Becoming a Circular Community

The Dawoodi Bohras of Vancouver have successfully incorporated sustainable practices at their community centre.

A circular community is one that seeks to minimise waste and maximise use of resources. Single-use plastics are a particular environmental concern as they are typically made from non-renewable fossil fuels and often end up in landfill sites.

With the aim of reducing single-use plastics and enabling a circular economy, the Burhani Foundation, the Dawoodi Bohra community’s environmental awareness and research arm, encourages community centres across the world to adopt sustainable practices during community events throughout the year. These include the notion of BYRB (Bring your reusable bag/bottle), implementing recycling & waste segregation practices, and eliminating the use of single-use plastics, such as mats used for community dining. 

The Dawoodi Bohras of Vancouver have successfully incorporated these practices during community gatherings. We spoke with community volunteers to get an insight into their successful implementation of eco-friendly initiatives: 

  1. What measures did you put in place to observe sustainable community events at your centre?

We reduced the use of disposables by selecting more durable and economical options which included:

A. Switching to cloth mats instead of single-use plastic ones for community dining.

B. Using more recyclable materials for day-to-day operations.

C. Setting up waste segregation bins, which helped in separating different types of waste at source.

D. Disposable tableware was replaced with compostable cups and paper plates. Regular reinforcement of community members to Recycle, Reuse and Reduce waste at the community centre, homes and offices.

E. Larger recyclable items such as plastic milk jugs are delivered to a local recycling depot every two weeks.

  1. How do you go about planning your activities?

We have a dedicated team of volunteers who provide their full support in terms of logistics, planning and follow up. Some of the things we planned before the onset of Ramadan this year were:

A. Organic Bags: Fortunately, we found organic bags at a local store with an 80 litre capacity to collect food waste. These were ideal to use on a daily basis during Ramadan, when our community centre hosts daily dinner meals.

B. Recycling: We put aside a separate bin to collect big plastic items such as milk jugs that were delivered to the local recycling depot by a volunteer.

C. Posters: We created infographics to serve as subtle reminders. They were pinned up at the most visible places around the community centre.

D. Reinforcement: A team was set up to regularly guide and remind everyone about their responsibility towards the environment.

One often finds young volunteers after dinner going from person to person and collecting their disposable items in an orderly fashion.

3. How do children get involved in these endeavours?

The children are very keen on contributing to the overall effort. One often finds young volunteers after dinner going from person to person and collecting their disposable items in an orderly fashion. 

It is heartening to observe that children are distinctly aware of these environmental endeavours. They already understand the importance and value of sustainable activities and we hope they keep taking part in the community’s street cleanup and tree planting activities in the future.

4. How did you spread awareness for ‘Bring your reusable bottle/bag’?

It is an added advantage here in British Columbia that plastics are discouraged from use in society. Even grocery stores require you to purchase or bring your own reusable cloth or paper bag.

Building on that, we keep provisions of brown paper bags at our community centre to facilitate packaging for whoever opts for a takeaway. We also make sure to spread the awareness of BYRB through our Whatsapp group, asking members to bring their own bags or containers in case they would like to take away a parcel.

Community members replaced single-use plastic mats with good-quality cloth mats imported from Mumbai, India.
Community members replaced single-use plastic mats with good-quality cloth mats imported from Mumbai, India.

5. Describe the experience of using reusable mats for community dining? 

This year, we replaced single-use plastic mats with good-quality cloth mats that we imported from Mumbai, India. It seemed like a small change, but it made a huge difference, not just in terms of eco-friendliness, but also in the economical and social aspect of it. 

To elaborate, it was economically viable as we did not have to purchase rolls of plastic for daily use. Additionally, we produced less landfill garbage than previous years and found an optimistic vibe pervading our community centre. Environmental experts will tell you that merely curbing single-use plastic is not the one-stop-shop solution to the plastic problem, but moulding attitudes to adopt a circular lifestyle is where the solution really begins. 

We feel that the continuous maintenance of a plastic-free environment sends a positive message to all community members. We are hopeful that the community level engagement will percolate through to individual households and lead to the desired outcome of a circular lifestyle at the grassroots level.

6. What do you do to promote zero food waste?

Before each community event, we send out RSVP forms in order to gauge the requirements of hosting the meal. 

A common practice that we share with our fellow community centres across the world is that we have a dedicated volunteer corps called the Dana committee (Dana meaning a grain of food). In addition to creating awareness during meals of not wasting even a single grain, members of the Dana Committee ensure that any leftover food at the end of the meal is appropriately packaged and distributed to those in need.

Another intervention to promote zero food waste is in the form of placing flyers embedded with QR codes at each thaal (a particularly large steel platter around which eight members sit together for a communal meal). These QR codes ask members to simply answer a couple of introspective questions such as, Why did you pick up the leftover grains? Do you believe in reducing food waste?, etc. These questions are meant to trigger a thought process about reducing food waste and incorporating these practices into daily routines.

Consistent waste segregation efforts lead to the compost of nearly 1500 litres of organic waste.

 7. Why do you think zero-waste and sustainable efforts are required in community gatherings?

The effort of every individual counts and the entire community working together makes a much larger difference and the results speak for themselves. This Ramadan, in what would otherwise end up in landfills, our waste segregation measures produced nearly 1500 litres of organic waste that could be put back into good use for the environment.

8. How have you planned on improving sustainable practices in your community going forward?

Regular reminders are key. We also look forward to collaborative opportunities with like-minded organisations or communities where we can share our experiences and pool our resources to improve our waste-management system. 

We are also looking to invite our neighbours and friends over at our community centre to share our experiences with them and spread the word about how a seemingly arduous task can be simplified through coordination and consistent effort. 

For more information on the Burhani Foundation, please visit their website here.

Reading time

Last Updated
July 13, 2023
Related tags
No tags found.
Articles You Might Like
Most Popular

Follow us @thedawoodibohras