017: Head of Sustainability Operations at Expo 2020, Dina Mustafa


In this episode, we talk to Dina Mustafa. She is the Head of Sustainability Operations at Expo 2020, Dubai. She began her career with the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (UNFAO) where she conducted agricultural data collection, maintained budgets and prepare research papers. She is a LEED-certified sustainability expert with more than 14 years’ experience in the public and private sector. She is currently leading the development and implementation of the World Expo’s sustainable event management strategy, and her expertise enables her to develop innovative and cost-effective solutions to help Expo 2020 achieve all their sustainability goals 

During this episode, we take a look at what it takes to stay on track of creating the most sustainable Expo. What the Expo is and what we can expect to see there. We also discover a few interesting things that were first revealed at a world expo, like the ice cream cone and ketchup.  

Episode Highlights

[01:42] How did your journey start?

[02:42] I was one of the few women lucky enough to graduate with a chemical engineering degree.

[03:16] When I got to the US, I was like any other immigrant. A few thousand dollars in my pocket and maybe a suitcase and a fold out couch that was given to me to sleep on and so that was my life at the beginning.

[03:28] I went back to school. I got my MBA in international business and I also obtained a masters in sustainability management from Columbia University.

[03:42] I don’t think that you need to study sustainability to be aware of it. I think you are aware of it and then you go back and say I want this to be my profession.

[05:02] I joined the Expo about a year ago, very excited to be working at the Expo it is, I can only say mindblowing.

[06:17] World Expo’s, in general, were all about connecting people. The first World Expo was in the 1800’s in London.

[06:51] In Dubai this is the first Expo that’s held in this part of the world.

[06:57] The theme of the Expo is connecting minds, creating the future with three sub-themes, sustainability, mobility and opportunity.

[07:37] In the US they call Expo’s, world fairs.

[07:40] Some of the things that were showcased at an Expo for the first time and now it is everyday use, is the ice cream cone.

[09:03] So if you have an idea and you have gone through the prototype level and you would like to come and present to us you can actually register at Expo Live.

[12:54] All of our buildings are LEED gold certified and the sustainability pavilion which we will talk about later is platinum certified or will be platinum certified, it is on track.

[14:22] We are trying to build a site that is sufficient, that uses passive measures to conserve energy and to conserve water.

[15:36] About the sustainability pavilion.

[16:16] And if you go to the Expo website you would probably see a lot of information about the sustainability pavilion.

[18:10]Water is actually more important than oil and I think that was a saying by Sheikh Mohammed.

[20:47] Growing your food closer, first of all, reduces the carbon footprint so you have a big impact on climate change when you are reduce your carbon footprint and then you are reducing your water intake too.

[22:08] What has been one of your most important decisions that you have made around mama earth?

[22:29] It is simple things that make a ripple effect and I think that is what we need to focus on. Don’t try to change the world one whole piece at a time but try with small things, little things and take it one step at a time and don’t judge.


Final Five

1.What is one social media platform that you follow?

 Grumpy Expat

UN Environment


The Economist 

2.What is your hope for mama earth going forward?

 That we wake up, we wake up before it is too late. We also need to be kind to each other. 

3.What advise can you give our crazy birds this week to help out mama earth?

 I would suggest go out and find one nice thing around you and just talk about it. Nice thing when it comes to an event when it comes to you found a recycling bin in your area. Find something positive. 

4.What is one sustainability fact that you like to use in a room with people not yet on a sustainability journey?

 If I am with friends and we all love to eat fish I would talk about how much micro plastics are in the fish. 

Other people that are harder to convince I simply talk about my really nice energy bill at Sustainable City and how much money I am saving and that makes them listen.

5.Where can people find you?



Key Take Away

“It is simple things that make a ripple effect and I think that is what we need to focus on. Don’t try to change the world one whole piece at a time but try with small things, little things and take it one step at a time and don’t judge.”

When we look at becoming more sustainable there is a lot of things that we can do but instead of trying to do everything at one time, take a moment and really look at all the changes that you can possibly make and start with one thing that would be manageable for you. It might look small to others but this is the start of your journey and this will help you to make another change followed by another in time. But if you try to make all of these changes at one time it might be too hard and too much for you to handle at one time and you might give up on it entirely. Living a more sustainable life is a journey an not a race.

About the author, Mariska

Hi and welcome! My name is Mariska. I am originally from South Africa, but now call the world my home. I am an artist, designer, environmentalist, podcast host and speaker.

I started the Mama Earth Talk podcast in 2018 to share some of the things that I learned about just how easy it can be to reduce your impact on the environment. This then quickly grew into a forum that showcases the amazing things that many people are doing to make the planet better, and further into a source of hope and inspiration for many. A few of the amazing guests include Zero Waste Queen, Bea Johnson, Claude Silver, Kathryn Kellogg and zero waste chef Max La Manna.

If you do not already I urge you to follow me and my journey on social media (@designbymariska), and to refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot your own waste using the handy tips I post!


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