The Blog

RECAP: New Year’s Green Resolutions Event, Part 2

In our last post, we recapped Green Muslims’ first-ever New Year’s Green Resolutions event. We have so much to share from the event that we’re back with more highlights from our inspiring speakers Majeedah Al-Farooq and Faizan Mujeebuddin. Please see our previous post for more information on their backgrounds.

Majeedah’s Top Tips for Green Living

  • Focus on the little things you can change instead of attempting a massive rehaul! For example, hang your laundry to dry outside and be mindful of not taking long showers.
  • Recycling is good—but reducing consumption is even better. Ever notice how much paper, plastic, and Styrofoam you end up with after ordering take out or shopping online? Container lids, plastic bags, napkins, disposable utensils, cardboard boxes, bubble wrap, etc. Majeedah’s solution to cut waste is to cook more meals, plan ahead for shopping needs, and shop in bulk in order to reduce packaging waste.
  • Think of a second use for what you’ve already used. Buy condiments that come in glass jars, which you can later use to pack your lunch. Cooking chicken for dinner? Turn the leftover into broth. Cutting up vegetables? Compost the scraps—it isn’t complicated and Majeedah does it in a rubber tub she and her husband repurposed. “I built the simplest DIY compost bin I could find on Google. It wasn’t hard to make and it isn’t hard to upkeep,” she emphasized. “And if you don’t need the compost, just ask around—lots of people would love your homemade fertilizer.”
  • Teach your family about protecting the earth. “Your kids will get tired of you telling them the same thing over and over—that’s why I expose them to museums and documentaries so they can learn from other credible sources.”
  • Pro tip: don’t be afraid to try reusable diapers and menstrual products. “I once calculated that the average baby uses 2,500 diapers before they are potty trained. That was reason enough for me to switch to cloth diapers—and I’ve never looked back, not even after raising 5 boys!”

Faizan’s Top Tips for Green Living

  • Go outside to find peace. Faizan noticed that many people view being outdoors as a hardship. “Once you spend enough time outside, you realize that being outdoors actually cuts stress and anxiety from your life.” Faizan feels relaxed when he is casually observing nature: “Have you ever felt amazed at how different your favorite outdoor spot is when it’s below freezing or above freezing, or raining versus dry?” His description of upside down icicles, or ice spikes, inspired many attendees to experience the outdoors during winter.
  • Rely on others to inspire you to go outside. Faizan says he has found inspiration from people who share their love for the outdoors on Instagram and other social media, such as Ambreen Tariq’s @BrownPeopleCamping Instagram account. Faizan says to let children and your social circle inspire you to go outside more as well.
  • Properly plan for any hike. On any hike, Faizan always takes a waterproof bag, two liters of water, comfortable shoes, and a paper map. “Do not rely on your phone!” he warns. “Service can be spotty in the wilderness, and your phone battery won’t last forever.” He also encourages people to plan their hike ahead of time and inform at least one other person about those plans before heading out on the trail.

How does your faith influence your green lifestyle?
Faizan: He is inspired by stories of how the Prophet Muhammad SAW sought refuge in nature to contemplate about society and it was there that the Prophet received revelations from God. Faizan also draws inspiration from Quranic verses that explain how natural phenomena serve as guidance in the outdoors. “The sun and moon separate day and night; mountains can be used as landmarks; stars can guide you at night when you can’t see landmarks. I read these verses as a child, and when I started spending more time in nature, I realized that I actually did rely on those things [to find my way].”

Majeedah: She believes that protecting the earth is part of her worship of God. Being green is a lifestyle for her—she is constantly analyzing how to make religious practices greener—from her trip to Hajj, to attending community picnics sponsored by her local mosque, and iftar during Ramadan. Throughout all of these experiences and more, Majeedah asks herself how she can reduce waste and be more eco-friendly.

Favorite places in the DC/Maryland/Virginia area to hike?
Faizan:
1. White Oak Canyon & Peter’s Run
2. Stony Man to Panorama (Appalachian Trail)
3. Veach Gap Trail (George Washington National Forest) (7 mile total)

Majeedah: Scott’s Run. It’s a  beginner trail in Mclean, VA that I take a lot of women groups to.

