When we remind ourselves of the many US holidays that should be celebrated not on just one day, but throughout the year, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Thanksgiving generally come to mind. But there’s one we tend to overlook — Earth Day.
Earth Day, which passed just about a week ago (April 22nd), is exactly what it sounds like — an annual event dedicated to raising awareness for environmental protection. It’s a day to remember all we can do as individuals and as a community to combat pollution, conserve and restore our natural resources, and encourage building sustainable habits. Because the list goes on, it’s a given that actually tackling those tasks demands much more of a year-long — or rather, a lifelong — effort.
For something that takes that kind of commitment, making a couple of changes and calling it a day (although a good start) isn’t gonna cut it. Having the right mindset is key. But thankfully, Islam actually gives us the perfect place to start.
Allah (SWT) reminds us in Surah Al-’Isra, “And do not walk upon the Earth exultantly. Indeed, you will never tear the earth [apart], and you will never reach the mountains in height” [17:37]. So while you yourself might not be the source of pollution and waste in the same way that textile and countless other large-scale businesses are, the role you play is still incredibly important.
So, let’s talk about it. How much waste does the average person produce in a day? According to the Center for Sustainable Systems, 4.9 lbs…not including the 1.5 pounds that go into recycling. So in case you need some extra motivation, here’s a friendly reminder for us all: “He [Allah] does not like the wasteful” [7:31].
Without further ado, here are four easy ways to cut down that number:
- Go Digital
These days, the option to go paperless is everywhere: emailed receipts, digital bank statements & subscriptions, and so much more. When it comes to your magazines and catalogs, going digital is often cheaper, too.
- Invest in a reusable water bottle/tumbler
By now, using a reusable water bottle should be a given. But if it’s not, here’s a little breakdown to help convince you to make the switch:
Technically speaking, you need to drink 64 oz of water a day. Single-use plastic bottles hold 16 oz, which means you’d need to use 4 single-use bottles a day, totaling 1,460 bottles a year. But let’s say you’re dehydrated and drink half of that. That’s still two bottles a day, which totals over 700 bottles a year, which could be eliminated if you invested in just one reusable water bottle. If you’ve got the water bottle down and are also a dedicated coffee drinker, (strongly) consider investing in a reusable tumbler instead of using a single-use coffee cup every time you make your morning run.
- Shop Sustainably!
Usually, when we think about saving the planet, things like recycling, using public transportation, and planting trees come to mind. Where we often forget to look, though, is in our closets. If you find yourself taking every opportunity to replace still-wearable items instead of trying to mend, upcycle, or donate them, it might help to consider the fact that from start to finish, it takes 2,700 liters of water to make a single cotton t-shirt. When it comes to clothes, making a difference is simple — stick to buying less.
Fun fact: Mending clothes is actually a prophetic practice! It was narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) “mended sandals, patched garments, and sewed.” [Sahih]
- Use Reusable Shopping Bags!
Speaking of shopping, here’s a fun fact: the average American uses about 307 plastic shopping bags a year. Multiply that by the US population, and that’s about a billion bags getting tossed annually. On top of that, it takes plastic bags up to 1,000 years to fully decompose. That’s pretty terrible, but don’t worry! The only hard part about switching to reusable shopping bags is actually remembering to take them with you to the store.
“The world is sweet and green, and verily Allah is going to install you as vicegerents in it in order to see how you act.” [Sahih]
Remember that when it comes to building sustainable habits, a little goes a long way, and you don’t have to wait until next year to begin making changes to your lifestyle to protect the environment.