A Glimpse into the Future of Sustainability!
Having seen the travel industry changing rapidly and now being increasingly focused on sustainability and environmental responsibility, attending the Forbes Middle East Sustainability Leaders' Summit 2023 felt like stepping into a future where innovation and eco-consciousness take center stage. I was therefore extremely honored and pleased that I was invited by Forbes Middle East to attend this super interesting event in the Rixos Premium Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi.
This prestigious event, chaired by His Excellency Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade for the UAE, brought together international leaders in sustainability, technology, finance, policy and of course tourism to discuss, innovate, and drive global strategies toward sustainable living.
In this blog post, I will highlight some of my experiences and key takeaways, insights, and sustainable initiatives that made this event a success. A day learning from CEO's, Ministers, Chairmans and Ambassadors while networking with like minded and interesting people and entrepreneurs.
The summit featured an array of keynote speeches, but I will highlight the most remarkable one and the one that stood out the most to me, which of course was related to travel and tourism.
But the morning started with a panel of a bunch of school kids and the His Excellency Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade for the UAE, in fact moderated by a very brave little girl.
The new leaders of tomorrow were also given a platform and it clearly shows the acknowledge and importance that the UAE gives to this new generation, because sustainability will become more and more relevant to make the world a better place than it is today.
The talk that stood out the most to me was Sandeep Walia's talk on "Harmonizing Hospitality and Environmental Wellness". Walia, the COO of Marriott International Middle East, Egypt, and Turkey, shed light on the hospitality industry's efforts to embrace sustainability. He highlighted the three major sustainability challenges Marriott faces in the Middle East: food waste, electricity consumption, and water usage.
Sandeep Walia mentioned the changing mindset among the Marriott's guests. Where some sustainability projects in the past were perceived as a less luxurious, nowadays it is the contrary and is sustainability actually seen as a luxury!
Furthermore in his speech he pinpointed some really interesting facts about some sustainability project that led to great achievements within the Marriott International Middle East.
Plastic Bottle Reduction: An initiative by three Marriott hotels in Dubai was to replace plastic bottles with glass ones. This simple change led to the estimated reduction of 1.5 million plastic bottles annually. With over 8,000 Marriott hotels worldwide, this initiative has the potential to cut down on billions of plastic water bottles.
Food Waste Management: Marriott implemented a system that measures the exact amount of trash per dish, using data analysis to adjust production accordingly. This data-driven approach minimizes food waste and contributes to more sustainable practices.
Mangrove Forest Project: Marriott, in collaboration with Etihad, completed a 12,000-tree mangrove forest in Abu Dhabi. Mangroves are known to absorb four times more CO2 than regular trees. What makes this initiative unique is that Marriott actively involved its employees in the project, creating awareness and encouraging direct participation in sustainability efforts.
Sustainable Initiatives at the Event Venue
Forbes Middle East contributed with a more sustainable event venue approach.
Sustainable Initiatives at the Event Venue: The summit went beyond discussions and set an example by incorporating sustainable initiatives within the event itself:
1. Gift Shop Instead of Goodie Bags
Instead of traditional goodie bags filled with items attendees may not need, a "free gift shop" was set up. This unique concept allowed participants to choose their favorite gifts, reducing waste and promoting conscious consumption.
2. Vertical Farming Awareness
The Middle East, facing water scarcity, is a pioneer in vertical farming. The world's largest vertical farm, Bustanica, hails from the UAE and was present at the summit. Vertical farming has the potential to revolutionize agriculture, conserving water and producing food more sustainably.
3. Living Plants Decor
Instead of using cut flowers for decorations, the entire venue was adorned with living plants. This simple change not only added to the aesthetics but also minimized waste. All materials used for the event stands were recyclable, contributing to a more sustainable environment.
4. Reusable Water Bottles
The event replaced single-use plastic water bottles with water dispensers located throughout the venue, encouraging attendees to use reusable bottles. This move significantly reduced plastic waste.
Attending the Forbes Middle East Sustainability Leaders' Summit 2023 was an eye-opening experience, offering a glimpse into a future where sustainability and innovation coexist seamlessly. It showcased how global leaders in various fields are collaborating to drive a more eco-conscious world.
From reducing plastic waste to embracing data-driven food waste management, the summit inspired me to take action and most importantly be part of the change. The sustainable initiatives implemented at the event venue were a testament to the event's commitment to environmental responsibility.
As a travel and tech enthusiast, I look forward to a future where sustainability is not just a buzzword but a way of life.