, only if you have your own garden. Sadly many people like me who live in apartment and have only small window garden or balcony garden or even no garden at all can not compost because we don’t have public compost system or no local farmers accept your compost. The fact is in UAE compost supply will be always more than demand, as traditional farming in UAE is difficult, irregular and not sustainable.

Many people who have their own garden, use Bokashi composting system and are happy with results. But to make use of this big potential organic waste, we need waste to energy solution, which could be even open for public. That would be the most sustainable solution of organic food waste disposal in UAE.

12. Recycle

If you are taking all above efforts, you will be still left with waste that would be mainly recyclable waste. As I mentioned before you still can’t get items like milk and oil without packaging in UAE. (Please share with me, if you find any place who offer these items package free). But you can recycle these plastic, glass bottles or tetra packs. Have a look at this guide to house hold waste recycling to know what is right procedure to recycle different materials.

But remember there is limitation on recycling these products. The plastic covers of bottles are not recycled, the plastic liner of tetra pack might not be recycled. So it’s always better to reduce the consumption of such packaging. Better to buy in bulk to avoid number of packages.

13. Go Digital

By now most of us have ‘do not print’ quote added permanently to our email signature. But it’s not limited to printing or to office work. Opt for digital newspapers, magazines, newsletters, bank’s e-statements, e-receipts, e-tickets to reduce your paper waste. Sometime I feel like we should even share our business cards digitally, why do we need printed cards? Just remember to de-clutter your digital life once in a while.

14. Eat out or Home Delivery

This is one of the biggest part of UAE’s lifestyle. We can not blame on any body here. Long hot unbearable summer months, hectic work life, long working hours, long traffic ques when this all is routine, then we feel like giving ourselves break on Thursday night and want to order food. Or eat on weekends to have hassle free relaxing time. But these things add up big waste!

I am not saying I am saint and I don’t do these things. Guilty as charged, I order home delivery and eat out regularly. When I eat out I try to find restaurants and cafes who focus on reducing waste. Either in the form of reducing food waste or having sustainable table setting or providing as much sustainable food. I regularly get my coffee thermos filled with my choice of drink from cafes and refuse their paper or plastic cups. But people feel really weird if I ask them to pack our left over food in my reusable lunch box. Sometimes the staff is not very uncomfortable with such request and co-operates. But to avoid awkward situation, we try to order food just as much as we need. I am also used to getting some funny comments from restaurant staff when I tell them not to bring plastic straw with my drink. On of the restaurant even denied to pack our left over food, because I cut the portion in to byte size for my son and he didn’t even touch it. I tried discussing food waste topic, but he threw standard answer ‘our policy’ on my face.

But with home delivery option, the food comes with plastic bag, plastic cutlery, plastic containers and all bad stuff! I have been telling people over phone since years ‘please don’t send plastic cutlery with our order’ but apart from few orders they ignore! I collect unused cutlery, paper napkins come with home delivery and use it somewhere and even recycle them. But now a days we try to order from places, where they send food in paper boxes and paper bags which we can recycled.

Definitely cooking at home resolves many problems but if we all consumers get wiser and increase the demand of sustainable or less waste practices. May be we can change existing home delivery, dinning in practices and enjoy these services guilt free.

 

15. Stop wasting Natural Resources

If you do all above and can’t stop wasting water, electricity and fuel you can’t really adopt zero waste lifestyle. Here are simple ways to reduce use of resources through small changes in lifestyle. For UAE specific tips on reducing use of natural resources, read this article.

Hope you find this practical guide useful to start your Zero Waste Lifestyle! Don’t forget to get regular tip on going Zero Waste on Instagram here and join our Facebook community. Would like to know your thoughts and your experiences on reducing waste.

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5 Comments on "How To Start Zero Waste Lifestyle in UAE?"

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A really thought-provoking article – lots of great ideas to take the next steps towards sustainable living. I did a no-spend month in January, and follow Project333 to have only 33 items in my wardrobe, but I would love to do more no-spend months… even a year?! Do you think that’s possible?

So good! I don’t think I am quite there yet with a lot of the stuff, but we’ve definitely made a big conscious step towards recycling everything, using reusable bags, buying local organic food etc! Our new house also heats the water using solar panels on the roof, which has been amazing for the pocket too!

Abigail {cuddlesandcrumbs.com}

Difficult challenge as it so much convenient and easier to just use stuff like plastic. After reading your post though, reducing waste is doable if we just take an extra mile. Thank you for sharing zero waste ideas.

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I am a Sustainability Professional. I have worked on many green building projects in the

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