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Cultivating the Roots of Environmental Awareness

By Masa Sabbah

I’ve been living a low-waste life for over four years now, and my dream is to build a family of sustainability pioneers in Palestine and across the Arab world. I wish to inspire a family that rolls up its sleeves and cultivates the roots of environmental awareness, inspiring individuals of whom the next generations will be proud and who will help achieve a promising, bright, conscious, and sustainable future.

Trash causes major health risks and destroys the world’s ecosystem.

My journey into low-waste living started in 2017 when I moved to India to work with an organization whose core focus is to enhance the living standards of marginalized communities across India and Nepal by offering a variety of renewable energy products. Part of my job was to lead the impact assessment study, which meant that on a weekly basis, I visited our customers who are considered to live below the poverty line. I can’t begin to describe the living conditions, especially of those who live on landfills: children, women, and men who breathe and inhale pollution and sleep next to plastic bottles – inhumane conditions that no one should have to endure!

It was then that I was hit with the reality of how much waste we humans create, most of which is plastic. Trash that deteriorates the land, causes major health risks, and destroys the world’s ecosystem as a whole. I decided then that I didn’t want to contribute to creating this waste and began to reduce and eliminate as much plastic as possible from my life (be part of the solution rather than the problem).

Masa in front of her family’s old house in Om Safa.

Fast-forward four years, I have eliminated 89.9 percent of my plastic use. I have learned so much throughout this journey and feel the need to share it. It wasn’t easy! I made a lot of mistakes and stumbled across many challenges. What was especially difficult was finding educational material in Arabic about sustainability (articles, blogs, influencers, online shops, etc.). Until today, most of the newsletters I’ve subscribed to, influencers I follow, or online shops where I purchase my products are in English, with a huge percentage of them based in Western countries.

When we throw something away, we think it immediately disappears, but it doesn’t. It ends up on someone’s land, possibly even in someone’s home.

Then came the birth of Om Safa, an Arabic online ecosystem that aims to ease the process of shifting to a more sustainable lifestyle by offering an educational platform that inspires and takes you step by step through the journey of low-waste living (from the introduction of the problem to the solution and all the required know-how).

Sustainability and low-waste living are NOT Western concepts and definitely not new to the Middle East. Our ancestors lived very conscientiously, and my goal with Om Safa is to revive, maintain, and sustain this lifestyle. Through Om Safa, I aim to reshape the consumer product landscape, refine what a truly good product looks like, and make natural and plastic-free products accessible, affordable, and convenient for all.

Om Safa is the name of a Palestinian village north of Ramallah that is my family’s place of origin. I was not raised in Om Safa but spent a huge part of my childhood in Om Safa’s forest, under its lush pine trees that until today never fail to amaze me.

Sadly, the forest is currently surrounded by an illegal Israeli settlement that stole over 70 percent of Om Safa’s land. In naming this project Om Safa, I hope to perpetuate it as a symbol of resistance and raise awareness of the name worldwide to showcase the village’s beautiful nature that is threatened by the cancer of the Israeli occupation.

There is a critical need for greater awareness in Palestine, and in the Middle East in general, not just about climate change but also about how to leave a positive footprint on the earth. One by one, or as they say, one plastic straw at a time, we can ensure that our legacy to the next generation is a world that is healthier than we found it and available to be responsibly enjoyed.

  • Masa Sabbah, founder of Om Safa, has a master’s degree in the management of the Sustainable Development Goals and is currently working in the humanitarian tech sector (World Food Programme).

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