Planning for the Environment | The Ismaili Canada

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Planning for the Environment

Benafsha Amiri plans for the planet, one container and bus at a time

Aabida Dhanji Madhani
Published September 30, 2020
Main image
Benafsha Amiri. Photo: Jamshed Khedri.

When Benafsha Amiri was tasked with managing waste at the 2017 Mulaqat in Montreal, she was determined to throw as little as possible into the trash. Leading up to the Mulaqaat, Amiri and her team worked with the caterer to figure out how to package meals and snacks so that most packaging could be recycled, rather than thrown away.

“I made sure to minimize the purchase of materials that generate waste in the day's routine activities,” says Amiri. “An example of this is when we bought small hand vacuums. We bought these knowing they were reusable after the Mulaqat, as we could use these often in our Jamatkhanas.”

With 100 dedicated volunteers, her team ensured proper management and sorting of conventional waste, biomedical and hazardous waste, and recyclables at the Mulaqat with more than 8,000 people in attendance.

“The toughest part was making the Jamat understand that they needed to separate the garbage from recycling,” says Amiri. Volunteers had to be specially trained to ensure the crowd followed the procedures.

Amiri, who holds a bachelor’s degree in atmospheric sciences and a master’s degree in environmental management, has long been concerned about raising awareness of environmental issues, especially climate change.

"Climate change is difficult to understand, as you can't physically see the impact," says Amiri, who is an environmental development officer at the Regional County Municipality (MRC) of Vaudreuil-Soulanges in Greater Montreal. But with increasing natural disasters like floods, she predicts people will soon understand the consequences.

Benafsha Amiri (second from left) while volunteering for an awareness campaign on waste management at a hockey match in Laval, Que. in 2018. Photo: Courtesy of Benafsha Amiri.

In her role, Amiri works in collaboration and consultation with the 23 municipalities in the MRC to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that cause climate change. In 2019, Amiri contributed to a six-year action plan to reduce emissions in the region. To implement the plan, she now works with committees in various sectors, such as public transportation, waste management, land use planning, waterways and agriculture. She focuses most of her energy on public transportation, working with the social development team to increase access to public transit. Their aim is to improve quality of life, while reducing GHG emissions by decreasing how often people use their cars.

Even outside of work, she looks out for environmental improvements. Amiri hopes a recycling program—like the one she developed for Mulaqat—can be implemented within local Jamatkhanas. “The youth are the most knowledgeable and the future of our Jamat,” says Amiri. She suggests we look to them for inspiring initiatives that keep recyclables out of landfills.

With files from Anissa Sadroudine.


This article originally appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of The Ismaili Canada. 

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