With the month of Ramadan here, food supplies are stocked up (ironic, I know), appointments are rescheduled and preparations are made for the month of spiritual rediscovery.
At its simplest Ramadan is a welcome reminder of the basic but invaluable blessing of food and water, but it is also a chance for Muslims to re-affirm their faith and reconnect with god and all his creations. And what better way to do this then by ‘greening’ your Ramadan.
Islam states that humans are the stewards of the earth, with a duty to protect it from harm but are we doing enough? Well, I have put together a basic list of things all Muslims can all do this Ramadan (and hopefully the rest of the year) to protect the environment and any ideas you want to add are welcome!
1. Eat better and also locally. After breaking fast (iftar), there is tendency for us Muslims to go crazy food-wise but do try to keep things to a minimum as you never eat as much as you think you will.
• Eat less red meat and chicken, more fresh and locally produced fruit and veg as apposed to processed or imported goods.
• A lot of organisations such as Islamic Relief are now encouraging Muslims to buy fair trade as well as free-range and organic goods.
• This Ramadan could also be the perfect opportunity to switch to organic halal meat.
• Finally, if you are organising a public iftar, please don’t use tons of plastic cutlery which gets chucked away….it’s as simple as asking people to bring their own plates.
2. Use your car less. Just ask yourself do you really need to take your car to taraweeh prayers after iftar (breaking your fast) when the mosque is a 5 minutes walk away and you are going in a crowd of 10? Carpool if absolutely necessary but remember that you are blessed for every step you walk to the mosque not every mile you travel in a car.
Also try to break entrenched car-driving bad habits. From experience, those with a car seem to think that a 20 minute walk is too far but walking is a great way to exercise and de-stress, so take your time and free yourself from road-rage-inducing traffic jams and parking nightmares.
3. Use less water. Although it is really important to keep hydrated during Ramadan, don’t waste your money on bottled water and use tap water instead. Tap water doesn’t waste energy being produced and also doesn’t require plastic bottles which end up in landfills. Also be frugal when making wudu' (ablution), the Prophet (peace and blessing upon him) made wudu' with only half a litre of water and teaches us to conserve water even at a running spring.
4. Waste less. This is basically encouraging people to buy less, use less and then recycle what’s left behind. As it says in the Qur’an:
“Eat and drink but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.” – 7:31.
This applies to everything: food, water, clothes, books and even your rubbish. Just be creative! I know that we are supposed to look our best at Eid but this doesn’t mean buying lots of new clothes that we will never use again.
There are loads of organisations running swap shops locally and you could even organise your own- invite friends and family along with items to swap to brighten up your outfit on Eid day.
Finally, bring on the hand-made, recycled Eid cards!
5. Spread the message! Ask your Imam to do a khutbah on the issue of caring for the environment. It doesn’t have to be about the complex nature of carbon counting just the basic stewardship concept and encouraging Muslims to become more aware of their environment and the impact their behaviors have on the world. Put up posters on the issues and just talk to people about it and what practical things they can do.
6. Proof it can be done: In Chicago, a ‘Green Ramadan’ initiative was launched by the Council of Islamic Organization of Greater Chicago in 2009 which encouraged Muslims to eat locally, drink tap water, recycle and to educate themselves about climate change and what they can do so save the planet. On the website, they remind us that:“Ramadan is a once a year opportunity to tackle global issues like overconsumption, materialism, poverty, hunger, wars and yes, global warming.”