RECAP: New Year’s Green Resolution Event, Part 1

On February 4, 2017, Green Muslims held its inaugural New Year’s Green Resolutions event at All Souls Church Unitarian in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington DC. In the spirit of the new year, people from different faith backgrounds gathered to learn and share how to make their daily habits more eco-friendly. The event commenced with a fireside chat during which the speakers (bios below) shared tips on preserving and enjoying the planet. This was followed by interactive breakout sessions that allowed attendees to brainstorm and share their green resolutions to inspire others.The event concluded with a raffle, where attendees had the chance to win green giveaways worth over $100 that will help them get a headstart with going green(er) in 2017. 

 

Sharing green tips: Speaker panel

Ambreen Tariq, the Director of Communications at Green Muslims and also the the founder of the digital initiative @BrownPeopleCamping, moderated the panel. She gave opening remarks about how excited the Green Muslims family is to start the year off with such an empowering event aimed at connecting community members and helping us all set aspirational but achievable goals to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. “The idea of living a green life can be daunting for most of us. But the truth is that a few, small, incremental changes in our personal lives can add up to big changes for the environment.”   

Majeedah Al-Farooq is a creative expert in living green on a budget and a nutrition practitioner. She and her husband are the proud parents of five growing boys. To feed and nurture her family on a budget, Majeedah turns to inspiration from her humble roots and takes pride in how she developed her green lifestyle hand-in-hand with having a low income. “Because we didn’t have a lot of money when I was a child, we bought our produce seasonally from vegetable carts. We didn’t buy more than we needed, and we thought about how to repurpose what we already had. We hung our clothes on a clothesline to dry.”

Faizan Mujeebuddin is an outdoors enthusiast and a hike leader for the Sierra Club Potomac Region. Faizan’s love for the outdoors began at a young age when he and his brothers joined their mosque’s Boy Scout Troop. Growing up in an immigrant family, Faizan quickly observed that people who looked like him and his family did not spend much time enjoying the outdoors. He begged his parents to take him hiking, fishing, and camping. When they finally did, it was always with a cultural twist which he grew to appreciate. “I remember cooking kebabs or over an open fire for dinner, instead of eating hotdogs and marshmallows like other campers. It became a cultural exchange–they taught us their customs, and we taught them ours.”

Making green resolutions: Small group breakouts

After learning about our speakers’ inspiring practices, the attendees were split up into breakout groups where they had a chance to reflect on the issues discussed, share green-living tips and resources with each other, and commit to personal green resolutions for the year. It was inspiring to witness how people began bonding with each other over shared resolutions and  how passionately they committed to the following goals:

  1. Go outside more! People resolved to enjoy more outdoors activities on a regular basis such as attempting their first overnight hike, organizing more hikes as social outings, doing yoga outside, and biking instead of driving. 
  2. Conscious meal planning. Many people confessed how they rely on take-out food, packaged meals, and frozen dinners in their busy lifestyles. Acknowledging how those choices are often unhealthy and not environmentally friendly, many people resolved to cook at home more, plan meals that use seasonal and local produce, and shop in bulk to reduce waste from packaging. Those who weren’t ready to give up take-out food just yet, resolved to forgo the disposable utensils and plates that restaurants offer.
  3. Reduce waste. Most people shared concerns about how to reduce waste in their daily lives and committed to practices like using glass jars to store bulk items (Whole Foods lets you pre-measure your jars so you don’t have to pay for the weight of the jar); committing to composting; using reusable grocery bags and water bottles; and being more conscious about their recycling practices.

Supporting green resolutions

We ended the event with a green swag raffle to help our attendees kickstart their new year’s resolutions.  Prizes included the new reusable Green Muslims water bottle, energy efficient light bulbs (donated by a generous attendee and friend of Green Muslims) and 365 homeline products.  

Three lucky winners walked away with the new reusable Green Muslims water bottles–and many more took a water bottle home after purchasing one for $10. And every person who attended walked away with a Whole Foods coupon book with over $100 in savings.

