Make your Deen Green: Part I
Make your deen green is a series which will include small ways that our readers can make a difference in their daily lives to make it more earth-friendly as well as global environmental issues that affect the Muslim world. Surely changing a light bulb will not change the world, but what we need is a change in attitude to our eco-lives. If we do these acts as forms of ibadah, of obeying Allāh inshā'Allāh we can live up to the status that He has bestowed upon us. 'Aisha (radiAllahu anha) narrated, that the Prophet was asked: “What deeds are loved most by Allāh?” He said, “The most regular constant deeds even though they may be few.” He added, “Don't take upon yourselves, except the deeds which are within your ability.” [Sahih Bukhāri, 8:76:472]
How many of us have seen scenes like these. Piles of garbage, most of it non bio-degradable plastic. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in the United States alone, more than 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are used each year. Worldwide, the number of plastic bags used is anywhere from 500 billion to 1 trillion every year. Meanwhile, Americans throw away about 100 billion plastic bags each year, according to the Worldwatch Institute, as only 0.6 percent to 1 percent of them are ever recycled. All across the world, they choke up gutters, suffocate dolphins, accumulate in your drawers. It takes 1000 years to biodegrade one. The little pieces of plastic act as a sponge for chemicals. They soak up a million fold greater concentration of such deadly compounds as PCBs and DDE (a breakdown product of the notorious insecticide DDT), than the surrounding seawater (Reusablebags.com). Marine life then eats these pieces and die. It is estimated that over a 100,000 different birds, seals and whales die every year. After the animal dies its carcass decomposes and the plastic is free to roam the ocean and kill again.
This is such an easy way to go green. Imagine how many resources we can save. As Muslims, it is incumbent on us to protect the planet that Allāh has given as an Amanah (trust). As Muslim moms, we are the ones who usually buy the groceries for our homes – how hard is it really to make it a priority NOT to use single use bags, paper or plastic?
1. Use reusable bags -These days every store sells multiple-use bags for usually a dollar and many times you get free handouts. They last so long, I have some that are a few years old and they still look the same. Just be sure to practice hygiene and rinse them out from time to time, wipe them with a disinfectant wipe. Otherwise use canvas bags, they are the best and can be washed in the washing machine. No one will look at you like you are a weirdo any more than they already do, in fact in some places it is actually chic to carry reusable bags. If you are not in the U.S., renew the customs of your country's heritage – use shopping baskets woven from sisal like these Kenyan ones or remember these ones – my Amma (grandmother) had one, I am sure yours did too.
2.When packing school/office lunches use a reusable bag instead of a plastic baggie-more than 20 million sandwich bags from school lunches go into landfills in the US. I found these amazing sandwich bags from 3 Green Moms, and use them for my kid's lunches everyday. They are washable too. You can find more here, and here you can find instructions on how to make your own. If you are going to use Ziplocs, wash them out and reuse them, tell the kids to bring them back in their lunchboxes. For more ideas on how to pack a more earth friendly lunch click here.
3. Ask the clerk NOT to bag things that already come in bags ie. the bag of oranges, onions. Milk and juice jugs are easier to carry without a bag – ever had one burst because the bag broke?
4. Keep the bags in your car and return them to the car when you have emptied out the grocery! I have a big insulated bag, that I keep in the car along with several reusable bags. Most stores even give you a nickel back for every bag you reuse. It takes just a bit of retraining our habits.
5. Sometimes I forget to take the bags (I am so not perfect ), and that is when I ask the clerk to give me paper bags as a last resort. They are not that great (it takes one gallon of water to produce ONE paper bag) but at least it can go in your compost bin and you are much more likely to reuse them. With paper bags you can make bookcovers, use it as craft paper or wrap a gift. Or if you absolutely must use a plastic bag – please RECYCLE them, do not throw them in the garbage.
Watch this documentary – you will never look at a plastic bag in the same way again: