Lite Blogs

Healthy Office Environment Boosts Employee Well-being and Productivity

Food and nutrition have a deep correlation with mental wellbeing, practitioners of holistic health stress that people must eat a broad range of nutrient-dense foods to facilitate an ample intake of minerals, vitamins and essential fatty acids. These include various colourful vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats…writes Ashwani Vohra

Working professionals spend more than a third of their week at their workplaces. Hence, a healthy office environment is pivotal in promoting employee well-being. Among multiple benefits, a vibrant workplace environment can help companies maintain a healthier workforce. This positively impacts business outcomes, by curbing absenteeism, enhancing employee productivity and aiding better performance.

Interestingly, this can be easily achieved by a series of small yet significant changes that can create a big impact in boosting both the physical and mental well-being of employees and improving overall productivity.

In this context, some of the most impactful measures that could be undertaken are ergonomic workplace designs, which include the cafeteria, breakout areas and the role of nutrition in supporting employee well-being. Ergonomic workstations are crucial in preventing physical and mental strain for employees while working. Proper layouts that facilitate ease of periodic movement can help mitigate the negative impact of sedentary working lives. In the case of nutritional aspects, companies must provide daily access to healthy food and beverage options that play a key role in maintaining optimum health.

Healthy Food Choices: Need of the Hour

Healthy food choices and an inclusive dining offer play a critical role in ensuring the overall well-being of the employees. A recent consumer survey, Culinary Voices, conducted by Compass Group India noted that millennials typically struggle with the dilemma of balancing their taste and health preferences. This generation is more health-conscious, they strive to balance nutritional needs alongside their indulgence in delicious, flavourful foods.

Further insights come from Compass Group’s 2023 Global Eating at Work (GEAW) Survey, conducted worldwide. The survey reveals a shift in employee priorities, affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the rising cost of living. Employees are now more aware of their needs and expectations from their employers. Food options at work have become a significant factor in attracting and retaining talent, particularly for Gen Z workers. 71% of employees with access to a staff restaurant report a more positive perception of their employer compared to only 62% without such options.

This survey also underscores the increasing demand for healthier choices across all age groups. Employees expect that the food offerings at the workplace should actively promote healthy eating, and balanced nutrition and must be underpinned by sustainability. The younger generations are leading the charge towards a plant-based future, with 63% of Gen Z workers advocating for more vegetarian and vegan options, compared to just 37% of Gen X and 30% of Baby Boomers.

The focus on healthy eating goes beyond just taste preferences. Employees are increasingly interested in a more holistic approach to their workplace meals. This includes a rise in protein consumption for sustained energy, opting for healthier grains like millet for added fibre and vitamins, and the availability of alternate sugars for those managing diabetes. Balanced meals with portion control and variety are also in demand, ensuring employees receive a complete range of macro and micronutrients to support their well-being.

Nutritious Foods to Stabilise Moods

Food and nutrition have a deep correlation with mental wellbeing, practitioners of holistic health stress that people must eat a broad range of nutrient-dense foods to facilitate an ample intake of minerals, vitamins and essential fatty acids. These include various colourful vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats.

Ongoing research reveals how a healthy gut microbiome (diverse microorganisms in the digestive tract) is closely connected to mental health. Conversely, an imbalance in the gut microbiome is linked with anxiety, depression and allied mental health conditions. Accordingly, a balanced-nutritious diet is essential to nurture a healthy gut microbiome that boosts mental health and emotional balance.

Additionally, well-balanced meals with various nutrient-dense foods are necessary to maintain stable blood sugar levels and support mood stability. Foods high in added sugars and refined carbohydrates can cause a speedy spike in blood glucose levels, followed by sudden drops that trigger mood swings. 

That is why maintaining stable blood sugar levels is crucial for emotional resilience. To achieve this, it is important to include complex carbohydrates, adequate protein, and fiber-rich foods in your diet. These foods help slow down glucose absorption and keep blood sugar levels stable, contributing to overall well-being.

