In a carbon-fuelled country like Bahrain, trying to be green can seem like an impossible task
Time Out Bahrain Staff
1 Use public transport: OK, let’s face it, most people didn’t know that Bahrain has any public transport, and it is admittedly rare that a bus is ever seen on Bahrain’s roads. But the kingdom’s bus network does in fact extend right across the country, and although services are infrequent (you are likely to spend between 30 minutes to an hour waiting for one to come along) they are a cheap way to get between Bahrain’s major suburban centres, costing as little as 200 fils per trip.
2 Join a car pool: Driving to work in Bahrain is a bit like joining a social club, one in which you never actually meet anyone. The same group of cars snakes in the traffic from one end of Manama to the other; the same group of commuters travelling on their own between the residential areas and the office districts of Bahrain every single day. However, if everyone signed up to sharing their car with just one other person, there would be half the amount of traffic each morning and, critically, the commute would emit half the amount of carbon. As a side benefit, we’d all make a new friend.
3 Pump up: It comes as no surprise that driving on flat tyres can be dangerous. But did you know that flat tyres creates drag on the road that causes you to use significantly more petrol than you would were your tyres properly pumped? Sure, petrol is cheap in the oil-rich Gulf, but even in Bahrain, by driving on tyres that sag into the road you are wasting up to BD300 per year and emitting up to 115kg of carbon dioxide unnecessarily.
4 Slow down: It is a modern myth that driving at break-neck speed reduces the amount of fuel your car consumes. In fact, it’s the opposite. Driving at 80km per hour uses 25 per cent less fuel than driving at 110km per hour. As an added incentive, 91 people lost their lives on Bahrain’s roads last year, the majority as a result of accidents caused by speeding vehicles, meaning that by cutting your carbon emissions you are also saving lives.
5 Fly less: No one wants to hear it: flying is the most environmentally destructive method of travel available. Because of the increasing number of low cost carriers, air travel is hugely costly for the environment, and currently accounts for five per cent of carbon emissions globally. The problem is, Bahrain is an island, so what’s the alternative? If flying is essential, choose your airline by how green it is. For details on their green initiatives, call them and ask.
6 Go for a run, don’t drive to the gym: It is an idiosyncrasy of the modern world that most of us drive several kilometres in order to run the same distance on a treadmill. Sure, the gym has air conditioning, music, television and a water cooler, but if you really want to pound off the pounds, get up early and run along the Al Fateh Corniche. The sweat you work up will keep you trim and you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint by an estimated 600kg annually.
7 Bike to work: Bahrain is a biker’s paradise (see www.timeoutbahrain.com for others who think so). There are few hills and the traffic is rarely so bad as to prove a danger to the cyclist (though if you are riding in the dark, we strongly suggest you wear reflective gear). But the number of bikes we have seen on the roads in the past six months can be counted on two hands. Cycling to work will not only get you fit, it will also reduce your carbon emissions by over 2.5 tonnes a year. Ditch four wheels and try two.
8 Take shorter showers: Did you know that showers account for almost two thirds of water heating costs? And this in a country that sees summer temperatures top 40 degrees. We are not for one minute suggesting that you give up washing. But you might want to cut down on those hour-long showers you take to help you wake up. Indeed, conserving water in this country should be at the top of everyone’s list of priorities – by taking shorter, cooler showers you are not only helping to conserve limited supplies of water, but cutting down on carbon and probably saving your skin too!
9 Don’t tumble dry: In a country in which the wind blows like a hair dryer for most of the year, it is amazing that tumble dryers even exist in Arabia. In fact, these machines are such gas guzzlers that using them should be a carbon crime. Sure, dust storms mean you probably don’t want to hang your laundered undies outside, but buy a clothes horse and pop your drying in front of a window. It not only saves a huge amount of carbon, but increases the longevity of your clothes, too!
10 Turn off, tune out, shut down: If there were one thing defining the way societies in the developed world waste energy, it is ‘phantom’ or ‘vampire’ energy use. Most of us think that by flicking our computers, televisions, stereos and other electrical appliances to standby means they are essentially off. In fact, they are still sucking electricity out of the socket, and it is estimated that as much as 20 per cent of annual household energy use is wasted in this way. It doesn’t take much to pull out a plug, and seems an easy way to help save the world.
11 Have a light bulb moment: On Saturday March 27 this year, millions of people around the world turned off their lights for Earth Hour, which saw the world go dark in support of efforts to reduce our carbon footprint. Unfortunately, a week later and we were back to needlessly lighting every corner and crevice of our houses and apartments. Although lights are not the most energy hungry appliances in our homes, the sheer number of them makes their existence problematic if we are to attain a cleaner, greener future. It is estimated that half the lights on in any house are not needed – make sure you switch yours off.
