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Striving Towards a Green Ramadan

From Illume Magazine | By Ameena Jandali | 11th August 2010 Ramadan is a time to nurture the spirit of sacrifice, God-consciousness a...

From Illume Magazine | By Ameena Jandali | 11th August 2010



Ramadan is a time to nurture the spirit of sacrifice, God-consciousness and self-awareness. It is an opportunity to learn the twin lessons of moderation and conservation as we forgo food and drink and embrace the ideal of less is better. It is a month long training camp to imbibe these habits that should then be applied to the rest of the year.

Yet, we often lose sight of these goals incumbent upon us during this time, and veer to the opposite extreme of going to excess in our food, drink and consumption to compensate for our daytime fast, thereby missing out on the focus and purpose of this blessed month.

Additionally, we often forget the importance of stewardship that is conveyed in Qur’anic verses that describe human beings as vicegerents on earth: “It is He (God) who has appointed you (humankind) as vicegerents on earth.” (Qur’an: 25:39); and as conveyed in the prophetic saying, “The world is green and beautiful and We have appointed you stewards towards it.”

Ramadan instead becomes a time for daily iftars in homes and masajid that generally result in bags and bags of garbage that will add to our overflowing landfills and increase the emissions that contribute to climate change. If one were to examine the contents of these offending bags, most likely one would find mainly Styrofoam and plastic, mixed with food scraps and un-recycled cans and plastic water bottles, mixed with metal food trays and paper and cardboard boxes.

With a little forethought and effort, this major Muslim footprint during the month of Ramadan can be avoided.  This begins with the purchase of utensils, drinks and other items in preparation of daily or weekly iftar dinners. One of the major issues that needs to be reconsidered is the use of Styrofoam products. While they are cheaper than paper, they are actually toxic and leach into food, and are not biodegradable, meaning they stay in the system indefinitely.

Paper products are a not too expensive alternative and can now be composted in many areas, including San Francisco, where composting is mandatory and Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Food scraps can also be composted.  In order to compost paper and food waste, green waste cans should be requested from the waste management company and biodegradable bags be purchased that can be placed in the bins at the end of the iftar dinner.

Recycling bins also need to be requested from the waste management company, and in most areas these accept cans, bottle, paper, and cardboard, as well as scrap metals as long as these items are clean. Clearly marked recycling bins need to be provided in different areas of the mosque , ideally for cans and bottles near the food areas and for paper and cardboard in other areas.  Recycling bottles and cans for cash can also serve as a source of income for youth groups.

During Ramadan iftars, volunteers need to ensure that paper plates and food waste will be placed in the proper receptacles, and that cans and bottles are recycled, or actually collect the items themselves. For those dedicated to the goal of composting, compostable forks and spoons are also available solving the problem of separating spoons and forks from plates since they are not compostable. For truly enlightened communities, a waste-free Ramadan merely needs each iftar attendee to bring their own utensils from home, a practice already modeled by Lighthouse mosque and others.

Another problematic practice that directly counters the spirit and purpose of Ramadan is the large amount of waste that often characterizes our iftar dinners, in contradiction of the prophetic injunction to fill a third of our stomach with food, a third with water, and leave a third for air. Parents and children alike often take too much food, leaving inadequate amounts for those who come to the line after them. Parents often fail to notice either the unrealistic amount of food their children take, or the amount left on their plates when they get up to play.

Parents themselves often fail to finish the food they have taken, subsequently throwing away incredible amounts of food that could not only feed truly needy people, but which than end up in our overflowing landfills if they are not composted.  Young children would be better served if they share a plate with their mother or father, preventing this common problem. While this is an individual responsibility that each one of us are accountable for, volunteers can also make sure that food is not wasted by serving those attending masjid iftars. This also ensures that everyone is able to eat, but prevents excess and resultant waste. In the situation that one is unable to finish the food on one’s plate, he or she should merely take that food home for suhur or the next day’s iftar.

When purchasing drinks or other items, it is always better to buy in large containers rather than individual ones, preventing waste of both the food and drink, which is generally not finished, as well as the actual containers. Tap water is free and actually more regulated than bottled water, which is problematic on so many levels that it should be totally avoided. Masajid merely need to purchase large containers and provide ice and paper cups, saving both money and resources.

Conservation also extends to our use of resources such as energy and water. Air conditioning should be kept at a reasonable level, and should be monitored and turned off when not needed. The same applies to lights, which should be turned off when rooms are not in use.  Water and paper towels should be used wisely when making wudu, again in observance of the hadith that one should conserve water even when making wudu at a stream. Where we choose to pray also impacts our carbon footprint; it is both a sunnah and an eco-friendly choice to pray in our local masjid. When visiting distant masajid, one can reduced one’s carbon impact by carpooling with friends or family.

These small steps take a bit of planning and effort from both administrators and volunteers, but will be well worth it to do our part as vicegerents on earth and by applying our heightened consciousness to our environment by adopting practices that truly reflect the Islamic principles of moderation, conservation, and stewardship. Please join us in this effort towards a Green Ramadan by following the above mentioned guidelines, sharing them with your friends and family, and helping to make them a reality in your masjid.

Towards a Green Ramadan is a campaign of Muslims Going Green, which is dedicated to working towards a sustainable environment and a conscious lifestyle. Please note flyers and postcards in your masjid, and join the group on Facebook or yahoo group at
Muslimsgoinggreen@yahoo.com.

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Post a Comment

  1. Similarly
    there are many companies like Kenco coffee trying to sell the products which is
    environmental friendly plastic bags. Before kenco coffee used to pack their
    coffee in glass jars. They now pack coffee with resealable plastic bags
    with zipper bags. These bags are better known as "stand up pouches"
    this stand up bags is also resealable Ziploc so the product can be resealed
    again. They also made advertisement that they have reduced the packaging weight
    by using flexible packaged plastic bags rather than traditional glass
    containers or jars. After this advertisement their sales increased around 400%.
    By using flexible packaging instead of bottles there is saving of 7 times
    transportation cost. So for example we can fit 100000 glass or plastic jars and
    the truck if full. But if we fix stand up pouches it will be around 700000
    bags. So it saves fuel.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Similarly
    there are many companies like Kenco coffee trying to sell the products which is
    environmental friendly plastic bags. Before kenco coffee used to pack their
    coffee in glass jars. They now pack coffee with resealable plastic bags
    with zipper bags. These bags are better known as "stand up pouches"
    this stand up bags is also resealable Ziploc so the product can be resealed
    again. They also made advertisement that they have reduced the packaging weight
    by using flexible packaged plastic bags rather than traditional glass
    containers or jars. After this advertisement their sales increased around 400%.
    By using flexible packaging instead of bottles there is saving of 7 times
    transportation cost. So for example we can fit 100000 glass or plastic jars and
    the truck if full. But if we fix stand up pouches it will be around 700000
    bags. So it saves fuel.

    ReplyDelete

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