A Sustainable Hanukkah
Hanukkah can be one of the messiest Jewish holidays; waste is generated from wrapping paper, gelt wrappers, and wax drippings. To top it off, all the frying in oil can be both unhealthy and unsustainable. But this year, it doesn’t have to be. JCarrot and Hazon offer sustainable, healthy Hanukkah resources to green your holiday, so you can spend more time enjoying, and less time worrying about your global impact. From eco-friendly candles to sustainable gifts, the following suggestions can help to enrich any Hanukkah celebration. Also, these sustainable resources can be used as activities that can make for a great addition to any Hanukkah party. This year, opt for sustainability when celebrating Hanukkah by incorporating all, or even a few, of the following suggestions.
Use environmentally sustainable candles. Beeswax, soy, and palm oil provide more natural alternatives to the traditional paraffin Hanukkah candles. Check out Big Dipper Wax Works for environmentally sustainable Hanukkah candles.
Green your Hanukkah decorations. Try crafting a dreidel out of recyclable materials. Remember making an alphabet block hannukiah as a child? Recreate the experience with your family or community, and see how creative you can make your hannukiah. For inspiration, check out this article about a Green Menorah Contest. Decorating your home? Make your decorations from recycled or recyclable paper with family. If you’re not into crafting, look into buying an eco-friendly hannukiah that is made from recycled products or uses LED lights.
Make your own gifts. Take a photo and create your own frame, knit a scarf or a hat, or make your own beeswax candles. Also, bake a special Hanukkah dessert to give to friends and family. Personal gifts are not only special, but they can also add meaning to your celebration.
Give money, or your time. Instead of giving chocolate Hanukkah gelt, give money to your local emergency food provider or hunger relief organization. For help finding a local emergency food provider near you, check out Ample Harvest. If you can, donate your time to a local emergency food provider or shelter to help make someone else’s holiday.
Buy Fair Trade chocolate. If you still want chocolate gelt, opt for Fair Trade choices. I recommend: Chocolove, Dagoba, Equal Exchange, and Sunspire. Try making your own gelt using this great Jew & the Carrot recipe.
Save paper. Send environmentally-friendly e-cards as opposed to the traditional paper cards. Or, buy cards made from recycled paper. In addition, use recycled or recyclable paper when wrapping gifts.
Buy Sustainable. When buying gifts, make sure to look for sustainably made products. Check out clothing made by ethically treated workers, recyclable KleanKanteens, and if you’re buying for a cycler, check out the Hazon store for great cycling jerseys.
8 Days of Action. After lighting your menorah each evening, dedicate yourself to being more environmentally sustainable and enacting food justice when possible. Volunteer at your local emergency food provider one night, cook a meal for someone recovering from surgery the next night, and screen a movie relating to food justice another night.
Use local. Potatoes and other root vegetables are in abundance during the winter. Stop by your local farmers market and stock up prior to making your Hanukkah latkes. For a fun Hanukkah activity, host a latke cook-off to see who can make the most creative latkes. My suggestion: mix yams and sweet potatoes for a delicious spin on the traditional latke.
Buy organic oil. Since Hanukkah frequently involves oil in some form for every meal, buying organic oil ensures a more sustainable celebration. Check out Negev Nectars, which makes sustainable olive oil in the south of Israel. For a healthier alternative, skip the deep frying and bake instead.
Change up your latke. Rather than buying a traditional brand of sour cream, stock up on an all-natural or organic sour cream. More of an applesauce fan? Make your own from apples purchased locally or buy an organic brand.
Cut down on waste. If you’re hosting a Hanukkah party or large communal meal, use recyclable, reusable, or compostable plates and flatware. For tips on cutting back on waste, check out Chapter 3 of the Hazon Food Guide.
Buy Fair Trade.In addition to fair trade gelt, Fair Trade Judaica is home to a collection of fair trade products, including: menorahs, oil, dreidels, and decorations to help enhance your celebration of Hanukkah. Use Hanukkah as an opportunity to raise awareness about sweatshop labor and teach about ethical labor practices, while simultaneously supporting Fair Trade products.
To see all the sustainable Hanukkah resources, and sustainable resources for other Jewish holidays, visit the Hazon website.
Alyssa Berkowitz is the Food Programs Intern at Hazon and is a senior in the Joint Program with the Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University.