Future Green Dubai
When I saw Goumbook advertising Future Green I immediately registered to go, but I must confess that after living in Dubai for four years I've become a little cynical. Thus I had low expectations of the kind of businesses that would be demonstrating their wares.
Chris and I arrived with just a mere hour set aside to browse, sans our usual notebook, recorder and camera gear.
Imagine my surprise when I look around and see the Marina Mall humming with excitable conversations around at least 20 stores, possibly more. But it was after my first conversation that I was convinced of the error of assumption - clearly Dubai's green movement is taking off!
Kris Barber is the passionate director of DGRADE clothing - stylish gear made entirely out of recycled plastic bottles. Strictly Fair Trade, the clothes are made through a process pioneered by a UK company that involves spinning yarn with thread extracted from 1000's of plastic bottles, directly turning waste into a rather fashionable resource.
Showcasing his collection Dirtball, best described as outdoor lifestyle gear - think skating, surfing, rock climbing - Kris tells us how expensive it is to get recycled plastic here. In fact, he says the government charges so much that he's literally priced out of the market, so he has to import it from the UK.
Sadly, it seems that the government still needs to realise that trying to make an excessive profit out of waste only drives out small businesses - causing the same kinds of problems the green movement is trying to address.
Other great companies include Enjo Middle East and Eco Clean. Enjo offers a range of cleaning equipment that reduces water usage, uses no chemicals and produces no waste. Never tested on animals, the products are completely eco-friendly and include the full set of cleaning equipment - from mops to dusting clothes and cleaning clothes, a scouring degreaser, you name it.
Meanwhile Eco Clean produces their own eco-friendly cleaning products, containing no harmful pesticides or chemicals, based on Cyprus-born Tolga Soytekin's citrus recipes. Committed to sustainable business practices and green cleaning, Eco Clean provides more than just the products alone, their highly-trained employees come and clean for you using the full kit of green products.
Averda Gives a Ghaf
We also stopped to deposit some plastic bottles in Averda's reverse vending machine, in return for an incentive coupon.
For every coupon redeemed, the company pledges to donate one Ghaf tree to Goumbook's "Give a Ghaf" programme in the UAE.
The Ghaf tree is a sturdy evergreen tree that is drought-tolerant, stabilises dunes and improves the soil.
It also self-propagates by providing new shoots from parent root systems. An important habitat for a variety of native fauna and flora, the Ghaf tree is the epitome of permaculture's multi-function principle, making it a viable solution to desertification.
I'd love to see the vending machine made of sustainable, renewable resources, and the vouchers redeemed at only sustainable companies. However, anything that encourages people to recycle deserves praise and Averda's new innovation certainly makes recycling fun and rewarding.
Each conversation we had was anywhere between 20 and 40 minutes; the feeling of community and shared purpose was palpable. Each and every stall holder was keen to chat, to share their experiences, knowledge and passion for their business, something sorely lacking in today's consumer environment.
I can imagine what the markets of old were like back in our parent's time, before the advent of shopping malls, fast food and chain stores. I imagine it was something like what we experienced at Future Green.
Fresh from the farm
Ripe - a Dubai-based company that brings the products of organic farms together, was there with a stall selling organic tomatoes, and pre-packed boxes of a range of vegetables.
Be super natural
We also stopped to chat with Hayley Mac of Be Super Natural, whose company sources raw vegan organic superfoods from the UK for sale in Dubai. Out came the iphone for some pictures.
We munched on raw mulberries and inca berries while chatting about uncooked food and sharing ideas for recipes.
A green revolution
We met with Tatiana Antionella Arabella of Goumbook, a longstanding green advocate in Dubai and the organiser of the event. Tatiana proudly tells us how are the stalls are made of biodegradable cardboard that can be dismantled and re-used repeatedly; an apt example of how events can minimise their destruction on the environment.
For those not in the know, Goumbook.com is a site that links up all the green businesses in Dubai, green jobs and is the Dubai's mainstay for green news and events. Tatiana, at any given point of time, is an inspiration; she is truly revolutionising the green movement in Dubai.
Connecting with nature
Nancy Papathanasopoulou of Biodiversity East was the next stallholder to command our attention. Nancy comes from a law background and now specialises in Environmental Law, putting her skills to the test where they are much needed in the Middle East.
Nancy tells us a bit about Biodiversity East, a non-profit foundation of local and visiting naturalists and scientists who strive to create networks that promote natural history and conservation actions, bringing people closer to nature.
One of her projects involves turtle conservation in Masirah Island, Oman, which hosts four species of nesting turtles.