12 Eat local: Tell most people in Bahrain to eat locally, and they’d think that you were asking them to go on a diet of dates. Bahrain might not be the most fertile country in the world, but it still manages to produce a range of foodstuffs, much of the best of which can be found at Central Market. But Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Iran can supply most of what we eat. By scoffing blueberries from Argentina and lamb from New Zealand, you’re not only paying over the odds for food which has spent most of its life in cold storage, but you are causing untold misery to the ozone layer. Be green, eat local.
13 Grow your own: If you want to go one step further towards changing your lifestyle from gas guzzler to clean and green, there’s no better way to help save the planet than to start growing your own food. And you don’t need a massive garden to do so – a balcony or roof would do just as well. Buy a grow bag, or purchase a few plant pots and start sowing salads, carrots, tomatoes and aubergines. Not only will you notice the difference in taste, but if you don’t spray them with insecticide, you’ll be planting yourself some of the very few organic fresh vegetables to be found in Bahrain.
14 Swag a cloth bag: It has been estimated that the world uses between 500 billion and one trillion plastic bags each year. Demand is so high that 12 million barrels of oil are used each year to make them. Less than 1 bag in 1,000 is recycled and, to throw in another statistic, approximately 100,000 marine animals die annually as a result of mistaking them for food. If you don’t want to be part of a growing trend that is spreading litter across the earth and causing untold harm, buy yourself a cloth bag for your grocery shopping. They’re reusable, fashionable, and environmentally friendly.
15 Recycle: Most countries in Europe now have mandatory recycling schemes. Their motivation is not merely to conserve scarce natural resources and reduce the amount of waste they throw into landfill, but because what we throw away is worth something. Glass, metal, paper and plastic (which make up around half of everyone’s rubbish) all have a value. Throwing them in the bin is like dropping dinars down the drain. Thankfully, Bahrain has a number of recycling schemes, the best of which is Recycling for Charity. Not only is your waste re-used, but for every tonne collected BD15 goes to local charities. To locate your nearest recycling station, visit www.recycling-for-charity.com.
16 Bin it!: Bahrain could and should be one of the cleanest countries on earth. With a small population and award-winning landfill sites, there shouldn’t be a spot of litter anywhere. But drive out into the desert and you’ll find plastic bottles, bags and cigarette butts strewn across the sand. The Tree of Life, one of Bahrain’s national emblems, is starting to look like a rubbish dump. Head to the beach and you are more likely to find a Coke can floating on the shoreline than any sea creature. If you head out for the day, keep a plastic bag in your car for any rubbish that you generate. If the person in the car in front of you throws their trash out the window, give them a loud beep. In some places in the world, this would be a criminal offence. Shame people into respecting their environment. It doesn’t take much to clean up Bahrain. Become part of the solution and join one of several clean up schemes run by responsible companies such as the Crowne Plaza Hotel Bahrain (17 531 122). Failing that, set up your own!
Products that don’t cost the earth
Although we blame factories, planes, offices and governments, the biggest cause of climate change and environmental destruction are consumers, most of whom don’t think twice about buying environmentally toxic products that have been shipped half way around the world. Here’s where to shop and what to buy to keep your shopping basket climate friendly.
Green cleaning products Whether it is dishwasher liquid, shampoo, washing machine soap or floor cleaner, everything you use will eventually make its way into the waste water system and back into the environment. Since the chemicals used within them don’t breakdown, you are literally pouring poison down the plughole, which is killing most of the life in our rivers and seas. However, cleaning products don’t need to be full of chemicals. Get to Geant in Bahrain Mall, which stocks a surprisingly large range of environmentally friendly and reasonably priced options.
Local over organic While organic farming is environmentally friendly, flying organic food all the way from Argentina is not. If it’s the environment you are trying to save, buy fresh local produce that has come from the region at Central Market near the Pearl Roundabout. Not only will the food taste much better, but it also won’t kill the earth.
Buy recycled Sure, you can do your bit by popping waste in a recycling bin, but this is only half the battle. If you don’t buy recycled products, then the job is frankly half done. There is no reason that paper products, for example, need be anything but recycled, while most plastic objects should have been used several time over. Carrefour, in Bahrain City Centre, has a pretty good selection.
