The global climate crisis discourse and ecological activism have been and continue to gain widespread attention in Kuwait. Local initiatives spearheaded by influencers and entrepreneurs aim to concurrently raise awareness, provide and point out alternative avenues of material consumption and enable spaces in which eco-conscious solutions may be discussed and promoted.
There are too many notable examples of grassroots efforts to list so I’d like to point out ones that I have personal experience with. AO is a locally owned and managed boutique, located in 8mall in Salmiya (and online with delivery!) that practices a firm policy of selecting and retailing cruelty free, fair trade, vegan, eco-friendly, charitable and 5R (reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse, repurpose) essential and luxury items. They stock everything from a wide range of organic and waste-free hygiene supplies to biodegradable bandages and a selection of reusable coffee capsules. They’re also a one-stop shop for almost anything you’d need to enhance your yoga routine.
Next up are a couple of INJAZ initiatives. For the uninitiated, INJAZ is a worldwide organization that promotes early entrepreneurship in secondary school students, and in this case these two groups are vying for first place in an eco-business competition. Tri-Fil have patented a process whereby cigarette ends can be recycled into fresh cotton and are in the process of placing specially marked ashtrays around the country and cleaning neighborhoods of littered ends. Playstic, another team, are creating a board game called Gadha made of recycled materials that heavily features physical exercise as a gameplay element. They’re hoping to simultaneously reduce board game waste and tackle the childhood obesity epidemic. You can follow each team’s progress on Instagram.
Trashtag Kuwait, however, is a truly independent endeavor. The trashtag movement started as a series of individuals on Reddit spontaneously cleaning up litter in their neighborhoods and gained significant traction, culminating in the establishment of a Kuwaiti “branch”. This group of volunteers regularly schedules cleanups in several areas around Kuwait and eagerly welcomes curious residents to register for their next meetup on their Instagram page. Head over to see neatly sealed stacks of full trash bags and pristine beaches.
Finally, we have Eco Emporium 965, also an Instagram-based boutique that specializes in recycled apparel created by local designers and artists as well as a selection of imported accessories and yoga supplies. Eco Emporium donates a very generous portion of proceeds to various ecological and ethical causes locally and globally including animal rescue, food programs, sustainable development and reforestation. I can attest to the quality and creativity of their shirts and sweaters, but why not see for yourself?
Kuwait faces a variety of incipient ecological concerns. According to the World Resources Institute, as one of the few large metropolitan areas not located near a fresh water source, we are ranked 7th globally for baseline water stress, a metric signifying a country’s ratio of water withdrawal to renewable water supplies. I recommend you visit their website and explore their proprietary Aqueduct tool, which also ranks countries by drought risk and allows you to identify future food security as it applies to water risks.
Kuwait also suffers greatly from light pollution, a consequence of the mismanagement and overuse of electrical light. This can lead to serious ramifications including the alteration of the “behaviour, biological rhythms and physiological functions of living organisms as well as ecosystems.” According to the VIIRS, a tool used by NASA to collect visual imagery of Earth, Kuwait is ranked 12th worldwide for highest radiance and third in the Gulf after Qatar and Saudi Arabia. If we’re only counting countries with a population higher than 16,000, Kuwait is 6th. If we take into account that countries with prominent aurorae have massive fluctuations in radiance, Kuwait is 5th.
We are also being faced with rising land degradation and desertification and continue to be affected by the pollution that occurred during the Gulf War. These are all significant and yet not insurmountable challenges. There are many steps that may be taken by individuals to lessen the collective impact on our immediate surroundings, if not the world at large. An emphasis on walking or biking instead of driving where and whenever possible, a concerted effort to consume less plastic, electricity and water, a more vegetarian diet, widespread condemnation of littering, and reusing or appropriating traditionally single-use containers for new purposes can and will make a significant difference. Choosing to encourage and support fair trade, organic, biodegradable and recycled products should initiate feedback loops that create a normalized ecologically conscious collective mindset. Kuwait and her residents have historically been well attuned to the rhythms of the world around them, and it is plainly obvious that there exists a great affection for the diversity of natural beauty here – in winter, at least – and it would be a shame for the next generation to not be able to experience that.
Hamad AlKhaled is currently studying politics. He enjoys thinking and talking about environmentalism, developments in science, media and travel.
Disclaimer: This is NOT a sponsored post. This is a personal review and all opinions expressed here are of the writer.