When it comes to eco-friendly Muslim shopping, less is more. The fewer unnecessary items we buy, the less resources we waste, and the more we act to save the environment and follow the path of our Prophet (sa). As we know, Muhammad (sa) lived a simple lifestyle devoid of luxuries. With respect to shopping and buying, he strongly advised fair trade. He forbade waste and excess.
The Prophet (sa) also taught us the responsible use of natural resources: “This wealth (natural resources) is green and sweet, and he who accepts it and applies it rightly, finds it a good help, but he who takes it wrongfully is like one who eats without being satisfied.” (Bukhari)
This highlights the importance of responsible and sustainable farming, which is the key to maintaining world ecosystems. Here are some tips on how to ‘green-up’ your shopping.
Only buy what you need. Excessive shopping leads to waste. Make sure you know what you want to buy, before you set out to the market. Make a list and stick to it! Only buy as much food as you need, especially when it comes to items with a shorter shelf life. Search your wardrobe well before you decide that you have nothing to wear for an upcoming party. Try to recycle your old clothes by making dresses out of unworn Dupattas, for example. Apparently, the clothing industry wastes more water than any other industry and the growing of conventional inorganic cotton uses tons of toxic fertilisers and pesticides.
Go for antique or used stuff. Buying second-hand means that things are not wasted and that no extra resources or energy are used in their production. In many Pakistani Bazars, such as the Sunday Bazar in all the major cities, you can find second-hand clothing and second-hand book shops. Don’t be a snob about buying used stuff. Rather, be an eco-snob and try to creatively reinvent and reuse available materials. Swap your unwanted clothes with friends and family members, and don’t be shy to accept handed-down clothing for your children. (Don’t forget to disinfect any used clothing before using it.)
Buy organic. Buying organic is a new fad. But here in Pakistan, it essentially means going back to the basics, returning to the farming methods of past generations and reviving the traditions. Organic foods are healthier and their production does not harm the environment. The only drawback is that they are a bit pricier, but then, they are usually of good quality. If you think about it, the more organic products we buy, the more popular organic farming would become, which will, in turn, make it more affordable, Insha’Allah.
In Pakistan, there are two pioneering organic brands available in larger stores: these are “Daali Earth Foods” offering organic spices, flour, cereals, oil and honey, and “Pakistani Organic Farms” producing Basmati rice, wheat, sesame seeds and cotton.
Buy locally and seasonally. We all fancy some exotic foods from time to time or crave for a luxury of imported silks. However, ethical and greener shopping means that we should choose locally produced merchandise and, when it comes to buying food, buy only what is in season. Importing goods that can be produced locally is a waste of energy and resources in transport, which results in more carbon emissions. Another advantage of buying local products is that it supports local communities and small businesses. Large international corporations may seem to offer cheaper products, but the people involved in their production at the basic level are, in reality, paid very little. Buying locally from small producers means fair trade.
Avoid excessive packaging. Try to reuse and recycle the packaging you cannot avoid buying. Reuse your own shopping bag to minimize the amount of plastic bags being wasted. Buy fresh fruit and vegetables from open markets and keep them in baskets, not shoppers. Choose fresh milk and yoghurt, instead of bottled ones, and use your own containers when bringing them from the shop. Avoid unnecessary packaging by giving up on commercially-produced snacks in wrappers. Buy freshly-squeezed juice, rather than the one in boxes or, even better, make it at home yourself. There are not many recycling facilities available in Pakistan, but you can see people collecting metal, paper, or glass. Help them by sorting your rubbish and help the planet by reducing the amount of waste you produce.
Buy reusable items. It is better to buy less but better quality items that would last longer and would not end up as waste after just one season. Muslim women value beauty and beautiful clothing. However, replacing items in your wardrobe every season to follow the changing fashions puts pressure on the Earth’s resources and involves excessive expenditure which is altogether un-Islamic. Choose dresses of durable material and once you stop wearing them, give them away to someone in need.
When you purchase toys for children, look for good quality items that would last them for more than a few days. There are many cheap plastic toys sold on the streets that last just a few hours of play and soon end up in the trash. They are a waste of material and a waste of money, too! Also, think of using reusable nappies rather than disposable ones. It may need more effort, but it will mean less rubbish. May Allah (swt) reward us for all our efforts.
Check the energy efficiency rating. When you buy home appliances, inquire about their rating. They are rated from A to G with those labelled ‘A’ being the most energy efficient products. Energy efficient fridges, freezers, washing machines and the like are not only cheaper to run, as they use less electricity, but are also more environment-friendly; less energy used means less emissions and fewer resources used in production.
Be a wise shopper when it comes to buying household goods. Sometimes, paying a bit more in the shop can save us good amounts of money in the long term on electricity bills, for example. The same applies to cars and their fuel efficiency. The mileage an engine can give us on a litre of petrol should be one of the first things we look into when deciding on the purchase of a new car. Also, the CNG installations popular in Pakistan are an eco-friendly option as the cars running on gas produce emissions that are less harmful to the atmosphere.