Get Ready for Earth Day

By JEI intern, Maggie McCarthy Though the earth sustains us, its health depends upon our care and responsible use of its resources. Protecting the planet is both a religious and spiritual imperative. The Hebrew phrase l’dor v’dor captures this central command. We must pass on a thriving earth “from generation to generation”. Earth Day provides the perfect occasion to remember our duty to the planet. In attempts to raise environmental awareness, Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin proposed a day of celebration, instituting the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Now over 1 billion people in 192 countries participate, making it one of the largest civic observances in the world. If you’d like to learn more about sustainability or simply celebrate the vibrant planet we inhabit, the St. Louis Earth Day organization offers opportunities for education and fun. The St. Louis Earth Day Festival in Forest Park has been around for 27 years and encourages locals to “Think Global, Act STL”. Come to learn about local businesses offering sustainable services and products, connect with non-profits that embrace environmentally conscious values, participate in educational activities, enjoy diverse cuisine, and see local musicians and artists. Entry is free and all (even your pets!) are welcome. If you can’t make it to the festival but would still like to give back, visit the Recycling Extravaganza at St. Louis Community College, Forest Park Campus on April 3 from 10 AM – 2 PM. Several local businesses collecting everything from old health equipment to Mardi Gras beads will have recycling booths ready for your donations. For all of the deep dish pizza lovers, Pi Pizza will have a food truck on site from 11 AM to 1 PM. Learn more about both events here. If you can’t make it to either event, there are still many ways to celebrate Earth Day on your own. Here are a few suggestions: 1) Try carpooling, riding your bike, or taking public transportation to cut down on fuel emissions. 2) Purchase more local, organic food. 3) Try a new recipe at home instead of eating out. 4) Find a place to donate unwanted items rather than throwing them out. Many of these habits can easily be incorporated in your daily life. We can all celebrate Earth Day every...

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Greening Your Purim

The Jewish holiday of Purim, which begins this year on the evening of March 23, celebrates the deliverance of the Jews from their enemies in the biblical Book of Esther. Purim typically involves reading from the Megillah, dressing up in festive costumes , eating hamantashen and giving gifts of food and drink to others (Shalach Manot). With a little creativity, you can make this holiday more eco-friendly. Below are some suggestions: • Do a clothing/costume exchange with friends: Instead of buying a new costume for the holiday, gather with friends (both adults and children) and do a swap of costumes. Reusing and recycling a costume previously used is key. • Make your Shalach Manot gift more environmentally friendly: There are several ways you can do this. First, put your food items in a reusable package, such as a reusable cloth bag or a Mason jar. Second, find organic and local food items to put in your bag. Finally, minimize packaging. Items such as apples, pears and other fresh fruits don’t need to be placed in separate bags. Reduce waste as much as possible. • Consider focusing on the needy on this holiday: Giving money and gifts to the poor is an integral part of celebrating Purim. Consider delivering your Shalach Manot gift bags to residents of an area nursing home this year. In addition, donate any unopened food or gifts you don’t need or can’t use after the holiday ends to a local food pantry (such as the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry), rather than throwing anything out. • Cook with organic and healthy ingredients for your own Purim festivities: If you are making hamantashen, look for organic jams and jellies for your filling. If you are inviting others over for a meal to celebrate the holiday, focus on foods that are local and healthy for your Purim table. Look for winter farmers markets to buy your ingredients. Chag...

