When I saw this video (below), I was like “Dayummmmm..” I mean what’s a party without a bowl of Doritos? That convenient [read: LAZY] option to just grab from the store to entertain guests or bring to a pot luck gathering.

The solution: Just gotta be a bit more creative and try healthier options then… like good ol’ carrot and celery sticks and dips. Or altenative corn chips that don’t have a bad rep (but probably cost a little more).

It’s funny how many of us would say we’re environmentally-conscious, but as we dig deeper and deeper, we realise that there’s a lot more to be done. Our consumption patterns more than we think.

It sure isn’t going happen over night. Doritos will still be a permanent feature in many parties. But with greater awareness, people can make better choices, inshaAllah. In any case, for me personally, its just another reason for me to stop eating junk.

To sign the petition against Doritos’ parent company PepsiCo from destroying the planet, click here.

If you want change, you have to be the change. Do it.

On 8 February 2014, Young AMP launched ‘Faith and Nature: An Eco-Guide to Greening Faith Communities’ in a bid to enhance environmental awareness and action amongst faith-based communities and organisations in Singapore. This publication was jointly authored by Sofiah Jamil, member of the Board of Management of Young AMP who champions Project ME: Muslims and Environment, and Farheen Mukri, from FirstFern Training and Consultancy.

In addition to highlighting environmental principles embedded in various faiths, the eco-guide also includes a checklist for faith-based organisations (including places of worship and religious schools) to audit their current efforts in adopting environmentally friendly practices, as well as recommending ways to reduce resource consumption in their daily faith community activities and engage other stakeholders.

The event also included an inter-faith panel discussion on the role of faith communities in environmental action. Panellists for the session were Brother Esmond Chua (Order of the Friars Minor), Venerable Seck Kwang Phing (Singapore Buddhist Federation), Master Chung Kwang Tong (Taoist Federation Youth Group) and Mr Vivek Kumra (Hindu Endowments Board). Sofiah moderated the discussion and shared some insights from her ongoing PhD research on Islamic environmental initiatives.

The discussions showed that there were many common themes across faiths on environmental protection such as humans’ responsibility in protecting God’s creations, the role of the youth in spearheading environmental action, and the importance of education for all sections of society.

Discussions were all the livelier given the active audience participation. Amongst the 60-odd participants were members of various faiths and environmental activists. The latter group provided various examples and practical solutions that could be adopted by the various faith communities. Ibu Mahaya Menon, for instance, spoke of the significance of natural medicinal plants, while Bhavani Prakash spoke of the prospects of growing your own food in limited spaces and visiting areas that have successfully walked the environmental talk.

Some among the audience also noted in the subsequent discussion that the society of today is preoccupied with consumerism, which increases the degree to which urban dwellers value materialistic lifestyles. Such attitudes also permeate how many believers approach their own religions; some believe that they can spend more money to win more blessings from their deities, while others believe that they do more good than others by virtue of donating more money.

Those interested in reading the guide can visit www.youngamp.sg or http://thegreenbush.wordpress.com/faith-nature-guide/ to download the electronic version of the publication. Limited hard copies of the book are also available for faith-based groups and organisations at AMP in Singapore.

book_launch_poster

If you’re in Singapore on the 8 February 2014, do come for the Launch of Faith & Nature: An Eco-Guide to Greening Faith Communities. This eco-guide is a must have to equip faith and community organisations with the necessary tools on how to operationalise environmental ethics and principles. The event will also have an inter-faith panel discussion on how various faith communities can do their part in increasing environmental awareness and action. Best part, the book is freely available to all  🙂

Interested participants are kindly requested to register as shown in the poster above.

For more information and to download your free copy of the Eco-Guide, please click here.

It was barely a couple of weeks ago when I first heard about FiTree and their plans to organise a couple of Green Iftars during the month of RamaFiTree Posterdan  — on the 15th and 27th July 2013. “OH YES!!! Finally, more Singapore Muslims are actively thinking and doing their bit for the environment.”

