Five Ways to Green your Ramadan


Ramadan presents the perfect opportunity to recharge our spiritual batteries for the year. It is a time to seek forgiveness for our misgivings and to reflect upon the signs of creation from Allah, which includes those present around us in the natural environment. As Muslims we have a duty as stewards (khalifa) over this planet and it is our responsibility to ensure that the resources and environment are used in a sustainable manner. This Ramadan, consider your making your fasting experience a little more environmentally-friendly by adopting the following measures.

1) Purchase Local Produce/Organic Products

Have you ever considered where your food comes from? The average North American meal travels 2,400 km to get from the field to your plate and contains ingredients from 5 countries in addition to our own.[1] The amount of greenhouse gases emitted from transporting produce is staggering and contributes significantly to global warming. After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector in the economy.[2] Even the dates traditionally used to break the fast, have most likely travelled halfway across the world. This Ramadan consider shopping for local, seasonal produce at your nearby farmers market. Not only will you get peace of mind from knowing where your food comes from, you also support local economies and reduce the emissions released into the environment. Also, try experimenting with organic produce either at the Suhur or Iftar meals. Organic products taste better and generally contain no pesticides, herbicides, preservatives or other additives.[3] Be sure to check that the product is certified and review the criteria used to avoid greenwashing.

2) Moving Beyond Halal

Many of us understand Halal meat to mean animals that have been slaughtered in accordance to Islamic law. However, most of us are not aware that this is the minimum standard when it comes eating permissible foods. This Ramadan, consider going beyond Halal and purchasing meat that takes into account the entire lifespan of the animal. There are Islamic guidelines on how livestock should be cared for and raised which is often contrary to the treatment animals receive on large-scale, factory operations[4]. There are many independent farms that allow their animals to roam and graze freely, prohibit the use of steroids, growth hormones and antibiotics while still adhering to religious requirements of being Halal. Better yet, consider going vegetarian for several days this Ramadan. There are many environmental and ecological benefits of opting for a meat-free meal. If every American became a vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would save 100 billion gallons of water and 70 million gallons of gas.[5] Many Iftars go overboard on serving several meat options at one meal, while it is important to remember the Sunnah of the Prophet was to eat meat in moderation.

3) Ditch the Disposables

Last Ramadan there was a movement to eliminate the use of Styrofoam containers and plastic cutlery to serve the Iftar meal. Disposable products are often the preferred method of serving food at large events since it involves minimal clean-up; however, the long term impacts on the environment are devastating. In the United States, Styrofoam products make up only 0.25% of landfill waste by weight but take up 25-30% of space by volume. Considering that Americans discard more than 25 billion Styrofoam cups annually, the potential for waste diversion is enormous.[6]

If you have to use disposable, consider alternatives such as plant-based containers and plastics that are compostable or better yet, organize a litterless Iftar where patrons bring their own containers and utensils. There is also the option of renting dinnerware and cutlery from a local restaurant or catering company which cuts down on clean-up time.

4) Reduce Energy Consumption:

Energy consumption in the United States has tripled between 1950-2007 as homes have become larger and lifestyles have become accustomed to more appliances and electronics.[7] Considering that a large portion of the electricity generated is still derived from oil, coal and natural gas, there are huge environmental effects associated with the extraction, generation and distribution of energy.

There many ways to reduce your energy consumption throughout Ramadan. Turning the air conditioner on only when you are at home or sleeping will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and your energy bills. Closing open blinds, turning off lights and using fans to circulate air will also keep your home cool. Replacing your lights blubs from incandescent to compact fluorescent and turning off lights when they are not in use can save as much as 11% off your energy costs at home.[8]  Similarly at the mosque, keeping outside doors closed when the air conditioning is on and dimming the lights also reduces energy consumption as well.

5)UseAlternative Transit Options:

If you do have access to car and plan to drive to the nightly Taraweeh prayers, try carpooling when possible. There are many benefits including easing congestion, reducing pollution and parking perks which translate into shorter commutes and healthier air[9]. There are many youth and seniors within our community without access to a vehicle or reliable transit at night that would be more than grateful for a ride. Mosque parking lots tend to overflow with congregants during Ramadan, so the fewer number of vehicles actually increases traffic flow for everyone.

You also may want to promote carpooling by offering incentives such as designated spots closer to the entrance for those carrying multiple passengers. Also, if you are within a reasonable distance from the mosque, consider taking advantage of the warm weather to ride your bike or walk to prayers as well.

