Monthly HighlightsSustainability Star

Plastic Free July Champion – Charlene Nawar

4 Mins read

Tell us about yourself

By background I am a lawyer, yoga teacher,  mom of 3 and founder of UNWRAPPED CO – a consultancy that inspires low waste living through awareness, an eco store, a podcast and yoga retreats. 

Born and raised in South Africa, with a passion for the oceans and traveling, I unintentionally arrived in Dubai by boat, almost 16 years ago, and never left! I fell in love with the trendy, fast paced lifestyle that Dubai had to offer … however that was then, and clearly a lot has changed since then – especially as I am now advocating slow living! 

Aside from yoga, I love swimming, being outdoors and spending time with my family.  I am an early morning person who loves to rise with the sun, that is where I gain all my energy and inspiration to complete my days!  

What motivated you to shift to being eco-friendly?

During maternity leave with my 3rd child, a lot of changes happened in a very short period of time. One of them led to us moving from an apartment to a villa; and family life wouldn’t be complete without a dog (or 2)!  We adopted a beautiful German Shepherd (and a Saluki) that later developed a major skin allergy and after much research and medication, it was down to a reaction he was having to the chemicals we were using on our floor, detergents we all use every day!  

This got me thinking about how this affected my kids who spent a lot of time on the floor, which led to learning about plastics and their effect on us, our food and the environment,  which then opened up a whole new world for me! Consequently, it led to me intentionally stepping away from corporate law to learn more about how our lifestyles are affecting our health and our families, as well as other people and the planet. 

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The main things you do to go plastic free?

I try to apply the 5 R’s in my daily habits – it is kind of like my mantra! 

Mainly, I try to refuse plastics wherever possible, especially single use plastics!  Single use plastics are used very briefly before being thrown away, items like plastic bags, plastic water bottles and individually wrapped items.  Armed with a list, I usually head straight to the bulk and fresh sections of the supermarket and start my grocery shopping there! 80% of what I need is there and then I pick up the rest in the other aisles! Obviously there are some items that don’t come plastic free so I try to reduce these items as much as I can if I cannot find plastic free alternatives; berries are one of these items.

Reusing what I have is the next step, instead of buying new every time! This could be anything from reusing an old container to do my refills to switching to reusable bags, water bottles and menstruation products or re-wearing the same pair of jeans until I really need to buy a new pair!


What I cannot refuse, reduce or reuse usually ‘rots’ and goes into the compost – fruit and vegetable peels or any other food scraps.  Sometimes I do the traditional composting method if time allows, but when I am short on time or there is too much, I just dig a hole in the garden and bury the food waste and it is gone within about a month! 

And what is left should hopefully be able to be recycled however I am not an advocate of recycling as it is really a last resort! It is a difficult process and if items are not sorted or cleaned correctly, they just end up contaminating the pile and going to landfill instead!  

Your easiest plastic free swaps?

The easiest swaps are switching to reusable grocery bags and produce bags (and remembering to actually bring them with you to the supermarket)!  Also ditching plastic water bottles and investing in a nice reusable water bottle that you can refill on the go! 

Another easy swap is for kids birthdays or special occasions, opting to spend money on experiences that we can do together as a family or with friends, instead of another toy!  Experiences like a trip to the water park or a theme park or karting, there is so much to do in the UAE! This way you don’t have to worry about venues, decorations, balloons and return gifts as the experience is more than enough!

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Your hardest changes to go plastic free?

I think the hardest swaps are definitely those in the bathroom.  Our hair and skin types are all so different that there is no one size fits all!  I have finally found my way and found the right soap bar, shampoo bar, safety razor, facial oil, etc but it has taken a few years to find my way! One item that I am unable to find plastic free is conditioner.  I have tried all the conditioner bars, ACV rinses but they all don’t work for my hair type and irritate my scalp. This is something that I do buy in plastic, however I am a lot more conscious of using just the right amount whereas before I never paid attention to how much I used.

5 things you recommend people do to go plastic free?

1) Start by taking a look at where and how plastic comes into your home, like an audit, and think how you can change that.

2) Usually it is in supermarkets, so always take your own reusable bags and produce bags!

3) Install a water filter and never have to worry about ordering water again! This also makes refilling your water bottle even easier and never leave home without it! Think handbag, keys, water bottle!!!

4) Switch to solid bars of soap and shampoo as there are some super luxurious products out there!

5) Most importantly, take it slow, one step at a time! Be kind to yourself and others on this journey as it can become overwhelming very quickly! Just do what you can, as even our smallest efforts do make a big difference!

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