Fighting for a better tomorrow: the middle easterners combating pollution and fuel depletion

Mostafa Adel meets the social entrepreneurs who’re trying to change the way we consume energy.

In terms of energy resources, studies estimate that we have about 50 years’ worth of oil and natural gas, and around 115 years of coal remaining. But time aside, there’s the issue of some resources continuing to cause damage to the environment, threatening the well-being of future generations.

There are those, however, who are trying to build a better future for those after them.

Dubai-based Taka Solutions started when Charles Blaschke realised that buildings aren’t living up to their maximum potential in terms of cost and saving energy. It was from this notion that he and fellow American Chris Burkhardt founded the company. The company focuses on retrofitting buildings, as buildings account for around 40% of the world's energy consumption.

“We deploy cutting-edge technology and engineering via comprehensive, turn-key solutions, in buildings, homes, and industrial facilities to reduce their energy consumption and their carbon impact and save money,” explains marketing manager Nurudin Lowe, speaking on behalf of the founders. “Using a paid-from-savings business model, we simply get paid from a portion of the savings that we generate.”

The process starts with an energy audit, during which the company’s engineers identify the potential energy saving measures that can be implemented in a building.

“We can accurately simulate the energy consumption of any building. After the initial analysis phase, we then move on to the implementation of the identified energy saving measures. We carry out the installations and upgrades to transform the building and immediately reduce the energy consumption,” he continues.

Expressing his concern for the world’s energy consumption behaviour, Lowe reiterates that “saving energy is one of the biggest challenges of our generation, and if we carry on consuming at the rate we do, there is a real possibility that future generations will lead far less comfortable lives than we do today.”

He says: “The average building consumes twice as much as energy as it should; there is a potential to reduce 20% of the world's energy consumption, just by making our buildings more efficient. Imagine being able to turn off 1/5th of the world's power stations, forever!”

SHOPPING CAN SAVE ENERGY TOO

Over in Cairo, Egypt, Up-fuse is a social enterprise that promotes eco-conscious lifestyle by designing and producing environmentally-responsible bags and products from discarded plastic waste. The company tries to spread awareness on the importance of recycling of plastic bags, creating some very cool products in the process, from laptop cases to backpacks.

“Up-fuse started as a pre-Master project for myself and Rania [K. Rafie] my partner,” explains design director and co-founder Yara Yassin, who then fully launched the venture in 2015.

Explaining that the process is very complex compared to other businesses producing normal bags, Yassin says: “We collect and clean the plastic bags and then upcycle them with the community in Garbage City in Cairo. After that, we create the bags from the material. All our designs are in-house.”

Garbage City is a slum settlement at the far southern end of Manshiyat Naser, with the Egyptian capital’s largest concentration of rubbish collectors. With its economy revolving around the collection and recycling of the city's trash, Up-fuse is able to support local, underprivileged communities, providing them with new skills and an income.

POWER OF THE SUN

Another venture working on creating change, include Solera – established in Egypt 2014 by Mostafa Mobarak, Kamil Sayour, and Tarek Soliman – which provides several solar energy options, including rural electrification throughout Africa, off-grid solar energy solutions, solar water pumping, and solar water heating.

“Solera's main role is to package clean solar energy into viable economic projects,” says director Sayour. “While the green aspect of solar energy is one of the main reasons we started the company, we had to actively provide attractive business solutions to ensure uptake of solar energy.”

Completing projects in Liberia and Sudan, most recently Solera helped 28 villages in the Darfur area gain access to electricity for the very first time.

“We’re installing small PV system to power the key facilities in the villages,” adds Sayour. “During our different visits to Africa, we have noticed the immense need for solar energy solutions throughout the rural side of the continent. Our aim is to empower poor rural communities to achieve a better living.”