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'Mata Dharat Mahat': Sikh conference Safar committed to Sustainability

The Sikh Feminist Research Institute hosted Our Journeys 2012 October 27, a conference exploring the interaction between Sikhi and gender, through research, activism and praxis. Seeing Sikh women’s issues and ecological issues as inherently interlinked, and understanding that the Gurus’ deep understanding of the earth as a manifestation of the Creator for humans to practice dharam, and not to misuse for our own needs, this year we will uphold our commitment to a Sikh vision for the planet.
This year focused on reducing waste through the use of onsite recycling facilities for paper and plastic products, and commit to using compostable plates, cups, and cutlery made from bagasse material, sourced from sustainable sorghum and sugarcane plants. This use of biodegradable materials not only reduce the amount of material being sent to our landfills; it also ensures reaffirms our commitment to sourcing the materials we use in a way that reduces harm to existing resources.
The langar or traditional Sikh meal during the conference was served on traditional steel thalis (plates), which will be brought to the Gurdwara to be washed. We continue to honor the tradition of Gurdwaras in South Asia and around the world to use materials that can be washed by hand through the spirit of sewa—eliminating waste and emphasizing selfless service of one another.
The conference will also be held at the University of British Columbia’s Center for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS), a state of the art environmental building designed for research and education on urban sustainability. The facility is equipped with rooftop rainwater harvesting, natural and energy-efficient lighting, natural ventilation and airflow, grey water reclamation and reuse, energy systems monitoring, and sustainably harvested wood for the building’s structure and base.
In honoring Sikh Gurus’ connection all the Creation, the legacy of our past generations of living in harmony with the earth, and the challenges that environmental degradation present to women and other marginalized peoples throughout the world, the Safar committee hopes that attendees will have a deeper appreciation for the ecological traditions in Sikhi after attending the conference, and take practices that respect our planet to our Gurdwaras, Khalsa schools, communities, and homes.
If anything we walk away from the weekend with a deeper reflection on what it means to live in harmony with the Earth through the philosophy of Guru Nanak and to embody the wisdom of our Guru’s words written in Jap Ji Sahib nearly five centuries ago; Pavan Guru, Pani Pita, Mata Dharat Mahat: ‘Air is our Guru, Water is our Father, and Earth is the Great Mother of All.’