This event was a beautiful start to the new year! We are grateful for the support of our partners and for everyone who came out and participated. In fact, we learned so much for our attendees that we couldn’t fit it all into one blog post! So please stay tuned for part two of the recap blog where we will share more tips, resources, and feedback from our New Year’s Green Resolutions event.

 

This event was made possible through the support of Green Souls and Young Souls of All Souls Church Unitarian and generous donations from Whole Foods Market on P Street.

Special thanks to our long-time partner Interfaith Power and Light (MD. DC.NoVA) for raising awareness about the DC carbon pricing campaign at our event and bringing useful resources. Learn more about the campaign here!

Islamic Environmentalism: Doing What’s Right In Hopeless Times

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Editor’s note: Author Aaliah Elnasseh is a writer and researcher focusing on psychology and public relations; she calls Richmond, VA home but currently lives in the DC metro area. She is a guest blogger for Green Muslims, all views are her own and do not represent Green Muslims.

Two months ago, we heard of the mass murder of millions of corals in the Great Coral Reef. We also learned about the 58% population decline of global wildlife in the span of only four decades -a number that even more dramatically increases if we account for only the aquatic wildlife. In recent years, there have been countless other human-caused environmental disasters, including ash, chemical, and oil spills you might have never heard of. News about the environment and the issues relating to natural disasters caused by human activity is not only underreported by some of the most consumed media in the country, but it’s also a problem that may seem too overwhelming for the average individual to tackle.

The world lacks large-scale action to mitigate the effects of climate change. Public awareness efforts, made to motivate our understanding of the seriousness of climate change, often leave the average individual feeling powerless. For example, Leonardo DiCaprio’s recent documentary “Before the Flood” highlights the urgency of problems caused by global warming and explores some of the corporate and political interests that drive resistance toward finding solutions. Realizing that the problem is primarily caused by -and the solution primarily hindered by -such powerful interest groups leaves many feeling powerless.

It’s normal to wonder: does my recycling really matter if there are millions of TONS of waste being produced every year? Should I really worry about my car’s CO2 emissions if the majority of greenhouse gas emissions are not caused through transportation means? It’s normal to question whether your actions will matter in the grand scheme of things and if it’s worth all the hassle it may cause you. But how do you approach this issue as a Muslim?

This is where one of my favorite hadiths comes in.

Anas ibn Malik reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “If the Final Hour comes while you have a palm-cutting in your hands and it is possible to plant it before the Hour comes, you should plant it.” Sahih Al-Albani

The wisdom of this hadith is profound. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is telling us to plant a seed for a tree that will never see the light of day because it’s the last day on Earth. He’s telling us to plant a tree even if there is absolutely no hope for tomorrow. He’s telling us to do the right thing even if we have no hope that it will be fruitful.

This hadith on taking action in what seems like a hopeless situation is a very useful reminder that principled action is both the ends and the means. Our aim is to trust in God, find the best way to do good and then to keep at it.

We don’t let despair rob of us of the opportunity to do good. And we don’t stop being protectors for this Earth and its inhabitants even if we believe there is no tomorrow.

3 Things I Learned Attending COP22 by Imaad Khan

Below is a guest blog post from Imaad Khan. He is a fellow teammate in the field of community engagement and climate change. Imaad recently attended the Climate Change Conference (COP22) in Marrakesh, Morocco. Imaad is a guest blogger for Green Muslims, all views are his own and do not represent Green Muslims. If you missed Imaad’s first and second posts, check them out here and here!

 

COP 22 will be remembered for two things: First, it was the COP that laid the groundwork for implementation of the Paris Agreement. Second, it was the COP that witnessed the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. Our time during and after Morocco was filled with discussion on the changes for climate negotiations in the future, climate funding, and what steps we should take moving forward. But there are a few events and moments that I’d like to share with you that struck a chord with me – moments that I will remember from my time at COP22.

