What is sustainability?

Sustainability is a word that has become more and more important in our everyday society and something that we need to be fully aware of. By being sustainable we are thinking of our children, our country and ultimately the future of our planet. To develop a sustainable future means: “Understanding how to meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations to meet their own needs.”

In Abu Dhabi we live in what is considered in geographical terms a ‘fragile environment’. Deserts may seem harsh and inhospitable, but in reality, they contain a fragile ecosystem of plants and animals specially adapted to thrive under these conditions. In some cases, the balance of life is so fragile that one unusually dry or wet season can lead to massive changes. This environmental sensitivity means that deserts face many threats and a lot of these in the present day are coming from human activity. This means that the impacts of being unsustainable have a greater effect that other more ‘balanced’ environments.

We can look at our planet today and come to the conclusion that we have failed in being sustainable. We can see our oceans littered with plastic, our land being filled with rubbish and our climate changing. We need to act now to prevent this continuing to happen.

At Al Shohub we are taking on this massive challenge with a whole school effort to become more sustainable. We have joined the Sustainable Schools Initiative and are looking at how our school can improve. Since September teachers and students have signed up to become part of this amazing project and this will lead our students to have a better understanding of how to be sustainable not only at school but at home and within their wider community. This project will give our students an insight into what is fast becoming one of the most talked about topics of our time. It will allow our students to foster a love for their environment and become more environmentally aware individuals who can play an important role in the future of their country and planet.

LAND

“No, it is not a contradiction. While the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) classifies the whole of Abu Dhabi Emirate as hyper-arid, belonging to one of the most inhospitable regions on earth, it is renowned world-wide for its unique heritage value.

With a burgeoning population and growing economy, the landscape of the Emirate has undergone sweeping changes within a comparatively short time span. Petrochemical plants, recreation zones, and tourist spots have sprung up with amazing speed, at every corner of the Emirate. The majority of Abu Dhabi’s 1.96 million or so inhabitants live in the coastal zone, and it is here that the impact of human activities is most apparent.”

(Source – Sustainable Schools Initiative – Green Schools Manual 2017)

We at Al Shohub recognise the importance of increasing the green areas within our school and also increasing the biodiversity. This will help us in becoming more sustainable where we will grow native species and also in the gardening club, we will for the first time be attempting to grow our own vegetables! We have the following three aims for our school:

  • To increase the natural plant species within the school grounds.
  • To increase the wildlife around the school grounds.
  • Plant vegetable and fruits natural to the desert environment.

 

WASTE

“As of 2015, the total waste generated in Abu Dhabi was to the gargantuan tune of 8.5 million tonnes. To break up the components according to percentage, this comprised: industrial and commercial waste 39 per cent; municipal solid waste 20 per cent; agriculture 6 per cent; construction and demolition waste 34 per cent and hazardous waste 1 per cent. Construction and demolition, and commercial and industrials waste are by far the biggest category of waste generated.

This is a direct outcome of our fast pace of growth and developmental activities which are only expected to increase with our steadily expanding population base. The authorities are finding it increasingly difficult to keep pace with this growth. So, there are only two ways we can deal with this growing mountain of waste: by reducing our waste by using less; and by separating the waste so that we can recycle, reuse and compost as much as possible. But before we decide on our future strategy to manage waste, we need to first know the kind of waste we produce to manage it well.”
(Source – Sustainable Schools Initiative – Green Schools Manual 2017)

We have been looking at our waste in Al Shohub with some of the girls joining our ‘Waste Warriors’ group to see what rubbish we throw in the bins and how we can reduce the items we dispose of most. We spent an afternoon going through the bins at the school to find that the material we waste most of is paper! In the Eco-club we will be looking at the following ways to try and reduce waste in our school:

  • Waste Segregation – paper, food and plastic to have different bins around the school.
  • Using composting machine for the fruit and vegetable leftovers.
  • E-waste – an outreach project in which we will work with our local community to recycle e-waste.

 

WATER

In the Middle East the harsh terrain, scant rainfall and dry, arid climate have lead previous societies here to know the importance of water. Underground water sources have been used in this environment for thousands of years to grow their crops, irrigate date gardens and graze animals. However when we look at the present day we find a very different environment where the residents of Abu Dhabi are now some of the most lavish consumers in the world!

‘The Emirate falls within the arid zone, receiving less than 100 mm of rainfall annually, as compared to the global average of 700 mm per year. Abu Dhabi, compared with other emirates is by far the driest of the regions in the UAE. Groundwater is the primary source here, contributing 60 per cent of the total demand, mostly from the agricultural sector. Out of this, nearly 79per cent is saline, 18 per cent are brackish and only 3 per cent are actually fresh.

This means that a large part of the ground water has to be desalinated before use. With so little rain to fall back on, the recharge capacity of the terrain is extremely low. Up to 75 per cent of the rain evaporates before it even touches the ground, a result of the hot climate. With a good portion of all rain lost to the sea as runoff, only 10 per cent is able to percolate and recharge groundwater.’
(Source – Sustainable Schools Initiative – Green Schools Manual 2017)

With all of these though in place the students at Al Shohub have been monitoring the use of water within the school and have found some startling results!
We now know that we waste A LOT of water in the school and this is mainly done within our bathrooms. While washing hands our students found that many other students were wasting water unnecessarily by having the water taps running for too long. In the New Year at Al Shohub, this will be one of the many of the areas of water we will be addressing. We have a plan to look at water waste and try to reduce it by doing the following:

  • Reusing any drinking water that would normally go to waste.
  • ’One Dash Wash’ – this will be to encourage students to use only one ‘dash’ (a small amount)of water to wash their hands after the bathroom and not to repeatedly put their hands under the tap and waste water.
  • Bring your water to school day (once a week) – where students will ensure they are filling up their water bottles at home and not using the school water taps.
Please click here to read the Sustainable Schools Initiative – Green Schools Manual 2017.