One of the most respected environmental activists in the Middle East, no sustainability conference is complete without H.H. Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Nuaimi’s stamp of approval. So it is an enormous compliment that the “Green Sheikh” attended an event co-hosted by Abu Dhabi’s leading property developer and an international carpet manufacturer. Designed to generate environmental awareness among United Arab Emirate businesses, the Cradle to Cradle event attracted over 100 leading architects, designers, and government and New York University representatives.
The conference was co-hosted by Aldar, which owns over 50 million square meters of land in strategic locations throughout the Emirate and Desso – a major European carpet manufacturer with a significant presence across the Middle East, supplying to hospitals, educational facilities, offices and government buildings.
The Netherlands-based company was the first carpet manufacturer in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region to adopt Cradle to Cradle – which Time Magazine has called “a unified philosophy that – in demonstrable and practical ways – is changing the design of the world.”
Delegates heard presentations from Dr Michael Braungart, one of the founders of Cradle to Cradle, and from Stef Kranendijk, chief executive of Desso, on how Cradle to Cradle principles are being applied in one of the world’s leading carpet manufacturers.
Michael Braungart, along with the American architect William McDonough, heralded the philosophy with their book ‘Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things.’ Desso’s central premise is that at the end of a carpet’s useful life, its components should be disassembled and reused without being down-cycled or, worse, simply thrown away.
The Cradle to Cradle philosophy promotes the notion that all product components can be used and reused without losing their value – an entirely new approach to consumerism.
Underlining the importance of the event, it was held at the HQ of Mubadla, established by the government of Abu Dhabi to diversify and transform the economy and develop the next generation of business leaders.
Also represented was government-owned Masdar, a pioneer in renewable energy, which is seeking to position Abu Dhabi as an international hub for renewable energy, new energy and sustainable technologies.
The development of the GCC region, and its increasing urbanization, has inevitably brought problems of waste management and concerns about pollution. The 2008 WWF Living Planet Report found that the UAE has the highest per capita carbon footprint internationally.
However, Abu Dhabi has set a target to generate 7% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, and has embarked on the ground-breaking Masdar project, due for completion in 2025, to build the world’s first zero emission, zero waste, city. Other initiatives, alongside new green building codes, are smaller-scale, but also significant: for example, to phase out plastic carrier bags across the country by 2012.
In parallel, the UAE has also established the world’s most valuable environmental award, worth US $1 million, the brainchild of H.H. Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, in recognition of former President, H.H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who saw the importance of protecting the environment for future generations.
Issues of sustainability and environmental responsibility have grown in importance over recent years leading to, for example, the creation of Estidama, which means sustainability in English, an initiative launched in May 2008 by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council, the agency responsible for the future of Abu Dhabi’s urban environment.
Estidama seeks to achieve the highest levels of sustainable designs and practices from the very start of the design process. The initiative supports the principle of sustainable living and wise use of resources by working closely with communities, organizations, businesses and policy makers to promote responsible decision making. The Pearl rating system associated with Estidama is now a regulatory requirement.
“This was an event that captured imaginations,” said Andre Dulka, Desso’s regional manager, “with Abu Dhabi’s key development organizations represented, as well as a broad spectrum of delegates from the private sector.”