The Blog

Beyond Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

by Sarrah AbuLughod

“You’re going to what? and you’re taking what with you?” one of the attendee’s of the annual Green Muslims Zero-Trash Iftar narrated the confusion of her mother as she walked out of the house with a bag filled with a reusable plate, spoon, and cup.

She told the group that her mother insisted that she take some fresh fruit rather than any leftovers to the gathering. “Leftovers are stigmatized,” explained another participant in the evenings meal, “it’s not seen as proper to take something that was from another meal.”

Our very own holy book, the Quran, relates time and again that God does not favor the people who waste and yet when have we ever asked ourselves as a community what that really means? The discussion at the “leftar”, as it was coined, lead by Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, author of Green Deen, took us one step further. He challenged our community to think less about ourselves as consumers, and more about ourselves as directors in shaping the next movement.

“It’s not about just reduce, reuse, recycle any more. It’s about reduce, reuse, refuse!” Abdul-Matin encouraged our small community to look into other ways of making a difference. Whether it was starting to compost, refusing to buy products that are overly packaged, researching and beginning to use products that are made from whole materials, or even on an even simpler level, taking a reusable kit to every iftar in order to politely reduce the overwhelming Styrofoam mountain at the local mosque, one plate at a time. (more…)

Iftaar Recap

The following was originally posted here.

Good morning, everyone! InshAllah, your weeks are off to a good start, even if it is Monday and you do not want to be back to the grind. Personally, this day is always a mixture of excitement at the prospect of making progress on life goals and loathing of the work week’s monotony. This past weekend, especially, is difficult to say good-bye to since it was very relaxing and involved an iftaar with friends in Meridian Hill Park.

Although I lived in the area and passed it everyday on my commute into work on a Metro bus, I never explored Meridian Hill/Malcom X Park prior to last night. Like the National Mall, which seemingly is unending stretches of dirt paths encasing a grassy interior, Meridian Hill encompasses several city blocks in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC’s Northwest quadrant. Each week the park hosts a famous drum circle where individuals bring drums of all varieties and play to a dancing crowd for almost 12 hours straight. What a background soundtrack to an interfaith iftaar I thought, with its constant beat that ebbed and flowed with the sun and light breeze passing through the nearby trees. As twilight approached, my group of friends and I gathered on some blankets and shared several delicious dishes together to celebrate the conclusion of another blessed day of fasting. Such highlights, which are included below, were a roasted eggplant dish, orzo with feta and grape tomatoes, and peanut butter cookies (note to anyone looking for one of my favorite foods, here is one). Thanks to my friends in the awesome Green Muslims group, who also participate in the weekly halaqa group. They were kind enough to rent me a reusable cutlery set that included plates and cups. Check out their website for information pertaining to how you can rent different size party sets for your next event; where else can you rent everything for $10?! The beauty of these sets is that you are not only preventing more trash from going into a landfill, probably incorrectly separated too, but that you also contribute to the good works of an environmental organization. (more…)

Reduce, Reuse, Ramadan

Originally posted  on the Huffington Post.

“How do I make people realize how much they are wasting?” my mom tells me over the phone after becoming frustrated with heaps of trash occupying her mosque after iftar each night.

In recent years, I’ve been talking to my mom about the importance of recycling and how it’s an act of faith. My family didn’t grow up recycling because of environmental awareness. We did it because of the $.05 we got back from the bottle bill. The words “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” floated around us in middle school on bulletin boards and in art projects with little resonance. Growing up in dry California, we were always reminded about conserving water through PSAs and by our teachers. None of it really stuck.

At the mosque during Ramadan, gluttony and waste was all around us year after year. It was normal for the hungry congregation to take multiple Styrofoam plates — one for a date to break the fast, another for dinner and maybe one more plate for seconds. The same goes for cups. Many times food was wasted. Puddles of water were left in the restrooms from wudu. And while this was happening around me, I didn’t give it much thought.

