We woke up early to head to Cedar Environmental on Thursday morning. Being from the Pacific Northwest and growing up in a household that practiced the three R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) I was pretty pumped to head out and see what efforts were being done to promote Zero Waste here in Lebanon. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts the green or environmental movement in the Middle East is minimal at best, and multidisciplinary engineer, Ziad Abichaker saw an opportunity to use his expertise to give back to his homeland. Ziad went to school at Rutgers in the States and made a conscious decision to come back to Lebanon and help begin the Zero Waste movement in the region. The aim of Cedar Environmental is to make 100% environmentally-safe waste treatment available for municipalities.
Cedar Environmental has many projects that they work on including, fast composting of waste from butchers, green walls, upside down planters, and a recycling bin initiative in areas of Beirut. The green walls, planters, and recycling bins are all made with a proprietary technology that combines left over plastic materials to create walls as show above. They then create large walls from the material with holes and space in between the two layers of the wall to add soil and plants that come out of the holes in the wall to create a beautiful, natural facade for any building.
The uses for this material seem to endless, and Ziad is working tirelessly to get his products out into Lebanon. He has also worked with the Green Glass Recycling Initiative which helps continue the centuries old tradition of glass blowing in Lebanon. They take old glass bottles and turn them into lamps and other household items which are then sold to help this industry thrive.
Following our tour of Cedar Environmental we were able to check out a natural cavern, or grotto, named Jeita Grotto. This place is beyond explanation. We first toured the upper level of the grotto we is absolutely massive inside. The ceilings are very high, with stalagmites and stalactites everywhere. The colors inside the grotto were beautiful and deep, it is unfortunate we were not allowed to take pictures while inside. In the past they have had orchestra’s play inside the grotto due to its amazing acoustics, although I assume they quit this practice due to the possibility of ruining the grotto and potential injury from the loud noises which could loosen rocks.
When we reached the lower level of Jeita Grotto we hopped in a boat and were shown around, the water is very pretty with a teal hue, the ceilings on this level can be very low and we had to lower our heads at times to not hit the rock ceiling.
After our time at Jeita Grotto we headed back to Beirut to meet with Elie Rustom who is a professional basketball player for Sagesse Club. Elie is one of the best basketball players in the country, and Lebanon actually performs quite well when it comes to basketball in Asia. He plays for the Lebanese national team as well, he shared with us the differences for professional athletes in Lebanon versus the United States. They lack the regulations that we have and sometimes players can be injured and then immediately terminated from a contract, and the sports club may not even pay for their medical bills. Basketball is the #1 sport in Lebanon with Football (Soccer) coming in a close second. It was great hearing Elie’s insights as a Lebanese athlete, I asked him if he had ever had dreams of making it to America to be in the NBA, he responded that many athlete in Lebanon don’t actually think this way as there is an overload of talent in the NBA. He also mentioned that he is one of the taller players on his team at 6’6″, Lebanese men just aren’t as tall as others, oh well!
Elie showed us around the gym where he works out and we then headed back to the hotel for a lecture from Carol Malouf on the Syrian crisis and its’ effect on Lebanon. Carol was a founding member of Al Jazeera English, and was a journalist for many years which took her to many countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Syria had a presence of occupied Lebanon for 30 years in the past, and the shared border allows for a great deal of spillover from the current war occurring within Syria. Lebanon currently hosts more refugees per capita than any other country in the world by an incredibly large margin. In 2014, for every 1,000 Lebanese citizens there were 232 refugees in the country. The UN High Commission for Refugees has certain standards for the treatment of refugees, such as minimum wages, unfortunately Lebanon was not a part of this convention when it was introduced. Lebanese 4 Refugees is group that is run by Ms. Malouf, and they are working hard to create sustainable projects for refugees, increasing women’s rights, aid distribution, and a food program among other efforts. Some of these other efforts include working with former child soldiers to combat PTSD, and working with wounded people, many times in this area if shrapnel has hit someone they immediate amputate the limb, even if it may not be completely necessary. It is very inspiring to see people like Carol who have really dedicated their lives to help others who are in need.
This trip through Lebanon has been incredibly eye opening, and I still have at least one more post from Lebanon to go. Hope you are enjoying learning about this beautiful, diverse country as much as I am. Talk to you again soon!