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Thu 16 Aug 2007 05:14 PM

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One trend that has not yet caught on in Dubai

Is it time for Dubai's catering industry to jump on the carbon bandwagon?

Dubai, even more than the rest of the UAE, considers itself at the forefront of, well, almost everything. Tallest building, hotel with the most stars, restaurants serving the most expensive cocktails, biggest artificial islands, world's first - you get the picture. But there is still one area where Dubai is missing the boat - environmentalism.

While restaurants in California refuse to serve bottled water, new apartments in New York come with their own carbon offsetting scheme, and crisps in England are labeled with the amount of carbon it took to produce them, in Dubai almost everything is imported - leading to one of the world's largest per capita carbon footprints.

At the same time, Dubai is seeking to become a world hub for the carbon trading market. State-run Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) and London-listed carbon-credit company EcoSecurities have recently signed a deal to try and make Dubai a regional centre for trading carbon offsets. Under the Kyoto Protocol developing countries can sell emissions reductions from their energy-intensive industry to help rich countries offset their own contribution to climate change. EcoSecurities and DMCC hope to help projects in the Middle East cut greenhouse gas emissions and generate carbon emissions reduction certificates (CER) which can be sold on.

These two trends may mean that the time is right for the hotel and catering industry in Dubai to start ramping up its efforts to save carbon and get into the forefront of sustainable tourism. In fact, since many new restaurants in Dubai are purpose built, this is a unique opportunity for catering outlets and hotels to plan for carbon neutral dining. At the same time, carbon neutral dining and travel is a large market just waiting to be capitalized on. 

While it is difficult for restaurants in Dubai to buy local, there are many other things that can be done. Here are a few ideas on turning catering green:

Use energy efficient technologies and conservation practices for lighting, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, foodservice appliances, office equipment, and transportation.

Food waste can be made into nutrient-rich soil through an off-site composting system. Commercial bio-digesters can be used on site to turn food waste into compost in about 6 weeks. Soil can then be used to grow food locally.

Organic agriculture and locally grown produce is more sustainable in the long term, but in Dubai it has to be shipped or flown in at huge carbon cost. Yet other countries grow food in deserts, and Dubai can do it too. Meanwhile, food can be sourced from closer to home.

Use recycled or biodegradable products where possible, including chlorine-free paper products, to go containers made from potato starch, and non-toxic cleaning products..

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