Until I started reading more about what my faith tradition teaches about having humility with creation. In Islam, God identifies nature as a tapestry of signs for man to reflect upon His existence, just as the verses within the Quran are also considered signs, sharing the same Arabic word, ayat. Going further than contemplation of the universe, God bestowed mankind as stewards on Earth, entrusting humanity with the duty to protect and restore balance in the environment for future generations to enjoy the signs in creation. (more…)

From Lawns to Greens: Changing the Suburban Landscape

I have a well sustained reputation of being all thumbs in my garden and unfortunately, none of them are green! Despite this fact, we decided to invest in a backyard garden and give ourselves and our children the invaluable experience of growing our own food. Perhaps it was initiated by my husband who recently turned vegetarian or perhaps it was the beautiful spring weather in Northern California, or perhaps it was Michelle Obama’s White House garden that everyone is talking about, but whatever the impetus, the initiative is well under way.

As long as my children can remember we have shopped at the farmer’s market for our weekly veggies and fruits and the time was ripe to begin our own garden. It’s not as if we hadn’t tried before, but the clay soil and the rocks holding up the hills we live on were not conducive to growing much and the deer usually enjoyed whatever little was able to sprout. This year, with a fence, a prepared garden bed, organic fertilizers and a host of little plants and seeds we were armed for the challenge. Best of all, I had an army of little soldiers ready to water, fertilize, weed, plant and harvest. I think their enthusiasm is what really took root.

When late spring rolled in with the fog from the bay, we began our humble garden. Like Arnold Lobel’s Toad, my littlest one would sing to the seeds waiting for them to germinate. My second son joked about hitting the jackpot once the beans he planted sprouted, while my eldest dutifully watered the garden and waited eagerly for the results. The budding plants reinvigorated my family as we began to see life emerge from the ground and my daughter let each flower be- as she now learned that this will be what she soon eats!

Environmentalists will tell us how we can reduce our carbon footprint by raising our own food, while the frugal shopper will tell us that it’s the cheapest food money can buy with a bountiful yield. Nutritionists will remind us how nutrient dense and tasty our home grown veggies and fruits will be, and doctors will agree that pesticide free, organic food will leave us healthier. What I want to highlight is how much my family has learned from the experience of gardening. From germination, pollination and a short, quick lesson on the birds and bees, to calculating the amount of water and fertilizer needed by a particular plant, to patience, responsibility, exercise, faith in God and gratitude- were invaluable lessons learned with ease while experiencing the most amazing cycle of life.

Now that my family has learned the values of healthy eating with fresh, delicious home grown food, they refuse to see it go to waste because they’ve seen it take so long to come to our plate. According to Ted Steinberg, author of “American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn”, Americans spend between $30-$40 billion each year on maintaining their lawns. The US census bureau tells us the average American spends up to 60% of their weekend hours working on their lawns. Imagine all this time and money spent on greens that we cannot even eat! Now imagine fresh, crisp lettuce- without threat of salmonella, green herbs only as much as your need, blossoming flowers, vine ripened tomatoes you don’t have to pay an arm and leg for and sweet delicious fruits when you want them; all this for much less time and money. This is the outcome of changing our backyard to our green grocery store. Remember change always happens in the home- or in this case, the backyard. Large backyard gardens or potted patio plants, each of us can teach our little ones the pleasures of gardening with a bit of will, water and Wikipedia; so get growing!

Originally posted at Soulfulstudies.

Pre-Ramadan Collective Consciousness

Ramadan always comes faster than expected and ends even sooner. In the midst of a busy and hectic life, preparing for the most blessed of months often falls to the wayside. However, with only about two weeks to go it is the perfect time to start creating the intention to make the most out of this Ramadan.