Adopting environmentally friendly habits is relatively simple once you establish them into your routine. This Ramadan, reflect upon areas in your life where you could be a little more green and take action. Not only will you save money, but you will fulfill our responsibility as stewards (khalifa) towards the earth.

Photo credit from ictqatar

[1]Nature Resources Defense Council

[2]The New York Times

[3]Canada Organic Trade Association

[4]Beyond Halal – Faith in Food

[5]Live Earth

[6]Recycling Revolution


[8]US Department of Energy

[9]Transport Canada

Steps to Green Your MSA Iftar this Ramadan


As the blessed month of Ramadan draws near, Muslim Student Associations (MSA) on university and college campuses across North America are preparing for the nightly iftar; the evening meal when Muslims break their fast. Some use this as an opportunity to build interfaith relations with other student organizations by breaking the fast together with a communal meal. Others organize Fast-a-thon events to raise awareness about global hunger and to fundraise for local food banks. No matter what campaign your MSA may be involved with this Ramadan, the campus iftar is the perfect occasion to establish green habits that can carry on throughout the year.

Last Ramadan Princeton University established their own Green Iftars which were hosted through the Muslim Life Program. Faraz Khan from Think as Green  sat down with Sohaib Sultan, Muslim Chaplain at Princeton University and Arshe Ahmed to discuss the success of the Green Ramadan Initiative and to share some of the lessons learned.

The Green Ramadan Initiative was guided by three simple principles aimed at reducing waste and fostering community participation. The goal was to adopt meaningful habits that the students could easily take ownership of in their daily lives. These included:

1. Avoid taking more than you can eat. 2. Exercise patience and think of others when taking your servings. 3. Take ownership by turning off lights and AC when not in use.

To reduce the amount disposable waste generated, an agreement was made with the residential colleges to provide plates, glasses and cutlery from the resident dining halls. Reusable stainless steel pitchers were also ordered to eliminate plastic bottle waste. Overall, the total amount of garbage produced were 10 bags over the course of the month, compared to 60 the previous Ramadan.

What made these iftars a success was the community involvement in the preparation and takedown, which made it easy to adopt green values. Many students were willing to help, not only to make the campaign a success but because they felt they were part of a larger global movement. It also created an inclusive environment for members of the outside community who joined in the meal. Several policies were adopted to ensure the iftar ran smoothly and the tasks were evenly distributed. These included:

1. Students were asked to arrive early to set-up tables and chairs. 2. Individuals were responsible for cleaning-up their eating area after they were done. 3. All the plates and utensils were rinsed in the sink. 4. Leftover food was stored in the communal fridge.

Many of the participants felt that the values learned at the iftars translated to actions that were also carried over at home and incorporated into their daily routines; such as using less water and disposable items. The Green Ramadan Initiative demonstrates that with a little bit of preparation and teamwork, it is possible to host successful green iftars on your campus.

Muslim American Environmentalism




Muslim American Environmentalism - An Emerging Environmental Movement in America and Its Implications for Environmentalism and Muslims in America (Jamie Albrecht (2011) – Lambert Academic Publishing)

The Muslim-environmental movement has been gaining momentum in the United States over the last several years.  Mosques, organizations and institutions have gradually adopted environmental principles into their sermons, curriculums and operations in a unique intersection of religious beliefs and environmental activism. Until now there has not been a written account of this evolution or an evaluation of our community’s progress in this area.

Jamie Albrecht in her recent book entitled “Muslim American Environmentalism,” aims to examine how Muslims in their everyday lives in the United States experience and participate in the environmental movement. It is believed that there is a distinct Islamic understanding of the natural environment which translates into different levels of activism within the community.

This research area is important for several reasons including contributing towards the American response to global climate change and its inclusion of the Muslim community. It also addresses relevant topics that are just emerging such as Muslim activism within the United States, the role of the environment in Islam and the fusion of religion and environmentalism.

Three issues were examined as part of this research: 1) To address the contemporary Muslim understanding of environmental stewardship in the United States, 2) To determine the Muslim American role in the environmental movement through their practices and activities 3) The impact of this activism on the American Muslim political and social life as well as social inclusion within American society.

The book was divided into several sections; the first explored the role of ecology and environment in Islam through a review of the Quran and Sunnah. The second traced the historical account of environmentalism from the ecological roots of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) through its evolution to the current Muslim American community. As part of the research process, interviews were conducted to gauge the sense of eco-awareness within the community and environmental advocacy in the United States. This was followed by an analysis of these interviews to draw out conclusions to the initial research questions.

