How an architect from Germany became a crusader of environmental sustainability in Bahrain, a small island nation in the middle-east region of the world. Active supporter of environmental sustainability campaigns like “A Wave of Change” and “World CleanUp Day Bahrain”,  as well as helping in cleaning ocean from micro-plastics, while creating an ever-growing number of corporate and individual volunteers, building a community of environmental  champions. Here’s an interview with our environmental hero – Kai Miethig. 

Marginalia: You have a very interesting profile. You are an Architect who works on sustainability issues. What does sustainability mean to you? 

Marginalia: You have a very interesting profile. You are an Architect who works on sustainability issues. What does sustainability mean to you? 

Kai Miethig: Yes, you are right I am an Architect by profession from Germany.  Sustainability has multiple, multi-faceted applications, but for me it has meant two things – initially in my career sustainable production and construction to ensure zero waste of valuable materials and more recently using my knowledge of architectural design to create sustainable homes, workplaces and society aiming towards environmental sustainability. 

In 2005 I was appointed as the Head of Office and Design by a UAEcompany working in the Middle-East and North Africa (MENA) region. I trained engineers working in a precast factory in the region on using the technology to ensure zero waste of valuable materials. They were trained on a specific software that ensures that in a fully-automated line there is no reinforcement waste. Each element reinforcement measures were welded as per requirement. The steel wire (reinforcement material) came from a roll and with the software the engineers were able to calculate and cut the wires in right measures ensuring zero waste. This was the first ever zero iron waste factory in the MENA region. Thereafter I was involved with several companies in the GCC region in Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Ras al Khaimah, and of course Bahrain, working towards zero waste of valuable material. This is a big push towards sustainable production and construction, when you consider the fact that in Bahrain alone the construction waste generated every year is valued at 40-45 million BD. This is huge and most of that can be prevented using sustainable production, construction systems and separate collection of the surplus material instead of mixed dumping 

Marginalia: What has an Architect to do with Environmental sustainability? 

Kai Miethig: Many people wonder what an Architect has to do with environmental sustainability. Well, I do not think environmental sustainability is a work of just environmental activists or governments. Environmental sustainability is everyone’s job and related to every profession. As architects we design buildings for human beings and humans are the ones who are creating waste. Considering any building, whatever goes inside the building, needs to go out. There has to be a really big enhancement in the design process in order to facilitate waste segregation process within the building, amongst the individuals and within the flats in order to ensure valuable material waste is collected by recycling companies and are not just dumped. The household waste of food is another grey area. In Bahrain alone, 600 tonnes of food is wasted every day. These factors became important in pushing me towards working on environmental sustainability. By 2017 I was actively engaged with the  local NGO CleanUp Bahrain to raise environmental awareness. 

Marginalia: What was the turning point in your life and what made you associate with Clean-Up Bahrain?

Kai Miethig: A movie trailer called ‘A Plastic Ocean’ was sent to me by my friends back in Germany. Watching that trailer was a turning point in my life. The movie highlighted the seriousness of dealing with the problem of micro-plastics.  The major news in Germany indicated that every 100 meters of shoreline had 40 pieces of plastic on German beaches. This was not the plastic thrown by beach-goers. This was the plastic that the ocean was returning to us. World-wide 5 garbage patches have been identified in the ocean. The biggest one is 1400 times bigger than the size of Bahrain. The ocean may appear blue from the top but beneath the blue surface lies an ocean of micro-plastics. Fishes and other aquatic fauna are ingesting these micro-plastics that in turn goes inside our bodies when we use them as food. Three out of every hundred dead turtles have been reported to have been stuffed with plastic that eventually killed them. Another study done on 90days old baby chicks found about 100 grams of plastic inside their body. That is about 10-15% of their body-weight. By that measure we are likely to have comparable about 8 kilograms of plastic inside our body.