Hydration: The Fuel for Peak Performance

Equally important to a nutritious meal is staying properly hydrated throughout the workday to ensure optimal performance. After all, research suggests that even a minor decrease in hydration can significantly impact productivity. Studies have shown that a mere 1% drop in hydration can lead to a 12% decline in productivity, while a 3% to 4% decrease can cause a productivity drop of between 25% and 50%. Considering that 75% of your brain is composed of water, it’s easy to understand why dehydration can hinder cognitive function and workplace performance.

Better hydration options for the employees are the need of the hour, water infused with fruits or herbs offers a refreshing, low-calorie alternative to sugary sodas. For those seeking a natural energy boost, herbal teas like green tea or peppermint provide a pick-me-up without the jitters associated with excess caffeine. Seasonal considerations also play a role; in warmer months chilled fruit-infused waters or iced teas can be a welcome respite, while hot beverages like cappuccino or masala tea might be more appealing during colder seasons. Furthermore, some companies are embracing regional preferences by offering traditional drinks like Kanji or Rasam, catering to employee diversity and fostering a sense of cultural inclusion.

Well thought Workplace Café and offer – A game changer in promoting employee wellbeing

Workplace Café and breakout spaces play a very important role in promoting and ensuring the overall well-being of employees. A well-designed cafeteria fosters a sense of community bonding by encouraging greater collaboration between employees. The right food and beverage offer can enable informal discussions over meals sparking big ideas or themed lunches and team celebrations that give a fillip to in-house networking and social connections. Cafeterias deliver an array of benefits that boost the physical and emotional well-being of the staff. This is particularly important for younger generations, with 81% of Gen Z reporting that taking a proper lunch break, which often involves socialising over food, makes them more productive upon returning to work, compared to 73% of Baby Boomers, as per the GEAW survey.

Coffee or lunch breaks in the cafeteria encourage employees from different departments to exchange thoughts, increasing creativity and teamwork. Moreover, allowing people to relax during short breaks helps them de-stress, covertly enhancing their job satisfaction and mental well-being levels. 

Recognising the importance of breaks, companies are creating dedicated breakout areas that encourage employees to step away from their desks, refuel, and connect. Ultimately, healthy food options combined with designated break areas contribute to a healthier workplace environment—not just physically, but mentally and socially as well.

In a nutshell, the above elements emphasise how employers can prioritise employee health and well-being via ergonomic designs, cool cafeterias and well-balanced food choices to create a healthier work environment. 

ALSO READ-Bite sized deliciousness: Laddooh by Chef Sugandha Saxena

Environment Lifestyle Lite Blogs

Reducing environmental footprints

Culinary sustainability plays a pivotal role in reducing the environmental footprint of corporate events. Working closely with caterers to estimate guest attendance accurately minimizes food wastage…writes Abhishek Gupta

In the age of heightened environmental awareness, businesses are increasingly recognizing the importance of sustainability across all facets of their operations. Corporate events, often held in diverse locations, present a unique opportunity to integrate eco-friendly initiatives into business practices. As the global MICE market is projected to reach $1.4 trillion by 2028, embracing sustainable practices during these gatherings becomes even more crucial. This not only diminishes carbon footprints but also cultivates a positive environmental impact. Here’s a comprehensive guide to transforming your next corporate event into a greener, more sustainable affair.

Paperless Approach

Opting for a paperless approach is a fundamental step towards reducing environmental impact. By choosing digital invitations and event communication, businesses can significantly decrease paper consumption. Additionally, utilizing electronic registration and check-in systems minimizes the reliance on printed materials. Encouraging attendees to use digital devices for note-taking and providing access to event schedules and information through a dedicated event app further enhances the paperless experience.