The book describes different levels of activism within the Muslim-environmental community and three methods of mobilizing Muslims around environmental issues are discussed. The first is through the influence of leaders or imams within the community; the second is through ‘green’ institutions such as mosques and community centres and third is through political and civic organizations affiliated within Muslim environmental activities. All three methods engage congregations in different ways and are generally self-directed.

The goal of the research was to analyze how Muslims in the United States participate in the environmental movement, focusing on their understanding and practices of environmentalism, and how this translates into their political and social status in the United States. The findings include that environmentalism and Muslim activism in the United States share a lot of commonalities at the grassroots level, but at the national political level it still remains in its infancy. Muslim organizations have started to work with each other and other interfaith-based environmental initiatives; however, integration with external communities on a regional level has not been as strong.

Overall, this book provided a comprehensive account of the progress Muslims have made in incorporating environmentalism as part of their faith. There were several case studies examined within the research that provided a glimpse into how different communities are approaching the current environmental crisis and how they are establishing their own environmental ethics based on the three divine sources within Islam; the Quran, Hadith and Sunnah.

One takeaway message that left an impression with me was from Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef, the contributor to the “Muslim Declaration on Nature.’ He describes three central concepts that form the basis of environmental ethics within Islam.

1)      Tawhid – The unity of Allah is reflected between the unity of mankind and its relationship with nature. There is a balance and harmony that exists in nature that must be maintained

2)      Khalifah – The responsibility of the humans as trustees of Allah over the planet. We are entrusted as stewards of the earth and its resources to use in a sustainable manner

3)      Akhirah – We will all be held accountable for our actions on and to the planet in the hereafter.

The simplicity of the message reminded me that we tend overcomplicate issues and many of the solutions start with having the right intentions. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the Muslim contribution to the environmental movement or learning about ways you can make your community more sustainable.




Muslim American Environmentalism

Globalized Eco-Islam – A Survey of Global Islamic Environmentalism


Does Islamic Environmentalism exist? That is a question posed by researchers at Leiden University in a paper entitled Globalized Eco-Islam – A Survey of Global Islamic Environmentalism. The survey published earlier this year seeks to answer who is speaking out for Islam about environmental issues (the actors) and what ideas, theories, perspectives and views are proposed (the discourses)? The researchers argue that a new type of environmental movement is emerging, Islamic Environmentalism, that includes Muslim engaged within a wide range of environmental and sustainability issues such as eco-philosophies, environmental law and eco-certified halal products and services.

The report is chronologically structured, documenting the rise of the environmental movement from the early seventies to the present, highlighting the evolution of Islamic environmental theories. It also covers Muslim environmental policy makers, interfaith platforms, civil society groups, individuals and communities, the financial and business sectors and the contributions of Islamic scholars towards the development of Islamic Environmentalism.

The findings of the review confirm that Islamic Environmentalism does exist and that it has taken on various forms over the last forty years, evolving from a more theoretical approach in the 1970’s that concentrated on Islamic theories of nature and its implications, to the last decade where these principles were put into practice. Recently it has spread to larger and more receptive audiences that aim to Green their Deen, through adopting renewable energy, clean technologies and sourcing organic and/or regionally grown food.

The survey summarizes the approaches taken by the Muslim community under the umbrella of Islamic Environmentalism. These include:

1)      Theological and Islamic law based (classical normative)

2)      Mystical philosophical nature or eco-philosophy (ethical)

3)      Reform of science and technology (Islamic science)

4)      Social political reform (Eco-Islamist)

5)      Land-water resource management, nature conservation (conservationist)

6)      Green lifestyles and the economy (Green Deen)

7)      Sustainable Islamic Finance and economics, commerce and trade

While the researchers readily admit that this is a snapshot of a developing movement, there is great potential for further research to be conducted, especially in capturing grass-roots projects and initiatives already in place but not documented in the developing world. Leiden University will continue research into the area Islamic perspectives on sustainable development and currently has a proposal before the Netherlands Scientific Research Fund.

Faith Values and Sustainable Development


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recently released a new document entitled “Exploring Synergies between Faith Values and Education for Sustainable Development.” This collaboration with Earth Charter International and the University for Peace examines the relationship between sustainable development and faith values and places an emphasis on the role they play in creating a sustainable planet.

The paper presents 17 articles from the Abrahamic, Asian and Indigenous Traditions focusing on various roles, contributions and responses of faith groups towards the goal of sustainable development. Two articles were presented from the Islamic perspective; Sustainability in Islam by Zabariah Haji Matali and Sustainable Development in a Muslim Context by Dr. Muhammad Nouh.