My friends who had sent me the movie were already working on a project to filter micro-plastic from the ocean. I contacted with German embassy in Bahrain and was also searching for a local counterpart and I found a perfect group in the form of a local NGO called ‘Clean Up Bahrain’. This organization was founded in 2016 by two enthusiastic Bahrainis, Ali Alqaseer and Ruqaya Hashem. They were already organizing weekly clean-up campaigns, contacting people to become volunteers and they were a growing community. Beginning of 2017 we had out first meeting and found common goals and vision. We decided to join forces.

Marginalia: How did the ‘Wave of Change’campaign begin in Bahrain?

Kai Miethig: Clean-Up Bahrain reserved the screening rights of the movie ‘A Plastic Ocean’ from its producers PlasticOcean.org and on 15th March 2017 we had the first screening of the movie ‘A Plastic Ocean’ in Bahrain, in association with the Supreme Council for Environment and the German Embassy. The screening was the first ever screening of that movie in the MENA region and even before Germany started. The movie screening was followed by lectures and panel discussions. We came up with ‘A Wave of Change’ as a campaign. The objectives of this program were to raise environmental awareness among Bahraini society and the expat community, continue to organize regular clean-up events, organizing lectures, movie screening followed by Q&A sessions. Many people who know and understand the gravity of the problem do not know what to do to change things around. The aim of this campaign to bring such people together and keep growing the community towards creating environmental sustainability in line with UN sustainability goals in Bahrain. The slogan of CleanUp Bahrain ‘Together We Make A Difference’ is the key

Following the initial screening we had the biggest clean-up ever held in Bahrain on 31st March 2017 with more than 300 people participating in the event spread across 6 beaches of Bahrain, with a dedicated team for each beach. In the midst of this clean-up event we were joined by a surprise group of volunteers. 70 Emirati student who were visiting from UAE on a school educational tour cancelled all their day programs and joined our local volunteers in the clean-up, when they came to know about our campaign. This created quite a stir and the media gave a broad coverage as well. Out first event under this campaign was a roaring success. Thereafter, continuous regularly weekly clean-up events were organized, contacting various institutions for movie-screening and panel discussions in order to raise awareness and keep adding to our ever-growing community of environmental volunteers.

Marginalia: Tell us more about ‘World CleanUp Day’ campaign

Kai Miethig: Clean Up Bahrain did some research to find out that in the year 2008 Estonia ran a campaign ‘Let’s Do It Estonia’ to clean-up whole of Estonia in one day. The event drew large number of 50.000 volunteers. It happened then after every year and grew bigger and bigger. On the tenth anniversary of their event, they decided to go beyond Estonia and organized ‘Let’s Do It World’ campaign to have parallel set of volunteers working on the same day for cleaning the whole world in one day. CleanUp Bahrain registered for this event on behalf of Bahrain, and on 15th September 2018 under the name “World Clean Up Day” we had the first ‘Let’s Do It Bahrain’ event. This event saw more than 600 volunteers cleaning-up beaches, shorelines and other public areas in Bahrain, across  8-10 locations.  This year in 2019 we had this event on 21st September with  1752 00 volunteers on 12 beaches around Bahrain with Juffair beach as a peak of more than 500 volunteers itself.

Marginalia: What are your future plans with respect to furthering the cause of environmental sustainability in Bahrain and the GCC region?

Kai Miethig: Based on experience working on environmental sustainability projects, I have developed a program on creating environmental awareness about waste management, at the same time how can companies can change internally and persuade their customers to adopt environment-friendly practices. The program has already been approved by Ministry of Labour, and is supported by Tamkeen. We are awaiting further support from the United Nations and the Supreme Council for Environment and it is already agreed with Capital Governorate to run it under the scheme Health City – a program by World Health organization. It is a very unique program and most likely the only one in GCC. In October we will start the program for Carrefour – the French retailing MNC. The target is not only to train people but also to develop more trainers of this program and enhance local capacity and spread out the knowledge faster

Marginalia: What kind of response do you find from Corporate in Bahrain? Do they support your programs?

