For the last two years, The Big Reconnect Sleepover (TBRS) has rallied women from around the world to gather for a singular purpose- to reconnect with their fitra. This singular primordial essence of our soul has a voice that is all too easily drowned out by the roles and functions we serve in the lives of those around us. However, through reflection, adventure, and relaxation, women from different stages of life can step away and restore their connection to self, Sustainer, and sisterhood. Naturally, nature and its beauty are critical components that should guide the planning of any faith-based retreat, but oftentimes, our responsibility to the very earth we rely on is relegated to nothing more than picking up litter.
On the most recent TBRS gathering in London this summer, I was consulted about sustainability practices that could lighten the environmental load that comes with planning group events. Many retreats, gatherings, and conferences rely heavily on disposable products and consequently generate a tremendous amount of waste for the sake of hospitality. However, as ‘stewards’ of God’s creation, we must challenge ourselves as both hosts and guests to be hospitable to the planet that nurtures us. Here are five ways to do just that.
Choose Your Location Wisely
Selecting a site that is nearest to most attendees, or accessible by land, will help reduce reliance on air travel in favour of more environmentally-friendly modes of transport. The TBRS retreat was easily accessible for London residents, in a scenic and serene forest reserve at the outskirts of the city. Conveniently located near a railway line, attendees had the choice of public or personal transportation. By necessity, some retreat destinations are distant, but we can explore the options closest to us before venturing further.
Prepare Your Guests
To avoid the use of plastic bottles, all guests were asked to bring refillable water bottles of their own. This small act alone reduced a significant amount of waste, as well as fostered personal responsibility in our sustainability vision. Furthermore, guests were briefed about being mindful of water use while showering, switching off lights when leaving their rooms, and generally being conscientious about waste.
Meal Plan With Intention
Knowing the environmental cost of animal consumption, meat was only offered for one meal each day alongside a rich assortment of plant-based options that made our menu amenable for both vegans and vegetarians. Each meal was served with reusable crockery and cutlery. Additionally, leftovers were not discarded but were re-served for the following meal when suitable. By being transparent with our guests about our commitment to being resourceful, they appreciated our efforts and were understanding.
Immerse in Nature
Connecting to the earth is a concept as well as a practice. Taking long walks, lying in the grass, picking fresh blackberries, being warmed by a campfire were the simple yet profound ways that nature was made real and tangible to us. These humbling reminders ought to centre and ground the believer in the grace and bounty of Allah’s creation.
Health is one of the blessings we often take for granted until it’s compromised. By incorporating aspects of physical fitness, emotional expression, and spiritual reflection into our retreats, we are elevated to become empowered agents of change, not victims of circumstance. Circumstances like obesity, poor nutrition, lack of activity, and compromised mental health, can set any one of us on a path of medication and hospitalisation. By becoming habituated in preventative and precautionary measures, we can embody the full embodiment of faith by being healthy, thriving and well.
This article was originally published on Sacred Footsteps.