Waste Reduction

Implementing a comprehensive waste reduction strategy is essential for promoting sustainability at corporate events, especially considering that India’s urban population produces 65 million tonnes of garbage annually, with 95 percent of it ending up in landfills. This includes setting up recycling and composting stations and opting for eco-friendly and biodegradable disposable products for catering. Collaboration with vendors prioritizing sustainable packaging practices helps minimize packaging waste. When setting up event spaces, opting for venues prioritizing sustainability in their infrastructure and operations and using reusable and recyclable materials for decorations, signage, and booth setups minimizes waste. Discouraging the use of thermocol and single-use plastics and exploring eco-friendly alternatives like recycled cardboard or bamboo for display structures and signage further supports waste reduction efforts.

Culinary Sustainability

Culinary sustainability plays a pivotal role in reducing the environmental footprint of corporate events. Working closely with caterers to estimate guest attendance accurately minimizes food wastage. Choosing locally sourced, organic, and seasonal food options supports local communities and reduces carbon emissions associated with transportation. Implementing a “no single-use plastic” policy for water bottles and encouraging the use of reusable containers further contributes to culinary sustainability.

Sustainable Transportation

Prioritizing sustainable transportation options is another key aspect of eco-friendly corporate events. Selecting offsite venues easily accessible by public transportation and arranging carpools or shuttle services using fuel-efficient or electric vehicles helps reduce carbon emissions. Additionally, offsetting travel emissions through partnerships with carbon offset programs or renewable energy projects mitigates the environmental impact of event-related travel.

Green Accommodation

Choosing accommodations with recognized eco-certifications and promoting energy-saving practices such as linen and towel reuse programs further enhances the sustainability of corporate events. Integrating educational initiatives into event programs, organizing workshops, and presentations on eco-friendly practices, and encouraging speakers to address sustainability in business operations facilitate knowledge sharing and awareness.

Educational Initiatives

As part of educational initiatives, sustainability can be integrated into the event program through the organization of workshops or presentations focusing on eco-friendly practices. These sessions provide attendees with valuable insights into sustainable business operations and offer practical strategies for implementing environmental initiatives within their organizations. Speakers can address the significance of sustainability in driving business success and share inspiring success stories to motivate participants to adopt more environmentally responsible practices.

Sustainable Air Travel

In light of the increasing global demand for sustainable travel options, which was underscored by a report from the World Travel & Tourism Council and Group revealing that 69% of travelers actively sought such options in 2022, the imperative of promoting sustainable air travel becomes evident. Additionally, the report highlighted that 75% of travelers were contemplating traveling more sustainably in the future, with nearly 60% having already embraced more sustainable travel options in recent years. Against this backdrop, encouraging attendees to opt for airlines prioritizing carbon reduction initiatives emerges as a strategic move. This aligns with the growing eco-conscious mindset of travelers and underscores the importance of integrating sustainable practices into corporate events. By embracing measures such as offering sustainable event giveaways, minimizing waste, and incorporating green technology like virtual participation and energy-efficient AV equipment, businesses can not only foster a waste-free event experience but also contribute to a broader sustainability agenda, meeting the evolving expectations of attendees while reducing environmental impact.

Carbon-Neutral Initiatives

Carbon-neutral initiatives are paramount for reducing the environmental impact of corporate events. One effective strategy is to offset the carbon footprint of the event by investing in carbon offset programs or supporting renewable energy projects. Providing attendees with information on their carbon footprint associated with travel is also crucial. Encouraging participants to participate in carbon offset programs can further mitigate the event’s environmental impact. Collaboration with airlines and transportation partners that have established commitments to carbon neutrality and sustainability is essential for achieving meaningful progress in this area.

Waste-Free Gifting

Incorporating waste-free gifting practices into corporate events is essential for minimizing environmental impact. To achieve this, organizers should opt for sustainable and practical event giveaways that reduce waste, such as reusable bags, water bottles, or eco-friendly office supplies. Additionally, it’s important to avoid promotional items with excessive packaging and instead encourage vendors to use environmentally friendly packaging for giveaways. 

By embracing these sustainable practices, corporate events can play a significant role in promoting environmental stewardship and fostering a positive corporate image. As businesses increasingly prioritize sustainability, incorporating these practices into corporate events becomes a vital step towards building a greener future.

