Previously I wrote about the lack of green values in Saudi-Arabia you can read the post here: http://blueabaya.blogspot.com/2012/01/recycling-saudi-values.html
I promised to post some tips on how to make your life in Saudi more environmentally friendly. Here are 10 easy and simple ways everyone in Saudi Arabia can recycle and save the nature. Saudi-Arabia has some beautiful and unique nature and by even the smallest changes we can make a difference in preserving the environment! It might feel like just a drop in the ocean, but when hundreds or even thousands of people make that one small change it becomes a wave of change!
Sometimes we go about our daily lives without giving things much thought and just continue doing stuff the way we're used to. When we look closer and think about it, a lot of things we do are just madness!
It's time to start thinking and acting to stop the madness!
1. Reduce usage of plastic bags
The single most efficient thing everyone in the Kingdom can do is cut down how many plastic bags they take home from the store. People like to have their groceries and purchases placed separately in a GAZILLION plastic bags instead of placing everything in one or two large bags. WHY?? This is madness!
Do you really need all those 10 plastic bags to carry the 11 items you bought? In fact did you know you can fit 11 items into ONE bag with no trouble at all :)
The problem is baggers in Saudi grocery stores will by default place only one or two items per bag. This can easily add up to 40-60 plastic bags per average family per grocery shop visit.
Say the family grocery shops once a week plus all the additional visits to get few things, adding 20 or so more bags to the total of approximately 80 bags a week. 400 bags a month, 4800 bags a year. Multiply that by how many Saudi and expat families there are who are doing this..MILLIONS of plastic bags wasted! For nothing! And those very same plastic bags end up in the streets, in the desert, on the beaches, in the sea.
My advice is: Next time advise the bagger to place as many items as possible in one bag. Tell him you don't mind, you will not get upset with him. Remember to explain why you are requesting this and most importantly, if he does a good job give him an extra riyal or two and thank him profusely. Sometimes despite the advice baggers don't either understand or want to listen. That is when you can help him pack the items and show him what you want.
Some grocery stores like Carrefour sell large fabric bags you can use for your grocery shopping. Most baggers will not know how to "use" them and might even place the items first in tons of plastic bags, then place inside the fabric bag. Again, you might need to show them how you want it done.
At home re-use the plastic bags, use them as garbage bags and for storage. For more tips check this list of 99 ways to reuse plastic bags: http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/home/reuses-plastic-bags2.htm
2. Recycle water bottles
Most people in Saudi drink bottled water. Some prefer to always purchase hoards of small bottles. WHY?? This is madness!
Buy the large recyclable water bottles from companies like Nestle that offer home delivery and save money and the nature and your back! You can place an order online here: http://www.nestle-family.com/pure-life/english/
If you must use smaller water bottles sometimes, refill them and use a few times before throwing them away.
3. Use water sparingly
Many Saudi families will have more than one car. It's usually the driver's duty to wash the cars, and the maids are the ones who clean the outside areas from dust. And how do they do it? By spraying hundreds of gallons of running water from the hose all over the yard! WHY?? This is madness!
Don't have your car washed with running water from the hose. Ask the driver or whoever is cleaning the car to use a bucket and cloth instead. Ask the maid to SWEEP the yard once in a while instead of pouring hundreds of liters of water around. Don't run the water the whole time while showering or brushing teeth and avoid taking excessive baths.
4. Reuse or return hangers from laundry places
Most Saudi families take their thobes, abaya and ghutra to be professionally cleaned. Every neighborhood has a laundry place or two. When they are picked up the clothes will be each placed separately on hangers and inside plastic bags. And what do most people do? Throw them away! WHY?? This is madness!
Don't throw these hangers away! If you don't want to reuse them RETURN them to the cleaners! Also, request to have multiple thobes placed inside one bag, no need for ten separate plastic wrappings.
5. Turn off lights, air-conditioning and unplug appliances when not home.
I've noticed many people leave all their air-conditioning and all the lights on when they leave the house for longer periods of time. WHY?? This is madness!
Teach yourself and your kids a new habit of switching them off every time you leave and you will save a lot of money on your electricity bill too. When going on vacation, switch off your appliances too.
6. Use phone charge cards wisely
Many people use prepaid mobile numbers and charge their phones with plastic phone cards. These cards come in various amounts, ranging from 10 SAR to 100SAR. They are all covered in a plastic sheath. A fellow blogger Veeds of Arabia conducted an experiment of collecting all of the plastic cards he could find on the ground for few days. He found that "Essentially 10 and 20 SR cards comprised 87% of the pre-paid cards left on the ground." http://jveeds.blogspot.com/2010/12/its-all-in-cards.html
WHY?? This is madness!
The best way to charge your prepaid phone is by asking the supermarket vendor for a receipt with the charge number on it instead. If using the plastic cards, use as high amount as possible to avoid wasting excessive plastic. And please, throw the card in the trash when you're done!
7. Cut back on use of tissues.
Saudis don't usually use toilet paper (they use water from showers) but boy do they know how to waste tissues! I have never seen so many different tissue brands in my life! I only knew Kleenex brand before I entered the tissue wonderland. Tissues even come scented ones and there are specific ornamental tissue boxes to place tissues in! Saudis use tissue (mandeel) for basically anything everything! They can be found in every single room of the house and even in their cars. WHY?? This is madness!
This pointless extravagance is just mind-boggling to me as a Scandinavian used to environmental thinking and using paper towels sparingly. Cutting back on tissues is not that hard. First think do you REALLY need to use them so much? Try using water and towels for a change, wipe or dry surfaces with washable kitchen cloths. And for the love of God, don't get scented tissues, those are the most environmentally destructive ones that you can get!
8. Avoid Styrofoam packaging
Many people like go for take-away foods once in a while. These places often use Styrofoam packaging which are extremely harmful to the environment and also for your health. Did you know that these packages and cups will still be sitting in the nature after 500 years without decomposing? Again the same mentality of placing one item in one container prevails. WHY?? This is madness!
It's perfectly fine to place the burger, the fries and the salad in the same container!
Request to have everything packed in the same or preferably in a carton container.
Also, grocery stores often pack fruits, cheeses, pastries etc. in styrofoam. Ask to have them just wrapped in plastic which is really all you need!
9. Buy local produce avoid imported goods.
There is plenty of good quality local produce available, yet many families always go for the imported, American stuff, just because it American. People will pay 50 dollars for imported ice cream WHY?? This is madness!
Always try to favor locally produced goods, organic produce, whether it be bread, fruits, ice cream or meat you are buying! Imported goods are often overpriced, have gotten damaged or ruined in the shipping process or have bad expiration dates.
10. Don't throw trash on the streets, beaches, oceans or deserts!!
Well this is self clear for most people living in western countries, but in Saudi it is the NORM to carelessly throw waste around. The attitude is "someone else will pick it up for me" or "I'm not a maid/ street cleaner". Indeed, there are yellow-clad street cleaners around every corner cleaning up after the Saudis. They work for a mere 300SAR (60euro) a month in slave-like conditions but it seems they cannot keep up with all the trash lying around.
Beautiful beaches around Jeddah, Farasan Islands and Gizan for example have been RUINED with litter.
WHY?? THIS IS MADNESS!!