Fasting during the movement control order (MCO) while maintaining a zero-waste lifestyle is no easy feat.
But zero-waste advocate Elena Almeida says it’s all about planning and being creative.
This Ramadan, the Kuala Lumpur-based programme manager for sustainable development has had to cook more often, for obvious reasons.
“In the past, my husband and I would eat with family and friends three times a week. Ramadan is a really nice time to strengthen social bonds over a meal after a long day of fasting.
“Unfortunately, these activities are no longer possible with the MCO,” she says.
Therefore, before Ramadan, Elena made a schedule of what to cook for the whole month, alongside recipes for each meal to avoid the stress of thinking what to eat every day.
“I’m proud to say that I’ve stuck to this schedule so far! The list of ingredients included in my little recipe booklet helps immensely to make grocery-shopping easier and low-waste.
“On weekends, I also make sure I prep what I need for the coming week, so I would boil my chickpeas (from dried), prepare things like oat milk, dumpling fillings, pasta sauce or chilli paste, and make pasta or bread from scratch,” says Elena, 30, who is vegetarian.
Elena shares these tips to staying low-waste during Ramadan, which also applies during regular times.
“The first step is planning. Plan your menu a week or more in advance so that when you go grocery-shopping, you have a list of ingredients to follow. The second step is to be disciplined about it, so that you don’t waste anything you have bought.”
Third, she says, cook at home as much as possible instead of ordering out, to reduce plastic waste.
“Fourth, if you can, shop plastic-free and bring your own bags to the grocer’s. As a measure against Covid-19, launder your reusable bags (along with your clothes and reusable mask) after each trip.”
Elena adds that the MCO has made it hard for her to find plastic- or package-free foods because many zero-waste shops are closed, and those that are open deliver with paper bags.
“I don’t necessarily think paper bags are better because you need to cut trees to have a supply of paper bags, so from an environmental perspective, we are just swapping plastic pollution for deforestation.”
During the MCO, Elena consciously limits her environmental impact by shopping mainly at the store close to her house instead of driving out or getting deliveries from different stores.
“There, I will do my best to find unpackaged local fruits and vegetables, but accept plastic when I buy tofu or tempeh,” shares Elena.
The stay-home order has also resulted in a lot of takeaways and deliveries, creating more plastic waste.
“I hope that those who do order food all the time will reuse those takeaway boxes wisely and avoid unnecessary items like plastic cutlery or drinks in plastic cups. On the positive side, I hope this means less food waste is generated as we have to learn to be more mindful about our finances in these difficult times.
“I hope that what we save (financially) from not eating out at hotel and restaurant buffets is not wasted on other types of abundance, but donated to charity. Equality and charity is what Ramadan is about, after all,” she adds.
Check out Elena’s Instagram live session on #lowwaste Ramadan and Tips on Storing Produce to Keep Them Longer on Zero Waste Malaysia’s #JomZeroWaste Community Livestream today at 5.30pm.
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