Negotiations are led by mere humans
Amidst all of the negotiations, side events, and general running around, I came to a sudden realization of the underlying humanity in all of it. During one of my final days in Marrakech, a number of national delegations were finalizing language on a few paragraphs for a working group submission (I’m being intentionally vague so as not to call out any country in particular). Two countries disagreed with each other about which article to reference in the Paris Agreement. At the 46 minute mark of this back and forth, the two delegations found out that one of them had been working from the wrong document to make their edits.

In that moment, I was struck by the fact that we often talk about negotiations in terms of countries, governments, or organizations–wrongly picturing faceless institutions. But these delegations are composed of people, people who work very hard to try and make this planet a better place (…or inhabitable, at the very least…). It’s easy to forget the individual, but so critical that we don’t.

We can find strength in unity
At a meeting of faith community leaders outside the Green Zone in Bab Ighli, about ten of us from various major religions and denominations stood in a circle. We had just finished discussing our business when someone suggested we take time to reflect on our hopes and feelings about our time at COP22. One faith leader stole the words right from me when he expressed his deep gratitude to be among a group of people of faith working for climate justice. I am blessed with the opportunity to work with people of faith to make real changes in this world, and I am grateful for the ability to do so.

While there was no binding international agreement resulting from this COP, international leaders did issue the Marrakech Action Proclamation, a bold statement of unity saying that they are planning on moving full steam ahead with implementing the Paris Agreement. Moving ahead, countries will make and finalize plans to fulfill their NDC’s (Nationally Determined Contributions), working with NGO’s and other countries to continue work on implementing the Paris Agreement, and also focusing on civil society and work done at the local level.

Next steps for the Muslim community
As far as next steps and what the Muslim community is doing and what they can do to take part in climate action, I’ll leave it to Nana Firman, co-director of the Global Muslim Climate Network. Check out our interview here or below.

Live from COP22! (ISNA and Morocco pledge to go green)

Below is a guest blog post from Imaad Khan, a fellow teammate in the field of community engagement and climate, who attended the Climate Change Conference (COP22) in Marrakesh, Morocco (November 7- 18, 2016). He is a policy analyst at the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy; his work focuses on health care, climate, and community engagement. Imaad is a guest blogger for Green Muslims, all views are his own and do not represent Green Muslims. If you missed Imaad’s first post, check it out here!

imaad-and-friends
Photo: Nana Firman, Saffet Catovic, Imaad Khan, and Hareem Ahmed at COP22

Asalaamu  Alaikum everyone!

The last few days have been very energetic and productive and I’m glad for the opportunity to share these updates . First, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) announced on Thursday that it, along with five of its affiliated organizations, will be the first Muslim institution to officially join the Divest-Invest climate movement. ISNA has pledged to divest from fossil fuels based on the harm that the fossil fuel industry has caused to this planet coupled with Islam’s teachings that humans are the guardians and caretakers of the earth. I was in the room during Imam Saffet Catovic’s announcement, and he was received with a standing ovation.

You can watch a video of the statement here.

The Moroccan government made headlines before the beginning of the conference for announcing that 600 mosques would be “going green.” I had the opportunity to pray salaat al jumu’ah in Masjid Koutoubia, a mosque that was built in the 12th century, and see that announcement in action. As part of the conference, imams around the country gave khutbahs on the climate and Masjid Koutoubia was no different. The imam mentioned the strong relationship between Islam and the natural world, as well as the religious injunctions to care for the planet. After the khutbah, I met with Imam Saffet Catovic and co-director of the Global Muslim Climate Action Network, Nana Firman…we took a selfie.

I also got to interview Imam Saffet, so if you’d like an insider’s perspective on ISNA’s announcement as well as some ways you can get involved in climate action click here!

As part of the green initiative, the mosque now has a display set up outside that shows carbon emissions as well as solar power produced. Here’s what it looks like:

mosque

On Sunday I joined the climate march in Marrakech and was emboldened and encouraged by the outpour of excitement, love, and activism from the many different groups that were represented at the march. The march came a day before high level negotiations are to take place in Morocco, and I’m looking forward to updating you all on the outcomes from the COP as well as ways communities back home get take climate action.

