Ramadan is without a doubt the one month out of the year when we cause the most waste. According to the Research Gate “Survey on household food waste in Egypt” at least 60% of the food of an average Egyptian family gathering, and more than 75% of food in a banquet goes to waste, which quite literally means it goes into the garbage bin, during this month. Egyptians spend 66.5% more on meat and poultry, 63% more on sweets, and 25% more on nuts and nibbles, and they host 23% more banquets and dinner parties.
Not only that, we also waste so much plastic in the wrappers we wrap our hostess gifts when we are invited somewhere for Iftar, and we even waste so much cooking oil (frying all that Sambosak).
Well no more!!
We at The Daily Crisp couldn’t just stand by and let everyone’s favorite month of the year be a cause of suffering for the environment. So, we contacted Eman Mossallam, Founder of the Zerowaste.eg e to tell us her top tips and tricks on how to keep your Ramadan less wasteful.
1) Preperation, Preperation, Preperation!
It’s crucial to meal prep for this holy month. There is absolutely no shame in dedicating a day just for leftovers. You can get creative with your leftovers too and turn them into new dishes, the options are endless.
If you’re having people over, which is part of the beauty of Ramadan, make sure you talk to your guests about your Iftar menu before-hand, this will save you from making food that some might not eat and from ending up in your fridge as leftovers. Also, you can communicate with your guests about what to bring, there’s no shame in doing so. We’ve all been there when you have people over and they all arrive with Konafa.
2) Give your guest some of the leftovers
If your friends and family know just how much you really care about the environment, and how much you don’t want to be wasteful of perfectly good food, they won’t mind bringing back some of that extra Konafa, or some of that leftover lasagna. So, make sure to tell them to bring their own containers to take the leftovers, or you can use your own reusable containers even if there’s a chance you’ll never see them again!
3) Don’t throw away those food scraps
Another big issue with waste is the parts of the food we throw away, like vegetables we don’t want to use in our dish. You can make delicious stock with veggie scraps, or you can also collect food scraps and give it to your dog or cat. If you don’t have a pet that would eat them then feed the stray dogs and cats in the streets, they will thank you for it. Just don’t throw them the food directly in front of your house or they’ll bring all their stray animal friends and show them the new food source they found. You!
Some food scraps are good for your garden too! I add used coffee grounds to my Mint and Celery plant pots. Some plants require a boost of calcium, so you can cook egg shells, grind them up, and add them to your plants as well. Don’t be so quick to throw away those lemon peels either, check out my Instagram post on how to use them to make infused vinegar for an all-purpose surface cleaner/disinfectant. This can be done with any citric fruit peels, like oranges, clementines, and/or lemons. Of course, whatever you have left can be thrown into a compost.
4) Don’t waste water
We tend to keep water running none stop while cooking, doing the dishes, or washing fruit and veggies. Always remember to turn the tap off if you’re not using the water at that particular moment. Keep a bowl in the sink to wash all your fruits and veggies at once using a non-toxic solution like infused vinegar. You can then use the leftover water for your plants.
5) Recycle your leftover cooking oil.
I don’t think there’s any iftar table without Sambosak, Kobeba or even French fries. And if you’re watching your health, you’ll know that you shouldn’t keep frying all of that food in the same oil. So instead of throwing away all that oil, how about you keep collecting that leftover deep-frying oil in a water bottle or jug for recycling. Yes, you can recycle cooking oil with an amazing initiative called, Green Pan Recycling, they require a minimum of 7 ltr for them to come and collect it at your doorstep.
6) Segregate your trash
I use empty water bottle boxes under my sink to keep trash segregated for recycling. You can recycle glass, plastic, paper, carton, aluminum, batteries, and foil. You can contact several institutes to pick up your recyclables, like Recyclobekia, Beykia, Men Jadeed, المصباح المضيء
7) Buy bulk
When shopping, go for the unpackaged produce. There’s no point in buying tomatoes that come in a styrofoam plate and wrapped in the unnecessary plastic wrap when you can buy exactly what you need from vegetable stands with zero-waste. If you look closely you’ll see you can buy almost everything in bulk, from rice, pasta, grains, baking soda, poultry, produce, to even juice.
8) Buy local
Support your economy by avoiding imported goods and buying local. Check out your local markets, they’re full of beautiful fresh produce, you pick exactly how much you need, without any plastic wrap, price tags, and sometimes without even receipts – the best part is, they don’t mind when I bring my own reusable bags with me.
9) Invest in reusable grocery bags
When shopping, remember to bring your own reusable shopping bags, produce bags, and containers. You can find sturdy reusable shopping bags at Carrefour, you can also find shopping totes at H&M, I use laundry mesh bags that I got from IKEA for buying fruits and veggies. A clean spare pillowcase will do the trick too, I use it for bread and toast.
I take my glass containers with me to the grocery store for buying poultry and meet. They weigh the container empty first, add the chicken, then re-weigh it. Same goes for buying baking soda (or anything else) in bulk, I take my empty reusable jars with me that were actually tomato paste jars before and I gave them a new life.
I also keep some spare reusable shopping bags in the trunk of my car, an expandable reusable shopping bag in my purse at all times (you never know when you’ll need it), and a stainless steel water bottle in my purse too that I refill wherever I go. You can use these reusable shopping bags when you’re going out shopping for clothes too, there’s no point in taking bags that’ll end up in the trash.
10) If you can’t avoid waste, then try to minimize it
For instance, if you have to buy liquid soap, water bottles, and so on, buy the bigger containers, avoid the small bottles. Think of it this way, one large water bottle can give you the same amount of water as two small bottles. So instead of throwing away two plastic bottles, you’ll end up throwing away just one, so minimized the amount of trash that is going to end up in our landfills and oceans, turning into microplastics that get eaten by fish and sealife (that we end up eating) , and gets into our water as they’re too small to be caught in water filters.
If you try even half of these tips, you’ll be surprised at how much slower your trash can is filled, and how much money, energy and food you’re saving. Share this with someone you think would want to have a less wasteful Ramadan this year. Ramadan Kareem