Year of Sustainability spurs local creativity and design in the UAE - GulfToday

Year of Sustainability spurs local creativity and design in the UAE

Ayesha Hadhir

Material Lab team with local creatives and artists.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

The Year of Sustainability presents the programme ‘Material Lab’, a collaborative model for sustainable production, where it engages UAE-based creatives, innovators and businesses to rethink production and design, from conception to execution.

The programme’s two-tiered approach consists of Sustainable Production and Repurposing Materials, two components that emphasise material innovation and reusing existing resources and materials. Heading production and design at Year of Sustainability, Creative Manager Ayesha Hadhir said: “Our Material Lab programme is driven by our vision and deeply rooted cultural values: How do we give surplus waste a new purpose? We always want to encourage and support creatives and business owners, while providing tangible examples on how they can shift their focus towards sustainable production using existing resources. This programme helped us in accessing materials for consideration and furthered understanding, while also allowing the space for academics, designers, scientists, and engineers to begin their journeys into sustainable production.”

Material Lab experiments with materials found in the UAE’s landscape, excess waste and more, to develop a sustainable, biodegradable, or environment friendly elements that holds potential for reinventing production in the UAE. Material innovation presented through case studies details the research, techniques and experimentation undertaken by Mohamed Rowaizak, Nuhayr Zein, Maitha Alomaira, Christine Wilson, Khaled Shalkha and Sara Abu Farha, Hind Rais, Hala Al-Ani and Mahy Mourad, Shamma Almarzooqi, Alyazia Alfalasi and Fatma Kharbash.


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The participants have created samples and products using various resources, including palm fronds, sand, and date seeds. They have been used to manufacture an array of products, from small-scale merchandise to functional furniture. Additionally, the Year of Sustainability presents ‘The Sustainability Pin’, a culmination of the collective vision, research and collaboration with local designers, embodying the UAE’s vision for holistic sustainable production. Driven by the growing need of sustainable materials, the Year of Sustainability team turned to working with UAE-based design studios Asateer, ARDH Collective and MAKE, along with architect Mohamed Rowaizak.

Ayesha Hadhir 1  Creative Manager Ayesha Hadhir.

Designers worked with ‘Dateform’ by ARDH, a material made of discarded date seeds that provides a solid, sustainable surface material. Using the crushed mother of pearl dust and Dateform, Asateer produced the Sustainability Pin, which was then packaged by the Dubai-based Rowaizak, using repurposed shredded paper that individuals can plant in their garden after use. In collaboration with A FRND of Mine, the Year of Sustainability team also launches its official merchandise created through upcycling the pre-existing UAE Year of the 50th range of products. The upcycled merchandise encourages local businesses utilise existing surplus materials to redesign, upcycle, and repurpose business practices. Emphasising the values of local sustainable production and manufacturing, the official Year of Sustainability merchandise includes multi-functional products such as jumpers, tote bags, jackets, and vests. The products are available for purchase at the Year of Sustainability’s official website and in COP28 at the UAE House of Sustainability (previously UAE Pavilion at Expo City).

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, announced 2023 as The Year of Sustainability, running January - December 2023. The Year includes several initiatives, activities and events that draw upon the UAE’s values of sustainability and the legacy of its founder, late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. It aims to inspire sustainable practices and collective action, bringing together everyone that calls the UAE home. The year-long activations are overseen by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Sheikha Mariam bint Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Ayesha Hadhir 34  Sustainable products have been made from palm fronds.

Human settlement in the UAE is a tale of communities coming together, with evidence of settlements in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi dating back to the Palaeolithic era. Centuries ago, the region of the UAE was already a hub for international trade and a cultural crossroads. From the caravan routes that crossed vast deserts to the bustling ports of coasts, people from all over the world came here. Always, from ancient civilisations to modern times, water has been a precious resource. Today, the UAE government is undertaking several important initiatives to address water scarcity, from enhancing water conservation efforts to investing in innovative technologies and infrastructure projects. The late Sheikh Zayed, in particular, recognised the importance of water conservation and oversaw the construction of remarkable engineering feats, including the Wadi Al Wurayah Dam and the Hatta Dam.

Over the past 50 years, the country developed dynamic industries in areas such as construction, manufacturing and tourism, while newer sectors such as renewable energy and technology also emerged. Masdar City is the largest cluster of low-carbon buildings in the world. It champions sustainable living and invites people to live sustainably. The emergence of cities such Sharjah Sustainable City will promote mindful and responsible living in the UAE. The country is now home to three of the largest and lowest-cost solar plants in the world, besides being the first in the region to deploy industrial-scale carbon capture technology and the first to deploy zero emission.

The UAE has set ambitious targets to increase the share of renewable energy in its total energy mix. It has launched several projects to develop solar and wind power, including the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai, which is one of the largest solar parks in the world. The country has introduced electric buses and taxis in several cities, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi, besides setting targets to increase the number of electric and hybrid vehicles on the roads.

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