“People who come to my house can’t tell that it’s a Muslim place or that I’m actually celebrating Raya,” jokes Yasmin Rasyid.
“We hardly decorate or put up anything. It’s all very sederhana (moderate). For us, cleanliness is most important, so the house has to be spick-and-span more than anything else.”
For the 39-year-old founder of environmental group EcoKnights, Hari Raya is about bonding and rekindling relationships with relatives, some of whom she only sees once a year during the festive season. During Ramadan, she hosted buka puasa meals for friends every other day at her home in Bandar Utama, Petaling Jaya.
“When I cook, I make sure the portions are just sufficient and not overboard, which leads to unnecessary wastage. This is why I’ve abstained from attending any buka puasa buffets this year as not only are they expensive, they are also wasteful.
“Even at Ramadan bazaars, I will purchase just kuih. My guests will usually bring some food but I remind them to do so sparingly. We try to cut consumption as that contributes to less trash. Pest invasion is also limited when you have no excess food thrown out.”
On the occasions that there are leftovers, Yasmin composts the discards inside a bin placed at her porch, together with the usual vegetable cuttings. The only item that she does not compost is meat, due to concerns over how it will decompose and the possibility of pests.
“I let the waste sit for about five to six weeks, but stir it every fortnight. I can then use it as fertiliser for my plants,” explains Yasmin.
When buying things, she reuses old plastic bags; that saves the need to bring back new ones from the supermarket or wet market. It’s the same for the take-away plastic containers – she reuses them until they’re no longer safe for use.
Yasmin says she does not really dress up for Raya. Being modestly presentable on the first day has been her guiding principle through the years. Her Raya clothes are versatile enough to be used for work too, which saves the necessity for additional corporate wear.
“I only buy clothes for my two children aged 12 and five as they are still growing. Shoes are mostly reused however, so they have been taught not to expect new pairs for Raya.”
She also does not subscribe to the notion of giving her home a new coat of paint for Raya, and only does so when the walls are peeling and not because she has to live up to “expectations”.
“For duit Raya, I will be inserting only RM5 notes in the packets as this is the only denomination that is polymer-based. This means the notes last longer and do not deteriorate easily so production of new notes can be reduced. Old notes are perfectly fine with me as resources are needed in the production of new notes.”
For drinking water, however, she started buying bottled ones six months ago because of health concerns over the fluoride present in tap water. She says fluoride is detrimental to health and cannot be removed by filters. Though this means an accumulation of plastic bottles, Yasmin reasons that she can recycle them.
She points out that she does not offer packet drinks to her guests but make her own beverage from cordial syrups. Some of these simple efforts at home were met with resistance from her family members, but she reasons that it will take a while to change people’s mindsets and habits.
“Change doesn’t happen overnight but slowly, they will come to accept and see that what we do is for the betterment of the environment which we all have an obligation to protect and conserve. I just wish more families would do it,” says Yasmin.
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