The Blog

A Brief Introduction to Permaculture: Sustaining Our Future

A Brief Introduction to Permaculture: Sustaining Our Future and Why It Matters to Muslims 

By Tara Tariq and Sakina Grome

“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

– Albert Einstein

In 2005, the United States Department of Energy published a report titled Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management, (also known as the Hirsch report). The report predicts that the production of oil that fuels today’s economy and our lifestyle will peak and decline in the coming years. According to some industry analysts, it has already peaked. The report also underscores the inevitable and “unprecedented risk management problem” that Peak-Oil will present to the world.

Today we have reached a moment, a status quo that is characterized by extreme imbalance of resource depletion and consumption and it did not happen overnight: The famines in East Africa, riots in Indonesia, warfare in the Middle East, and tight-fisted policies regulating under- developed regions and their precious resources all share the common denominator of natural- resource and food insecurity. (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…)

Ramadan w/Green Muslims!

Ramadan LefTAR!
Join Green Muslims and Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, author of Green Deen for the first annual LefTAR (Leftover Iftar)!

Packing List:

  • A Dish to pass (leftovers are expected and welcome!)
  • BYOD – Bring your own dishes (and something to take them home in).
  • Serving Utensils
  • Picnic blankets

Details:

Meridian Hill Park (Southeastern Corner)

Corner of 15th St and Florida Ave NW

Washington, DC 20009

July 28th

8pm

Convietiently located four blocks from Columbia Heights Metro (on Green or Yellow line)

RSVP HERE!

 

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.

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.

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!

Easing Into Uneasiness

Okay, I have a confession.  I don’t always love nature.  Don’t get me wrong, I want to!  I want to be that girl who can strap on a backpack and go camping in the woods for a week.  Or the girl who hikes through the dessert all day to find the best spot to see the sun set.  I am just not that girl.  I’m the girl who starts sweating when it’s 78 degrees outside.  The one who really hates the feel of sand under her fingernails at the beach.  The one who struggles to keep up on even the gentlest of hikes.  The one who just learned what sea-sickness is like (gross story, you don’t want to hear it).

But.  I’m also the girl who keeps going out there anyway.  Standing on the beach feeling renewed as the salt from the ocean hits my nose.  Walking through the woods and gasping at the beauty of the trees.  Going to the farmer’s market on the hottest day of the year to buy peaches with my neighbors.  Maybe not getting back on that sailboat, though…

This crazy heat that we’ve had recently has put me in the frame of mind that we need to learn how to be comfortable in an uncomfortable position.  A good friend of mine is a yoga instructor and explains to her students that it is only through discomfort that we grow.  She tells them to be gentle on themselves, to notice that they are uncomfortable without judgment.  To sit in it and become fully aware of their bodies.  This advice works whether you are trying to perfect a difficult yoga pose or just convincing yourself to leave the apartment on a hot sticky day.

Ramadan is nearly upon us, and (let’s be honest, people) we will be uncomfortable.  We will be thirsty and tired and hungry and hot.  And it will be okay.  It always is.  We can notice our discomfort without judgment and give thanks that we are alive feel it.

What about you guys?  Is there anything in nature that feels difficult for you, or are you the “give me some hiking boots and I’m out the door!” type?  How do you get beyond your fears to better connect to the natural world?

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Teresa Kane is an ESOL teacher at a nearby elementary school.

Simple Steps

Yesterday, my brother and I went on a lengthy bike ride, weaving through the buildings of DC proper and passing by the national monuments only to arrive at a secluded area on the edges of the Georgetown Waterfront. I sat upon the stone cliffs overlooking the Washington Harbor and couldn’t help but smile looking down at the purity of the blue water and the fresh green in the surrounding trees, listening to the laughs and cheers from the kayaking locals.

For a brief few moments I was able to think beyond the work I was behind in, the emails I was yet to respond to and the general reality that I didn’t have time to sit here. I began to reflect on how essential it is that we, as the DC community, do our best to preserve that natural beauty and build a stronger relationship with it.

As part of Green Muslims, I would love to discuss topics of conversations that can range from things as simple as ways we can work to green our daily lives to things a bit more complicated like expanding the ways we get our daily supply of energy and how we can raise awareness about how to lower energy consumption. I feel that Green Muslims will be a great opportunity to establish an open dialogue on these issues and a great opportunity to grow in understanding as to the relationship we should be having as Muslims with the environment.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgDJ_H-BzFo

Faizan Tahir is in his second year of undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where he is studying Political Science and Legal Studies.

Urban Environmentalism?

As human beings living in almost every corner of the globe we have learned how to adapt to the differing climates and spaces that we inhabit. Because of our God-given ingenuity and expertise we have mastered much of the natural space around us, forging ahead through discovery and science and finding new ways to both tame Mother Nature and leave a lasting dominant impression on the land we inhabit. However this leads to new interconnected ideas that are somewhat at odds with each other. The first is that our expertise at adaptation and where and how we live leads us to live increasingly disconnected life from the natural world around us. The second is that through our living choices, which are ever-increasingly urban, we actually can have a drastically positive impact on our natural space.

For me it wasn’t until college when I fell in love with bicycling that I realized how disconnected from nature we really are. Starting my first semester at Michigan State University, I was heartbroken at the thought of having to walk or take a bus to class. My car’s transmission had failed one week before I was to make the 50 mile move, and I couldn’t be more upset. “My life was over,” I thought. How would I get to class, get groceries, hang out with friends? Without enough money to get a new one I instead decided to pack up my old bicycle to buzz around from class to class. But I was not happy about it.

Almost immediately though I realized how disconnected from my immediate surroundings I had been while driving. It wasn’t just my waistline that changed, but how I saw the world! Hearing passing peoples voices, feeling and seeing the street, experiencing the changing of the seasons. Bicycling connected me back to the outdoors in a way that I hadn’t experienced since I was a little kid.

While my transition to college propelled me to bicycling and fed my burgeoning interest in environmentalism, it’s something I never could have experienced in my hometown of Flint, MI, where traffic moves at 45mph and where public transit and alternative forms of transit are almost nonexistent. Now living in D.C., I see the same type of opportunity as when I first moved to  Michigan State. Where before it was thousands of college students and buildings packed together that induced easy mobility, now it is density, a streetgrid  system, and a city designed to accommodate alternative forms of transportation: metro, buses, zipcars, bicycles-  all things which owe their existence to our density and the multitudes of people.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3nMnr8ZirI

On the surface, living in an urban area may seem to inevitably decrease environmental awareness because of the disconnect from the natural world, yet there are many opportunities unique to an urban setting which allow individuals to decrease their impact on the natural world and live in a more harmonious way with it.

Ryan Strom is a DC resident and native of Flint, MI. He currently works with the DC Government as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in addition to being the Green Muslims Communication Manager. He can often be spotted darting in and out of traffic on his bicycle.