Live from COP22! (and what the US election means for global action against climate change)

We are excited to introduce Imaad Khan, a fellow teammate in the field of community engagement and climate. Imaad agreed to share his insight with us while he attends the Climate Change Conference (COP22) in Marrakesh, Morocco (November 7- 18, 2016). He is a policy analyst at the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy; his work focuses on health care, climate, and community engagement. Imaad is a guest blogger for Green Muslims, all views are his own and do not represent Green Muslims.
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Photo: Imaad Khan and Hareem Ahmed at COP22
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Asalaamu Alaikum and Marhaba from Marrakech!

I’m writing to you from COP 22, the 22nd Conference of the Parties that serves as the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The “parties” referred to in the conference title are countries that are party to the UNFCCC, and they have been meeting every year since 1995 to negotiate and decide on the best ways to limit greenhouse gas concentrations in a manner that mitigates the effect of human interference with the climate. For a brief history of climate negotiations, visit Texas Impact’s resource page here.

The U.N. has dubbed COP 22 in Marrakech the “COP of Action.” Last year at COP 21 in Paris, the world agreed to take steps to confront the imminent effects of climate change. But it is in Morocco and beyond that world leaders will define what those steps actually are, and how and when their respective countries will take them. The conferences serve as a meeting for both government and civil society leaders, and NGO’s, businesses, and faith groups are represented. As such, I will be writing about events that various Muslim groups are holding at the conference, as well as any initiatives that Muslim countries are putting forward. I have also been connecting with Muslim climate activists to present their perspectives on how local communities can do their part in protecting and preserving our world.

Many participants at COP 22 have been asking about the effect the election will have on U.S. participation in the Paris agreement. It is important to note that formally pulling out of the agreement is a lengthy process that can take three years, with a one-year period of notice for leaving. The Paris agreement also does not bind the U.S. to certain emissions reductions imposed by foreign governments, as any reductions are nationally determined, meaning that the U.S. alone decides how it plans to reduce emissions. The U.S. has a long tradition of working with other world leaders to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and I am hopeful that the passion for climate justice from leaders from all levels of government, businesses, and the civil society will continue unabated in the future. 

It is difficult to predict the effect that having a president that has publicly doubted human interference with the climate will have on international climate negotiations, but we must remember that climate action is larger than just one person. National delegations, non-state actors, businesses, and faith communities have all gathered together this year in Marrakech in solidarity with the idea that we must all contribute in one way or another to fight climate change. Humanity’s excessive extraction and burning of fossil fuels that has flooded our atmosphere with greenhouse gases has thrown off the balance of the climate system. It is our duty as Muslims to not only protect that balance, but to try and establish it again once it has been altered. 

وَالسَّمَاءَ رَفَعَهَا وَوَضَعَ الْمِيزَانَ

And the heaven He raised and imposed a balance

أَلَّا تَطْغَوْا فِي الْمِيزَانِ

That you not transgress within the balance

وَأَقِيمُوا الْوَزْنَ بِالْقِسْطِ وَلَا تُخْسِرُوا الْمِيزَانَ

And establish weight in justice and do not create deficiency in the balance

 

 

Visiting Umm Shajara

Abu Zainab Abd ar-Rashid and his family reside in Eastern Canada, where they are in the process of establishing a small farm on land that has been in his family for generations, growing their own food, raising their own animals, and using traditional, non-oil/gas based methods of agriculture. He and many others in his community are actively engaged in protests against industries engaging in hydraulic fracturing in the region. He’s interested in studying and reflecting on religion, society, culture, nature, and how these aspects of humanity/creation interact with each other and effect who we are.

Recently, I took my 4-year-old daughter with me into the forestland on our property, as it is the time of year we begin to collect and selectively cut the firewood with which we heat our home. This year I started early, as I wanted to cut as much firewood as possible using our axe and bow saw, without resorting to the use of gas powered chainsaws and the like. So with axe and saw in one hand and my daughter’s hand in the other, we set off down the road, turning off into one of the forest paths that had been made long ago by my grandfather, and maintained by my father with great care and attention. With my daughter at my side, I remembered when I was young and came down these same paths with my father and grandfather to do the same work. Many fond memories surfaced in my mind, and I was content in doing my best to pass on what my elders had given to me: a sense of connection to the natural world, a sense that is often tragically lost in our age of mass disconnect.

