A green iftar for an ethical Ramadan

A London-based collective aims to encourage healthier eating and the reduction of food waste

The recitation of adhan during Isha prayer. Green Deen Tribe in London has been organising ethical iftars for six years. Photographed for Hyphen by Aisha Nazar

Ramadan is meant to be a time for Muslims to remove distractions from their lives, clear space for self-reflection, practice mindfulness towards others and consume modestly. However, while fasting from sunrise to sunset is central to the holy month, staggering amounts of food waste are also generated around the world by family, community and commercial iftars — not to mention retailers stocking up for the season with perishable speciality items. Research by the international development charity Human Appeal shows that more than half (54%) of UK Muslims report throwing away food during Ramadan.

In an effort to promote more sustainable ways to break the fast, the London-based collective Green Deen Tribe has organised ethical iftars for the past six years. Founded in 2013 by Rabiah Mali, 36, and Sakinah le Noir, 34 the organisation is based on three guiding principles: consuming less meat, reducing food waste and cutting the use of disposable plastics. 

During a recent Friday iftar at Rumi’s Kitchen, a food bank in Harlesden, north-west London, the Green Deen Tribe served a wholesome vegetarian meal of rice with black-eyed beans and fried plantains. Volunteers brought fruit and vegan desserts in modest amounts to avoid having to throw anything away. All participants were encouraged to bring their own cutlery, water bottles and containers for leftovers. Biodegradable food containers were used and then repurposed into plant pots for guests to take home, while all food waste was set aside for composting.

“Most iftars have so much food waste and plastic — water bottles, tea cups, packaging — so what we try and do is to show that we can do without them,” said the Green Deen Tribe’s projects and volunteer coordinator Sarah Mohamed, 28.

The Green Deen Tribe briefs volunteers before the ethical iftar event begins. Photography for Hyphen by Aisha Nazar
A volunteer washes a bunch of fresh mint leaves for tea that will served during iftar
Vegetarian meals are served to guests in compostable containers that are then used as plant pots
A basin of soil and seeds is prepared and made available for guests to repurpose their biodegradable food containers, once iftar ends
Sharing platters are passed around to guests and individual vegetarian meals are served in compostable containers
Guests sit in smaller groups to share a meal together
At the end of iftar, all food waste are collected and set aside for composting. A basin of soil and some seeds are provided for repurposing biodegradable food containers into plant pots for guests to take home
A guest arrives at Rumi’s Kitchen in London for the ethical iftar
, , , ,

Get the Hyphen weekly

Subscribe to Hyphen’s weekly round-up for insightful reportage, commentary and the latest arts and lifestyle coverage, from across the UK and Europe