ALSO READ-Environmental Challenges in the Fashion Industry

Arab News Environment UAE News

Umm Al Emarat Park to organize ‘recycling workshop’

In line with Earth Day, Umm Al Emarat Park reaffirms its commitment to sustainability. Serving as a haven of greenery and diverse activities, the Park stands as a symbol of environmental stewardship…reports Asian Lite News

Umm Al Emarat Park joins forces with Vine Communities, organizing a recycling workshop as part of the celebration of Earth Day (22nd April).

Taking place at the Park’s Little Farm area on Sunday, 21st April, the workshop aims at instilling a profound understanding of environmental conservation.

Open to children aged 7 and above, this workshop offers an immersive and educational experience focused on the importance of recycling and sustainability. Participants can anticipate an interactive session filled with engaging activities and insightful discussions.

From transforming ordinary materials like plastics, cans, bottles and paper into innovative creations to crafting personalised wallets using recycled resources, young attendees will not only cultivate their creativity but also deepen their commitment to environmental stewardship.

In line with Earth Day, Umm Al Emarat Park reaffirms its commitment to sustainability. Serving as a haven of greenery and diverse activities, the Park stands as a symbol of environmental stewardship. Through eco-friendly initiatives and educational programmes, it encourages the community to adopt greener lifestyles.

ALSO READ: Dubai Municipality bags top environment award

-Top News Dubai UAE News

Commonwealth Raises $320M in Climate Finance

Commonwealth has raised more than US$320 million in climate finance for small countries, in addition to another US$500 million that is in the pipeline.

UnniKrishnan Divakaran Nair, Head of Climate Change at the Commonwealth Secretariat, said that climate finance is essential to boost investments in low-carbon development and the ability of at-risk countries to mitigate the repercussions of climate change.

He pointed out that the Commonwealth has raised more than US$320 million in climate finance for small countries, in addition to another US$500 million that is in the pipeline.

The Commonwealth official told the Emirates News Agency (WAM) on the sidelines of the 28th United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP28) in Dubai that this current edition of COP was able to provide an opportunity for multilateral work and a platform for communication between stakeholders to advance global climate action.

He mentioned the establishment of the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub (CCFAH), which is a mandate for the Commonwealth Secretariat to unlock financial support to developing countries, and a confirmation of the commitment of the 56 Commonwealth member states to move forward in addressing climate change.

The Commonwealth official pointed to the initiative to provide the necessary training to build the capacities of nearly 2,500 officials from the organisation’s member states, and to provide the necessary research and statistics to gain a deeper understanding of the issue of climate change, in addition to implementing the Commonwealth Charter, which is in line with the United Nations’ commitments to address climate change, desertification, and biodiversity,

He called for the exchange of solutions between Commonwealth member states and to promote new and renewable energy projects.

ALSO READ: ‘Efforts to Solution’: Sadhguru Hails COP28 UAE

-Top News Environment Saudi Arabia

Saudis Go Eco Way

A comparison between results from 2019 and 2023 reveals intriguing changes.

New YouGov survey explored Saudi residents’ attitudes to a variety of environmentally friendly behaviours, that we first questioned them about in 2019.

A comparison between results from 2019 and 2023 reveals intriguing changes. Across the 12 actions that we listed to reduce impact on the environment, buying locally produced/ sourced food (i.e., to reduce air miles on food) is the most popular option and the proportion of consumers practising this has increased – from 25% in 2019 to 28% in 2023.

Another area we see an increase in behaviour is buying things in multipack (from 20% in 2019 to 23% in 2023).

In other areas such as recycling, stopping or reducing use of plastic straws and buying or using refillable/eco refill products- there hasn’t been any change between the two periods.

Across all other actions, Saudi residents are now less likely to behave in ways which are less harmful to the environment.

The largest decline has happened around using canvas/ reusable bags when shopping. Although it remains a popular green action, the proportion of people practising this now has reduced from 29% to 22% during this period. Similarly, the practice of using supplies that try to help the environment/ avoiding products that are harmful to the environment has reduced from 32% to 28%.