Kai Miethig: Well things have changed a lot since we started in 2017. Earlier we had to go behind companies and persuade them to organize the movie screening and panel discussions. Now we get voluntary requests from many companies and institutions to do the same, all of which are welcome. One connection led to another. Our event in French school led us to connect with Carrefour. Carrefour recently opened its first plastic bag free store in Bahrain. Talabat – the biggest food delivery company in Bahrain, which we had a session with the team, is making plastic cutlery optional rather than compulsorily supplying the same to customers, most of whom throw away the same without even using it. Very few people in this region know that we have a waste museum in Germany that creates awareness of the kind of waste that people generate, aiming towards reducing wastage. The idea is to Refuse, Reduce, Repair, Reuse, and Recycle.

Marginalia: Finally, what’s your message to the world?

Kai Miethig: Environmental sustainability is a global emergency. Scientists say that if we do not take immediate steps then by 2030, we will reach a point on no return. The Amazon fires are a grim reminder of this crisis. If all 7.5 billion people do a little, we can achieve a lot together. That’s what our slogan is about– TOGETHER WE MAKE A DIFFERENCE. “Be the change that you want to see in the world” is my personal message to all out there

Kai Miethig: Yes, you are right I am an Architect by profession from Germany.  Sustainability has multiple, multi-faceted applications, but for me it has meant two things – initially in my career sustainable production and construction to ensure zero waste of valuable materials and more recently using my knowledge of architectural design to create sustainable homes, workplaces and society aiming towards environmental sustainability. 

In 2005 I was appointed as the Head of Office and Design by a UAEcompany working in the Middle-East and North Africa (MENA) region. I trained engineers working in a precast factory in the region on using the technology to ensure zero waste of valuable materials. They were trained on a specific software that ensures that in a fully-automated line there is no reinforcement waste. Each element reinforcement measures were welded as per requirement. The steel wire (reinforcement material) came from a roll and with the software the engineers were able to calculate and cut the wires in right measures ensuring zero waste. This was the first ever zero iron waste factory in the MENA region. Thereafter I was involved with several companies in the GCC region in Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Ras al Khaimah, and of course Bahrain, working towards zero waste of valuable material. This is a big push towards sustainable production and construction, when you consider the fact that in Bahrain alone the construction waste generated every year is valued at 40-45 million BD. This is huge and most of that can be prevented using sustainable production, construction systems and separate collection of the surplus material instead of mixed dumping 

Marginalia: What has an Architect to do with Environmental sustainability? 

Kai Miethig: Many people wonder what an Architect has to do with environmental sustainability. Well, I do not think environmental sustainability is a work of just environmental activists or governments. Environmental sustainability is everyone’s job and related to every profession. As architects we design buildings for human beings and humans are the ones who are creating waste. Considering any building, whatever goes inside the building, needs to go out. There has to be a really big enhancement in the design process in order to facilitate waste segregation process within the building, amongst the individuals and within the flats in order to ensure valuable material waste is collected by recycling companies and are not just dumped. The household waste of food is another grey area. In Bahrain alone, 600 tonnes of food is wasted every day. These factors became important in pushing me towards working on environmental sustainability. By 2017 I was actively engaged with the  local NGO CleanUp Bahrain to raise environmental awareness. 

Marginalia: What was the turning point in your life and what made you associate with Clean-Up Bahrain?

Kai Miethig: A movie trailer called ‘A Plastic Ocean’ was sent to me by my friends back in Germany. Watching that trailer was a turning point in my life. The movie highlighted the seriousness of dealing with the problem of micro-plastics.  The major news in Germany indicated that every 100 meters of shoreline had 40 pieces of plastic on German beaches. This was not the plastic thrown by beach-goers. This was the plastic that the ocean was returning to us. World-wide 5 garbage patches have been identified in the ocean. The biggest one is 1400 times bigger than the size of Bahrain. The ocean may appear blue from the top but beneath the blue surface lies an ocean of micro-plastics. Fishes and other aquatic fauna are ingesting these micro-plastics that in turn goes inside our bodies when we use them as food. Three out of every hundred dead turtles have been reported to have been stuffed with plastic that eventually killed them. Another study done on 90days old baby chicks found about 100 grams of plastic inside their body. That is about 10-15% of their body-weight. By that measure we are likely to have comparable about 8 kilograms of plastic inside our body.