 

Ramadan is a time, as we all know, to be spent with community to share in the blessings that surround us and to think of those in need.  We have the opportunity to think of this time as a hardship, a test, or a blessing.  I have always felt that Ramadan is the ultimate test of willpower and a reflection on all the things, good and bad that have become habits for me. It has always been a time to assess the things I do, which are very often based on wants and needs. Through fasting, and through being mindful of my every action, I am given the opportunity in this month to truly revisit my daily life and reflect on ways towards self-improvement. This Ramadan however, in accordance with the mission of Green Muslims to promote the Islamic principle of environmental stewardship, it is my intention to not only consider ways towards a more wholesome self-reflection but to also assess how my lifestyle and actions impact the earth and the environment. We depend on the Earth for our livelihood and it sustains us. It is essential that we take time to reflect on whether our lifestyle is mindful of our impact on the Earth or if we are taking without consideration of the effect we are having on the environment. This Ramadan is the perfect time to judge both how are actions can work in the best way for ourselves and the Earth around us.

“O you people! Feel close (and love) your Guardian-Lord, Who created you, and those who came before you, That you may have the chance to learn righteousness; Who has made the earth your couch, and the skies your canopy; And sent down rain from the skies;  And brought forth from there Fruits for your sustenance …”  2:21-22

Sarina Bajwa is Green Muslims’ Community Outreach Manager.

Think Green Khutbah Campaign, Friday April 20th

Our friends at Khaleafa.com have launched a campaign to commemorate Earth Day on April 22, 2012 and we are joining them. Mark your calendars for April 20th and ask your religious leaders to celebrate Earth Day by reminding us of our role to protect this Earth, a trust given to mankind. We hope this is an opportunity to deepen our role as protectors of the planet.

This year’s Think Green Khutbah Campaign’ challenge is to request all Muslims to live according to the S plan:

a)    live a simple life

b)     live a sustainable life

c)     live as stewards of the environment

Please sign up online if your organization will join the campaign and if you will be delivering a Khutbah on the environment on Friday, April 20th, 2012.

Also, if you need specific verses from the Quran, check out the resources here as well as Green Muslims Ramadan toolkit from 2011. There are wonderful ideas of what to do on Earth day in there as well.

And with Him are the keys of the Ghaib (all that is hidden), none knows them but He. And He knows whatever there is in (or on) the earth and in the sea; not a leaf falls, but he knows it. There is not a grain in the darkness of the earth nor anything fresh or dry, but is written in a Clear Record. Qur'an 6/59

Our Prayer: Oh Most Merciful, Oh Lord of the Worlds, Oh Creator of the Universe, protect our homes, protect our land, protect our water, protect our air.

Oh Sustainer, Oh Most Powerful, Oh Inspirer, help us maintain good habits, help us be agents for change, help us inspire our communities to action.

Mission: Green Muslims seek to reemphasize the unique role and responsibility entrusted upon humanity by God: environmental stewardship. We hope to serve as a bridge between American Muslim communities as well as partner with a wide spectrum of organizations accomplishing great work. Additionally, Green Muslims seek to provide a unique and organic source of environmental leadership, inspiration, awareness, and direct action within Muslim communities.

Announcing: Green Muslims’ Zero Trash Party Set!

Are you planning a Super Bowl party this Sunday?

Plan ahead and avoid using any disposable plates or utensils by borrowing the Green Muslims’ Zero Trash Party Set!

The party set includes:

  • Large & Small plates
  • Cups & Utensils
  • BPA & Melanine free
  • Made from 100% recycled materials.

    Order Your Set!

Order online for just a small donation that will support future Green Muslims’ programming. We value any contribution you can make to raising awareness and reducing waste.

Dicounts available for:

  • Sending us your party photos!
  • Writing a blog post!

We welcome any questions or feedback!

A Jewish Approach to Ecological Dinners

While our own No Impact Iftar had to unfortunately be cancelled do to the Hurricane Irene, we wanted to share a similar model of community, food, and ecological stewardship. The following is from Green Muslims partner and friend, Joelle Novey, and Green Muslims is forever indebted to her for all the countless help she has offered. Here is her introduction to a ecologically friendly Shabbat dinner (excerpted from the book Empowered Judaism by Elie Kaunfer):

At Tikkun Leil Shabbat (whose name alludes to tikkun olam – repairing the world), more than 150 folks in their twenties and thirties gather regularly on Friday nights for a songful, soulful service featuring a teaching about a social justice issue—and just about all of them stick around afterwards to share a vegetarian potluck dinner.

