COP28 in Dubai: UAE’s Year of Sustainability architect’s green tips 

Mohamed Rowaizak on how to lead a more sustainable life. 

All eyes are on Dubai, as COP28 UAE – United Nations Climate Change Conference comes to the city. The annual global climate summit brings together world leaders and aims to create policies to tackle climate change. If you’re wondering how to have an environmentally friendly life, we spoke to the city’s sustainable stars leading the way. Architect Mohamed Rowaizak is working on a project for the UAE Year of Sustainability. He prioritises the use of environmentally-friendly materials and processes. Here he shares his takes and tips.

What is the UAE Year of Sustainability?

In January, UAE President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed announced 2023 as the Year of Sustainability, a nationwide initiative under the theme Today For Tomorrow. It encourages the public to adopt sustainable practices at the individual and community level. The Year of Sustainability launched Material Lab, a collaborative model for sustainable production, which engages UAE-based creatives, innovators and businesses to rethink production and design.

Tell us about your upcoming project for the initiative.

I applied my passion for sustainable production and rethinking materials to my projects for the Year of Sustainability, and developed the Khaliya – a plant pot and seat artwork. I have a passion for exploring materials and novel methods to integrate locally inspired resources into the construction and creative industries. I experiment with common materials, yet overlooked ones such as metals and paper. 

Khaliya is inspired by wild-grown beehives in the natural wilderness of the UAE, and reimagines them using reclaimed metal. The Sustainability Pin’ is part of the merchandise, and is a collaboration with local designers. 

Tell us a fun sustainable fact about the UAE Year of Sustainability.

A thoughtful and mindful approach has been used all across the awareness, initiatives and activities, especially when it comes to materials and production. It was really inspiring to know that 100 per cent of the materials used in the production of merchandise, products, giveaway, and workshops have been upcycled, recycled, or reused. 

Why do sustainable structures matter?

In today’s world, optimisation and problem-solving can no longer be approached without the use of multidisciplinary learning to offer creative solutions and deliver value. I became aware of this when facing the shifts in society during the pandemic: accelerated use of technology, digitalisation, and need for connection and collaboration. Plus, one of my main interests is the fusion of biological methods with design to create sustainable materials. 

What can countries around the world learn from the UAE’s sustainable initiatives?

The country’s leaders have not only shown interest and support, but provided means and resources for people to create positive change. In the UAE the efforts are commended and appreciated. It is a journey that involves everyone, and everyone’s effort matters. Through the Year of Sustainability, the UAE has encouraged sustainability as an inclusive and lifelong commitment for all individuals and communities.

What sustainable business in the UAE do you love?

Educational initiatives that think about underserved communities inspire me. Enhancing education in underserved and displaced communities has been an ambition since my first visit to Zanzibar in 2014. I was part of a youth-based team, which founded the social enterprise Spreading Grace in the UAE.  

What would you like COP28 in Dubai to achieve?

The scale of the event is enough to shift cultures towards a mindful lifestyle. I believe in education playing a role to aid leaders, parents, students. Domestic engagement initiatives such as the Year of Sustainability are crucial in engaging individuals alongside macro-level efforts such as COP28. Our roles as individuals, creatives, designers and the community as a whole is equally important as it is our collective actions today that will impact the future of our planet. 

Share a sustainable tip for our readers

My tip, which I live by, is to be open to ideas that challenge your current behaviour. If you keep doing what you are doing, you will keep getting the same results. In order to envision a different future for our planet, we need to do things differently – and so it all begins with us, today, one step at a time. 

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