Zabariah Haji Matali is the Chief Executive Officer of the Islamic Information Centre in Malaysia and has worked extensively in the ENGO sector in the county. Her previous post as General Manager at AZAM saw her promoting sustainable development from a business perspective.  In her article she highlights eight guiding principles outlined in the Quran surrounding sustainability and goes into detail examining their importance. These are:

1)      Adl (Justice) - governing human relationships and other living creatures;

2)      Mizan (Balance) - governing not only human social and economic relationships but also the environment, especially in ensuring the equilibrium of nature, use of resources and life cycle of all species;

3)      Wasat (Middleness) - choosing the middle path in economic planning, social conduct, scientific pursuits, ideological views, material, water and energy consumption;

4)      Rahmah (Mercy) - governing all aspects of human relationships and treatment of all living animals, plants and insects including micro-organisms;

5)      Amanah (Trustworthiness and custodianship) - Humankind is considered to be a trustee appointed by the Creator, for all earth’s assets;

6)      Taharah (Spiritual purity and Physical cleanliness) - generating contented individuals through spiritual purity, conscious of the presence of his/her Creator, that would result in a balanced society, living in harmony with the environment; cleanliness that would generate a healthy society devoid of air and water pollution, as well as generating a clean economy devoid of usury and deceitful marketing techniques and business transactions;

7)      Haq (Truthfulness and Rights) - Truthfulness in all dealings that recognizes the respective rights of others (humans, animals and plants)

8)      Ilm Nafi’ (usefulness of knowledge and science) – Knowledge, whether theological, scientific or technological, must be beneficial to others (individuals and society) including future generations.

Zabariah concludes with a call to action, especially when it comes to governing access to water for current and future generations as it is an issue with a profound impact in the Islamic world.

Dr. Muhammad Nouh is currently a faculty member at the Islamic Sciences International University in Jordan. He previously served in the Jordan Civil Defense as Mufti and is a Friday preacher and Arbitrator in the Jordanian courts. In his article he approaches sustainable development from a multi-dimensional process that puts economic and social development on one side with the environment on the other. Maintaining this delicate balance involves five components which he elaborates within his article. They are:

1)      Honoring human beings

2)      Comprehensiveness of the Environment

3)      Balance

4)      Limited Resources

5)      Environmental Protection

He closes by providing context within Islamic jurisprudence concerning sustainable development with the overarching theme of “Do no harm.” This means not harming access to vital resources such as water, through pollution, contamination or overuse that would negatively affect both humans and animals alike.

UNESCO is the English acronym for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Its constitution was adopted by the London Conference in November 1945, and entered into effect on the 4th of November 1946 when 20 states had deposited instruments of acceptance. Canada was one of these 20 original Member States, and has been an active member ever since. UNESCO’s main objective is to contribute to peace and security in the world by promoting collaboration among nations through education, science, culture and communication and information.

Photo Credit from: Earth Charter Initiative


Diversity in Governance: A Snapshot of ENGO’s

The environmental sector in Canada has been growing steadily over the last decade and continues to grow with recent investment in green energy and technology. The rise in environmental awareness among the general public has also meant that environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGO’s) have risen in prominence and now represent a wide variety of concerns and issues relevant to many Canadians.

But how well do these organizations represent the constituency they are serving and how diverse are they? Those involved within the environmental community gathered earlier this month at Ryerson University to address the issue of diversity in decision making and its importance as part of a joint workshop presented by DiverseCity and Maytree. Both organizations work at increasing the presence of underrepresented communities on boards, agencies and commissions to better reflect the communities they are serving.

An aging workforce and increasing immigration mean that the leadership potential for minorities is only going to increase. Currently in the GTA, minorities represent only 12.5% of board members in the voluntary sector and only 4.2% of boards in the corporate sector. With visible minorities representing closer to half the population in several urban centers, there needs to be better representation at the decision level. During the workshop the benefits of having inclusive and diverse boards were explored including generating better decisions, providing greater legitimacy, creating more effective fundraising opportunities and developing better responsiveness to the needs of the client and broader community. It was also brought up that religious inclusiveness should also be considered, as many environmental principles overlap with the spiritual aspects of various faiths.

ENGO’s face a bigger challenge in reaching this objective as minorities are already under-represented in many of the sectors within the environmental field. Several challenges arose during the discussions including geographic distribution of some industries and the demographics of smaller and rural communities. However, there are several proactive measures that organizations can take to ensure that diversity becomes incorporated into their culture. These include developing an outreach strategy, creating an effective board and fostering a culture of diversity. DiverseCity has also created a toolkit for non-profit boards to analyze their current decision-making and outreach practices.

For more information about this initiative, please visit:

Photo credit from Julie70