In just a handful of days, Muslims across Atlanta -and for that matter, the world- will embark on a month-long journey of selflessness and humility. For some, this will come through periods of long meditation. For a larger number, it'll be the unrelenting challenge to resist fried samosas, kebabs, and Costco's taunting free samples.
But despite the fact that we all acknowledge the blessedness of these thirty days, there is one aspect of Ramadan that many chose to ignore. It's frequently observed in community gatherings and during meals at mosques. Parents and children are known culprits, and there seems to be a greater prevalence in more affluent areas than those in lesser so. So then what's this neglected and forgotten issue plaguing our community? Wastage. And a great deal of apathy alongside it.
As I'm typing this, a quick glance over the desks in our office reveal three half opened coke cans. There's an empty Chipotle carton and shoved off to the corner, a stack of last Sunday's papers. When the day will come to an end, I know with full confidence that all of those will be disposed of properly- meaning, recycled. They'll be added to the heaps of papers and cans and glass from the entire building, then loaded into a truck, then taken to a recycling plant, and sorted. Aluminum is crushed, melted, molded. Paper is compressed, shredded, pulped. And out of these salvaging processes are born our new Bounty paper towels and Dr. Pepper soda cans. For how much we all tend to consume, there's something incredibly hopeful in this idea of regrowth/rebirth.
A scene after an average Iftar at any local mosque though, carries less hope. Tables stacked high with Styrofoam (#1 on Mother Nature's hit list for its un-biodegradable nature) are stuffed into black bags and thrown into the dumpster, along with (I'm cringing) plastic water bottles and cans. But that isn't nearly the brunt of it. There's wastage of food as well. Plates heaped with rice and fruit are carelessly discarded. Cups still brimming with tea and juice and water are dumped. And all the while, we go about these nights with a blind eye and a justification that this is the "culture of this month", that wastage of both material and food is bound to happen in any circumstance.
I don't agree.
We haven't been placed in this world to merely consume and deplete. Yet, we trample on this Earth as if we are its movers and shakers. We ravage it as if we are its owners and masters. We forget that we are made of its dirt. We forget that we are its protectors, each responsible for giving to it just as much as we take in. This Ramadan, keep in mind that selflessness and humility are not just meant to be shown to those around you, but to the land you live on as well.
3 Practical Steps to Unleash Your Inner Green this Ramadan:
1. Make recycling accessible.
Keep a visible bin designated for recycling next to each trash can. Have signs letting people know what they can or can't throw into the bin.
2. Try to eliminate Styrofoam.
It's un-biodegradable, which means it'll stick around those landfills for 1+million years. I wish I was exaggerating. Use paper products instead.
3. Reduce over consumption by eating moderately.
We all experience post-adhan euphoria, that lingering moment when water and dates never tasted as heavenly as they do then. But don't forget moderation- take in only what you can finish.
Did you know that recycling one aluminum can save enough energy to run your television for three hours?
For more information on the do's and don'ts of recycling, check this out: http://www.wm.com/thinkgreen/what-can-i-recycle.jsp
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