Kori Majeed

Getting to Green During Ramadan

Green Ramadan 2014  

By Kori Majeed

Ramadan is the perfect boot camp for the soul. This Blessed Month is like thirty days of acting on New Year's resolutions, only we are working on them alongside our community. What better time to focus on getting green than during Ramadan when we are consciously trying to follow the Prophet's ﷺ example and create habits that will take us through until the next Ramadan.

Green habits are especially needed at the masjid during Ramadan as we spend more time at our local masjid reading Qur'an in the musullah during the last moments before maghrib prayer, breaking fast as a community with a shared iftar meal, and standing steadfast through tarawih prayers. But there is something about the time between maghrib and tarawih when we tend to relax our spiritual muscles…and our belts.

Americans could circle the equator 300 times with the amount of paper and plastic cups, forks and spoons we ditch in a year.1 Let me share another thing that Americans do big: we eat an average of a ton of food a year2. That statistic could not be more excessive until you read that a whopping 40 percent of food in the U.S. gets chucked in the trash, uneaten 3.

I'd like to think that the statistics of Muslim communities during Ramadan would be much, much lower, but personal experience tells me that, sadly, this is not the case. At the masjid we break our fast with a bottle of water and a bowl of dates. We throw that bottle and bowl in the trash on the way to maghrib prayer. After praying, we fill our plates to overflowing with birayani, chickpea daal, chicken and salad.

We get another bottle of water and a cup of tea. We eat, we drink, alhamdullilah. We get a second plate, alhamdullilah. We throw that water bottle, plate, cup, napkin, and fork in the trash along with portions of an uneaten second helping. As the saying goes, our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. We pray again.

Eat. Trash. Pray. Repeat.

Night after night of throwing away paper, plastic and styrofoam plates, cups, cutlery, napkins and paper towels. A lunar month of that unsustainable cycle leaves masses of trash produced by the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world. We stand in prayer begging for forgiveness and yet thoughtlessly and ironically toss out food during a month when we should be sympathizing with those who are hungry. Our Ummah has got to do better than that. What can the masjid do to make these beautiful community meals more green? How can individual Muslims curb their earthly impact during an intensely spiritual month?

Here are several often simple ways to green our masajid during Ramadan:

  • Get in contact with local Muslim green advocates – like Sarah Jawaid of Green Muslims or Ibrahim Abdul Matin, author of Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet – who have the knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm to help our communities develop green habits at the masjid and at home.
  • Form a masjid Green Team of ambassadors who are willing to take action to implement Green Ramadan tasks and educate and refocus the community on the conservation ethic inherent in Islam.
  • Provide recycling options during iftar, like containers for collecting paper, plastic and food scraps for composting. Green ambassadors can make sure plates are scraped and recyclables are put in the proper bins.
  • Broadcast Green Ramadan issues in Friday khutbahs, lectures and newsletters reminding believers to use the month of Ramadan as a time to examine our individual and collective impact on the earth.
  • Use platters and pitchers to serve some food and drinks instead of individual bowls or plastic bottles.
  • Use reusable plates, cups, cutlery and napkins. Masajid can buy their own, borrow them from a local restaurant or encourage community members to bring their own reusable dinnerware to masjid iftars, like Zero Trash Iftar Kits from GreenRamadan.com.
  • Eat less meat. Yep, I said it. Just because it is halal doesn't mean we need to eat it every day. Diversify the iftar menu with vegetarian or vegan meals. Get even more creative by having nights when iftar meals are made solely from locally grown ingredients, are gluten free, 100 percent organic, or the meats are green zabiha (halal, organic and grass-fed).
  • Too much food? Challenge community members to put on their plate only what they can eat. Individuals can also bring a reusable container to take leftovers home to eat for the next morning's suhoor or the masjid can donate extra food to local shelters or soup kitchens.
  • Use food scraps to generate compost for the masjid grounds.
  • Launch a Greenest masjid competition between local masajid to produce the least amount of trash during Ramadan.
  • Use permanent markers to write names on cups and plates. There will be less confusion on which cup belongs to whom and thus less stuff thrown away due to fear of contracting cooties.

All that is on the earth belongs to Allah. He established a balance and a natural pattern in all mankind and then appointed mankind as khalifa on earth. In the Qur'an, Allah reminds us to “…eat and drink but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.

Insha'Allah, we can work together to revive the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ reducing our consumption and cultivating our environmental consciousness and stewardship, all the while saving our masajid money and minimizing the environmental impact of our Ramadan iftars. May these small efforts be the ones that secure our place in Paradise.

 You can learn more about Kori Majeed on her site Green Ramadan

This article was originally published on MuslimsMatters on July 2nd, 2014. 

[1] Wills, A. (2010, June 21). Recycling To-Go Plastics. Retrieved June 2014, fromhttp://earth911.com/news/2010/06/21/recycling-to-go-plastics/
[2] Aubrey, A. (31 December 2011. The Average American Ate (Literally) A Ton This Year. Retrieved June 2014, fromhttp://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2011/12/31/144478009/the-average-american-ate-literally-a-ton-this-year
[3] National Resources Defense Council. (2012, August 21). Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill. Retrieved June 2014, from http://www.nrdc.org/food/wasted-food.asp

Green Ramadan Switch

ZeroTrashIftarKit Recently Khaleafa.com had the opportunity to the interview Kori Majeed, the founder of the Green Ramadan Switch, an innovative initiative aimed at increasing awareness about waste during the month of Ramadan. She shares with us her inspiration and motivation for going green and highlights the importance of being aware of the environmental consequences of our actions.

1) Briefly share with our readers a little bit about yourself. How did you become interested in the environmental field?