“I love the way a child's face lights up when he/she learns that a turtle is a reptile”, she tell us enthusiastically. Part of her work includes a demonstration centre on the island, where they spread awareness about this endangered creature.
She relates that in many countries the turtle's eggs, if eaten fresh, are considered an aphrodisiac. She works to dispel this myth, telling people to take Viagra instead!
Qaru island of Kuwait, a tiny stretch of sand only 200 m in diameter and 650 m in perimeter is surrounded by a gorgeous coral reef which is home to exceptional marine life biodiversity including loggerhead turtles.
Nancy tells us that part of the group's work involved creating a database of all the marine animals as an amazing iphone app, which she demonstrated to us. Amazingly user-friendly, the soon-to-be-released app allows users to learn about different kinds of fish, identifiable by their picture, common or scientific name.
Biodiversity East also works on changing policy, wildlife surveys and tracking, spreading awareness and even supports genuine ecotourism initiatives.
Another exciting company soon drew our attention, Wild Guanabana is a responsible outdoor adventure and travel company. The somewhat unconventional name comes from the Latin American fruit guanabana, embodying the company's ethos: to be different, daring and green.
The Middle East's first Carbon Zero company, they offset any unavoidable carbon footprint, and always work to benefit the environment and local communities. Marwa tells me that she was previously a marketing executive for a typical corporate firm, until she climbed Kilimanjaro with Wild Guanabana on a corporate trip.
The love for adventure was born, and she joined the company as a Marketing Director. Both Omar and Marwa are equally passionate about their job; the vibrant couple aim to start up local adventures around the Middle East to cater to increasing demand for responsible travel.
The elixir of life
The next stall I visited was Liquid of Life's water filtration systems. I spoke to Roxana, who comes from law background but became passionate about the environment.
Her aim is to bring these high-quality filtration units to a wider market in Dubai in order to reduce the consumption of plastic.
I took a sip of the crystal clear, ice-cold water. Its pure, refreshing taste was reminiscent of natural spring water, and has an extremely low sodium content to boot.
No green business event would be complete without the presence of the ladies of Bokashi.
Having used these compost bins for the past year to convert my food waste into nutrient-rich, crumb-like textured compost, I was pleased to see that their use is becoming increasingly widespread.
I invested in some more activator, a unique blend of microbial inoculants, rice bran and molasses which is then sprinkled on each layer of nitrogen-rich kitchen waste. Chatting with Janine is always a pleasure - we talked about soil, pest issues, gardening in Dubai, and permaculture methods.
Plastic not so fantastic
After many people had directed us to David and Theresa Wernery, telling us we had lots in common, we were keen to spend some time chatting to the intrepid travellers. The couple are about to undertake an expedition around the world called “Plastic not so Fantastic” to spread awareness about the destructive effects of plastic pollution across the globe.
The eye-catching display at the front of the stall showcased the entire contents of a camel's stomach, containing a ball of interwoven plastic as big as its entire belly. Another massive ball - I could scarcely believe it was plastic - was in fact the contents of an adult's stomach.
David and Theresa aim to collect information and data on the effects of global plastic pollution for educational and informational purposes, and will go around to schools and universities to demonstrate the alarming effects of plastic pollution.
Mujahid Salman of Goal Zero Middle East, sole distributor of Goal Zero's portable solar battery chargers, demonstrated the quality of the products.
We were impressed with the ruggedness of the gear, which uses mono-crystalline solar panels to deliver the longest power supply.
Used by documentary film makers and adventurers around the world, it's clear Goal Zero's reputation for quality is well-deserved.
From L'occitane's organic products to bamboo kitchen ware, flushable and biodegradable nappy liners to handmade soy candles, ECOsoil's organic fertiliser and various other products, Future Green showcased products that are definitely a step in the right direction.
It was nearly 10 pm when we realised that everything was about to close and we meandered up to what became our last stop, the Home Grown Children's Eco Nursery stand. Co-founder Lucy Bruce told us about the Middle East's first eco-nursery, which gives children a platform to experience and develop their senses in natural setting.
With nature walks, an organic garden, and an interior inspired by nature, each child's holistic learning is focused on at this innovative eco-nursery. What's more, we learn that for each child that joins, a child is sponsored at Harmony House charity, a day shelter for street children in India run by the founder of Home Grown .
After nearly five hours at the event, we left filled with positive energy and inspiration. Though I didn't manage to visit all the stalls, I'd seen enough to believe that we have the ability to turn the environmental problems of the world around, if we all make a choice to live, and consume sustainably.
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