Buy bigger bottles In Bahrain we are among the highest consumers of bottled water anywhere in the world. The result? Millions of plastic bottles being thrown into landfills every month, most of which will take 1,000 years to break down. If you buy bottled water, the bigger the bottle you buy, the less plastic used per litre. And make absolutely sure you recycle when you throw it away.
Bahrain and climate change.
1 Number of so-called ‘green buildings’ in Bahrain (the Bahrain World Trade Centre, Bahrain’s first energy efficient building, the turbines supposedly produce 10-15 per cent of the building’s total energy needs). Compare this to Abu Dhabi which is building carbon-neutral zero waste Masdar City.
2 Number of threatened species in Bahrain. Not too bad, until you realise there are only two species of wildlife actually found in Bahrain
4 Bahrain’s rank in the list of the world’s most polluting countries per capita, behind Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, according to the US Department of Energy’s Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC). Each Bahraini resident emits on average 28.2 metric tonnes of CO2 every year. The residents of Yemen, on the other hand, emit just one.
10 The per cent, according to the UN, of Bahrain that will be under water should sea levels rise just one metre (most experts agree that sea levels are likely to rise 1.5 metres by 2100).
15 Years left of oil in Bahrain at the current extraction rate, according to a study by the US State Department
41 Years left of oil at current consumption and considering current capacity, according to Gilbert Masters, Stanford Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Emeritus.
50 Years left of gas in Bahrain at the current extraction rate, according to a study by the US State Department.
85 Percent of the Gulf region’s drinking water that comes from desalination plants, so from the sea.
440 Litres of water used per head in Bahrain, the highest in the world.
1,800,000 Tonnes of waste produced annually by those living in Bahrain.
Green cities of the future
Manama, at first glance, might not seem a very green city. Composed of energy inefficient concrete apartment blocks, congested traffic and carbon-fuelled lifestyles, Bahrain might seem an odd choice for a conference, the first of its kind in the Gulf, which planned to discuss the environment-related challenges and issues facing the world through the eyes of the construction industry. But on May 5 this year, the Green Building Forum took place at the Bahrain International Exhibition Centre (BIEC), featuring debate and discussion on how to make one of the most environmentally unfriendly industries on the planet, less so.
Ahmed Suleiman, Managing Director of one of the organisers, North Star Associates, said: ‘The Forum was a demonstration of Bahrain’s potential as a base for intellectual exchange on a number of key issues.’ One of Bahrain’s cornerstone of environmental planning is the Bahrain World Trade Centre, the design of which contains wind turbines which are expected to contribute between 10 and 15 percent of the building’s total energy consumption. The Arcapita Building, which is under construction in Bahrain Bay, is another such example which is being built to environmentally sound principles, making Bahrain something of a leader in the region when it comes to green construction.
However, while green principles certainly make a good starting point for the construction industry, it is not only the construction of buildings that determining their carbon footprint. How they are used is crucial to determining how green they become. Since many of the most energy hungry buildings in the country are office buildings, we thought our readers could use a few tips on how to keep the place they work both clean and green.
Five quick ways to make your office green 1 Make it literally green, buy a plant and put it on your desk 2 Be paperless. Don’t print unnecessary emails and work as much as possible from the screen 3 If you are away from your desk for short periods, leave the monitor on power saving mode; if you are away for a long time, shut down the computer 4 Have an office recycling bin for paper and cardboard. Most office waste is recyclable 5 Ask your cleaners to use green cleaning products – they are less toxic to the environment and friendlier to you
Blast from the past
Now, no one is going to force you to turn off your air-con. The Bahrain summer is something that most of us would die in, were it not for the rickety fans streaming in cool air day and night. But next time you’re sat at home, check yourself – what are you wearing? It’s amazing how many people go from the blazing heat into near Arctic conditions. As it stands, air conditioning is the cause of the bulk of most households’ energy bills, and this is hardly surprising when most people leave them on 24/7 whether or not they are at home. There are some simple rules to decreasing your energy consumption: turn it off when you leave the house, clean the air con filter regularly (a blocked filter can force the unit to work up to twice as fast), and increase the temperature setting. By doing so you could cut both your energy bill, and your carbon footprint, in half.
Keep informed Thanks to some scientists slightly ramping up the figures in order to present a more urgent case for preventing climate change, a culture of climate scepticism has once again become acceptable. But ignorance is not innocence, and every single person is responsible for the harm they cause the world they depend upon. Read newspapers, magazines (Time Out Bahrain is the only read you really need), internet news sources – anything to make sure you keep abreast of what you can do to make the world for the next generation as wonderful as it is today. Climate science is evolving, so make sure your actions and opinions are ready to evolve with it.