Celebrating Eid sustainably

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It is a special time of the year for Muslims across the globe: millions of devout Muslims are keeping a roza (daily fast from dawn to dusk) to observe the holy month of Ramadan and can’t wait to celebrate Eid at the end of this 30-day fasting this week.

Balance, moderation, and abstinence from reckless temptation are the most important messages of Islam. As we celebrate Eid this year, let’s take it as an opportunity to imbibe these messages in all that we do. Not only is this a great way of life but is also the need of the hour for protecting our environment.

On this festive occasion, people usually buy new clothes, cook traditional food, greet and visit their families and neighbors, offer gifts and money to their younger relatives, go on picnics to public parks and beaches, arrange big parties and huge feasts, and so on. Many people will also buy a lot of new clothes that they really do not need.

Eid al-Fitr, in many ways, is becoming an occasion of over-consumption that creates pollution and waste problems. Now is the occasion therefore to seize the opportunity and adopt exemplary behavior in relation to the environment and hope that this responsible pro-environmental lifestyle will be observed during Eid and continue all year. Islam advises balance and moderation in all matters.

The Qur’an warns believers against extravagance in eating and drinking:

“O Children of Adam! wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: Eat and drink: But waste not by excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters..” (Qur’an, 7:31)

Thus, a true Muslim should do his best to celebrate and at the same time reduce his environmental footprint by consuming less, recycling, and avoiding over-consumption.

Here are some ways in which you can spread this message while helping protecting the planet:

1) Conscious Zakat: Zakat is a beautiful concept in Islam aimed towards social welfare. It can be explained as giving alms to the poor and needy, and is one of the five pillars of Islam (the others being declaration of faith, prayer, fasting in Ramadan and Hajj). The payment is obligatory upon every adult Muslim who owns a specific amount of wealth. Instead of paying your Zakat just to pay it off, try to do it in a conscious manner.

A very important element in environmental conservation is strengthening and empowering vulnerable communities. Only strong communities can help mobilise and maintain resilient, robust, and sustainable environmental action. Try to donate your Zakat to such organisations that are working towards humanitarian causes and development of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

2) Shop local: as much as Ramadan is about fasting, it is also a time for lavish feasts in the form of sohoor (pre-dawn meal) and iftar (the breaking of the fast after sunset). Same goes with Eid. After 30 days of strict daytime fasting, the festival comes as an opportunity to indulge in scrumptious meals, cooked to perfection. Muslim households everywhere go on a culinary overdrive during this time with everything from spice-laced meat and vegetable curries, different types of breads and rice dishes, pies, savouries, dried and fresh fruits, sweets, and to cheese and drinks, out on the table for family and friends to come together and relish.

So, when food is such a huge part of Eid celebrations, a good way to make the festival an Earth-happy affair is to shop locally for ingredients. Go to the local grocery store in your area or find a nearby farmer’s market instead of a supermarket chain to buy meat, veggies, spices and fruits. Not only would you get to have fresh, straight from the farm stuff but would also invest in your local economy and ensure your food has a lower carbon foot-print, that is, it hasn’t travelled thousands of miles using hundreds of gallons of fuel before reaching your plate. Win-win in every way!

Also try to keep your food organic. Lesser chemicals in food are not just good for the environment but also for human health.

3) Waste not, want not: although the message of Ramadan is abstinence and resisting temptations, many a times the idea is lost in the festivities. While daytime fasts are observed rigorously, evenings are marked with over-indulgence in everything food (understandably so). In many households, sohoor and iftar banquets are extremely over-the-top affairs, with more food going to the bin later than was actually eaten.

But while Islam places great emphasis on Sawāb (reward – spiritual merit) garnered from giving food and water to someone observing a roza (fasting), it also considers wastefulness a sin. It does not do anyone any good to put more food on the table than your guests can possibly consume. So, in the true spirit of Islam, make moderation the keyword as you invite family and friends to break bread with you this Eid.

And if you still have got leftovers, give them to a homeless or a less fortunate person.

4) Check before you chuck: Eid is a social festival. It involves huge gatherings of extended families, relatives, friends, all coming together to celebrate, sometimes indoors, many a times outdoors. Families and friends go out together, eat- out, and have a nice time during the holiday. While you are out and about, keep in mind to clean up your litter after yourself as you would do at your home once the party is over. And if you have any recyclable materials in the litter and cannot find any recycle bins around, do carry it home and put them in the recycle bin.

Also, try to buy fresh foods with less packaging, and even if you do consume packaged food bear in mind to segregate the packaging according to instructions. It does not take a lot of time to do this, just a matter of developing the habit to check before we chuck.

5) Recycle, reuse: a big celebration doesn’t necessarily need to mean a big mound of plastic waste of disposable cutlery and decoration items. There are hundreds of environment-friendly options available for party products these days. And better still, they don’t burn a hole in your pocket. So, why not?

Apart from that, there is always an option to reuse sturdy decoration stuff. Try to remove the decorations carefully once the party is over and store them to use in your next party instead of sending perfectly good-condition, reusable plastic stuff down the garbage chute. You could end up saving some money as well as the environment.

6) Gift green: as with most festivals, exchanging gifts is a big part of Eid celebrations. This time around, try to keep your gifts green. There are lots and lots of online stores, websites, and even small local stores that can help you find the perfect gifts that do not put a stress on the environment. You could buy hand-made jewellery sourced from recycled materials, dresses and accessories made from environment-friendly materials and processes, natural, organic cosmetics, handicrafts and artisan made gifts sourced from fair-trade organisations across the globe, mini-herb gardens, a succulent pot arrangement, bird- and butterfly-feeders, or maybe small, hand-made pouches of organic wildflower seeds to scatter around the house and garden. Check out our directory to support local businesses.

The holy Quran describes believers of Allah as those who “walk on the Earth in humility”. This Eid take a pledge to follow this most important tenet of Islam: tread the Earth lightly. The future generations would thank you for it.

Eid Mubarak!

Sources: Arab News and Food Faith