Tuesday, January 31, 2012

10 Ways To Stop The Madness

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.
The baggers do it simply because they have been taught not to place for example a deodorant, a bread loaf, cheese or a milk bottle in the same bag. WHY?? This is madness!

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.

Spread the message! Please share this post with your friends and help STOP the madness.

Thank you,


Jean said...

Really atrocious to see a littered desert. Environmental awareness and habits ..must be integrated into the school system and through public campaigns.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness. The madness indeed! I went mad when my husband and I, and the in-laws spent a beautiful day at the river (in the middle of practically no where) and when we were packing up, they just bagged all of the garbage and left it next to a tree (which, I admit, it appeared to be a collection point). However, there were free range cattle roaming the area and clearly where curious about the garbage. I know that as soon as we left they trotted over to get in those bags (as there was garbage strewn everywhere around the "collection area.")

My in-laws tried to reassure me that there was "someone" who's "job" was to "collect" the bags of garbage... I was not convinced. I think it was the good ole middle eastern tradition of "Just tell her what she needs to hear to make her happy. She will never know the difference." hahahaha...

Dumpster-diving in Kurdistan.

Anonymous said...

Great post and amazing tips! I wish they took this article of yours and posted it in some Emirati newspaper! Whatever you wrote applies to the UAE as well. The problem here is that we have much more expats than Emiratis and many expats especially from underdeveloped country may lack personal culture and environment awareness. They just litter because "it's not their country (so, why should they take care about it)" or "because it's somebody else's job to clean their waste" or because they are used to not cleaning after themselves and it does not even come to their mind to gather the rubbish after the picknic and throw it in the waste bin. Many Emiratis are not much better - not gathering rubbish after themselves even if they have a picnic with their maids, they just leave rubbish on the grass :( This careless attitude to environment is appalling. UAE is going to face serious problems soon.

"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" This is exactly what happened to me two days ago. I finally bought a Carefour bag only to discover shopping items packed separately in many plastic bags inside of it. I'll take care to pack my blue Carefour bag myself next time.

Regarding bottled water, recently I started to buy those big (5L) bottles instead of a box with 1.5L bottles in it. But still a better solution would be to get a water filter installed.

I always gather the laundry hangers and return them.

When recharging the phones my husband always does it on-line.

Buying local produce instead of imported is a great advice. If there's Almarai milk and Al-Ain, I'll choose Al-Ain to support an Emirati company :) I try to buy Emirati products, Omani and Saudi when possible...

There are many street cleaners in the UAE as well.. and thanks to them, the country may look clean. But if one day there will be no money to pay for street cleaners the whole country will look like a rubbish bin if the attitude of people will not change.

Anonymous said...

there's one thing regarding garbage... I don't know why, but the maids from the neighboring houses often put the rubbish near the rubbish bin instead of placing it INSIDE the bin. I've seen it many times, even if the bin is empty. The thing is, if they leave rubbish near the bin, cats come and scatter it around  making the whole place and the road dirty. Later the wind scatters the litter around and into people's houses. I even got a pic. http://img213.imageshack.us/img213/6338/rubbishuaestyle.jpg

miolann said...

Very good post. I wonder why people want to live in a dumping place. Can't they see how ugly it is? They must have a genuine tunnel vision... Pick a piece of trash a day - campaign would be in place there too. I wish you luck in your enlightening mission :)

Fruitful Fusion said...

Thanks for an excellent post Laylah!

Anonymous said...

Do they have any recycling plants in Saudi?

Anonymous said...

Today I came from Tamini with only 10 bags:) And then I checked for some crafts with plastic bags and I made some nice plastic flowers!

Anonymous said...

Re no. 3, not running the tap while brushing teeth: my 2-year old nephew was being taught just that by his Mum and Dad. One evening on TV, there was someone brushing his teeth. "What's he doing, Jack?" asked my brother, expecting the reply, "Brushing his teeth." But Jack solemnly said, "WASTING water!" Well done, parents!

Layla said...

Thank you all for the wonderful comments and suggestions! Keep em coming! And remember to circulate this post to people in Saudi to spread awareness!