I'm a "military brat" -- in the best sense of the word -- so although I was born in Alabama, I rarely lived in a place for more than 4 years until I got married. I graduated from Spelman College with a B.S. in Computer Science and afterwards was commissioned as an officer in the US Air Force. I worked at the Pentagon for 4 years, during which I got married, went on Hajj, and then transitioned into web development for a DC non-profit. I stopped working after I had our first child. I couldn't bring myself to give her to someone else for 8-10 hours out of the day. I did freelance web work for a while and got my Masters from Johns Hopkins University after having my second child. My husband and I decided to move to Amman, Jordan to study Arabic at Qasid Institute. While there, I had my third child. We came back to the States for a bit, then headed to central Turkey where my husband taught ESL at a private high school while I homeschooled our girls and we enjoyed the amazing hospitality, culture and food of the Turks. You might have guessed that I had our fourth child while in Turkey. We returned to the States and eventually settled down in the DC area. My husband works in Network Security, while I continue to homeschool our gaggle of four girls and blog about it. I'm also a serial small-time entrepreneur and Girl Scout Troop Advisor with Troop 3480 at Prince George's Muslim Association in Lanham, Maryland. My husband and I are also working to create Good Tree Village, the first Muslim cohousing community in the DC-area, inshaAllah.

My interest in environmental issues began to blossom when I had children. No, probably when they were in utero. In trying to provide the best for our children, I think parents start to question everything: Is the hospital the best place to give birth? What is in those vaccines? What was used to grow that food? That meat has WHAT in it? Did we check for lead paint? Can I teach my children better than the local school system? Our children are a trust to us, on loan from Allah. Am I doing my best with this beautiful loan? I'm just my thankful that my husband always supported me or at least heard me out and gave my "crunchy" ideas a go.

2) What is the Green Ramadan Switch? What motivated you to create this campaign and what are the goals?

Last year I became saddened & disgusted by all the trash we Muslims create at community iftars during Ramadan, both at the masjid and in private homes.  The bags of trash didn’t correspond with the blessings of eating in community during this sacred month. So, I decided to try to curb the impact of my own family. I researched reusable dinnerware that would add to the significance of the occasion while being sustainable, stylish and affordable. I always got positive feedback after people questioned why my family was the only one eating off of "prison-style" food trays. In early February of this year, I decided to try to share my version of a Green Ramadan and help others make the Green Ramadan Switch from disposable styrofoam, plastic and paper products to a smart, reusable and sustainable Zero-Trash Iftar Kit.

Sometimes it is challenging and slow to effect change at a masjid, so I see Green Ramadan's Zero-Trash Iftar Kit as a way for individuals to make a positive impact on the sustainability of their Ramadan.  InshaAllah masajids will catch on and, in preparation for Ramadan, make an initial investment in reusable dinnerware instead of wasting money on huge boxes of styrofoam plates, plastic cutlery and paper napkins every year -- in effect, preparing to create a whole lot of trash.

It's my goal to help 1000 Muslims green their Ramadan this year by doing a simple, thoughtful, easy good deed: reducing the amount of waste we create at iftars. No more single-use water bottles. No more non-biodegradable styrofoam plates, bowls & cups. No more plastic cutlery. I'm helping Muslims make the Green Ramadan Switch to a stainless-steel food tray, BPA-free tumbler, bamboo cutlery and cloth napkin: all of which are reusable, sustainable and pretty cool-looking. Plus, there is a reusable bag to carry it all in.


3) Briefly explain what is the Zero-Trash Iftar Kit. How did you come up with this idea and what has been the response?

I have children, so I wanted the Kit to be washable, reusable, durable and cool. Some people bring out special decorations and dish sets for Ramadan. Our tradition is to bring our Zero-Trash Iftar Kits to community iftars.

Every item in a Green Ramadan Zero-Trash Iftar Kit is either reusable, responsibly-made, sustainable, or all of the above. The Kit includes a stainless steel divided food tray (my kids don't like their food to touch); a bamboo fork, knife and spoon (there is so much noise when bamboo comes in contact with stainless steel); a BPA-free tumbler with straw that's pretty close to spill-proof; a cloth napkin (a touch of class); and a reusable bag in which to carry it all.

The environmental benefit of Zero-Trash Iftar Kits is that it replaces disposable (and sometimes even toxic) styrofoam, plastic and paper plates, cups, straws, cutlery, napkins & paper towels, and plastic water bottles with a Kit that we can use over and over again every Ramadan, inshaAllah.

4) During Ramadan there often is a lot of waste and excess. What are some lessons you would like to share with the Muslim community when it comes to making their Ramadan more environmentally-friendly? 

Simple, small deeds can make a huge impact for our local community and for the world. A Green Ramadan is a return to mindfulness in our actions and we can take the habits we cultivate in Ramadan and use them throughout the year. A Green Ramadan is a return to the Sunnah. We can turn the water to a trickle when making wudu. We can eliminate waste by using reusable dinnerware at home and in community. We can eat modest portions of food. We can eat meat only on weekends or eat vegetarian at least once a week. We can carpool. We can plant something.

5) How has the Muslim community responded to this project? How do you plan on building on the campaign in the future?

The response has been amazing, alhamdullilah! Green Muslims are coming out of the bamboo woodworks. I've gotten lots of positive feedback, constructive criticism and requests for customization. Green Ramadan has been on facebook for less than a month and already has over 120 likes. One woman decided she would make a better, greener, longer-lasting impact by investing in Zero-Trash Iftar Kits for her masjid rather than sponsoring an iftar. Right now Green Ramadan's focus is eliminating waste at iftars, however in the future I'd like to focus on other areas including water conservation, recycling, composting, portion control & reducing food waste, gardening & permaculture, and eating less meat.

For more information about the Green Ramadan Switch and to purchase a Zero-Trash Iftar Kit, please visit: http://greenramadan.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/GreenRamadan