Buying/ re-using cups/ bottles, upcycling, and buying clothes that are second-hand/ made from recycled materials have also seen a decline during this period.

It is interesting to note that less than one in ten Saudi residents (6%) claim they don’t take part in any activities to reduce their impact on the environment, a decrease from 8% who said this in 2019.

We also delved into where consumers felt the job of reducing single-use plastic use should lie. The results revealed a shift in opinion between 2019 and 2023, with an overall reduction in the expectation that various entities like governments or companies should take responsibility.

In 2019, nearly two in five consumers (38%) saw themselves, the individual consumers, as bearing part of the responsibility. This figure fell to 36% in 2023.

Today, the largest proportion of Saudi residents think that along with individuals, companies that sell single-use plastic items should take the responsibility of reducing the country’s use of single-use plastic items (36%). This is followed by companies that produce single-use plastic items (34%).

A third attributed the responsibility to the government, but it has fallen from 35% to 32% in 2023.

Expectation of retailers and media to help reduce plastic use remains the same, however expectation of charities/NGOs, environmental agencies, and social media has witnessed a slight change.

The only entity that saw an increase in attribution since 2019 is the public. The hope for public action to contribute to reduction efforts increased from 18% in 2019 to 22% in 2023.

ALSO READ: Saudi Fashion Commission Attracts Int’l Investment at New York Roadshow

-Top News Environment USA

Biden likely to permanently block Grand Canyon mining

The White House previously announced that the President Biden would make climate change and his environmental agenda a focus of his stops on Arizona tour.

US President Joe Biden is leaning toward designating a vast area near the Grand Canyon as a national monument to safeguard it from uranium mining, a media report said.

“Leaders of local tribes and environmentalists have spent years lobbying to protect areas near the park from potential uranium mining, which they say would threaten aquifers and water supplies,” Xinhua news agency quoted The Washington Post report as saying citing sources.

“They have asked Washington to double the protected area around the canyon by including 1.1 million acres of public lands in a Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument.”

According to the report, Biden will embark on a tour through Arizona next week.

The White House previously announced that the President would make climate change and his environmental agenda a focus of his stops on the tour.

Federal officials have started telling tribal and environmental groups to be available for a potential Grand Canyon announcement early next week, which would fall during Biden’s travel, said the report.

“No decisions have been made,” White House spokesman Abdullah Hasan said in an email.

“But I can tell you that President Biden has conserved more land and water in his first year than any president since JFK, and his climate protection record is unmatched.”

Uranium deposits sit deep within sandstone, siltstone, and mudstone layers across the US Southwest.

In the Grand Canyon region, uranium ore is found in geologic features called breccia pipes.

Uranium mining near Grand Canyon National Park began in the 1950s at Orphan Mine. At least eight uranium mines have operated near the park, including the active Canyon Mine.

Since 2012, a 20-year mineral withdrawal has blocked new efforts to mine uranium on 1 million acres of public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon.

But the relief is temporary.

As of May 2022, there were still nearly 600 mining claims on national forest and other public lands around the Grand Canyon.

Environment Lifestyle Lite Blogs

Recycling a win-win for the environment

Inefficient waste management systems and a lack of government regulations make it difficult for businesses to recycle mattresses, as they need clarification on the requirements or where to send them…writes N. Lothungbeni Humtsoe

Have you ever wondered what to do with your old mattress once you’ve purchased a new one? One typical solution is to throw it away. But, instead of simply dumping it, did you know you might look into environmentally friendly disposal options?

Mattress waste is a significant problem in India. Tens of thousands of mattresses are thrown each year, with the majority of them ending up in landfills. Mattresses abandoned in this manner disintegrate over hundreds of years, releasing toxic substances into the environment.

Speaking with Anand Nichani, Managing Director of Magniflex India, a homegrown mattress brand, explains several ways to repurpose old mattresses instead of throwing them away, such as making pet beds, transforming them into little cushions, pillows, and so on.

Read excerpt:

Why the issue of mattress waste in India is increasing?

