January 4, 2016

Making Ramadan Sustainable

Making Ramadan Sustainable

Ramadan buffets, bazaars and markets popular in Malaysia are about to get more sustainable. Photo Credit: mydeliciousfoods.com

Ramadan. Ramadhan. Ramzan.  They’re three words for the ninth month in the Islamic calendar – a month when Muslims around the world focus on charity, prayer and fasting.  Calm contemplation and fasting are a big part of this time, but at the end of the day when it comes time to break the fast, Muslim families often head out to one of the countless Ramadan buffets, bazaars and evening markets that spring up for the occasion.

Malaysia, with around a 61% Muslim population, celebrates Ramadan and the fast-breaking in a big way.  Every evening, delicious traditional and nostalgic dishes are served up to the masses in a celebration of food and culture.  It’s a well-loved part of Ramadan, and recently, Malaysia’s most populous state of Selangor has launched a Sustainable Ramadan campaign to make this tradition healthy for nature as well as the head, heart and soul.

In 2015, Ramadan began June 18.  Through the month, Sustainable Ramadan encouraged buffets and bazaars to think about the environment whilst preparing, serving and disposing their food.  Shah Alam, an area bordering Kuala Lumpur to the west, issued a ban on polystyrene and plastic bags to traders for the month.  Following suit, nearby Subang Jaya issued the same ban to 1,126 traders in 21 locations.  The Kuala Selangor District Council (MDKS) also distributed leaflets and provided cooking oil recycling bins at selected bazaars.  And the executive commission for Tourism, Environment, Green Technology and Consumer Affairs, Elizabeth Wong, said that among other initiatives, the Petaling Jaya City Council contributed biodegradable materials (plates, cups, spoons) to bazaar traders and recycling bags.

That the message of sustainability is being spread during Ramadan is an important development in Malaysia’s path towards protecting its beautiful natural environments.  There has been and still does exist a great lack of regulation and awareness surrounding sustainability in Malaysia, and Ramadan is a big opportunity to educate and encourage positive change.

The township of Kajang, just southeast of Kuala Lumpur, has already started preparing for sustainability during Ramadan 2016.  With continued encouragement, the hope is that the idea of an eco-friendly Ramadan will continue to grow.  It seems quite fitting that during a time of charity and thoughtfulness, goodwill towards the world at large should be observed – who knows, Ramadan could be the perfect way to spread the ideas of environmental protection and nature conservation through Malaysia.

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