Layla said...

Alice-thanks for the great comments! You know that exact same thing happens here too, with the maids taking the garbage outside, have no idea why they do it!
What you are doing is awesome! Keep it up and yay for the Carrefour bag! You go girl, show em how it's done!

Layla said...

miolann-Seriously sometimes I think people live in bubbles without seeing the outside at all, they just float around in their little bubbles.

Layla said...

Huda-they do have some very basic recycling going on, just recently they started few campaigns here in Riyadh, very small scale though unfortunately.

Layla said...

corinaj-AWESOME! if you fit everything in ten bags, I'm imagining that would've been around 100 bags if the bagger would have had his way!

Layla said...

margheallaraleim-thanks for sharing that story, that's a great example of how we can change the future with teaching the next generation!

DogsOnDrugs.com said...

When I was 16 and worked bagging groceries, I was taught to never bag detergents, soap, deodorant, etc. in the same bag as food. The reason: If something breaks or leaks, it will ruin the food or, worse, someone will eat the food and get sick.

But yeah, we'd put more than a couple of things in each bag. (Of course, back then it was all paper bags, but still...)

Dentographer said...

I Agree,This is madness!!

ontario solar mounts said...

This is one of the great sites I've come across.

Recycling Plastic Containers

Layla said...

Dogsondrugs-I understand the reasoning behind that BUT the stuff is packed so that it won't leak..If anything leaks it's gonna be your milk or yogurt rather than the detergents..
Never in my lifetime did any of those items leak and I almost always use only one or two bags only ;p

acne home remedies that work said...

I think it is only until someone cares about something enough to notice it, do they actually do something about it.

Chris said...

One of the best posts I have read about the environment here in Saudi. Definite kudos regarding the air con. It's not as hot here as people say and we can all afford to use the air con a LOT less. I hadn't thought about the dry cleaning one and I will certainly use it in the future. With regards to the plastic bags, you have to consider that not using plastic bags and instead using reusable ones is a very strange concept to these baggers. Like you said, show them how you want it, as many of them don't speak English. I once thought I made it clear that I wanted my groceries bagged in my reusable bags, went to get one last item, only to return to find that he had placed both of my bags in new plastic bags, and then of course each item had its own plastic bag. Also, many of us are working at schools or hospitals--it's a good idea to buy one reusable water bottle and fill up at school for the day, instead of buying numerous water bottles. Finally, many areas (Al-Ahsa) don't have mass recycling centers, but some of the workers will collect cans to sell the aluminum. I think there's recycling areas in Khobar. Now if only the Saudi (and frankly more of the expatriate) community will share your concern, then we'll really live in a cleaner environment. Great post!

Chris said...

One more thing: If you explain your concern/request to the worker, it might sound incredibly strange to them and, it being Saudi Arabia, they might even negotiate with you. But if you end your sentence with, "No problem?" suddenly the narrative switches and they say, "Of course. No problem."

Layla said...

Chris-why thank I'm happy to hear that! I hope more locals and expats in Saudi take this as a real concern and we can start seeing less trash everywhere and living a more sustainable life..

Muhammad Atif said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

This needs to be translated into Arabic and published EVERYWHERE!

Unknown said...

wow. these tips are very helpful. i wish many are inspired to use methods o reduce carbon foot print.

Recycling Plastic Containers

Unknown said...

This is really informative post regarding cards idea, keep it up..!!!!!!

Unknown said...

Hi love the article. i found LuLu's great when it comes to bag packing never one or two items in a bag :) and they also separate it all the way i like, cleaning things and toiletries all in the same bags away from food (i have had things leak in the past), bottle's and heavy things in the same bags so they don't crush veg or eggs and so on (i'd like to point out at this point i'm british so probably very picky lol). My compound has it's own bag for life you can buy as well :)
I take plastic bags with me in the car as well for rubbish, handy for bagging it all up to take home or to the nearest bin.

I also re-use envelopes and paper (both my daughter's are in nursery and they seem to come home with 2 copies of every nursery rhyme printed out) for writing my shopping list on. :)