You wouldn’t expect the son of a Saudi billionaire to be a vegan. You wouldn’t expect him to be passionately involved in animal rights and environmental matters. Yet there he is — His Royal Highness Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed. He’s all that and more.
Bin Alwaleed is one of the wealthiest men on the planet. He’s Saudi royalty, the only son of philanthropist and billionaire investor Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud, known to the media as the “Arabian Warren Buffett.”
The Making of a Vegan Saudi Prince Environmentalist
He hasn’t always been devoted to environmental sustainability issues. In his younger years, bin Alwaleed was much the same as any other fabulously wealthy Saudi citizen. He had luxury cars, lavishly appointed yachts, and enjoyed life in the family palace. It took a trophy hunt in the late 1990s to startle him into change.
What he saw during that exotic animal expedition haunted him. Shocked, he realized hunting animals is what he calls a “cowardly” act. Shortly after returning home, bin Alwaleed became an animal rights advocate, vocally opposing blood sports and all forms of cruelty. He went 100 percent vegan around 2012.
He made a host of other life adjustments as well. He no longer owns any interest in the oil and gas industry, investing instead in supporting sustainability, high tech, solar power, renewables, green construction, plant-based restaurants and more. He gave up his fleet of 200 pricey oil guzzling cars and now drives only one — the Tesla Model X P90D. That’s the eco-friendly one with vegan synthetic leather options.
He’s a self-described geek and Crossfit enthusiast. When he flies anywhere, bin Alwaleed buys carbon offsets to limit the carbon impact of his travels. He doesn’t even live in the opulent family palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, anymore.
Taking Action that Matters for the Middle East
At SAUDIMEGA 2015, an oil industry conference held in Riyadh, bin Alwaleed took a stand that might be considered outrageous by contemporaries who are heavily invested in fossil fuels. He urged action on climate change.
“Climate change and the unjustified consumption of energy are two of the most serious issues we face today at the macro-level,” he told the assembled crowd. It’s another issue he feels strongly about.
“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or scientist to understand that climate change is real,” bin Alwaleed told The National Observer. “I’ve seen the data out there and it is worrying, honestly.”
Bin Alwaleed does more than talk, though. He acts. One of his biggest achievements to date is a project to transition the country of Jordan to 100 percent LED lights and solar panels. In time, this change may save that country an impressive 60 percent on its power costs.
“I went over there, proposed this idea to King Abdullah and he really liked it,” bin Alwaleed told The National Observer. “He arranged for some meetings with the minister of energy and the minister of municipalities, and that’s how it really became what it is now. We’re changing the entire country’s lighting infrastructure to LEDs.”
What bin Alwaleed wants more than anything is to see his oil-dependent country shift priorities and rely much less on fossil fuels. He can see the day coming when such reliance will become a liability rather than a financial boon.
Has bin Alwaleed had an influence on his wealthy philanthropic father?
“Funnily enough, I would usually say no — I am influenced a lot by him and I learn a lot from him — but recently, yes,” bin Alwaleed told The National Observer. “I introduced him to Dr. Michael Greger’s book, How Not to Die, last August. Two months later, he literally transitioned to being vegan, which has a huge impact on the environment -– not necessarily [if] one person does it, but if every person did that, it would have a huge impact.”
Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed may just be the face of Saudi Arabia’s green future.
“Animal welfare, factory farming, the environment — usually they’re solvable if we look at things in an economic way, a humane way and a practical way rather than a greedy way.” bin Alwaleed told The National Observer.
Clearly, bin Alwaleed is a voice of reason in an oil-based culture that desperately needs one.