5 Ways to Reduce Waste This Ramadan
Ramadan is an exciting time for Muslims worldwide. Not only is it a time to abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset, but it’s also a time to recharge and reassess our faith. We look forward to this time as it brings the community closer together to do positive and charitable work; we break fast together, we pray together and it’s truly the best time of year for Muslims. Unfortunately, amidst all these good deeds one area that is often overlooked during Ramadan is how our actions impact the environment. Ironically, we tend to produce more waste (plastics, disposable plates/cutlery, food) than when we’re eating freely. I’d like to share a few behavioural tweaks you can make this Ramadan (and Insh’Allah thereafter) that will have a sustaining impact on the environment.
1. Purchase a Reusable Water Bottle
The number of disposable water bottles you see during the month of Ramadan are quite frankly alarming. While staying hydrated is extremely important, it doesn’t need to come at the expense of the environment. Did you know that plastic requires up to 1000 years to begin composting in landfills?
While I personally like the Green’s your colour water bottle due to its size and the fact that it keeps my liquids cold for up to 36 hours, any repurposed mason jar as a water bottle will do.
Rule of Thumb: Don’t leave home without your reusable water bottle! For example, when you’re heading out after Iftar to get to the mosque, take your reusable water bottle with you. I have seen a few of my local mosques put up signs saying they will not be providing plastic water bottles and to bring your own, as they are trying to be more environmentally conscious. Instead, these
mosques have water fountains for convenient refilling. Last year, our friends over at TorontoMuslims.com introduced a GreeningInitiative aimed at reducing disposable plastic water bottle usage during Ramadan. They distributed 10,000 reusable bottles across GTA mosques. I’ve contacted them about re-launching the campaign for 2018.
2. The Reusable Bag and Container System
Although we’re fasting for the majority of the day and cutting out at least one meal daily, it seems like grocery shopping actually increases during Ramadan. More groceries often means more waste, as our supermarkets seem to package everything- but it doesn’t have to.
When going grocery shopping bring reusable bags instead of purchasing plastic bag at checkout. You can purchase yours directly from your local grocery store. In addition, use reusable produce bags. I live by these, but you can make your own. Alternatively, don’t use bags at all - you’ll be washing your produce when you get home anyways.
If you have a store that sells bulk items in your area go in and explore. You can find all your pantry items such as rice, lentils, spices and dates. Bring reusable bags and containers with you. I use old jam and sauce jars that I have saved and bring them with me. Weigh your jars before filling them and when you cash out, the cashier will take the difference. Here’s a quick “How To” guide provided by my local bulk store -
3. You Might Have to do Dishes and That’s Okay!
With Ramadan comes Iftar gatherings - whether it be chez vous, at your localm osque or at your bestie’s place. Often, people opt for disposable dinnerware because who wants to wash dishes after fasting for 16 hours? Remember, doing good for the Earth that Allah created for us will bring lots of reward (especially in Ramadan where rewards are multiplied).
If you’re hosting, don’t be afraid to accept help. Cleaning as a group after a meal
seems to bring the party to the kitchen and it’s where the most fun-filled conversations initiate.
If you plan to attend Iftar at your local mosque, bring reusable plates and cutlery with you so you can politely refuse the disposable options. Suggest that your mosque use compostable options or have them encourage the community to bring their own.
4. Avoid Food Waste
It is He Who has brought into being gardens, the cultivated and the wild, and date-
palms, and fields with produce of all kinds, and olives and pomegranates, similar (in kind) and variegated. Eat of their fruit in season, but give (the poor) their due on harvest day. And do not waste, for God does not love the wasteful.
I remember growing up Iftar meals seemed like there was enough food to feed us for the full month of fasting - soup, three different types of salads, rice dish, meat dish and lets not forget dessert. While I thought I could eat the world as I watched the countdown to Maghrib, in reality I felt full halfway through the soup. Let’s face it, our bodies can’t consume as much during Ramadan, but our appetites grow. Learn to strike the right balance. If you’re hosting, ask guests to bring reusable takeaway
containers. Send food to your neighbours – this will reduce waste and potentially even spread dawah. Also, accept that it’s okay to eat leftovers!
If you have no choice but to dispose of food, remember to compost. Food should not go into landfills as it will generate methane gas which some argue is a bigger contributor to climate change than carbon dioxide.
5. Decorate Mindfully
Our generation is working hard to make Ramadan more festive, especially for our kids who look at other holidays and wish it were theirs. We should get excited and we should decorate, but we need to be mindful that we are not hurting our planet in the process. This is a good time to get creative. Try to get decorations that you can use every year, or use things that come from nature such a flowers and plants. Also use items made out of sustainable material such as lanterns made out of bamboo or
go to thrift stores for some unique decorative ideas. Choose items that can be composted or repurposed. Avoid balloons, disposables and plastics. This Ramadan let taking care of the environment be part of your spiritual journey.
“The Earth is Green and Beautiful, and Allah has Appointed you Stewards Over It
Kenda Al Yakobi is a certified Holistic Nutrition Practitioner who advocates a healthy, environmentally conscious, waste-reduced lifestyle.
Through her blog “Simply Kenda”, she aims to educate readers on how they can create restaurant-style cooking from the comfort of their homes using organic, locally sourced, package free ingredients. Kenda also helps provide recommendations on DIY beauty care and how to look fashionable in pre-loved clothing.