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Native Plants For Everyone

By guest blogger, JCRC Environmental Intern Maggie McCarthy While February may seem early to think about gardening, planning ahead in the winter months allows necessary time for creating a healthy and sustainable home garden. Despite the tendency to think of landscaping as purely ornamental, harvesting appropriate plants can bolster the environment and fuel local ecosystems. Giving such thought and care to gardening endeavors enables us to protect and preserve the earth God has given us. When planning your home garden, rather than simply picking the first plants you find in the nursery, it is best to find plants that naturally thrive in your local climate. Native Plants require lower maintenance: Native plants may require more thought and effort initially. Once they are established, however, they require less fertilizer, watering, and pesticides, making them easier to care for. Often disease and insect resistant, these plants become largely self sustaining. Native Plants require less water: Modern lawns depend upon excessive amounts of water to thrive. You can reduce the amount of water needed on your lawn by “going native”. Deeper root systems in plants native to the Midwest increase the soil’s ability to store water, also reducing runoff and flooding. Native Plants are best suited for local conditions: They have evolved with the regional geology, climate and wildlife, tolerating local weather conditions and animal life. In addition, they attract butterflies, birds, and other beneficial insects rather than weeds and pests. Due to their natural thriving in the regional climate, they reduce the need for mowing and increase biodiversity. Native Plants sustain local wildlife: Not only do native plants reduce the need for maintenance, they also sustain native wildlife without damaging local plant communities. A lack of biodiversity in suburban landscapes often damages the health of local species. Plant diversity in your yard provides protective cover for many animals, food for squirrels and other mammals, nectar for hummingbirds, and many other benefits. These plants can enhance community health and encourage all life forms to grow and thrive. Native Plants encourage natural foraging behaviors: A study done in Arizona displayed the rich benefits of native plants in suburban and domestic landscaping. After monitoring the behavior of Sonoran Desert birds, the study found that lands mimicking the natural landscape made additional bird feed less necessary. In the yards with more natural vegetation, the birds spent less time and energy searching for seeds as they found enough food among the plants. Happy Gardening! Local Nurseries: Garden Heights Nursery: 1605 South Big Bend, Richmond Heights, MO 63117. http://gardenheights.com/home.html Sugar Creek Gardens: 1001 N. Woodlawn. St. Louis, MO 63122. http://sugarcreekgardens.com/ Kirkwood Farmer’s Market: 150 East Argonne, Kirkwood, MO 63122. http://www.downtownkirkwood.com/farmers-market/ Pure Air Natives: Order online at http://www.pureairnatives.com/. Greenscape Gardens and Gifts: 2832 Barrett Station Rd, Manchester, MO 63021. http://www.greenscapegardens.com/ Hartke Nursery: 1030 N Warson Rd, St. Louis, MO 63132. http://www.hartkenursery.com/ Missouri Wildflowers Nursery: 9814 Pleasant Hill Rd, Jefferson City, MO 65109. http://mowildflowers.net/ Upcoming Event: Native Landscaping for Your Home, Wednesday, February 24, 7:00 PM, Kopolow Building, 12 Millstone Campus Drive, 63146. Hear from Tracy Boaz, Missouri Department of Conservation, on ways to incorporate native plants in your home garden. Those in attendance will receive vouchers for a native plant from a local nursery. RSVP required to Gail Wechsler at (314) 442-3894 or gwechsler@jcrcstl.org. Additional Resources: Native Plants...

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Support Your Local Farmer

This guest blog was written by Maggie McCarthy, JCRC Environmental Intern. When shopping for groceries, many of us are quick to turn to the closest chain store for food items. We often forget to uphold the principle of “Bal Tash’chit” which urges us not to waste. This value is central to Judaism and has the potential to stave off further environmental damage. Although we may not see the potential for waste in purchases from supermarkets, oftentimes these stores harm the national environment and detract from local business. While many boast convenience, they often fail to provide locally sourced meats, grains, dairy products, and produce. Due to their dependence on agri-business giants, they rarely provide fresh, seasonal items. Thus, shoppers often miss out on the natural variety and flavor found in local food. Try branching out and exploring the different ways to incorporate local, seasonal food into your diet. If you need a little convincing, here are some reasons to find and support local growers and farmers markets: 1. The lie of convenience. Although major grocery stores claim to save the consumer money and time, the crowds and lines often add unnecessary time and stress. In addition, their limited selection fails to represent the wealth of variety and experimentation available in the kitchen. Rather than simply stocking up on groceries at a chain store, consider exploring farms and farmers markets selling local items. From eggs and honey to meat and potatoes, you can find all of the essentials for your cooking needs. 2. Fresh and Tasty. Food purchased from local farmers markets is often the freshet and tastiest available. Rather than buying from a grower in a different state and shipping the food to the store, farmer’s markets get their products from the source. This process also cuts down on unnecessary waste and fuel emissions. In shopping at a local farmers market, you familiarize yourself with the cycles of nature in your region. This may require some adaptation in your home cooking, but also provides exciting ways to try new things. 3. Healthier Soil. The growth and purchasing of local crops sustains variety in agriculture. In purchasing food from community farms, consumers reduce reliance on crop monocultures, encouraging rich biodiversity in plant life. This then fuels a complex web of biological activity within the soil. The soil acts as a natural guard against greenhouse gas emissions and enhances plant health. 4. Support Local Families. Wholesale prices that farmers get for their products are low, sometimes equivalent to the cost of production. When local producers sell directly to the consumer, they get full retail price which helps them to sustain their business on the land. 5. Invest in the Future. Supporting local farmers ensures the existence of community farms in the future. Due to the uncertainty of our future with energy and climate change, the availability of locally grown food becomes all the more important. 6. Culinary Inspiration. The unique produce at local markets may not fit into your traditional recipes. However, the rich variety found at farmers markets will introduce you to diverse flavors that will inevitably transform your cooking. Look for new recipes to incorporate fresh, local food. 7. Protect the environment. Food in the U.S. travels 1,500 miles on average to make it to your plate. This shipping...

