By: Ruba Anabtawi
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons:
In the heart of the occupied city where green spaces and freedom are absent, Afaq environmental magazine presents several innovative initiatives and environmental practices which were thought out of the common consumption box. Individually, homes are being decorated with recycled materials such as plastic bottles, car tires, wash basins and other materials, in addition to returning back to simple agriculture. Socially, institutions are disseminating the ideas of recycling through specialized projects and workshops. These individual and social touches have given a new meaning to a city overwhelmed by concerns and constraints.
The house of Mustafa al-Kalouti in Jerusalem was a witness to the fact that environmental awareness is not associated with a specialized profession, but rather all it requires is an interest and a vision. This is reflected in his home in Wadi al-Joz overlooking Al-Sawwanah neighborhood and the Hebrew University, where he adorned his balcony with dozens of plastic bottles planted with medical herbs and decoration plants.
Al-Kalouti, who works in an international organization, says “I applied the idea [of recycling plastic bottles] in my home after I saw it in a Turkish hotel in the city of Antalya. I liked the idea and from that moment, I never threw any plastic bottle but rather used it as a planting pot”.
Car Tires and Making Compost
A few dozen meters from the house of Al-Kaluti lies the garden of Mrs. Umm Ali (Mahdia Abu Ghazala) located in the neighborhood of Al-Sowanna, drawing the attention of all eyes that pass by it. Alongside the cactus and flowers scattered around her garden and the pine trees surrounded by lemon and orange trees, you find car tires cut in a flower-shaped manner and painted in different colors and used as pots for various plants. You can also find agricultural uses for every damaged thing in the house (hand washbasins, electric kettles, plastic bottles and mugs).
Um Ali says while pruning her plants, “I started using car tires for plantation a few years ago after I saw it on my way to visit my son in Israeli prison. When I returned home I asked one of my sons to bring me tires from a nearby workshop and it’s what you see now in my garden”.
Um Ali learned how to produce compost from her aunt who used to bury all organic food waste under the soil and let it decompose for a period until it transforms into fertilizer that nourishes the soil. Um Ali is now doing the same, she doesn’t throw organic waste but buries it into the soil.
Community initiatives with the signature of Jerusalem institutions
Environmentally friendly initiatives are not limited to individual touches such as the houses of Al-Kaluti and Abu Ghazaleh, but are also found in local institutions such as Burj Al-Laqlaq, located in the heart of the old city of Jerusalem. Burj Al-Laqlaq recently implemented a project aimed at supporting women funded by Heinrich Böll-Stiftung and the Arab Center for Agricultural Development (ACAD) through the provision of agricultural greenhouse dedicated to cultivating various seedlings in a 70-square-meter greenhouse that are sold later through periodic exhibitions to provide income for women.
Another project in Al-Housh Gallery, Hala Hidayah, the coordinator of the “Creative Industry” project in the gallery says that the gallery is famous for encouraging the preservation of the environment through recycling household waste, which is the idea of the two young women “Ola Fityani and Sireen Jabarin” who created the project “From Trash to Cash” funded by the European Union and other institutions. They trained a group of youth on turning glass jars into electric lamps and oil paintings into wall clocks and other environmentally friendly ideas. In order to raise awareness about reducing the use of plastic, Al-Housh Gallery will also implement a newspaper recycling project that turns newspaper into paper bags.
Translated by: Ghadeer Kamal Zaineh