Nichani: According to a 2022 report, India’s mattress market was estimated at around Rs 20,000 crore in 2022. Approximately 7-9 million mattresses are sold in the country each year, with a replacement cycle of every 10 years. The rise in income levels, increased urbanisation, changing lifestyles, and growth in the real estate and hospitality sectors are significant factors that accelerated the development of the Indian mattress market. 

While the buying capacity has increased, we have yet to figure out how to manage the discarded mattresses. As a result, the discarded mattresses end up in landfills, which can take up much space and release harmful pollutants into the environment.

Inefficient waste management systems and a lack of government regulations make it difficult for businesses to recycle mattresses, as they need clarification on the requirements or where to send them.

How mattress recycling can help reduce the burden?

Nichani:  Mattresses contain various harmful materials, such as flame retardants, polyurethane foam, and metal springs. When these materials are disposed of in landfills, they can leach into the soil and water, contaminating the environment. Recycling mattresses help to prevent these harmful materials from entering the atmosphere.

The materials used to make mattresses can be recycled and reused to make new products. Recycling helps conserve resources and reduce the need to extract new materials from the environment.

The recycling of mattresses will also contribute to creating jobs in collecting, processing, and manufacturing recycled materials. Job creation can help boost the economy and create opportunities for our country’s people.

Overall, mattress recycling is a win-win for the environment and the economy. It is a sustainable way to dispose of mattresses and helps protect the environment.

How to choose an eco-friendly mattress?

Nichani:  There has to be more propaganda on this; people should be educated on how to buy a mattress. We often come across customers looking for a cheap bargain, and customers usually need to realise that low-cost mattresses come with highly toxic materials, that can harm their health and our environment.

People should make an informed decision while buying mattresses, assess what their mattress is made of, look for OEKO-TEX certifications on products and manufacturing processes, and opt for patented Memoform in place of ordinary foam mattresses. Some mattresses also come with natural wood fabric – known as ecopaedic mattresses, which provide the right temperature to sleep and are environment-friendly. 

What are the ways to recycle a mattress?

Nichani:  Recycling, whether done on a large scale or small scale, is beneficial to the environment. Some ways to recycle your old mattress are; 

Many waste management companies offer mattress recycling programs. You can contact your local waste management company to see if they provide this service.

Some charities accept mattresses that are in good condition. Donating your mattress is a great way to give your mattress a new life and help someone in need.

You can sell your mattress online through Facebook Marketplace. This is a great way to get some money back for your old mattress and help someone else find a good deal.

What novel approach do you believe could reduce mattress pollution?

Nichani:  One way to reduce mattress pollution is to use sustainable and biodegradable materials in manufacturing. Mattresses should be made with materials that can be broken down by microorganisms in the environment. This means that they do not contribute to pollution when they are disposed of of., viz., natural cotton, wood fabric, viscose (it’s made from the cellulose of the trees), silk, linen, camel fibre, horse hair, merino wool, cashmere, etc., The presence of such materials is usually demonstrated by certifications like – OEKO TEX and GOTS. 

Mattresses can be designed to be more easily recycled by using materials that are easily separated and by using fewer hazardous materials.

There is currently a lack of mattress recycling infrastructure in many countries. This makes it difficult for people to recycle their mattresses. By creating more mattress recycling infrastructure, we can make it easier for people to recycle their mattresses and reduce mattress pollution.

Many people are not aware that mattresses can be recycled. Educating the public about mattress recycling can encourage more people to recycle their mattresses and reduce mattress pollution.

Any DIY projects that may be done to utilise old mattresses instead of throwing them away.

Nichani:  There are so many innovative things one could do with old mattresses; Upcycle them to use as upholstery for your garden/balcony furniture, use them as a pet bed, use them for your kids’ play area, convert them into small cushions, pillows, materials such as fabric and springs and foam can be used as mulch in your garden to help retain moisture and suppress weed growth.

