Dozens of Canadian Muslims joined a virtual conference this weekend, organized by Green Ummah, a new grassroots community group in Windsor that launched last year, aimed to encourage the Muslim community to become more environmentally conscious.
The two-day weekend event offered participants the opportunity “to start the conversation about what we as Muslims can do to engage with the environment and help build a healthier planet,” said Mariam Rajabali, a board member for the group.
She said the conference was success and up to 50 people showed up and engaged in the sessions.
“There’s so many people that we heard from in our networking sessions that said ‘we do these things at home and we feel alone. We don’t get an opportunity to really voice this with our family and friends.’ And this is a space where they can share ideas … whether it’s taking reusable grocery bags to the grocery store, leaving them in your car before you get there, or … using cleaner cleaning supplies so that they’re not polluting the earth,” she said.
One of the agenda items up for discussion was how the Muslim community can build an allyship with the Indigenous community.
“It’s our responsibility to look to them and ask the questions that we need to ask and support them in their initiatives,” Rajabali explained.
“They’ve been looking after this earth for far longer than we, as a youth, have just started doing and really relying on that guidance and supporting them in their initiatives,” she said.
She said the pandemic set the group back in some of the initiatives it had planned, but the organizers are working on events all aimed to educate, provide resources and make knowledge accessible to the wider Muslim community.
One of the events they hope to launch in September is a “curriculum project” targeting youth.
“In order for us to make it sustainable change, we need to start looking at people at a young age, and we need to start building some of these behaviours and patterns within our everyday life. So we’re hoping that by influencing the younger generation, we can get more people on board with the environmental movement,” Rajabali said.
She said the conference also allowed an opportunity for people to connect and brainstorm ways to be more environmentally friendly. She hopes they take what they’ve learned and apply it in their local communities.
“We’re hoping that by bringing all these people together that we can have a successful Ramadan campaign, that we can encourage our mosques to take the next step to be greener, that we can encourage our local community spaces to be greener as well,” she said.
Small changes make a big difference, says Rajabali
Rajabali said one big takeaway she had from the conference that she wants to share with others is the large impact small changes can make.
“It’s the small things that we’re finding that are making the bigger difference. People talk about planning a year from now, two years from now. What we want to get across to people is changing the little things that you’re doing today,” she said.
“Instead of, you know, putting your leftovers in a Styrofoam container, consider putting it in a reusable Tupperware. Doing things that you can do within the next hour is much more sustainable as a practice if you do it over time rather than trying to plan for the next 10 years.”