My friends who had sent me the movie were already working on a project to filter micro-plastic from the ocean. I contacted with German embassy in Bahrain and was also searching for a local counterpart and I found a perfect group in the form of a local NGO called ‘Clean Up Bahrain’. This organization was founded in 2016 by two enthusiastic Bahrainis, Ali Alqaseer and Ruqaya Hashem. They were already organizing weekly clean-up campaigns, contacting people to become volunteers and they were a growing community. Beginning of 2017 we had out first meeting and found common goals and vision. We decided to join forces.

Marginalia: How did the ‘Wave of Change’campaign begin in Bahrain?

Kai Miethig: Clean-Up Bahrain reserved the screening rights of the movie ‘A Plastic Ocean’ from its producers PlasticOcean.org and on 15th March 2017 we had the first screening of the movie ‘A Plastic Ocean’ in Bahrain, in association with the Supreme Council for Environment and the German Embassy. The screening was the first ever screening of that movie in the MENA region and even before Germany started. The movie screening was followed by lectures and panel discussions. We came up with ‘A Wave of Change’ as a campaign. The objectives of this program were to raise environmental awareness among Bahraini society and the expat community, continue to organize regular clean-up events, organizing lectures, movie screening followed by Q&A sessions. Many people who know and understand the gravity of the problem do not know what to do to change things around. The aim of this campaign to bring such people together and keep growing the community towards creating environmental sustainability in line with UN sustainability goals in Bahrain. The slogan of CleanUp Bahrain ‘Together We Make A Difference’ is the key

Following the initial screening we had the biggest clean-up ever held in Bahrain on 31st March 2017 with more than 300 people participating in the event spread across 6 beaches of Bahrain, with a dedicated team for each beach. In the midst of this clean-up event we were joined by a surprise group of volunteers. 70 Emirati student who were visiting from UAE on a school educational tour cancelled all their day programs and joined our local volunteers in the clean-up, when they came to know about our campaign. This created quite a stir and the media gave a broad coverage as well. Out first event under this campaign was a roaring success. Thereafter, continuous regularly weekly clean-up events were organized, contacting various institutions for movie-screening and panel discussions in order to raise awareness and keep adding to our ever-growing community of environmental volunteers.

Marginalia: Tell us more about ‘World CleanUp Day’ campaign

Kai Miethig: Clean Up Bahrain did some research to find out that in the year 2008 Estonia ran a campaign ‘Let’s Do It Estonia’ to clean-up whole of Estonia in one day. The event drew large number of 50.000 volunteers. It happened then after every year and grew bigger and bigger. On the tenth anniversary of their event, they decided to go beyond Estonia and organized ‘Let’s Do It World’ campaign to have parallel set of volunteers working on the same day for cleaning the whole world in one day. CleanUp Bahrain registered for this event on behalf of Bahrain, and on 15th September 2018 under the name “World Clean Up Day” we had the first ‘Let’s Do It Bahrain’ event. This event saw more than 600 volunteers cleaning-up beaches, shorelines and other public areas in Bahrain, across  8-10 locations.  This year in 2019 we had this event on 21st September with  1752 00 volunteers on 12 beaches around Bahrain with Juffair beach as a peak of more than 500 volunteers itself.

Marginalia: What are your future plans with respect to furthering the cause of environmental sustainability in Bahrain and the GCC region?

Kai Miethig: Based on experience working on environmental sustainability projects, I have developed a program on creating environmental awareness about waste management, at the same time how can companies can change internally and persuade their customers to adopt environment-friendly practices. The program has already been approved by Ministry of Labour, and is supported by Tamkeen. We are awaiting further support from the United Nations and the Supreme Council for Environment and it is already agreed with Capital Governorate to run it under the scheme Health City – a program by World Health organization. It is a very unique program and most likely the only one in GCC. In October we will start the program for Carrefour – the French retailing MNC. The target is not only to train people but also to develop more trainers of this program and enhance local capacity and spread out the knowledge faster

Marginalia: What kind of response do you find from Corporate in Bahrain? Do they support your programs?