ALSO READ-Hair care routine to escape from pollution and weather

-Top News UK News

Environmental groups threaten govt

But other activists, such as Just Stop Oil, have continued with high-profile campaigns, including halting the world snooker championship on Monday…reports Asian Lite News

Environmental groups including Extinction Rebellion, which has previously staged highly disruptive protests across Britain, have vowed new and “creative” campaigns of disobedience unless the government meets their demands over fossil fuels.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) said the groups had issued the British government with a demand to end all licences, funding and approval for new fossil fuel projects and to immediately create “emergency citizen assemblies”.

If the government did not agree to discuss these by a deadline of 1600 GMT on April 24, they would step up their campaigns, which would include unspecified civil disobedience.

“This time we won’t be alone,” Marijn van de Geer from XR told reporters.

In January, the British arm of XR, which has previously closed key roads and bridges in central London, blockaded oil refineries, smashed windows at banks and thrown paint over government buildings, said it would cease public disruption.

But other activists, such as Just Stop Oil, have continued with high-profile campaigns, including halting the world snooker championship on Monday.

Later this week, some 200 groups including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth will gather for a four-day demonstration organised by XR, dubbed “The Big One”, which will be held outside parliament in central London, with 28,000 signed up to attend.

While XR said this week’s action in central London was not intended to be disruptive, nor would it target the coronation of King Charles next month, van de Geer said they would step up campaigns in future in “new and inventive ways”.

She said it would be up to each group and individuals involved to decide what these would be, saying there might be some “bigger disobedience”.

ALSO READ-EAD launches environmental assessment programme

Arts & Culture Lite Blogs

Take a sip, make a difference

The use of rice husk is a prime example of how sustainable alternatives can be found in unlikely places. This initiates restoration and a circular economy that benefits both the environment and local communities…reports Ronit Jain

Sustainability has become a hot topic in recent years, and for good reasons. As we become more aware of the aftermath of our actions on nature, looking for ways to reduce waste and live more sustainably will do the planet good and initiate rejuvenation. Even starting small, like switching from single use plastic to reusable, sustainable and durable mugs, can subsequently make a bigger difference and promote healthier lifestyle and planet.

But what is Earth’s Waste?

Agriculture is a vital industry that feeds the world’s population, it does however produce a vast amount of by-products. Every year around 500 million tons of crop residue is generated in India. The abundance of this agricultural waste presents a serious ecological problem owing to the release of carbon dioxide, long-lasting smoke and methane produced from its combustion.

Rice husk is the outer layer of rice grains that is removed during the milling process. It is a highly produced crop residue in India. Though when properly sourced, rice husk is ideal for product manufacturing as it is toxin-free, bio-degradable, and carbon-neutral, making it an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional materials such as fragile ceramics and plastics. Not only does this help reduce waste and carbon emissions but also supports local farmers by providing a market for their crop residue.

The use of rice husk is a prime example of how sustainable alternatives can be found in unlikely places. This initiates restoration and a circular economy that benefits both the environment and local communities.

Mugs made out of Rice Husk are an excellent example of a sustainable product that provides consumers with a safer, healthier, and more eco-conscious option. They are durable and can withstand high temperatures, hence they are suitable for use with hot and cold beverages, making them a convenient option for everyday use and busy lifestyles.

We believe the search for safer and more eco-friendly alternatives is crucial and must continue as new technologies and materials emerge. By promoting the use of reusable materials and eco-friendly materials in product manufacturing, we can reduce the carbon footprint and mitigate the negative impact of these materials on the environment.

ALSO READ-Ramadan special Keema Mutton samosa

Environment Ramadan UK News

The Islamic Way to Protect Environment

The climate crisis also brings together communities as we all struggle with its impacts. It threatens all of humanity, all faiths, and all cultures. If we do not work together, we cannot adapt or prevent the destruction…writes Afzal Khan MP

Islam is inherently environmental. Harmony and balance in the natural world is central to our Muslim faith. It is our duty to conserve nature and the Earth deserves respect and care. Nationally and internationally, we are seeing Muslim environmentalists and campaigners highlight how Muslims can make a positive impact by putting the environment at the centre of their faith.

