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Tips on a Waste-Free Ramadan

There’s always a buzzing excitement about the Holy month of Ramadan, it’s the time when people crowd the mosques and of course – the Bazaars. Many Muslims and even non-Muslims have expressed their love for Ramadan Bazaars in Malaysia, and who wouldn’t? 

It’s the highlight of the fasting month with patrons going home with a banquet amount of food. And yet this strays away a lot from Islam’s teachings of moderation and eating with moderation. 

“According to the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute’s report, Malaysians are dumping 15,000 tonnes of food per day, with 3,000 tonnes of it being good enough not to be discarded in the first place. Worse still, the amount of food waste tends to increase by 15% to 20% during Ramadan,” said Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.

And this phenomenon not only happens in Malaysia, but the trends persist in other Muslim majority countries. It’s important to remember that Ramadan is about overcoming our biggest desires, not just curbing them for a period of time.So, in the spirit of practicing a more holistic Ramadan, here’s some tips on how to achieve a Waste-Free Ramadan.

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   1. Avoid single use plastic like the plague

What I mean by single use plastic are things like straws, cutlery, food wrappers, shopping bags, that are used only once and then disposed off. You know which plastic I’m talking about, it’s the plastic bag you put your groceries in, the bubble tea cup you innocently throw away, the container you get your mee goreng in when you tapau from the store. That’s single use plastic. 

You can avoid single use plastic by using a reusable or canvas bags when shopping for groceries, using metal straws, and carrying a plethora of plastic containers and bottles when food hunting at your local Ramadan bazaar. (Asian moms have a collection of tupperwares! Put it to good use!) This was that waste-free ramadan will surely come true.

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   2. Buying food in moderation

I think we’re all guilty of over-buying during Ramadan because EVERYTHING. LOOKS. SO. GOOD. But before you go starry-eyed at your local bazaar, remember that Islam is a religion that stresses on living in moderation, especially with food.  The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) broke fast with only three dates. Hence, it’s important to remember that the holy month is about fasting NOT feasting.

Some ways we could curb our over-buying and gluttonous tendencies is by making a list of the foods and groceries to buy on certain days. Another trick is to plan meals ahead so you won’t have that moment of confusion and just end up buying everything. But the thing about plans and lists for a waste-free Ramadan is that we have to stick to them!

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   3. Shop in Zero-Waste stores

There’s a wonderful little Yemenis date shop nearby my local bazaar where they sell dates, figs and other dried delights by the kilo and rare honey by the litre. The shopkeeper is used to me taking out a Tupperware and getting a handful of Palestinian Mejdool dates. 

It’s shops like this another zero-waste shops that are letting consumers, not only buy how much they need but also be environmentally conscious about the packaging we use. The usual commercial grocery store, whilst more accessible and offers more variety, is chocked full of products that have single-use plastic packaging. We know it’s going to end up in a landfill, or the ocean, possibly in a whales stomachs, possibly even our own stomachs as plastic begins to contaminate our clean water reserves. 

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   4. Collaborate with NGO’s and soup kitchens 

A lot of us have a list of good deeds we plan to do during the month of Ramadan and that might include doing charity work like distributing food to the needy. 

A great way of doing this and not wasting food is by collaborating with your local soup kitchens and NGO’s. Whilst it’s always noble to try and help out the needy, there might already be several groups distributing food that particular night hence leading to wastage. By working with your local NGO’s, you’ll be able to provide more nutritious meals and they also ensure that the streets stay clean. They also have long held ties with the communities that require the assistance and hence are better at providing what these people really need.

NGO’s and soup kitchens are always looking for helping hand, so try reaching out during the month of Ramadan!

Whilst it might be hard to stick to everything on this list of Tips on a Waste-Free Ramadan, it’s important to remember that God is effort-oriented and not result oriented. Let’s all try to take more care of the earth as it is also a blessing itself.

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