President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has made sustainability a policy priority.
We have been hearing a lot about the Egypt Vision 2030 and sustainability separately, but in fact the two things are closely intertwined. The Egypt Vision 2030 is a national agenda that reflects the Egyptian state’s long-term strategic plan to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Egypt Vision 2030, implemented by the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, aligns Egyptian policies with the SDGs. But sustainability is not just about government policies, it is about how we, as Egyptians, make both business and personal decisions.
The term sustainability is often used interchangeably with environmentally friendly. But sustainability is a much broader principle that focuses on creating a society where economic development, social development, and environmental protection are all given priority when making decisions. The term sustainability reflects a holistic view in which people (society), profit (the economy), and the planet (the environment) are considered in equal measure in all decisions that are made.
The government is working on implementing the Egypt Vision 2030. But if we want to build a strong and healthy society, we all need to do our part. So, what does sustainability mean for us, the members of the public? We need to reconsider the effects of the decisions we make in our daily lives on other people and on the environment as well as on our bank accounts. We need to shift our perspective and to take greater responsibility for how the decisions we make affect everything around us.
There are simple ways that we can bring sustainability into our lives. First, we can learn more about the products we buy and the businesses we support. Where we put our money is one of the primary ways that we can effect change. So, consider buying locally first and support the local economy by buying from Egyptian small and medium-sized businesses. Your carbon footprint is smaller the closer you are to the source of the product you are buying, and sustainability also prioritises a healthy economy and resilient community.
Buying locally supports all these sustainable priorities. Start by looking for the “Made in Egypt” label. This not only supports your neighbours, but it is also the first step in putting money back into the local community. If everyone commits to buying locally, everyone wins. The money you spend will go to local workers, and these workers will then spend locally, further infusing the money. This is the basis of a vibrant economy, and a vibrant economy is a key component of sustainability. Buying locally is how we can help to support it.
Next, support sustainable brands. This means learning about the companies you are giving your money to and making sure that their values and practices align with yours. You can do this by asking questions. How do they treat their employees? Where do they get their raw materials? Did the process of manufacturing have a negative effect on the environment or on employees? Do they use natural material that is easily replenished like plants or a finite source of material like fossil fuels? Is the product packaging made from single-use plastic, or is it recycled and reusable? Does the use of the product harm the environment?
There are very few companies that will be completely sustainable. But sustainability is not about perfection. It is about making informed choices that take people and the planet into consideration along with cost. Asking questions, those listed above and many others, is the first step in educating ourselves on the real impact of our consumer decisions.
We also need to consider the impact of our lifestyles on ourselves, including personal finances and physical health, the people around us, the environment, and the wider economy. A healthy lifestyle is important. Not only is the physical and mental health of individuals an important component of the SDGs, but also healthy living affects all three pillars of them. Eating fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables is undeniably a part of a healthy diet. But it is also the most environmentally friendly food decision you can make.
There are fewer chemicals in fresh food, and it is completely biodegradable. In fact, the waste from fresh food replenishes the earth with the nutrients it needs to remain fertile. Buying from farmers directly also cuts out the middleman, allowing them to reinvest in the land.
The closer we move our buying to the source of our food, the greater the benefit to the community will be. In Egypt, there are several socially conscious markets focused on closing the gap between farm and table. While it may be easy to buy produce from large markets, supporting your local butcher and the corner fruit stand is both cheaper and brings us closer to the farm.
Moreover, even small changes to our homes can go a long way. Banlastic, a social enterprise based in Alexandria that tackles the plastic pollution problem, posted an Instagram post this week on how to reuse water-to-water plants. There are many ways we can conserve water. Shortening showers by a few minutes can save up to 550 litres per month, for example. Washing dishes in one sink filled with water rather than rinsing in another sink with clean water will also help to conserve it. Even simply fixing leaky taps can go a long way over the long term.
The Internet is filled with sustainable living suggestions, many of which all begin with measuring water and electricity consumption. Tracking our electricity and water consumption will allow us to make informed decisions about how effective our small changes are. In the end, sustainability is about making small decisions every day that add up to a big change for our health, personal finances, and the planet we all share.
*The writer is the founder of Eco-Dahab, South Sinai.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 12 August, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly