Serena Sans: The Green Girl

The following story is from iCover, a photo-journalism book by award winning photographer Sadaf Syed. To purchase the book, please click here.

Serena and her husband are committed to living a green life.

“We try to buy local, organic food as much as possible and eat a plant-based diet, limiting our meat intake due to health concerns but also because of the impact that raising and slaughtering meat has on our environment. Meat production also raises some serious ethical concerns in terms of how animals are treated. We stopped buying canned goods to reduce our exposure to BPA. We buy more in bulk to reduce packaging and cost for us. This way we also have more money to purchase quality produce and dairy products. We only use biodegradable cleaners and air fresheners and all natural shampoos and soaps in our home. We alternated between cloth and chlorine-free diapers for our son. We installed an energy- efficient washer and dryer and ceiling fans. The fans cool in the summer and warm in the winter which allows us to keep the heater and air conditioner off more. We buy fewer, better quality clothes to last longer. We de-cluttered and donated what we don’t use and didn’t buy more. All of the changes benefit us but also the planet at large. Sometimes people tell me that they are unsure about where to start being more environmentally or health-conscious. I think about it as reducing waste and exposure to harmful chemicals rather than eliminating them entirely, which is impossible. It is also an issue of quality rather than quantity. If everyone does just a little bit, it adds up.

There are so many Islamic concepts and principles that can be applied to environmental awareness. For example, Islam stresses not being wasteful or excessive. Waste comes in many forms — from water consumption to overuse of electricity to excessive meat intake to the accumulation of unnecessary ‘stuff”. All of these things have various impacts on our environment. We live in a disposable era of convenience where we don’t think much about where our provisions come from. What did it take to get those grapes on your table in the middle of winter? How many pesticides were used in growing them? Did those pesticides pollute the local community where they were grown? How much fuel was used to fly the grapes to your local supermarket? As Muslims we are asked to be people who think and ponder things, so it is our religious obligation to think about these things and make sure our actions have a positive impact.”

After five years of wearing the hijab, Serena says her thoughts about it have changed somewhat. “I still think hijab is a sign of respect and a way of keeping your beauty for those whom you choose to share it with, but I think it is completely possible to be modest without wearing a scarf. I see hijab now as a form of identification — kind of like how someone Christian might wear a cross or someone Jewish might wear a star of David. Religion can be an important part of our identity, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with people knowing who you are or what you believe.”

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