The impact of the climate crisis is being felt across the globe. We have seen unprecedented fires, devastating droughts, life-threatening heatwaves, and catastrophic flooding. But most of the impact of climate change is felt by the world’s poorest countries. Those who contribute the least to global carbon emissions, and including much of the Muslim world. In Pakistan, a country close to my own heart, faced devastation last year from floods over an area larger than the United Kingdom. Over 1,000 people died, and 33 million lives were turned upside down in hours, displaced from their homes by a climate disaster.

We are all responsible for our own actions. Although we must hold governments and corporations accountable, we are all khalifah (stewards) of the Earth. “Thus We have made you trustees on the earth after them, to see how you would act.”[Qur’an 10:14]. Allah (swt) allows us the use of nature, but expects us to be responsible for balance and sustainability.  

Kalifah is not a concept unique to Islam. We see this variations on natural stewardship across different faiths, including Christianity and Judaism. Together, being of faith means caring: caring for people and caring for the planet. Our faith and values are a tool that allow us to achieve a goal towards a common cause.

Our faith is not the only thing to bring us together. The climate crisis also brings together communities as we all struggle with its impacts. It threatens all of humanity, all faiths, and all cultures. If we do not work together, we cannot adapt or prevent the destruction.

There are many ways we can become better climate activists using our faith. But, the overarching theme is remembering balance (Mizan). The Qur’an says, “O Children of Adam, dress well whenever you are at worship, and eat and drink [as We have permitted] but do not be extravagant (Mizan): God does not like extravagant people.” [Quran 7:31] This is a reminder that we should act in moderation and with balance. When considering the environment, we must avoid excess waste, pollution, or environmental destruction. This is particularly important to remember as we near the end of Ramadan and may consider items or gifts that are unnecessary or extravagant for Eid al-Fitr. This was reflected by Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) in his own actions, during ablution (wudu) he used limited water, and he spoke of why we do not waste water, even if at a running stream.

During this holy month of Ramadan, I am proud to see so many Muslims across the world engaged and ready to make change. I am delighted to work with climate activist Zehra Abbas to mobilise communities in the UK, Palestine, Canada, Lebanon, Malaysia, Cyprus, Bangladesh and more to coordinate ‘green’ iftars in each country.

Afzal Khan MP

Each of these iftars have the aim to have the same programme, so all attendees can discuss the importance of climate action. These events are free or low-cost, interfaith, plant-based, and zero-waste and in[EY1]  many of the events, the food is what Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), had noted as some of his favourites. This includes foods such as barley, dates, and pomegranates, which in most regions has little carbon footprint. The food is purchased with no plastic packaging wherever possible, attendees are encouraged to bring their own cutlery and plates, as well as no food waste being produced. There are guest speakers at the event who speak on the importance of interfaith work, what zero-waste is and how we can all do it, stewardship in Islam, and animal rights in Islam. Attendees are encouraged to walk, cycle, or rideshare to the event to reduce their own carbon footprint and wasteful decorations are excluded, opting instead for natural décor. A zero-waste event can be seen as daunting, but instead it is scaling down what many would consider to be the norm.

During Ramadan, I know myself and many others reflect. We reflect on what we do and how we can be better Muslims and community members. This is why during Ramadan I attend many interfaith iftars – it is a way to break down barriers in our community and talk about our shared goals. It is also important for me to reflect on the principles and key messages of Islam, such as Mizan and Khalifah, with those around me.

As a Muslim, I consider my faith to be part of who I am. My values and beliefs stem from by belief in Allah (swt) which Qu’ran teachers me how to put into practice. This is why I am passionate about action against the climate crisis, and I want to do all I can to improve our planet for our generation and future generations. When nature thrives, we all thrive – I hope together as Muslims and the wider community we will continue to come together on this global movement.

(The writer is Shadow Minister for Legal Aid of the United Kingdom)

ALSO READ: TBHF calls for supporting refugees in Ramadan