Green Iftars may be seen as a novelty in Singapore, but is nevertheless part of a steady trend amongst environmentally-conscious Muslims worldwide attempting to operationalise and mainstream environmental practices in their communities, based on Islamic principles related to the environment.  Last year, a few of us did our own small-scale green iftar.

FiTree’s efforts are commendable given the fact that they’ve recieved great support from Masjid Darul Aman to organise the iftar. In addition to being given the liberty to put up posters and set up their booths virtually anywhere around the mosque, Masjid Darul Aman has also supported FiTree introducing the use of biodegradable cutlery for the event.

Fellow Project ME-er, Ibrahim, and myself rocked up at Masjid Darul Iman at about 6pm. FiTree folks were busy putting the final touches to their posters and two booths – one on the men’s side and another on the women’s side of the mosque. In addition to giving out free bookmarks with various Quranic verses on the environment printed on them, FiTree folks also selling cute little badges for 2 bucks. A tazkirah (sermon) on the importance of the environment in Islam was also delivered prior to the breaking of fast.

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Take a tip!

After breaking fast and Maghrib prayers, Project ME-ers and some members of FiTree had a chat on how the evening went and other broader issues related to Islamic environmentalism. Given that it was the first Green Iftar in a mosque, it was interesting to observe the responses of the congregation. Speaking in Malay was clearly an important factor in relaying the message, particularly to the older men and women in the mosque, and it was great that the FiTree bookmarks had both English and Malay translations of the Quranic verses. Another interesting response from several makciks when given the bookmarks was Do I have to pay for this?”, to which we responded “No Aunty, it’s free”. A few of them placed their new bookmarks in between the pages of their qurans and Islamic books.

This has certainly been a good start for FiTree and part of their learning curve in further advancing FiTree’s efforts to increase envioronmental awareness amongst Muslims. If you would like to participate in their next Green Iftar, do check out their Facebook page.

Makcik buying a FiTree Badge
Makcik buying a FiTree Badge

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You know that feeling when you just HAVE to do something? This was one of them.

Having been inspired by the Origami envelope video, I just had to try out making Eid envelopes by recycling (or rather upcycling) some old newspaper.

Grabbed some paint and stencils from good ol’ Bras Basah complex, and those creative juices went flowing like rapids.

So it worked! But let’s see how many more can be made before my family’s Eid Open house party. For now, acryllic painting seems to have taken over henna painting!

With Eid just around the corner…

(A) You know you’ll be needing a stack of envelopes for money for the kids. Choose from the standard Eid Mubarak taglines, or new comic relief sorts with cheesy lines. Har har…

(B) You know the kids will just rip open the envelopes for the money and just thrash those envelopes which you spent a good 20 minutes at the shop/ Ramadan bazaar rummaging through to a pile to find the most “unique” out of the standard sorts.

(C) Its clearly a waste of paper, and definitely a waste of your money. You could have use those extra bucks for a nice-thirst quenching “air kathira” or even donate it to the “tabung aidilfiitri” or the random beggar across the street.

Solution: Make your own envelopes! Its easy on the pocket, and easy on the trees. What’s more, you spice it up with your own decorations and personal messages. Check out this video for an easy-peasy origami envelope!

Me: “I’m having a Green Iftar on National Day, and you’re welcome to come. We’ll be breaking our fast with all things vegetarian.”

Cousin:”Huh?! Where’s the meat? No meat, sure pengsan (faint), lah!”

Well,  no we didn’t pengsan.

I’m glad that I finally got a chance to do a little green iftar with a few environmentalists on Singapore’s 47th Birthday. While it was just a small group of girls (the boys couldn’t make it!), it was perfect way of testing out a new initiative with some heart-to-heart conversations on various topics related to the environment, as well as our faiths and cultures.

But… Why a Green Iftar?

1) Less consumption, more health

Simply put: To walk the sustainability talk.

Similar to other efforts by Green Muslims worldwide, we incoporated sustainable practices in our iftar. In a bid to reduce waste and carbon footprint, no disposable utensils were used during the event, and guests were encouraged to bring spare tupperwares to take home any leftovers. We even opted for using the fans instead of the air-con!

To make our iftar more personal and meaningful, each person was to bring a vegetarian dish to share. It was wonderful to have home-made nutritious dishes (some of which took quite a bit of effort) and just gain a greater appreciation for vegetarian food.

From vegetarian bee hoon and pasta to baked tomatoes stuff with quinoa and capsicum, wonderful salads and dips (including home grown ingredients like mint and bluepea) topped off with pound cake, homebaked cookies, fruits, juices and lemongrass tea. It was all deeeeelish!!! 😀

Healthy vegetarian iftar FTW!

2) Green Chit-Chat

One of the main aims of the green iftar was also for environmentalists to have a chance to get together and share their thoughts and experiences on various issues related to the environment. Topics of discussion included challenges in engaging sections of society to be more environmentally conscious, encouraging environmental conscious behaviour via highlighting the significant benefits to one’s health, ways of improving the connections between various stakeholders, the humane treatment of animals as part of food choices, the importance of environmental issues in intercultural exchange, and various tools/methods to enhance the sharing of experiences.

3) Enhancing inter-faith dialogue

What I found to be the best aspect of the green iftar, was the ability to use an environmental initiative for the benefit of other social and cultural exchanges. While my initial thoughts of invitees were to be Muslims, I chose to extend the invitation to non-Muslims as well. No man is an island, and the environmental movement is clearly a reflection of that. In addition to non-Muslim guests gaining greater insight to Islam and the diversity amongst Muslims, the green chit-chat was certainly enhanced with a discussion on the cultural aspects and values associated with the environment based on our own ethnic backgrounds. Common threads such as food and water have played significant roles in bringing communities together as well as a means of understanding and appreciating how nature works.

It was agreed that such spaces for sharing such environmental as well as cultural values and practices would be a way of transcending differences and a means of facilitating greater collaboration. With events such as  Diwali, Eid al Adha and Navratri coming up in the next few month, it would be a chance to have yet another similar gathering. Yay! 😀

Resources on the environment, faith and communities.

OK… Then what?

While the Green Iftar was a lovely experience, there are perhaps two factors that make it difficult to translate environmental (or any other) activities into something bigger. One comment was that the energy and enthusiasm created in environmental events tends to die off after a while, for the fact that people are sucked back into their “normal” life. Another comment was because society prefers to remain passive and would only latch on to an initiative if there’s a “leader” spearheading it. While this may be to extent true, I’d like to have some hope that there are some people in society that care enough and are willing to experiment on their own.

Leading people is good, but empowering people to be leaders in their own right would be so much better. Moreover, for initiatives that encourage personal behavioural change, you are ultimately your own leader. Taking the effort to have a green iftar with one’s own family and friends outside environmental circles, for instance, will be a challenge but is ultimately the best chance of avoiding being ‘sucked’ back into the normality of careless consumption.

10-day Ramadan Challenge for fellow Muslim brothers and sisters:-

As we commit to more intensive spiritual reflection and rituals in commemoration of Lailatul Qadr in the last 10 days of Ramadan, let’s also make a conscious effort to reinforce one of the main reasons of why we are fasting. To put ourselves in the position of those who have so much less than us. To put ourselves in the position of those that can’t afford meat, let alone enjoy a decent meal.

Several Muslims have demonstrated that it is possible to adopt healthier and greener iftars, if we put our minds to it. Do try to take the effort to reduce your meat intake during this tail end of Ramadan, which just means making a conscious decision of what you want to eat. Encourage family members, such as mothers, to cook vegetarian recipes that are nutritious but also filling. For Muslims in Southeast Asia, think sayur asam rebus, sambal tempeh/telur, kacang pool, or even a banana shake! It would also be much easier to have vegetarian meals at this point, given the fact that many of us would already naturally have a smaller appetite after fasting for the past 20 days. If you must, then limit white meat intake to a couple of days a week.  More importantly, do share the experience and beauty of Ramadan to your non-Muslim friends.

Still can’t get over just having veggies for iftar and sahur? Well think about it, at least you know it’s been worth it while you’re busy stuffing yourself on Eid! 😉

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Yes, it is possible to take wudhu with such a slow water flow. There is no doubt that many of us are so used to letting the tap flow profusely without giving a second thought to how much water we are wasting.

“Do not waste water… Even if you are taking [ablution] from a big running river”
— Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) via Abu Dawood & Ibn Majah

Some people may still not be convinced that a small water flow will be enough. I say that’s just psychological and an over-reliance of having more than less. I personally found that cupping your hands together to collect the water before performing each wudhu action would create a water flow that is just as sufficient when cleansing each body part.

It may take a few seconds more than usual, but it’s so worth it because you’ll be saving bucket-loads before you know it.

NB: No water was wasted when taking this photograph.

It’s halfway through Ramadan already and many of us are wishing time didn’t pass so fast. This blessed month is indeed an opportune time for spiritual cleansing, charity and quality family time. That said, how many of us have actually used Ramadan as a time to reflect on our consumption patterns.  While we have controlled our appetites during daylight hours, how many of us have actively made healthier eating options come sunset? Ramadan is clearly the best time to make these changes slowly. Here are some thoughts:-

1) Get them tupperwares ready!

What is perhaps even harder than the actual fast itself, is avoiding a binge fest after breaking the fast. We’ve all had the “oh-I-want-this-and-oh-yummy-I-want-that” feeling in the last few hours before maghrib (Warning: Ramadan bazaaars!). The tendency of having more food than can actually be consumed still happens, especially during family and communal iftars. And that is, in some ways, understandable. Everyone brings something to share with everyone else, but sometimes, it just ends up being too much.  That said, we can avoid it and minimise wastage simply by (1) planning how much food is needed given the amount of people expected to turn up, and knowing who’s bringing what; and (2) taking home leftovers for sahur or the next day’s iftar.

Several folks have sought to encourage these practices. From the US ,where Green Muslims in DC have had their first “Leftar”, to greenies in Malaysia encouraging people to BYO bag and food containers to the various pasar Ramadans to reduce the use of diposables.   In Singapore, a bunch of Project ME-ers are also planning to have a little Green Iftar (test run!) very soon. Stay tuned for more news on that.

2) Making those vitamins and minerals count.

Various health experts have noted the benefits of eating your fruits before rather than after your meal, particularly for so that the vitamins and minerals from the fresh fruits are absorbed by our bodies at an optimal rate. Current sunnah (Prophetic practices) on breaking your fast can already facilitate this. In one of the many articles available on how to control our appetites in Ramadan, one of main tips has been to open the fast with something small (dates or water), take a little time-out to do maghrib prayers, and then back to the dinner table and go slow with the rest of the food.  Hence, adding some fruits to go with the dates and water when breaking your fast just makes sense.

So while its really tempting to grab a pakora at the sound of the azan, try a slice of papaya, pear, plum or pineapple instead.

3) Just do it!

People tend to disregard the significance of making baby steps in affecting change. Change starts with oneself, and the little steps will have a personal impact, granted we put in the effort to do so, InshaAllah. Here’s a little snippet of my recent sahur and iftar meals. Aside from the greens and fruits, I had a easy-peasy DIY date smoothie (you can opt for a naughtier option  with ice-cream or whole cream) and got some bubur masjid (a.k.a. porridge from one of the local mosques) from a colleague (Thanks Pak Karim!).

Glad to say, I’ve survived the day, and the breaking of fast with fruits was refreshing and detoxifying 🙂

Anti-Clockwise: Cherries, Dates and Kiwi for iftar, DIY Date shake for sahur, greens and porridge for both iftar and sahur. Yum!

“Nothing is worse than a person who fills his stomach. It should be enough for the son of Adam to have a few bites to satisfy his hunger. If he wishes more, it should be: one-third for his food, one-third for his liquids, and one-third for his breath.”

— Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) via Tirmidhi.

Enough said. Salam Ramadan!