For more than four years, Tikkun Leil Shabbat in Washington, DC has managed to establish a system for hosting collaborative Shabbat dinners without using disposable plates, cutlery, or napkins, while meeting the needs of people with varied practices of kashrut. People share the work of cleaning up while maintaining an atmosphere of oneg Shabbat (delight in Shabbat).

The “two-table” potluck system, which TLS borrowed from the independent minyan Kol Zimrah (Sound of Song) in New York (who claim it may have originated, in turn, back in DC) is designed to honor a variety of Jewish dietary practices. We have one table for vegetarian food and another table for vegetarian food which is also hekhshered or made in a hekhsher-only kitchen, each with its own sets of dishes and cutlery that are washed separately. This makes it possible for the maximum number of people both to eat and to contribute food. By saying “vegetarian” and “hekhshered,” rather than “not kosher” and “kosher,” we make clear that TLS is not taking any position on what it means to keep kosher, but is simply setting out a logistical arrangement so that we all can share the meal.

Reusable Dishes
We’ve also sought to minimize waste from disposable tableware. On both potluck tables, we use lightweight reusable Preserve plates and cups from Recycline, made from recycled yogurt containers. We use a collection of previously loved forks purchased from Goodwill and donated by participants, and wash and reuse plastic cutlery and cups. We use a colorful collection of cloth napkins we procured on Craig’s List and through donations from participants—a volunteer launders them after each Tikkun Leil Shabbat. We recycle glass, plastic, and aluminum containers after TLS meals. (To keep the separateness of the hekhsher tableware simple, the “H-table” sports its own set of dishes, serving utensils, and sponges, all of a “lime-green” color, and its own dish bin that sits under the hekhsher table. When an “H” fork or plate finds its way into the wrong bin from time to time, it is retired.)

At least 30 people end up playing a role in washing all these dishes after dinner. We have developed an extensive online spreadsheet of a dozen volunteer roles at each TLS, including, for example, a “Food Monitor” who sets and refreshes the buffet tables, and two “Dish Captains,” one for each potluck table. The fifteen members of the Tomchei Tikkun (Supporters of the Minyan) coordinating team play a “spreadsheet role” pretty much every time. Additionally, a group of reliable volunteers, known as the “Tachlist,” gets an e-mail inviting them to sign up for these spreadsheet roles as well (a list of tasks for each role is included in the spreadsheet for those signing up for the first time).

Attendees are invited to volunteer for 10-minute dishwashing shifts by accepting a colorful lei necklace, which they wear while they’re helping, and can then bestow on someone else, until the dishes are all clean. (We like to joke that we are a “lei-led” Jewish community.) The volunteers circulating in the crowd collecting dishes with a Hawaiian necklace on add to a generally festive atmosphere, and some of the best conversations, new melodies, and personal connections at Tikkun Leil Shabbat happen around the kitchen during dishwashing.

On several different dimensions, Tikkun Leil Shabbat’s dinner system reflects our community’s core values:

  • It is pluralistic, because it permits people with various practices of kashrut to eat and to contribute food.
  • It is egalitarian, because everyone brings food to help create the meal, and just about everyone ends up helping to clean up, through a combination of roles signed up for in advance (like Dish Captain) or accepted in the moment (like a lei for 10 minutes of dishwashing).
  • Just as important, by having named roles and physical markers of who is helping and how at a given meeting, we also help to clarify who is “off the hook” this week. Naming explicitly who has signed up for particular tasks helps prevent certain conscientious souls, or women more likely to have been socialized to help with dishes, from accidentally becoming the default cleaning crew week after week.
  • It is socially conscious, by being mindful of minimizing our waste from disposables, and modeling a greener way of eating (vegetarian, and using reusable napkins and dishware).
  • Finally, it is community-building. By involving so many people, even those newly arrived, in the act of helping to feed one another and then doing the dishes, we’ve created an atmosphere of hands-on participation and provided the context for many conversations and connections that arose around the sinks.