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Rededicating Ourselves to Helping The Environment and the Poor During the Holiday Season

By Guest Blogger Maggie McCarthy, JEI Environmental Intern The winter months provide several occasions for celebration. Hanukkah is the festival of lights and celebrates the victory of the Jewish people over religious persecution. The secular New Year is a time for reflection and renewal. Though we find ample opportunity for gratitude during these holidays, many in our local community struggle with hunger and poverty. These issues result from, not only a lack of resources, but also from the mounting environmental crisis. Tumultuous environmental conditions around the world make nutritious and eco-friendly foods more difficult to obtain. During this time of celebration and rest, let us also strive to sustain our local environment and, by extension, serve those in need. Despite the widespread nature of hunger and adverse environmental conditions in St. Louis, there are several avenues for service and change. Here are just a few of the many ways you can make an impact, both during the winter holidays and year round: 1. Reduce waste through recovery and donation. There are several ways to cut down on waste. For example, if you have any fruit trees in your yard, call a gleaning group to harvest your fruits to donate to a local food bank. If you’re hosting a party with catered food, save the inevitable leftovers and donate them. Partner with your school or work cafeteria to ensure that unused food makes it to a food pantry. Individuals or businesses who donate food items to local food pantries are protected from any possible liability under the Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. 2. Grow and donate produce in your own garden. Find plants that thrive in your local climate and research proper seasons for harvest. Start small with a single plant and work your way out from there. Even the slightest changes in food consumption contribute to a healthier ecosystem. Consider donating excess produce to a local food bank. Not only will you save money on your own food items, you will also reduce food waste and supply for the needs of others in the community. 3. Volunteer at a community garden. If you don’t consider yourself a green thumb, find a community garden near you and give your time. These gardens often provide produce to poor communities. Consider the “Garden of Eden” on the Jewish Community Campus. These raised garden beds are located near the former outdoor pool at the Jewish Community Center. Their produce will be donated to the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry. 4. Make a charitable donation. Rather than donating items that a food pantry may or may not use, give funds. Food banks and other non-profits also depend on monetary donations and grants to sustain their services. Because they purchase food in bulk and at discounted rates, they can obtain necessary food at a fraction of the retail price. Charities also depend on monetary gifts in order to sustaining the overhead costs of their organizations. Monetary donations allow organizations to use funds where they are most necessary, thus better servicing the community. 5. Support Local Farms. Individuals in poor communities often suffer the harmful effects of pollution. In purchasing from a local farmer, you support sustainable farming practices and protect the living conditions of individuals in underprivileged areas. In purchasing produce and other goods...

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Ways to Reduce Waste When Dining Out

There are a number of ways that you can reduce waste as you dine out at restaurants or head to a café for a warm drink in the cold weather. Reducing waste (the principal of baal tashchit) is a core value in Judaism and can go a long way toward helping the environment, especially added up over time. Consider ways to reduce paper cup waste: Take a thermos with you when you order coffee in a coffee shop, indicate that your order is “for here” and ask for the mug rather than the paper cup. You can then pour the coffee into your thermos. Also consider brewing your own coffee at home to take along in a thermos. Either of these approaches will reduce the amount of paper being thrown in a landfill. Reduce waste at a restaurant by sharing meals and avoiding extras: According to a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, diners don’t finish 17 percent of restaurant meals. Fifty-five percent of that plate waste doesn’t get taken home, and for the food that does get boxed up, 38 percent never gets eaten. To eliminate the problem of food waste at a restaurant, consider sharing a meal if you know portions are large, and avoid an extra side dish that comes with your meal if you know you won’t eat it. Bring your own container for restaurant leftovers: Sad to say, there are still many restaurants that use leftovers containers that can’t be recycled and that don’t break down in landfills (such as Styrofoam). If you expect you will have leftovers after your restaurant meal, get in the habit of bringing your own reusable container and use it to put your leftovers in that container. Dine and drink at “Green” establishments: Many urban areas now have a process for rating restaurants in terms of their environmental sustainability. In St. Louis, look for a certification from the Green Dining Alliance, a program of St. Louis Earth Day. Green Dining Alliance certification means that the restaurant has been certified to demonstrate a commitment to environmentally friendly practices. This includes using local, organic and/or compostable ingredients and leaving behind a low impact trail of trash and pollution (such as by extensive use of recycling, conserving water and energy, etc). You can find a list of Green Dining Alliance restaurants at http://www.greendiningalliance.org/dine/list/. A rating system is used to indicate what St. Louis Earth Day calls “Shades of...

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