I had one thing other than collecting firewood on my mind, and that was to introduce my daughter to someone who I had been introduced to when I was young. As we walked through the forest of fir, birch, maple and various other sorts of trees, we came to a small clearing, which was dominated by a single massive tree that no one could have missed.

“That’s a big tree,” my daughter said, casting her gaze farther and farther towards the sky as she followed the giant from the seat of its trunk to its towering branches that reached far above any other trees in the area.

“This is Umm Shajara,” I said, “This is who I wanted you to meet.”

Umm Shajara, or Mother Tree as we say, is an ancient pine tree, gigantic in size, towering far above the other trees in the vicinity. I had known her since I was young, and both my father and grandfather had pointed her out to me. I never remember her being a small tree, she being well over a hundred years of age.

“Umm Shajara is very old Zainab,” I said to my daughter as she still looked at the tree in awe. “She has seen a lot, she has a lot of wisdom. Sometimes when you come back here with me, I want you to go and give her salaam [greeting of peace], and talk to her. She is the only pine tree here, and I imagine she could be lonely. We should try to talk to her when we can.”

My daughter looked at me and asked, “Was she with the Prophet?”

I wondered myself at how old the mighty pine was, but being conservative in my estimation, I replied, “I don’t know, but I know one thing; she knows the Prophet, and she remembers him. And she is always remembering Allah.”

I laid my tools aside and sat down in the grass with my daughter to talk to her, “There is a tradition that says that when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was in Madina, he used to give his sermons while leaning against a tree. One day, his companions arranged for a pulpit to be made for him. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) came to give his sermon and stood on the pulpit, there was an awful sound of sadness. This sound startled those present and they found that it was the tree that was crying! The same tree that the Prophet (peace be upon him) leaned on when he spoke; it was crying like a human being. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) heard this, he left the pulpit and went towards the tree and touched it. He comforted the tree until it slowly stopped crying. Do you know why the tree cried?”

“Why?” my daughter asked.

“The tree cried because it felt far away from the Prophet. Do you know why it stopped crying?”

“Why?”

“The tree stopped crying because the Prophet came and told it that everything was all right, he hadn’t forgotten the tree, and he was not far from it. That made the tree stop crying.”

Telling that miraculous event to my daughter while in the presence of such an ancient being made many thoughts come to my mind. Truly, our Prophet (peace be upon him) is the mercy to all that exists, the comforter, not just to Muslims, not just to humans, but also to all that exists. And we as his followers have been shown his example; we have been shown how to manifest mercy and grace in the world. What a beautiful man he is, our Prophet, who stopped his sermon to console a tree that loved him in the manner of a human being, and who longed for his presence, his touch, as we should long for him. Indeed, there is much wisdom in the tree, and this is the beauty of creation; it all points to the beauty and majesty of the Prophet (peace be upon him), and he only points to the Supreme Beauty and Majesty that is Allah.

“Papa, are we going to cut her down?” my daughter asked, looking from me to the pine and back to me again.

“No no, we aren’t cutting Umm Shajara down, we are only taking what we need from the birch and the maple. I want Umm Shajara to be around so you can bring your kids to see her, insha’Allah. She has a lot to teach us, if we think about it.”

“Yeah,” my daughter said.

So I set to work collecting firewood, some that was dead and had fallen because of storms, and some fresh trees that over crowded certain areas. As I worked I noticed my daughter had gone over and sat beside the massive trunk of the pine, touching it’s side and talking to it. I could not make out everything that she was saying, but I did hear her say, “We are not cutting you down, we have to learn from you. You don’t need to be sad.”

I smiled at this as I continued to work. The practice of his sunnah is far deeper than we often realize.

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!

 

Green Ramadan from Zaid Shakir!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFkP9yuzWn4

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.