Setting the Agenda
Rather than waiting for change, young Emirati entrepreneur Hind AlSuwaidi, created a sustainable stationery project, connecting her heritage with her passion for the environment.
The United Arab Emirates is listed as extremely vulnerable to climate change. With nearly 85% of its population hugging 1,300 kilometres of coastline, it's a country that faces the dangerous possibility of rising sea levels and extreme storms. And for those who have experienced a UAE summer, climate change has already delivered blazing hot temperatures, a humidity-driven symptom of wider effects.
However, Hind AlSuwaidi, a young Emirati woman, doesn’t believe in waiting for others to fix a problem; instead, she prefers a more proactive approach to life.
Hind, both a calendar connoisseur and conscious consumer, longed for beautiful and carbon-neutral stationery – a tall order in an industry that relies on paper. “So that's when I decided I should do something about it instead of just waiting for sustainable stationery brands to appear,” she tells me. And so, at the age of only 22, Hind created The Agenda, the UAE’s first environmentally-friendly stationery project, creating elegant daily planners and custom calendars.
Yet, why is it so important to Hind that she has access to eco-friendly paper products when calendar apps exist, and noisy meeting reminders are a constant presence in modern life? Because the physicality of something can be significant, too, Hind says, “the feel of the paper, the feel of the items in your hand,” allows tradition to be a part of our daily routines.
Tradition remains a large part of the Middle-Eastern country, where the local population continues to wear kandoras and abayas, family time and important business matters are conducted in a ‘majlis,’ and many still practice the ancient sport of falconry. For young Emiratis, connecting their heritage to a new project or business venture ensures that the spirit of the UAE permeates every aspect of their lives. During our interview, Hind proudly describes possible collaborations for National Day, the yearly holiday celebrating the unification of the United Arab Emirates, and COP28, which Dubai will host in 2023.
“At some point, water is going to be too hard to find. Take care of it now. Make the changes. Why are you waiting?”
And though the UAE has committed to a series of strict NetZero goals for 2050, many Emiratis still see the potential to do more. When she first started The Agenda, Hind had a long (handwritten) list of requirements for her new endeavour. Not only should it have the look and feel of high-quality stationery, but every aspect of its production must be sustainable. The paper she sourced is 100% recycled. Each edition of their products has a limited run to reduce waste and excess product. The printers utilise solar panels and rely on renewable energy wherever possible. Notebook and calendar covers are made from eco-friendly, low-waste materials.
“I made sure they sent me all their certificates, so I know they’re FSC certified, or it's 100% eco friendly, and that they have carbon credits,” she says, confidently describing the fast-paced manufacturing world she entered earlier this year. This close attention to detail added months to The Agenda’s initial release date–every shop every supplier, was carefully researched, ensuring that each of Hind’s exacting standards were met.
Though The Agenda has bigger plans on its schedule, Hind and her team have started a tree-planting initiative to counteract their publishing and increase forestation efforts throughout the country.
Because, for Hind, a green future is non-negotiable. Like many who are dedicated to climate action, her origin story starts with a betrayal – the realisation of how much damage humanity regularly enacts on the Earth.
When I ask why the environment is such an important issue for her, she points again toward her love of the UAE and its unique landscapes. “Growing up, I was always by the beach,” Hind explains. “I was always in the desert. But it was terrible because you see people littering, and then we’d go to the beach and see all this plastic floating in the ocean.”
Today, Hind doesn’t shy away from taking ownership of the problem.
“It felt like it was the responsibility of us as humans to take care of the planet instead of just taking it for granted. And from there,” she states simply, “I just started making small changes.”
Some would argue that Hind’s youth propels her environmental fervour; However, she’s used to people not taking her passion for sustainability seriously. “They think it's just a trend, but I try to help people understand we have to start caring for it. At some point, water is going to be too hard to find. Take care of it now. Make the changes. Why are you waiting?”
“If you're planning to have kids, you’d better take care of the planet,” she says, setting out solutions for tomorrow at the top of her agenda.