Someone wrote a satirical song about TLS last year, which included the line: “You just might get your wishes; meet your soul mate washing dishes . . .” While we have yet to report an incidence of true love arising from dishwashing at TLS, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that our dish system in all its glory is one of our community’s spiritual practices.

Joelle Novey directs Greater Washington Interfaith Power & Light, which supports faith communities from across the DC area in saving energy, going green, and responding to climate change. She helps to coordinate Tikkun Leil Shabbat, an independent Jewish community that gathers in Dupont Circle for songful, soulful Shabbat services featuring a teaching about a social justice issue and followed by a potluck vegetarian dinner.

Introducing the Ramadan Tool-Kit!

Ramadan
Enhance your Ramadan experience this year, by following along with the Green Muslim’s as they practice “greener” habits. Each day we contemplate an inspirational ayah, quote, or hadith and incorporate the teachings of our tradition into our practice with a daily challenge and reflection. Follow along!

Whether as a community, a family or an individual, the Ramadan tool-kit is a powerful way to green your deen during this holy month. Join us and our friends and partners all over the world in incorporating the eco-conscious teachings of our tradition into our practice with a daily challenge and reflection.

Download the Toolkit Here!

Slaughtering for the Spirit

Almost a year ago, I promised that I would slaughter an animal. I made this promise during last Ramadan when I attended a no-waste iftar, where I’m pretty sure only vegetarian dishes were served… Anyways, it hasn’t come true. Yet.

The promise came out after eating the various pot-lucked foods off of the plate that I brought from home. I sat down in the circle that was beginning to form around the guest speaker of the event, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, author of Green Deen: What Islam Teaches about Protecting the Planet.

During our discussion, he urged us to re-cultivate our spiritual connection to the earth and relayed a story about how he killed a chicken for the first time in his life. Ibrahim reflected on how this was a profoundly deep experience in which one can finally comprehend, feel, and smell the reality of where our sustenance actually comes from.

And he shared his vision of how being green was really about waking up to this reality. It isn’t just a mission to track the size of your carbon foot-print or even an effort to save more water in your shower if you could just be a bit stingier about it. It’s about having a deep respect and love for God’s creation.

And it really hit me at that moment to ask myself: Am I someone who blindly takes from the earth? When I eat meat, am I thanking God and the animal for providing for me?

So I thought to myself about the relationship I had with the meat that I ate. Even recently, I was talking with a fellow Pakistani-American about how we hated on daal and other non-meat dishes in our childhood. Back then, meat needed to be in every dish for me; it was something I took for granted and still do.

I told the group during our discussion about how I probably wasn’t going to stop eating meat altogether, but that I actually wanted to have a similar experience so I could appreciate more the meat that I did eat. I wanted a deeper relationship with the livestock that I was consuming.

Since then, I haven’t taken on that challenge. The farthest I’ve gotten is having Is it local?-type moments from Portlandia, which don’t really work out all that well. But once again, I’d like to rectify my neglect of the lives that I’ve been taking by eating meat. By ignoring this sacrifice in my daily life, I have not been honoring this deeper relationship.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2LBICPEK6w

So, as I said almost one year ago, I want to challenge myself to slaughter an animal (or at least witness it), in order to start appreciating the cycle of what I’m involved in. As Green Muslims rejuvenates itself these days and provides us with more energy heading into the month of Ramadan, I write this blog post as a renewed promise to face what I’ve been neglecting, though regularly eating.

I also write it as an invitation to those daal-hating meat-eaters like me, to take part in this quest together by the end of Ramadan. And on the other hand, if you’re able to connect us to your farm and you welcome visitors, please contact me as well!

Rizwaan Akhtar is the Volunteer Manager for Green Muslims and works to organize volunteer and community engagement activities. He currently administers an exchange program that focuses on leadership development for Iraqi youth.

Originally from Chicago, IL, Rizwaan has now actually grown to love daal in its many different forms. He sends big thanks to his mom and dad for their wonderful daal.