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What Sustainability Means To Me

published on
author Mohammed Haider, Librarian

Long before sustainability and green building efforts took shape in the UAE, my routine research on real estate development lead me to learn about the concept of “sustainable development”. I was particularly inspired by two specific concepts. First, “Straw Bale Construction” where wheat, rice, oats and straw are used in construction of houses. This approach is so resourceful as these elements perfectly meet the insulation requirements for buildings. It’s also sustainable as straw is a widely abundant and inexpensive waste product, which doesn’t require undergoing a complicated energy intensive manufacturing process. The second concept I found intriguing was “Reed Bed Technology” where waste water is channeled through a series of mediums, sands, plants (reeds) and bacteria, thereby naturally cleaning it of pollutants and producing water habitable to aquatic animals, fishes and insects. It may not be an alternative to sewage treatment plants yet, but the technology has been successfully implemented in Europe and to a certain scale in the UAE. The technology is highly efficient, with lower cost and lower carbon footprint compared to conventional wastewater treatment methods.

My interest in implementing sustainable development stems from my desire to conduct business in an environmentally conscious way, which is why it’s disheartening to see how tremendously matters have changed over the past decade with increased instances of “green washing” by many companies for quick economic gains. However, it is reassuring to see that authorities are setting rules making it more and more stringent as to what can be deemed as truly “green”. We’ve seen Dubai and Abu Dhabi adopt their own sustainable standards, but with the UAE being a natural resource limited, as far as the construction industry in concerned, and depending heavily on various imports, there are hindrances in attaining certain sustainability goals.

Personally, in my day to day job of organizing and managing the library here at Cracknell, I’ve been able to identify opportunities to implement sustainable efforts. For example, doing away with print catalogues and brochures to a great extent (ensuring to recycle existing materials). We now have all our collection/holdings electronically in an e-library available for our staff as a reference. Similarly, all services provided by the library adhere to a strict “no printing” policy. With regards to material samples, excess or unused samples are returned to their originators thereby ensuring they be recycled, while also saving us precious space.

Sustainability is a vast and sometimes daunting task, but each of us can begin to approach it by simply beginning with ourselves and altering the way we interact with our direct environments. “Sustainability” defined simply is the quality of causing little or no damage to the environment therefore ensuring longevity. So, sustainability doesn’t necessarily need to happen through governmental regulation, it can happen through a collection of thoughtful, individual daily actions that can result in a greater impact on the world we share.