This series aims to shed light on the people who are the underlying driving power of change in the Jordanian society: The ordinary citizens with extraordinary ideas, stories or actions.
If you ask any person about the principles they live by, you will get answers that cover an A to Z range of values. However, to 22 year-old Aya Al-Fawaress, the principles she lives by are mainly presented by 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
In addition to being a computer engineering student, an AIESEC alumna and an ambassador for interfaith dialogue with One Young World, Aya is a self-confessed tree hugger with a dream to save the planet. For her, it wasn’t just an accidental interest triggered by hearing about all the people dying of cancer due to ozone depletion, but rather an inner calling or a second nature she acquired being raised by an environmentalist father.
As time went by, Aya got busy leading a busy life between school and work, and she got distracted from environmental issues, but that could only last until the wake-up call came in 2009, with the failure of The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15). At that point, as Aya puts it, she realized how close we were to a catastrophic climate change. She saw that most governments weren’t dealing with the issue as a serious threat to every human being’s life, and decided to step up and do her part in paying it back -or forward- to Mother Earth in every way possible.
Climate change is affecting our lives directly, through the natural disasters we hear about on daily basis as well as indirectly, as it’s a major cause for biodiversity losses, says Aya. Yet, in keeping up with reality, she doesn’t believe in overnight change. Change is a gradual process and it starts with the individual, for the way she sees it is that the governments won’t take concrete actions with regard to the environment unless the people themselves felt responsible and stopped passing the buck and blaming others for what’s happening. In her opinion, we all have contributed to this climate change, which has now gone beyond global warming to new and more dangerous levels. We did that by failing to save energy and water, as well as actions like over littering and increasing our own carbon footprints, among other things. It’s the start that stops most people, because once we start everything else follows, and we can find the support we need. It’s the domino effect, or the ripple of a stone in a lake. Every goal we strive to achieve starts with an individual action that disseminates through the masses.
In the spirit of her calls for social responsibility, Aya started an initiative in her university prior to her graduation. She proposed having a “Green Day”, which is to dedicate one day a week to educate students about the environment and how to live a greener life. Through that initiative, she aims to attract as much young individuals as she can to the environmental circle and to educate them about how serious this issue is, thus setting them on the road of environmental activism. She’s even thinking of starting a green club to make this a sustainable and ongoing process. Moreover, being a blogger and an active Twitter user, she has also taken advantage of the power of social media as a tool to spread awareness about the issues she’s most passionate about.
In the same vein and being one to practice what she preaches, Aya has always led an eco-friendly lifestyle. Some of the things she does to make her life as green as possible include saving energy by switching from light bulbs to compact fluorescent ones, shutting her computer at night or whenever she’s not using it and washing her laundry in cold water. And speaking of water, she also installed low-flow fixtures to reduce water usage. Moreover, she tends to use greener ways of communication like e-mails or text messages, and to reduce paper use she switched to e-books and uses her laptop to save notes instead of paper notebooks. And if she ever needs to use paper, God forbid, she writes on both sides, for every inch counts. As for transportation, she tries to use alternative transportation means as much as possible, like public transportation or sharing the car with colleagues or friends. She’s also planning to buy a bike sometime soon. She avoids plastic bottles and bags, refilling the bottles she has to use and reusing plastic bags as garbage bags. In addition, she goes an extra mile by trying to live by less, which is not easy especially for women who tend to be more susceptible to shoppaholism, and whenever she’s shopping she has a taste for recycled products as well as non-toxic ones, especially when it comes to cosmetics and cleaning products.
While Aya’s lifestyle might seem hard to adopt by some people, Aya herself believes she’s not doing anything out of the ordinary. In fact, she believes other people could be doing the same things she does, except she makes a point of educating people about the effect of every action by linking every negative or positive behavior to a fact or a study that supports it or undermines it. As for her future plans, in addition to continuing to work on her Green Day initiative and working on building the Green Club, she’s also planning to earn a master degree in green buildings, combining her passion for design with her passion for the environment.
Aya believes that environmental volunteering is mostly interesting because it’s where small changes could have a big impact. It doesn’t always require hard efforts or lots of time, but rather passion, will and persistence. And while she believes it should be approached by both genders, she finds women more entitled to take the lead in this particular field, as they tend to have a finer taste in almost everything, have a stronger connection with nature, food and home than men do. And since women are better at multitasking, then they can always think of something greener to do. And then there’s the fact, which is often stereotyped, that women are more talkative and have better listening skills than their male counterparts, which they might as well use for the benefit of Mother Earth. Plus, everyone knows the major role women, especially mothers, play in building better educated generations, and hence a better future, which is reflected in the famous Arabic saying: “A mother is a school, prepare her well and you prepare a nation”.
Aya’s message to the world is simple: Waiting for someone else to do something will put our lives in danger. We can all be environmentalists and do something to save this planet. It’s not an overload. We can all hug a tree, save money and live green, all in style.