Making Hanukkah Green, Inspiring Future Generations

This blog is by guest writer Leah Schuckit, JCRC Fall 2016 Social Justice Intern. As a young Jewish kid, Hanukkah was my favorite time of the year. I can still remember being in grade school and impatiently waiting for my Hebrew School lessons to turn to the Maccabees and the Temple menorah’s miracle. I remember the way that certain brands of candles smelled once you lit them and the excitement I felt when my family would start singing Hanukkah songs. I remember all of this alongside the more central concepts of Judaism I was taught in my childhood—most notably, the Jewish focus on making the world a better place for future generations. Hanukkah, while it may be a minor Jewish holiday to some, is an especially significant event every year for many Jewish children. Incorporating eco-friendly practices into your family’s Hanukkah rituals not only contributes to healing our Earth but also instills the importance of being environmentally-conscious in the next generation of Jewish children. Here are a few ways to incorporate environmentalism into your upcoming Hanukkah festivities: • Buy Local for your Latkes o Shrink your carbon footprint by getting potatoes and onions from local markets that operate winter hours like City Greens Market, Soulard Farmers Market, or Tower Grove Farmers’ Market. Large-scale, non-local food companies often use harmful agricultural processes to boost profits through increased production of pesticide-ridden, chemically-altered foods. Talk to your children about the value of buying local: you help to heal the earth while supporting local businesses. • Make the Most of your Menorah o Candle lighting is a staple of Hanukkah festivities, but you can reduce the harm it causes while still maintaining its magical effect. Look into buying candles made from natural beeswax or vegetable oil. If you have more than one child, consider only lighting one menorah and have your children take turns lighting the candles. It is custom to leave your menorah in the window for the public to see, so turn off some or all of your lights to better appreciate the menorah’s magic. • Do-It-Yourself Recycled Hanukkah Decorations o In the time leading up to Hanukkah, save up scraps of materials you might otherwise throw away. Have a craft day with your children to make recycled and recyclable decorations for your home. Consider helping your children to make their own wrapping paper with scraps of paper left behind from other projects. Chag...

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Three Simple Steps toward Going Green

If you are someone who cares about protecting the environment, you may find yourself frustrated at times because you are not doing as much as you could to change your lifestyle. While caring for God’s creation and reducing waste (baal tashchit) are important principles in Judaism, you don’t have to do it all to make a difference. Here are a few simple suggestions to get you going on the right path. 1. Start slow and keep it going: As with anything in life, creating eco-friendly change is more likely to succeed if you take it one small step at a time. Don’t try to change too much, too fast. For example, as you run out of conventional cleaning supplies, replace them with natural alternatives. Allow each change to settle in and become more routine before you attempt a new one. Your changes will be less dramatic but more sustainable. 2. Not doing everything does not mean you can’t do anything: You may not realistically be able to put solar panels along your entire roof or get 100 percent off the grid, but don’t let that stop you from doing the smaller things that still matter. There are many simple things you can do that cost almost nothing and make a difference. A few examples include using public transportation, shopping at secondhand stores and eating a more plant-based diet. Shift your focus from what you are not doing to what you are doing. 3. What you buy is less important than what you do: Don’t beat yourself over the head because you don’t drive a hybrid or have a closet full of fair trade organic clothing. The simplest and most effective way to create a positive environmental impact is by reducing your consumption. Buy less. An eco-friendly life does not have to be time consuming or expensive. Do what you can and start with small steps. The change will add up. Resources: Earth...

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Sukkot and Eco-Friendly Eating

Sukkot, the harvest holiday that takes place on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei, marks the end of the agricultural year. Jews give thanks for the bounty of the earth. We commemorate the holiday by decorating our sukkah with fruits, vegetables, and harvest items. We shake the lulav and the etrog to connect ourselves to the Earth as we eat and spend time outside. It is fitting during the traditionally agricultural holiday of Sukkot to think about our food choices. Here are a few ways we can be more eco-friendly in our eating and food purchasing habits: • Buy local: Plan to buy as many fruits and vegetables as possible from local sources. Most area farmer’s markets stay open weekly until late October. You also can find monthly indoor winter farmer’s markets and locally grown foods in conventional supermarkets. By buying locally and learning to eat what is in season, you will be supporting foods grown close to home. Locally grown food is healthier and has better nutritional content that food flown in from hundreds of miles away. You also will reduce your carbon footprint and support the local economy. • Buy organic: Traditionally grown vegetables likely contain pesticides that are harmful to your health and the environment. Organic vegetables both taste better and are better for you, while helping the planet. • Eat less meat: It takes 100 pounds of grain feed to produce a pound of meat. Less meat eating allows more soil to be used for plant-based foods while causing less water and soil contamination. It’s simply more ecological. • Look for eco-friendly restaurants when dining out: When you do eat out, plan to make sure that the restaurant you choose has earth-friendly practices, such as buying food from local growers and composting and recycling as much as possible. In the St. Louis area, look for restaurants designated as members of the Green Dining Alliance. Find out more at https://greendiningalliance.org/ Chag Sameach and Happy Eco-Friendly...

