With the introduction of hygiene measures related to the pandemic, single-use plastics are on the increase again - at a time when the green movement was just starting to make some progress.

But there are plenty of ways that you can still help reduce plastic waste, especially during Plastic Free July, a global initiative that encourages people to help work towards its vision of a plastic-free world.

Tatiana Antonelli Abella is the founder and managing director of UAE-based environmental initiative Goumbook.com. As the mother of three boys aged four to 13, she shares her tips on raising an environmentally friendly family in the UAE...

Sustainability is an overused word unfortunately and not many people know what it really means. The main perception is that it is related to the environment only, but it goes beyond. True sustainability is only achieved once: economy, society and environment work in balance; happy and healthy people work for responsible companies; businesses make profits while respecting nature and using just the right resources provided by the environment. If the environment is healthy, people are happy and businesses thrive. The moment one of this pillars fails, the other two fail and there is no more balance.

Living green in the UAE

It is not easy to be sustainable in the UAE. First of all, we live in the desert where resources are scarce and where most of what we consume on a daily basis is imported. But things are changing and we can act. We need to reduce our impact and measure our consumption of water and energy. We also need to reduce the waste we generate, especially items that are not recyclable or that are harmful to the environment. Buy locally-produced products, drink filtered tap water, use just a bucket of water to wash our car, avoid planting water-intensive plants, choose indigenous species that are tolerant to drought and the harsh temperatures.

We should purchase good quality consumer goods: look at the longevity of the products, buy toys for your children that are made out of natural materials. Fast fashion is also a big problem as we tend to buy cheap clothing that lasts just a season. And let’s reduce food waste as we buy too much and most of it goes in the bin. We should also stop using harsh chemicals to clean our homes, be careful with personal care and beauty products, sun protection included! These chemicals are not only bad for the environment, but also for our health.  Let’s be responsible consumers: whatever action we take locally has a global impact. We are global citizens and should think and act as such.

Green family values

We have always been very mindful of water and, as parents, my husband and I have been very strict with it: playing and wasting water is not an option. It scares me so much to think about my children’s future in a world with less than 0.7% clean water.

As a family we are also focused on reducing our consumption of single-use plastics as much as possible. It’s become a mission even for the boys. They are the ones who pick up the reusable bags from home before going shopping and who ask to get their drinks without a straw. They see how plastic pollution is damaging their planet and they feel they can make a difference. We all can!

Did you know…

  • The UAE water consumption per capita is 82 percent more than the world average
  • UAE bottled water is mostly tap water
  • There is more risk of contamination through handling water bottle than through the water supply


About Goumbook

Goumbook runs a variety of eco initiatives, from Sustainable MENA – a green directory which aims to boost the local green economy – to Give a Ghaf Tree, which encourages people to plant trees and raises awareness of the local environment. One of its major campaigns is Drop It, which aims to help people and companies reduce plastic waste, save water and minimise their carbon footprint. Here are some facts and top tips from the Drop It campaign to help your family use less plastic.

How to reduce your family’s plastic use


  1. Drink tap water — get a water filter installed in your home
  2. Carry a reusable water bottle
  3. Refuse plastic straws and utensils when eating out
  4. Bring your own reusable shopping bag


Read more:

See how this Indian expat family lives a sustainable lifestyle in the UAE

How becoming a mum inspired this Dubai expat to live more sustainably

8 ways to lessen your eco guilt (even while living in the desert)