This week we speak with Amanda Rushforth, an environmental consultant, TED speaker, and a dedicated advocate for sustainable living and environmental conservation.

Can you tell us about your journey and experiences that have led you to be passionate about environmental sustainability and conservation?

I grew up with a love for the ocean, and living coastally, both in Jeddah and here in Dubai, I saw first-hand the environmental changes like coral bleaching and the scale of the plastic pollution that affected it. I joined Azraq in order to help affect change within the region. 

I have always loved fashion and was taught to really value the pieces in our wardrobes at home. I even completed a fashion design and marketing degree in the UK, but could never bring myself to make my own line of clothes. Having seen the environmental impact that the fashion industry was responsible for, my focus became about educating people on the importance of reading labels, understanding what materials they were made from and ultimately how much of a carbon, water and human footprint they cost. 

At Azraq, with all this awareness on the impacts of fast fashion coming to light, we created a sustainable fashion directory to help shed light on the issues and promote locally made, sustainable and slow brands. 

What daily habits do you incorporate into your routine to actively contribute to the global initiative for cleaner oceans and a more sustainable planet?

Living sustainably isn't about being perfectly plastic free, recycling or composting, but more about the mindset to look for alternative solutions in every situation. We have had a water filter for over 10 years, and choose to shop from local farms, but that doesn't mean i can always find the 'cleanest' products when I need to go shopping. I look for glass alternatives in everything as glass is easily recycled, however plastic that is sent for recycling also has many limitations. Understanding the health implications of using plastic cookware, utensils and bottles helps make choosing a plastic free home easier. We also use Recapp who are actively recycling plastic here in the region, collecting them from you free of cost too. 

When it comes to helping the oceans, we live by the beach in Jumeirah and won't walk past a piece of rubbish without picking it up. But there's a lot that needs to be done and the sand is saturated with nurdles and microplastics so the only real solution for stemming this problem is 'turning off the tap' with plastic production in the first place.

How can we reduce the environmental impact of our closets?

The first step is to look more closely at the labels and materials in your wardrobe already and invest in a microfibre catching laundry aid - like a cora ball (from Azraq) to reduce the daily, continual plastic footprint in our oceans. The most sustainable wardrobe is the one we already have, so ideally, only shop clothes made of natural materials such as bamboo, linen and flax… if possible from brand with sustainable and ethical sourcing practices! The more the consumer demand for these products grow, the more accessible they will become on market! And lastly, become part of a circular economy: make it a habit to not dispose unethically of the clothes you no longer wear. Upsell or donate your pre-loved items and shop secondhand clothes yourself. 

What are your future goals and aspirations in the field of environmental conservation, and how do you plan to continue making a positive impact?

I don't see us being any closer to turning off the tap without larger voices getting involved. The dream would be to have serious restrictions and taxes added to every plastic item, be it consumer goods or clothing, helping to make choosing plastic less appealing first and foremost. I love speaking at schools within my roles and ambassadorships here in the UAE and I can tell you our future generation is already very plastic aware which is inspiring. Seeing more and more schools choosing to go plastic free would be a great accomplishment for the region.