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Tips for a Native Garden

Although late summer or early fall may seem like an odd time to begin a garden, it is a great time to plan the garden and get plants and flowers into the ground before cold weather hits. If you are thinking about planting a garden, consider creating a native garden as the best way to restore native ecosystems and be kind to the environment. Why Use Native Plants? Before planting a native garden, it is important to have a grasp of what native plants are. By definition, native plants are plants that have existed in a particular region for so long that they have adapted to that ecosystem. This means they will grow naturally despite environmental factors that would kill non-native plants. Native plants do not require much watering or pesticides and require absolutely no fertilizers. Basically, they save a lot of time and money. Not only is it financially convenient to plant a native garden, it is also incredibly beneficial for the ecosystem. Native plants, besides being great for aesthetics, attract all sorts of birds, bees and butterflies, creating a whole habitat in your backyard. They also reduce air pollution. Of course, not every plant is a native plant. While some plants help the environment, others will damage it. The important thing is identifying which is which. The technical term for the ‘bad’ plants is invasive species. Generally speaking, invasive species are plants that have been transported from a completely different region and that promptly take over where they are planted. For example, the Japanese Hop coils around the stems of other plants for support, smothering them. Some invasive species in Missouri are Honeysuckle, Japanese Hop, Winter Creeper, Garlic Mustard or Tree of Heaven. Avoid planting these anywhere in your garden unless you want to do some serious weeding. Greening Your Community: Saving the Planet One Garden at a Time Get more tips about the best way to create and expand a native garden by attending “Greening Your Community: Saving the Planet One Garden at a Time” on Tuesday September 20 at 7 PM at the Ethical Society of St. Louis. Register and find out more at...

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Go Back to School and Be Green

With many area schools beginning their fall semester between mid-August and early September, many students and their parents will be heading to the stores for back-to-school supplies. Your back-to-school purchases make a huge difference. Here’s why: 14 billion pencils are produced every year, many made with wood from ancient forests. Americans use about 31.5 million tons of printing and writing paper each year, requiring 535 million trees (most from virgin tree fiber) and 12 billion gallons of oil to make. The average American consumes about 660 pounds of paper per year, compared to 550 pounds in Japan and only about 8.8 pounds in India. Focusing on reducing waste and preserving natural resources is a core tenet in Judaism. Use the steps below to help reduce waste and protect the environment as you shop for back-to-school items: • Re-use and Recycle: Where possible, re-use binders, pencils and markers from last year. There may not be a need to replace everything you purchased just 12 months ago. • Purchase eco-friendly supplies: Look for recycled content paper, notebooks, green printing supplies and pencils made from certified, sustainable-harvest wood. These items can be found in most office supply stores, including Staples and Office Depot. • Buy school clothes from vintage and resale shops: The St. Louis area offers a range of resale clothing shops, including vintage shops for the middle and high school age student. A few area resale shops (that also benefit worthy area charities) are the National Council of Jewish Women- St. Louis Section shop (located at 295 N. Lindbergh 63141; http://www.ncjwstl.org/the-resale-shop/) ReFresh, a resale shop to benefit the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition (1710 S. Brentwood 63144; http://refresh.foster-adopt.org/) and The Scholar Shop (with two locations-8211 Clayton Road 63117 and 7930 Big Bend Blvd. 63119; http://scholarshopstl.org/ ) • Create a waste-free lunch: Make a waste-free lunch and make a difference. It is estimated that the average school-age child using a disposable lunch bag and disposable plastic bags generates 67 pounds of waste each school year. Buy a reusable lunch bag or box, try a thermos for drinks rather than using disposable juice boxes, and bring re-usable bags or plastic containers for sandwiches and salads. Happy eco-friendly first day of school! Resources: Green Schools Initiative...

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Energy Conservation for your Home: Summer Edition

The weather may be hot and humid, but summer is still a good time to be mindful of the importance of protecting God’s creation, the Earth, by reducing energy waste in your home. Below are a few simple suggestions to get you started. These tips will both help reduce waste and reduce costs. Green Lighting Tips: • Do not place lamps near a thermostat. The thermostat senses the heat produced by the lamp which can change how often the air conditioner will run. • Use dimmers, motion detectors, and timers on indoor and outdoor lighting • Use CFL lightbulbs wherever possible, as they reduce energy use by up to 75 per cent Green Tips for Cooling Your Home: • Change or clean your air conditioner filter regularly to keep the system running most efficiently • Have your air conditioning system checked annually to make sure it is running smoothly • Install a programmable thermostat to regulate your cooling when you are not at home • Plant deciduous trees outside windows on the south side of your house to provide shade in summer Clothes washing and drying: • Hang clothes to dry on a clothes tree or clothesline, at least some of the time. This also will make your clothes last longer due to less wear and tear from drying them a dryer at high heat • Empty the lint trap after each use of the dryer when you do use it • Do full loads when using the washing machine for less water waste • Use cold or warm cycles instead of hot cycles for wash, because heating the water for laundry consumes 90 per cent of the energy of the laundry process Cooking Tips: • Use a microwave rather than an oven, range or toaster where possible • Cover pans when cooking to keep heat in • Use the appropriate size burner on the range-small for small pots, large for large pots • Choose small appliances over big ones for cooking (e.g. rice cooker, electric tea kettle or toaster oven over using a large pan for rice, a large kettle for tea or the full size oven for cooking) Keep cool and eco-friendly this...

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