We Muslims like to tout what benefits Ramadan brings to ourselves and our communities, but one thing that we can not claim is that we reduce waste and consumption during Ramadan.
Anyone who has ever been to an iftar at the masjid knows that the biggest pile of garbage comes during Ramadan. Sure, we’re feeding a community, but do we have to leave such a mark?
I get it. No one, including myself, really wants to be on dish duty after having fasted all day, and may be headed to taraweeh shortly after. I’m not sure I have the answer for the community iftars at the masjid, but I do think there are things we can do on our own.
So what can we do on a micro level?
Don’t drive across town to go to taraweeh or iftar. Instead, go as local as you can. For us, that still means about 15 miles away because our local masjid is mostly a mono culture and it’s hard to spark up a conversation when most people aren’t speaking the same language.
Save the gas money, and emissions, and find the closest masjid that feels like home and hang out there. Or another option? Get together with people who live close by for an iftar at someone’s house. It’s a great way to keep building community and cut down on the impact of gas in the process.
Ditch the disposable
I know it’s tempting to use paper plates during Ramadan to conserve our physical energy, but instead you could try enlisting your family members to help out a bit more.
Trust me, I know, it takes a lot of patience and work to get family to pitch in, and sometimes we just don’t want to add another thing into our Ramadan routine, but think of it this way: if you can teach your family to help after a meal during Ramadan, in sha Allah it’ll be a habit they keep throughout the year.
I’ll admit that I use disposable pans when I make freezer meals (if anyone has a solution to using disposable stuff for freezer meals, I’m all ears!), but for day to day cooking? Invest in some hard working scouring pads and chain scrubbers to get the job done with the least amount of work on your part.
Stick to the list
I am religious about making a meal plan and shopping list throughout the year, but especially in Ramadan, I don’t want to go to the store because I need just one thing. We always end up with extra ice cream and chips!
The extras take away from the detoxing effects of Ramadan, but it’s also the extra gas, extra packaging, and extra unnecessary food.
Have you heard that Muslims consume more food during Ramadan than the average month during the rest of the year? It’s absolutely unnecessary, and I have to think that we are throwing away perfectly good food as a result.
So, make a list, check it twice, and go to the store as little as you can. You wanted to use your time for worship and learning anyway, right?
Encourage a compost
Even the most frugal and eco-conscious person has stuff that goes to waste, like the ends off bell peppers, onions, and potato peels. And for the iftars at the masjid? Encourage the powers that be to have a bin just for compost!
It doesn’t take long for people to learn what can be composted and what can’t. A simple sign can help. I’ve noticed that composting is more prevalent in university campuses already as well, so the younger generation may already be familiar.
If the garbage service doesn’t have a compost option, ask around! Someone may have a compost at home, or be willing to start a compost bin this Ramadan!
No more individual snack bags
Part of my Ramadan shopping list always includes food the kids can serve themselves while I’m fasting, because otherwise, I am in the kitchen all.day.long. Suhoor, breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, iftar? No thanks.
And I know it’s easy to get the individually wrapped chips, cheese sticks, individual yogurts, and all the rest.
Put some plastic bowls and plates where your child can reach them if there’s concern with them breaking dishes, and make snacks and breakfast easily available. I try to keep the stuff my kids will need in the bottom of the fridge so they’re not climbing around and possibly making a mess.
Another benefit? Again, you have more people helping after Ramadan, or being more self sufficient. Win-win.
Rethink Eid candy
Listen, I love that my kids get excited for candy at Eid prayer, I do. I do not love holding on to messy sticks and wrappers, and the parking lot afterwards is downright embarrassing.
Other options? Money (hey kids love coins, and there’s no waste!), little bracelets or rings, little booklets or bookmarks. Think of things kids can use rather than something that’s consumed right away.
I love our religion, and I love that my environmental leanings are well supported within Islamic thought and teachings. Now, in sha Allah, we can live those teachings and values a little bit more each year, and Ramadan is a great time to get that started.