This article was originally published on The Jakarta Post.
My annual Idul Fitri or Eid tradition has been pretty much the same since I was little. It usually consists of buying new clothes, going back to my hometown, greeting and visiting relatives, feasting on traditional food, and visiting tourist attractions. As I grew older, however, I began noticing that Idul Fitri can be bad for the environment.
Every year in my hometown of Semarang, the Simpang Lima square turns into mountains of used newspapers right after the Eid prayer, as folks do not pick up and properly dispose the newspapers used to avoid direct contact between the soil and their prayer rugs. During the Eid open house at my grandparents’, there will be plenty of unfinished opor ayam and rendang plates and half-drunk teh botol left by the many guests. The tourist attractions that my family visits on the second or third day of Eid are almost always left with a lot of litter and waste. We tend to overconsume during the Idul Fitri holiday, increasing our waistlines while also damaging the environment.
The government of Jakarta might be pleased that the city’s garbage volume declines during Eid, as many of its residents leave to take part in the annual homecoming. However, in the destination cities and towns such as Bandung, Yogyakarta, Semarang, Solo, and Malang, the increases in garbage volume could reach up to 40 percent.
During Eid, many often buy lots of new clothes that they really do not need. I know some family members of mine who would wear their Eid clothes only once, never to wear them again. Indeed, the Indonesian Retailers Association expects to see up to 300 percent of sales growth for fashion items during the Idul Fitri season. This high spending on Eid clothes can be bad for the environment, because the clothing industry, especially the fast-fashion kind, requires massive amounts of energy and water, produces plenty of pollutants, and often creates waste problems. Despite the economic benefits produced by the increasing clothing sales, we should think carefully about the ecological footprint of our Eid extravagance.
Idul Fitri is often interpreted as the day of victory after Muslims successfully fasting during Ramadan. Some might equate this celebration of victory with excessive food, drinks, and fun-filled events. However, Islam also strongly advises balance and moderation in all matters. As stated in the Quran, “O children of Adam, take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess” (Al A’raf: 31). Thus, a Muslim can still celebrate Idul Fitri fully but must not be extravagant in consumption of food, clothes, and other resources.
Further, Islam emphasizes the importance of being the people in the middle (ummatan wasathan) and of a just and equal society (‘adil). Extravagance goes against these principles of moderation and equality. If a Muslim wastes some resources by extravagance, he might be wasting the right of others, including those of the future generation. Indeed, carefully managing the natural resources is an integral part of being a good steward (khalifah) on Earth.
Idul Fitri should also be used by Muslims to reflect on these eco-friendly aspects of Islam and translate them into action. This means adopting exemplary behavior in relation to the environment during Eid and all year round.
Carefully selecting the type, amount, and source of Eid menu can go a long way for the environment. Let us have a healthier and more sustainable diet during Eid. Buying local food and consuming less of animal-based protein, especially beef, could support local sustainable agriculture production and reduce land-based greenhouse gas emission. More importantly, during the Idul Fitri open houses, let us only take what we will certainly eat so as to reduce food waste.
Speaking of waste, when shopping for Eid food and goods, let us bring our own shopping bags and reduce our usage of plastic bags. We should also avoid using disposable plastic utensils. As Muslims go to the mosques or big fields for Eid prayer and then to various tourist destinations, let us strictly avoid throwing litter around. It would also be wonderful if we could sort the trash into organic waste (which can be composted) and non-organic waste (some of which may be recycled).
There are a few other tips of living the eco-friendly nature of Islam not specifically tied to Eid. For example, when we leave the house to perform the prayers in the mosque, let us not forget to turn off the lights and unplug cables of unused equipment from the switch. If there is air conditioning in the mosques, we should always close the door when entering or exiting them. Finally, a Muslim should also be frugal when using water for ablution, as exemplified by Prophet Muhammad.
I will strive to embrace a greener and eco-friendly Eid this year by incorporating the abovementioned sustainable practices into the celebration. This is my resolution to be a better person and a more holistic Muslim. Would you care to join me?