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Can you save the environment while celebrating Purim? We’re giving it a try.

For many Jews, Purim is an opportunity to celebrate female protagonists, show off our costume design skills, and drink until we can’t distinguish between heroes and villains. But for others, it’s a holiday that pays homage to a plant-based diet.

Richard Schwartz, President Emeritus of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America, points out that according to the Talmud, Esther likely became a vegan after marrying Ahasuerus, in order to avoid consuming non-kosher meat in his palace. Doing so allowed her to “avoid violating the kosher dietary laws while keeping her Jewish identity secret,” he said. As the legend goes, her diet consisted of seeds, nuts, and legumes — thus the modern-day prevalence of poppy seeds on the Purim table.

These days, most of us are luckier than Esther — as long as you’re not married to a despot who may or may not behead you for your faith, it’s pretty easy to keep kosher without subsisting on legumes. But plenty of Jews are becoming more conscious of the effects our diets and daily habits have on the environment. And while everyone loves to revel on Purim night, it’s not as fun to look at the next day’s garbage filled with discarded crafts, disposable costumes, and endless packaging from mishloach manot.

So what’s an environmentally-conscious Jew to do? We’ve consulted the experts and assembled some tips on eating and entertaining sustainably this Purim season.

Ditch the meat — or even the dairy!

Mezze on display at Meshek Barzilay.

Mezze on display at Meshek Barzilay. Image by Courtesy of Meshek Barzilay

It’s pretty easy to celebrate Purim without meat. The holiday’s most iconic food, hamentaschen, are a vegetarian cookie, and since many Purim celebrations serve light snacks, rather than full meals, it’s possible to get through the holiday on sweets alone. That said, if you really want to challenge yourself, try going vegan for a day with this egg-less hamentaschen recipe from Tel Aviv vegan hot spot Meshek Barzilay.

You could also honor Purim’s connection to vegetarianism by cooking vegetarian meals in the surrounding days. Chef Dahlia Klein recommends this Persian upside-down rice dish, something Esther might have eaten at one of her own banquets. And Jewish food historian Tori Avey honors Esther’s seed habit with poppy seed pancakes — with these on your plate, who needs breakfast sausage? She also likes to serve bourekas, which share their triangular shape with hamentaschen and can be filled with the vegetable of your choice.

If you’re worried that guests will feel deprived by a vegetarian menu, Jewish lifestyle blogger Rebekah Lowin has some ideas to spice things up. Breathe life into boring veggie platters by using cookie cutters to cut fruits and vegetables into triangles or Jewish stars. Or organize a meal around a theme ingredient — she suggests poppy seeds, which go with literally everything. Overall, she says, the trick is to “think additively,” in terms of bringing new flavors and ingredients to the table rather than taking others away.

Change your craft game.

Edible groggers are perfect for grown-up Purim parties.

Edible groggers are perfect for grown-up Purim parties. Image by Rebekah Lowin

For children, crafts are the mainstay of Purim celebrations. But no matter how lovingly they’re assembled at Hebrew school, there’s a good chance those groggers and crowns will be broken or discarded before Passover, And many common craft ingredients, like sequins and glitter, are toxic for animals and the environment once they hit the landfill. Instead of buying new materials or craft kits, find crafting inspiration in your recycling bin. These groggers draw from household materials you probably already have, while crafts like these Purim fish require only cardboard and markers.

Another way to avoid disposable crafts is to make edible ones. Lowin recommends these edible groggers, a perfect activity for older kids: as long as you’re willing to eat up, no waste is necessary.

You can also focus on crafts that will stand the test of time. Sarah Kay Lacks, programming director at the Marlene Meyerson JCC, said that her goal for Purim celebrations is to “send people home with items that will make their homes more connected to Judaism.” This year, kids (and adults!) at the JCC will turn the Purim megillah into illuminated texts fit for display on the walls of their homes.

Go old school with the costumes.

Use cardboard and other recycled materials for low-waste costumes.

Use cardboard and other recycled materials for low-waste costumes. Image by iStock

Who among us has not made elaborate plans to attend a costume party in a homemade Ruth Bader Ginsburg collar, only to end up at Party City shopping for a sexy nurse costume moments before festivities begin? Okay, maybe this isn’t a universal scenario. But especially if you have kids, store-bought costumes can be really convenient in a pinch. We’re not here to guilt you into resurrecting bubbe’s sewing machine.

But we can tell you that shopping at thrift stores — which often stock costumes as well as generally wacky items in need of a loving home — reduces waste. If you want to avoid shopping at all, you can dress up as a celebrity or pop culture icon with household items and minimal hassle. One last hack for the truly desperate among us: turns out novelty face masks make awesome Purim costumes.

Make sure your mishloach manot are gifts to your friends and the environment.

Jars make great containers for mishloach manot.

Jars make great containers for mishloach manot. Image by iStock

On Purim, the Torah commands us to honor our friends with small gifts — not to terrorize everyone we know with packs of junk wrapped in yards of cellophane.

As mishloach manot grow ever more elaborate and expensive, they also produce more waste. But it’s easy to cut down on disposable packaging by wrapping gifts in something reusable, like a mug, bowl, or jar. You can cut down on packaging (and prep time!) further by buying bulk foods like nuts or dried fruit.

And if you’re racking your brain to come up with yet another original theme, sustainable packaging can actually help your mishloach manot stand out from the crowd. Lowin recommends this sangria serving jar filled with everything you need to whip up a quick punch, or these tiny jars packed with cookies and candy.

Good luck, and may your Purim celebrations be full of revelry — and recycling.

Irene Katz Connelly writes about culture and entertainment. You can contact her at [email protected].

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