It’s that time of year again – Fried foods, dates, freshly cooked food every day, and a whole lot of wasted food!
After fasting all day, it is easy to overload our plates, over cook, and be generally over ambitious when it comes to how much food we’d like to eat. However, with this high level of ambition comes a high level of waste. In a month that teaches moderation and discipline, it is sad to think of the amount of delicious food that gets discarded throughout Ramadan.
Bea Johnson is the founder of zerowastehome.com and author of the bestselling book, ‘Zero Waste Home’, and in 2016 she and her family produced just one small jar of waste for the entire year. Can any of us even imagine that in our homes? Bea proposes a simple guideline for a waste-free life by following the 5 R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot – in that order.
1. Refuse what you do not need.
2. Reduce what you do need.
3. Reuse what you consume.
4. Recycle what you cannot Refuse, Reduce, or Reuse.
5. Rot the rest (in a compost).
But why should we even consider going to extremes such as Zero Waste? Well, when you throw away rubbish, it doesn’t simply disappear into thin air. Most rubbish is sent to landfills around the world.
A food waste study conducted in 2011 found that 1.3 billion tonnes of food was wasted globally, the highest level occurring in the EU and North America. Rubbish on landfills is extremely damaging to the environment; air cannot access organic waste on a landfill, so when the food rots and breaks down, it releases a gas called methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas which harms the earth’s atmosphere. Plus, when food is wasted, so are the resources that were used to produce, transport, and store the food.
What does Islam say?
If the environmental concerns aren’t enough, Allah SWT also warns us to not be excessive and wasteful with our food:
And He it is who causes gardens to grow, [both] trellised and untrellised, and palm trees and crops of different [kinds of] food and olives and pomegranates, similar and dissimilar. Eat of [each of] its fruit when it yields and give its due [zakah] on the day of its harvest. And be not excessive. Indeed, He does not like those who commit excess.
(Surah Al-An’am – 6:141)
O children of Adam, take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess.
(Surah Al-A’raf – 7:31)
Our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) offered some simple advice to help us avoid wasting the food we eat:
Miqdam bin Ma’dikarib said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah (S.a.w) saying: ‘The human does not fill any container that is worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to eat what will support his back. If this is not possible, then a third for food, a third for drink, and third for his breath.” (Tirmidhi – 2380)
Going completely Zero Waste can be an intimidating idea, so here are some tips to help you limit the amount of rubbish your family produces:
Leftovers are not bad!
Often, we get caught up in the many delicious options each iftar brings, but we don’t need a fresh pot of food each day! It is sad when a month about moderation encourages people to throw out food just because they want to cook a fresh dish each day. If you don’t like eating the same food two days in a row, you can always freeze leftovers and save them for another day.
Dish small portions
Don’t overload your plate at iftar time. If you are still hungry once you have finished your plate, you can always add more. It is advisable to finish every morsel of food on your plate, and this is much easier when you have a smaller portion!
Anas (RA) reported, “Whenever Messenger of Allah (SAW) ate food, he would lick his three fingers and say, “If anyone of you drops a morsel of food, he should remove any dirt that may have stuck on it and then eat it, and should not leave it for Satan.” He (ﷺ) also commanded us that we should glean the pot, saying, “You do not know in which part of your food the blessings lies.” (Muslim)
Avoid packaged foods
When grocery shopping, opt for fresh fruits and vegetables, and take reusable grocery bags instead of using the plastic ones in store.
Keep a compost
Unlike a landfill, when you compost leftover food above ground at home, oxygen can get to the food and helps it to decompose aerobically, producing hardly any methane gas. After 9-12 months, your compost pile can be used as fertilizer for your plants and flowers!
Food wastage is unnecessary and a danger to this planet, plus you can gain some extra reward this Ramadan by following the sunnah of Muhammad SAW and savoring every morsel of food. Let us follow Allah’s commandments, avoid being excessive, and not overload our plates at iftar time!
First published: June 2017