Being green is not a trendy choice, a temporary fashion or an eccentric hobby. Being green is our duty as Muslims, because we are Allah’s (swt) representatives on the Earth – His Khalifa – and we have a responsibility over the planet He has entrusted us with. Our Deen Islam is green, as several verses from the Quran and numerous Ahadeeth of our Prophet (sa) remind us. But what does it mean to be green? How can we make our lives more eco-friendly? And does it mean that we have to give up all comforts and become ascetics? Actually, making wise, environment-friendly choices can enrich our lives and positively affect our health. So where shall we start?
“And eat of the things which Allah has provided for you, lawful and good, and fear Allah in Whom you believe.” (Al-Maidah 5:88)
Modern food is visually appealing, relatively cheap and does not spoil easily, but is it good? Not really. A majority of convenience foods are packed with artificial colours, flavours and preservatives. Their production pollutes the environment and packaging litters our streets, lawns and forests. What is more, with so much food readily available, a lot gets wasted, while there are people, who go hungry on a daily basis. Even more, processed food is not good for our health either! It might be easy to reach for packed snacks to satisfy our hunger, but just think of the hidden consequences of your choice. Let’s eat green, first of all, for the pleasure of Allah (swt), and also for the cleaner greener planet, for less wastage, more equal food distribution and for our own health and satisfaction. Here are a few tips how:
Cook from scratch
This way you will always be sure to know what is on your plate. Cooking at home is healthier, more environment-friendly and cheaper, too! Why? First of all, cooking all your food yourself from simple ingredients means that you are avoiding most of the artificial additives found in ready-to-eat foods. You can make sure all the ingredients are good and fresh by choosing them yourself. When baking biscuits at home, you are more likely to use better quality butter, than the one used in the cookies produced commercially. Cooking at home, instead of buying food from outside, also means less packaging and less rubbish, and as we all know, in most Pakistani cities there is no proper arrangement for rubbish collection or recycling; thus, the less waste, the better. And all the wrappers and packaging come with a price, too. So if you cook at home, you will get better quality food at lower overall cost.
Do not waste
Cooking just the right amount of food each time may be a bit tricky, but there are ways to make sure nothing gets wasted. You can store your food in fridge or freezer for later or transform it into an altogether another dish, like making egg-fried rice from leftover cooked white rice. Also, you will find plenty of people in need, so if you are sure no one will fancy today’s dinner tomorrow, give it away, while it is still fresh! When eating out, it is always a better idea to place an order for your meal, instead of going for a buffet. We are more likely to waste the content of our plates, if there is too much food available. And the restaurants, which offer buffet lunches and dinners, waste huge amounts of food! For an eco-Muslim, it is a no-no! Better order what you really feel like having. Two people can usually share one large helping. If you are unable to finish, ask to have it packed for home. Leftovers can be given to the hungry on the road, too.
Do not buy ready-made snacks
When I first came to Pakistan, I was astonished by the natural beauty of its Northern territories. However, at the same time, I was very disappointed that much of this beauty was spoiled by the litter. Walking around the parks or hiking in the mountains and seeing countless wrappers scattered on the ground made me think how beautiful these places must have been, before people started producing packed snacks. Out of these musings came a resolution not to buy wrapped snacks at all or at least seriously reduce their consumption. Chips, jellies and candies are full of artificial flavours and colours, have no real nutritional value and produce huge amounts of waste. I was convinced, but what about my children? What is a trip to a park without a snack? Alhumdulillah, in Pakistan, we can actually find healthy snacks like roasted or spiced corn on the cob, popcorn, roasted chickpeas and dry fruit. Dates are great replacement for candies, and my children are already used to having them instead. They also love nibbling on raisins and figs. I am happy that I can give them something healthy, which at the same time reduces my negative impact on the environment.
Avoid anything artificial
If you look at the warnings about artificial additives in foods, you get seriously concerned. For example, artificial yellow food colour carries the message: “Excessive use of this additive may have adverse effect on children’s behaviour.” And this warning is actually printed on the packets of yellow jellies and some candies! For me, it is enough of a reason not to buy them. I looked up the most dangerous artificial additives and the ones to avoid are aspartame (artificial sweetener), which can actually cause damage to brain; monosodium glutamate also known as Chinese salt, can possibly cause depression, eye damage, and headaches. Common food colours have been found to reduce intelligence and have been banned in certain countries! Let us go back to basics and eat good natural food that Allah (swt) has blessed us with, instead of going for harmful, man-made inventions.
Pack your lunch and do not forget the water-bottle
Do you know that producing bottled water takes twice the amount of water in production? This means that for every litre of bottled water, two litres are wasted. Huge producers take over public water supplies, and plastic bottles end up on the ground, leaving a negative impact on the environment. Besides, tap water in most of our homes is actually perfectly safe to drink. If you are not convinced, take a sample of your tap water to laboratory for check-up. In Islamabad, the most comprehensive analysis is offered by Prime Minister’s National Health Complex. So instead of buying a bottle of water every time we are out, it is better to invest in a reusable water bottle and a nice lunchbox for our home-cooked food to take along on the trips! For other cities, filtered tap water can be used, which is more environment friendly and an economical choice, too.
Eat less meat
Sacrificing an animal is a serious business! Excessive consumption of meat drives industrial breeding, which for the sake of quantity often compromises the quality of meat. Chickens bred on industrial farms do not know any life outside the cage, and their meat is notorious for containing drugs. We do not really need meat every day. It is better to eat it occasionally, but to have good quality meat. It will be better for our health and better for the environment. We are told that the Prophet (sa) had meat for flavouring as today we eat pickles (Achar) – in less quantity and less frequently. But some of us cannot begin and end our day if we do not serve and consume meat at every mealtime on a daily basis.
Catch the next article of “Our Deen is Green” series in the upcoming issue of hiba, Insha’Allah!