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Posted On: 11 August 2020 12:00 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:07 pm

Qommunity Voices: A team bringing positive environmental impact in Qatar

Vrinda Abilash
Vrinda Abilash
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If an individual can make a difference, a team can make a miracle. And what the team at SustainableQATAR is doing and achieving is nothing short of one! If you haven’t heard of them yet, SustainableQATAR is a think and do tank that raises awareness, shares actionable knowledge, encourages collaboration between individuals and groups. It also actively engages members of the public, private, and government sectors to take environmental sustainability action.

The team at SustainableQATAR is made up of the Executive Committee - Katrin Scholz-Barth (President), MaryBeth Stuenkel (Webmaster), Dr. Shiban Khan (Research), Johanna Grisales (Marketing and Communications), Shari Ann Serrano Botin (Social Media) and Debbie Abujbara (Volunteer Coordinator), and a dynamic list of volunteers of all ages from multiple nationalities with a shared passion for the environment.

Their work is an inspiration to many and is an example of how the power of collaboration can bring about the change we want to see in our societies. ILQ got in touch with the team at SustainableQATAR to get an insight into how they started their journey and what inspires them to continue their efforts. Read more about what each member of the Executive Committee at SustainableQATAR has to say.

SQ EC Aug 2020
Image Credit: SustainableQATAR - Current SustainableQATAR Executive Committee.

ILQ: Tell us a little bit about SustainableQATAR and what does it do?

Shari Ann Botin (Social Media):

SustainableQATAR is an independent, volunteer-based organization that champions and addresses environmental sustainability issues relevant to Qatar. We mainly function online through our website, email campaigns, and social media platforms where we provide action-based knowledge and ‘mind-changing’ solutions to combat climate change. We also offer highly professional programs and lectures that aim to inform our community about sustainability and to empower them to take personal climate action.

SustainableQATAR amplifies impact through cooperation with strategic partners to make a real difference in the health and well-being of the community, environment, and development in Qatar to collectively reduce our environmental footprint including the delivery of the first-ever carbon neutral 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

ILQ: What was the inspiration behind SustainableQATAR’s inception?

Katrin Scholz-Barth (President):

SustainableQATAR was conceived in 2008 by a small group of thoughtful committed people, educators from Qatar Foundation, the American School of Doha and Qatar University, to live more sustainably in Qatar and to build an active, engaged and participatory society focused on environmental sustainability in Qatar.

These continue to be SustainableQATAR’s inspirations and guiding principles. The Qatar Bird Project and the Friends of the Environment Center hosted SustainableQATAR’s monthly meetings and roundtables from 2008 to 2012, for which we are grateful.

While it can be challenging to operate an ambitious volunteer organization throughout the years in a transient community like Qatar, we continue to draw inspiration from our volunteers. The rich and unique backgrounds and experiences everyone brings is a real asset that allows us to mobilize more people, to bring sustainability actions to life and to make a real difference in scaling the Power-of-One.

SustainableQATAR EC
Image Credit: SustainableQATAR

ILQ: How is Qatar doing in the world of sustainability, according to you?

Dr. Shiban Khan (Research):

Qatar has made some promising progress when it comes to sustainability in recent years. Sustainability is an integral part of the Qatar National Vision 2030. The most prominent feature of Qatar’s sustainability initiatives is undoubtedly the commitment to hold the first-ever carbon neutral FIFA World Cup in 2022. This is a formidable challenge, and Qatar looks well set on its way to achieving this target.

Qatar enjoys a diverse demography, with people coming from all corners of the world. It is natural for them to bring in their preconceived notions about sustainability. To meet at a confluence with so many different streams is no easy task, albeit we are witnessing a change. Slowly, but surely community awareness on sustainability and environmental concerns are taking hold. We see this reflected in appreciation for locally produced goods, the increasing popularity of farmers' markets, the enthusiasm for beach cleaning initiatives, etc.

The Government and corporate sectors in Qatar undertake sustainability initiatives as well.

ILQ: What are some of the programs under your initiative?

MaryBeth Stuenkel (Webmaster):

Currently, we have two major programs. Both of these are described on, under - Take Action. Our flagship program, launched in March 2019, is the 52 Weekly Challenges - one challenge a week for a year, based on monthly themes. Every month from then until the end of February 2020, we explored one theme where individuals can make a difference with their daily actions, including themes like Water, with challenges like taking shorter showers or saving water when watering outside plants. We have continued to draw attention to them through our email list, that you can sign up for on our website and through the I Love Qatar Sunday newsletter.

The second program is our SustainableQATAR Young Ambassadors Academy. This program engages middle and high school students to learn from environmental professionals and from each other about environmental sustainability.

Recently, we have run some short campaigns. One was a photo competition to choose an image representing something iconic about Qatar that is impacted by climate change. This photo will represent Qatar in One Home: An Environmental Symphony, a work composed by Mr. Charles Mauleverer with the intent to inspire climate action to collectively reverse global warming.

We also collected used thobes through the Share a Thobe for Mask Making campaign, in partnership with Army of Masks Qatar and Doha Stitches. Over 200 thobes were collected to be reused as fabric to make cloth masks to satisfy needs both in Qatar and abroad.

Thobes to Masks poster
Image Credit: SustainableQATAR

ILQ: What, according to you, are the top 3 achievements of SustainableQATAR so far?

Katrin Scholz-Barth (President):

SustainableQATAR has reached a great number of important milestones as a volunteer organization and we have more work in front of us. A few newsworthy achievements are:

In 2012 SustainableQATAR was recognized by the United Nations as an official observer organization during COP18, the 18th Conference of Parties, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change hosted here in Doha, Qatar in November 2012 with 11 approved delegates.

SustainableQATAR was also a founding and board member of Qatar Sustainability Network (QSN), launched in November 2012 for COP18. Revitalizing such a network to bring together old and new organizations is part of SustainableQATAR’s objectives, create a platform to collaborate, to form connections and strong relationships for a positive-sum game, since ‘a rising tide lifts all the boats.’

We are also proud of our current two flagship programs that enable us to match actions with words and to live by example and our campaigns.

We aim high and have a lot more work to do.

ILQ: What are some of the ways to live sustainably in Qatar?

MaryBeth Stuenkel (Webmaster):

There are so many ways. This is the exact question that our 52 Weekly Challenges Program is designed to answer. Rather than list a few here, please visit for things you can do every day to impact the sustainability of your water use, diet, gardening practices, technology, fashion choices, finance, and even holiday travel (both outside and inside Qatar).

One goal of this program is to not only share actions individuals can take, but also to provide Qatar-specific information that relates to the specific challenge. We were not always able to meet that goal, as there are surely resources our small group is not aware of. If you have Qatar-specific tips for us, please share them with us at [email protected].

ILQ: What is your vision for Qatar for the next 5 years?

Johanna Grisales (Marketing and Communications):

We foresee Qatar as an ensemble of educated, connected and engaged community that contributes to making this world a better place – a more sustainable Qatar that continuously grows toward regenerative development, (doing more good, instead of doing less bad) by diversifying into a self-sufficient economy that becomes net-positive – restoring vital ecosystems.

All the efforts currently underway in Qatar to ensure the first-ever carbon neutral 2022 FIFA World Cup are transforming Qatar into a more environmentally sustainable nation. In 2025, Qatar will be more than halfway of accomplishing its National Vision 2030 of “becoming an advanced country capable of sustaining its own development and providing a high standard of living for its population and future generations.”

Image Credit: SustainableQATAR

ILQ: How can the community of Qatar help you in achieving that?

Johanna Grisales (Marketing and Communications):

At SustainableQATAR, we empower the community at large by developing ‘mind-changing’ solutions for climate adaptation. Additionally, we provide a platform for networking to promote collaboration between diverse members of Qatar’s population to enhance environmental sustainability.

The community can help by participating in the different activities and programs that we at SustainableQATAR have designed as guidelines for the community to live a more environmentally friendly life. As mentioned above, one of our flagship programs is the “52 Weekly Challenges,” where every week we provide one or two new practices that can take us to a more environmentally friendly life.

ILQ: What are some of the challenges faced by SustainableQATAR?

Dr. Shiban Khan (Research):

Our challenges are two-fold. One of the biggest challenges we face at SustainableQATAR is to create inclusive, impactful, and achievable sustainability awareness campaigns for Qatar’s diverse population. Interestingly enough, our biggest challenge also represents our biggest opportunity, because it dares us to come up with exciting projects that involve the whole community. In general, engagement and awareness with the general public can be tricky, and we are doing our best to explore and better understand the contexts and the barriers to continuously design solutions that can be measured effectively.

Additionally, we identify ourselves as a Think and Do Tank, and operate as a non-governmental organization (NGO). We are in the process of incorporating SustainableQATAR as a legal entity, so that we can reach our full potential in service of and for the country.

ILQ: Why do you love what you do?

Debbie Abujbara (Volunteer Coordinator):

I enjoy working with people, and especially with those from SustainableQATAR. The Executive Committee is very diverse, our volunteers are of all ages, nationalities, professions and interests, and all of us have a passion for the environment. It’s exciting to see the different perspectives, creativity, and unique ideas each person brings to the organization. Project groups starting up this month will be working to define the sustainability scene in Qatar and to create new SustainableQATAR content. This work will require collaboration and creativity, and I look forward to seeing how our diverse volunteers will make the process a fun and productive experience.

ILQ: What’s next for SustainableQATAR?

Katrin Scholz-Barth (President):

SustainableQATAR’s next big milestone is to favorably position Qatar as the host for the first-ever carbon neutral FIFA World Cup in 2022. With our work, we are creating powerful personal narratives of how everyone can contribute to making a difference and reducing our collective carbon emissions.

We have great ambitions to involve our volunteers in community projects to scale our impact and grow as an organization. We are about to launch exciting research projects, continue to create fresh content, and plan to further engage with other organizations to find solutions at the source.

SustainableQATAR sees value in action, both on an individual basis as well as encouraging different industries to better align product values with communities’ needs.

We present the 52 Weekly Challenges as an all-you-can-eat buffet. Take as much as you like and come back for more. There are easy daily actions that affect everyone, and everyone can choose for themselves, but think and reflect as you skip certain actions. We expect people to like 50%, love 25% and immediately implement and never forget 10% of our 52 Weekly Challenges. That will result in measurable progress!

And speaking of measurement: also on our to-do list is a tool to capture these personal actions and calculate saved carbon emissions to quantify our impact. If anyone plans to host a climate solutions hackathon, please reach out to us to work together.

ILQ: Do you have any message for our readers?

Debbie Abujbara (Volunteer Coordinator):

We invite you to join SustainableQATAR as we work to support the first carbon-neutral FIFA World Cup right here in Qatar in 2022! In practicing sustainability, your individual power is great; when all of us act together, we can make a real difference in the world. Join us to learn how to affect greater change, but no matter how you choose to support the environment, we encourage every action you can take. The time to act is now!

For more information about SustainableQATAR, check out the following details: