by Abu Nusaybah
Alhamdulillah (all praise is due to Allah) that in recent months and years we have witnessed the Muslim community become more aware of environmental issues. At the outset, I should mention that it is not my goal here to describe the reasons why Muslims ought to be environmentally-conscious, as this has been dealt with in-depth elsewhere. I will simply summarize a few points as a reminder: The Earth is a creation of Allah (swt) and we ought to respect it; damaging the environment can have detrimental health effects; we ought to conserve valuable resources; we should not be wasteful.
That being said, I need to mention some of the reasons why we should be thinking about the environment. Environmental Sustainability is Goal #7 on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MGDs for short). Despite efforts over the last few decades, forests are continuing to be cut down at alarming rates, climate change is requiring immediate action, a record number of species are facing extinction, much of the world does not have safe drinking water, and sadly the 2010 target goals were missed. Most of us reading this, i.e, those who have a computer and internet access, are included in the 20% of the world’s population consuming 80% of its resources (Yes, that is not a typo: eighty percent). Is the way we live contributing to injustice?
Within the environmentalist and sustainable living movement there are many manifestations of lifestyle changes. On the one hand, we have those who desire to disconnect completely and go “off the grid” (meaning they get all their own energy from solar and wind and water from wells or rain collection and completely disconnect previous supply). This is certainly a lifestyle more akin to living in a sustainable way, but it is not for everyone. There is another extreme: those who alter their lifestyle so insignificantly that their “green” shift is really not that much of a shift at all, it may just be trendy.
With those two poles laid out, and being an Ummah (community) of the middle and moderate path, I am going to suggest some ideas that all of us can, insha’Allah (if Allah wills), try to implement. I’d like to also add that these suggestions come from academic studies (mostly out of the UK) in striving to collect the most effective strategies in modifying the behavior of people so as to lessen negative impacts on the environment. For example, as we write about different environmentally-friendly lifestyle changes, how do we know which will be the most effective and have the greatest positive impact? That is what these studies aimed to do, and I will categorize their findings into overarching themes. Again, I am not suggesting that we need to do all of them. I suggest starting with one or two. And insha’Allah, over time you may slowly continue to make changes to lead a lifestyle that has a lesser negative impact on the Earth.
Within our homes, there are many great and easy ways to reduce our energy consumption levels as well as our negative impacts on the environment. One of the simple things to do is to make sure that we dispose of toxic materials safely. Check with your local municipality for more details; almost all will have a free collection depot.
Some governments provide tax cuts for “retrofitting” your home to make it more energy-efficient making it cheaper than you may think. Some options for this include double-glazing windows, improving insulation, and purchasing more energy-efficient appliances. (This will result in your hydro bill going down as well).
And, for those really seeking a change, have a look at installing a solar panel or wind turbine – they are getting cheaper and more effective. You can set up a small one to charge up your iPad, iPod, and cell phone. Or, pick a small solar powered flashlight / radio combination instead of the battery run ones. Why not?
Food & Water
There are some simple one-time installation changes you can do to reduce your consumption of water: a toilet water-saving device, low flow taps, and showers. And (or) just shorten your shower time every day. I know not everyone will enjoy this one: try to reduce the amount of meat you eat. The amount of grains and resources used to raise cattle, never mind the rain forests being burnt down in the Amazon to put them all on, are a serious drain of resources. Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating that we all ought to be vegetarians. However, eating meat 4-5 times a week is not really a necessity. If you can, purchase locally-grown foods – this will reduce the amount of hydrocarbons that were required to transport it to your table. Also, try to avoid highly processed foods. Lastly, setting up a household or community compost reduces the amount of waste going to landfills and can be re-used in a home or community garden.
I am sure you’ve seen those new hybrid cars; using smaller and more fuel efficient cars are effective changes to make (and can save money too). Of course, public transport and car pooling are even better, however not everyone can make this shift. Something we can all do is walk those short distances rather than driving, and it’s good for health as well. Have you ever done an ecological footprint test? If not, try one here. One of the major contributors to a massive “footprint” on the Earth is air travel, try to reduce if possible.
Last, but not least, we really need to teach our children these lessons. The future consumer and lifestyle choices will largely be made by our children so let us insha’Allah start from today by changing ourselves and those around us. We need to be more conscious of the blessings of the environment all around us and how we ought to take care of it.
Allah (swt) knows best. Forgive me for my short-comings and faults and I welcome your comments, ideas and suggestions. You may comment here or contact me directly, I am happy to share further reading materials.