Kai Miethig: Well things have changed a lot since we started in 2017. Earlier we had to go behind companies and persuade them to organize the movie screening and panel discussions. Now we get voluntary requests from many companies and institutions to do the same, all of which are welcome. One connection led to another. Our event in French school led us to connect with Carrefour. Carrefour recently opened its first plastic bag free store in Bahrain. Talabat – the biggest food delivery company in Bahrain, which we had a session with the team, is making plastic cutlery optional rather than compulsorily supplying the same to customers, most of whom throw away the same without even using it. Very few people in this region know that we have a waste museum in Germany that creates awareness of the kind of waste that people generate, aiming towards reducing wastage. The idea is to Refuse, Reduce, Repair, Reuse, and Recycle.

Marginalia: Finally, what’s your message to the world?

Kai Miethig: Environmental sustainability is a global emergency. Scientists say that if we do not take immediate steps then by 2030, we will reach a point of no return. The Amazon fires are a grim reminder of this crisis. If all 7.5 billion people do a little, we can achieve a lot together. That’s what our slogan is about– TOGETHER WE MAKE A DIFFERENCE. “Be the change that you want to see in the world” is my personal message to all out there

Kai Miethig
Kai Miethig

About Kai Miethig

  • German, born in 1971 in Siegen, graduated for architectural engineering in 2004
  • Certified Draftsman/CAD-Operator/Lecturer, Graduated Architect/Project
  • Manager, Waste Management Specialist, and lecturer
  • Intercultural/social competence and international relations, leadership skills
  • 22 years national/15 years of international project experience in the fields of design, project management, and coordination, construction, site supervision, and team leadership.
  • 17 years national/15 years of international expertise in business development
  • Fast comprehension of project status ― able to provide adequate solutions to enhance project quality and processes, providing accurate documentation.
  • Professional expertise and social competence in leading and guiding a team towards achieving project goals while motivating team members to improve the outcome and increase the quality and efficiency of projects.
  • Member of the environmental NGO’s Clean Up Bahrain (CUB) and Bahrain Diving Volunteer Team (BDVT) as well certified tourist guide and lifeguard for beaches and pools.

German, born in 1971 in Siegen, graduated for architectural engineering in 2004

Certified Draftsman/CAD-Operator/Lecturer, Graduated Architect/Project

Manager, Waste Management Specialist, and lecturer

Intercultural/social competence and international relations, leadership skills

22 years national/15 years of international project experience in the fields of design, project management, and coordination, construction, site supervision, and team leadership.

17 years national/15 years of international expertise in business development

Fast comprehension of project status ― able to provide adequate solutions to enhance project quality and processes, providing accurate documentation.

Professional expertise and social competence in leading and guiding a team towards achieving project goals while motivating team members to improve the outcome and increase the quality and efficiency of projects.

Member of the environmental NGO’s Clean Up Bahrain (CUB) and Bahrain Diving Volunteer Team (BDVT) as well certified tourist guide and lifeguard for beaches and pools.

Career path:

Architectural Office Vogel, Draftsman/Coordinator in Germany

Mammut Technocrete (Zero steel waste factory), Head of Design/Office in Dubai, UAE

Project Management office Tilke & Partners in Manama, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, UAE

KACST – King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology, Project Director/Client representative in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Abdul Latif Jameel Landholding, Design Director, in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 

TFEngineering, General Manager in Juffair, Kingdom of Bahrain

UACC, Construction company,  General Manager, in Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain

Career path:

  • Architectural Office Vogel, Draftsman/Coordinator in Germany
  • Mammut Technocrete (Zero steel waste factory), Head of Design/Office in Dubai, UAE
  • Project Management office Tilke & Partners in Manama, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, UAE
  • KACST – King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology, Project Director/Client representative in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • Abdul Latif Jameel Landholding, Design Director, in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 
  • TFEngineering, General Manager in Juffair, Kingdom of Bahrain
  • UACC, Construction company, General Manager, in Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain