Eco-friendly Eating: What You Eat and its Impact on the Planet

Every day and every meal, we make food choices. When we do, we invariably make an impact on the planet because different foods carry different environmental footprints. Below are a few things to keep in mind in terms of what you eat and its effect on God’s creation, the Earth. • Choose less meat in your diet: Most if not all of the climate pollution that our food creates happens before we buy it. The extent of these impacts depends on how much energy, land, feed or fertilizer, processing, and transportation is required to put a particular food on our tables. Yet sometimes the food itself is the problem. Cattle, for example, produce 34% of all U.S. emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Some of the meats with the largest carbon footprint include: Lamb, which has the highest emissions of any food, generating 86.4 pounds of greenhouse gases for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) eaten and beef, which is number two with 59.6 pounds of gases produced per 2.2 pounds consumed. Eliminating or reducing the amount of lamb and beef in your diet will go a long way toward reducing your own carbon footprint. • Choose grass-fed, pasture-raised and organic meats: If you prefer not to reduce or eliminate meat from your diet, you are best off eating meat that is grass-fed, pasture-raised and/or organic and locally raised. Meat that is organic, locally raised and/or grass fed has a lower carbon impact in terms of producing the meat as it goes from farm to your table. • Fish has a lesser environmental impact than beef or poultry, but it is still preferable to buy wild fish as opposed to farmed fish. The former is both healthier and better for the planet as its cultivation uses less energy and has a lower carbon footprint. • Also try to reduce your cheese intake, as cheese is number three on the list in terms of having a high carbon footprint. Try eating more strong flavored cheeses like cheddar and bleu. You can use less of these and still retain a distinctive cheese taste in your dishes. • Go vegetarian: Try going vegetarian for all or some of your meals. There is such a wide variety of tasty vegetables readily available today at local farmers markets, conventional grocery stores or through joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Pick up a good vegetarian cookbook and you might not miss that meat after all. In general, it’s no secret that the lower we eat on the food chain, the fewer impacts we’ll create. Even making small changes to your diet can go a long...

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Greening Your Passover in 2015

Passover celebrates the exodus of the Jewish people from slavery to freedom. It is also rooted in the agricultural cycle of the year and coincides this year with the beginning of spring. It references a time when our ancestors were more connected on a daily basis to the natural world. To become more connected to the Earth and go “eco friendly” for this holiday, consider following all or some of the tips below: • Help the environment by reducing waste as you empty your home of chametz (leavened foods such as breads, pastas, etc). Give leftover bread and grain-based items to area food pantries rather than throwing them out. • Clean your house using environmentally friendly cleaning products. Consider brands such as Trader Joe’s or Seventh Generation. Or make your own cleaning product by combining water, lemon juice and a splash of vinegar. • As much as possible, buy your Passover fruits and vegetables from local, organic sources. This reduces your carbon footprint as you will not be purchasing produce flown in from hundreds of miles away. Cook with vegetables that are in season. • Use soy or beeswax candles for your Passover table. These create less soot and are more sustainable than paraffin candles. • Avoid disposable plates and utensils. If your level of observance requires using separate dinnerware during Passover, invest in purchasing separate dishes that you can use over again each year. Don’t clog landfills by using plates, cups and cutlery that get thrown away after a single use. • Use washable napkins and a washable table cloth for your Seders. This is another way to reduce waste. • If travelling for Passover, consider carpooling with others and travelling at off-peak times to avoid wasting gas. • Incorporate environmental themes as part of your Seder. Find one example at http://www.rac.org/sites/default/files/freedom%20seder%20.pdf (Freedom Seder for the Earth) Have a joyous and green...

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Eco-friendly Tips for Winter

As we head into the last month of winter, being mindful not to waste (the Jewish principle of baal tashchit) and to care for the Earth should still be on your mind. Even in the cold months, there are things you can do to use less energy and find winter-friendly products that are less harmful to the environment. Below are a few suggestions: • User safer antifreeze: Just 2 ounces of the standard ethylene glycol antifreeze can kill a dog. Propylene glycol offers a much less toxic alternative (although with fossil fuel origins, it’s hardly eco-friendly). Since both kinds pick up hazardous heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and chromium during use, recycle spent antifreeze to minimize impact. Ask your repair shop about on-site recycling or find a local collection facility at earth911.org. • Fight frost naturally: To prevent ice from covering home and car windows, rub the inside of the glass with a saltwater-soaked sponge; dry with a clean cloth. You won’t see it, but a residue from the salt will remain to ward off frost. For extra oomph, spray a solution of three parts white vinegar and one part water on the outside of the glass, then wipe dry. • Use better de-icers: Steer clear of rock salt (sodium chloride) and urea-based de-icers. Not only can they pollute habitats with plant-killing runoff, but they can also corrode concrete, destroy your lawn (even a snow-covered one), and contaminate water supplies. Better bets? Sand, which provides traction without damaging salt-sensitive landscapes, and calcium chloride, which may still hurt vegetation, but is free of the cyanide present in rock salt • Don’t idle your car: Don’t let your car idle for more than 30 seconds. Beyond wasting fuel, excessive idling strains cylinders, spark plugs, exhaust systems, and engines, which work best in motion — not in neutral. The best way to warm up the car? Drive it. • Let in the sun: Even in winter, the sun’s rays provide a fair amount of warmth. Take advantage of this free heating by opening blinds and curtains on the windows that receive the most light (usually on the east side). At night, draw heavy insulating drapes to help preserve warmth, or invest in “low-e” Energy Star-certified windows (especially on the north side of the house). Learn more at energystar.gov. Resources:...

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Going Green for Valentine’s Day

If there is a special someone in your life, Valentine’s Day is a day when you probably feel compelled to celebrate and give a gift. At the same time, this holiday can be the height of commercialism and yet another reason to shop for high end “stuff.” Consider rethinking the holiday and using it as a way to show love while being mindful of environmental impact. Below are a few ways to do so: –Give an eco-friendly gift: Avoid the mall or department store. Go eco-friendly with your gift. Some ideas include fair trade chocolate, organic handmade soap or a handbag made from recycled products. Shop at your local fair trade store, organic market or similar venue to find just the right gift. –Give an experience rather than a gift in a box: Another way to be more respectful of the environment when you do Valentine’s Day shopping is to buy a gift of a dinner out or tickets to a show or concert. That plush teddy bear or pair of earrings may just sit on the shelf or in a drawer. Live theater or a meal out can offer a great experience without generating more waste in your home. — Give a gift of your time or experience: Sometimes the best gifts are the ones that involve giving of yourself. Consider giving a “gift certificate” offering to make a special home cooked meal for your significant other or to give him/her an evening back rub. Think about what you are good at and love to do and share it with someone you love for the holiday. –Combine a gift with a cause: There are some purchases that can combine your wish to give a tangible gift with efforts to help the environment. For example, the company Amour Vert (http://www.amourvert.com/) plants a tree for every tee shirt purchase (in partnership with American Forests). The tee shirts are also made from organic cotton. Or visit the Sierra Club website and buy a gift from the Sierra Club store (http://vault.sierraclub.org/store/) which the supports the work of the organization. Happy Valentine’s...

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Do’s and Don’t’s of E-Recycling

With the large increase over the past few years in electronic communication devices, and the fast pace in which new versions of the latest cell phones and tablets come out, there is a potential for concern about what is happening to old electronic devices when they are replaced. Electronic gadgets that are simply tossed in the garbage or sent to an unreliable e-recycling organization can result in toxic waste that threatens health and safety. Keeping in mind the Jewish value of baal tashchit (do not waste) , there are a number of things you can do as you consider when or whether to replace your i-pad, Kindle or similar device. Below are some tips to keep in mind both concerning replacement of electronic goods and concerning how to responsibly discard your old device. Look for certified e-recycling programs: If you decide that you really need to upgrade your phone, tablet or laptop, do some research before deciding where to recycle your old one. There are two independent standards bodies that monitor recyclers for responsible practices. They are eStewards and Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI). Both groups let you search their websites for local recyclers who meet their standards . Both companies use a network of auditors to make sure the companies it certifies are doing what they say they are doing with your donation (e.g. stripping it for parts and then selling those parts). Avoid electronic recycling centers that cannot verify what they will actually do with your donation and that have not been independently certified. You can find them online at e-stewards.com and www.sustainableelectronics.org Check with the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA): The EPA also runs a program, called the Electronics Challenge, that asks companies that electronically recycle to pledge that they will send items collected to certified recyclers and to publicly report their efforts. The companies involved can pledge their commitment on one of three levels. Check the EPA website at www.epa.gov/smm/electronics/ to find companies who pledge at the highest level, which requires companies to pledge a high level of commitment to sell to responsible recycling companies and to report on their efforts to do so. Dell and Best Buy are two examples of companies committed to the highest tier of the EPA program. Go online for additional options: Several websites exist that will purchase your old electronic devices for a flat rate, depending on their condition. Two examples are Gazelle and BuyBackWorld. The companies behind these websites agree to refurbish and resell the items you no longer want. Find them online at www.gazelle.com and www.buybackworld.com Reconsider whether you need to replace your device: Last but not least, consider whether you really need that latest phone, tablet or laptop at all. Does your phone really need to replaced only six months out because you want the latest incarnation with the newest gadgets? Holding on to your electronic gadgets for a longer period of time is the best way to reduce waste in the long run. Resources: “Recycling Tech Waste Responsibly: Excuses Dwindle,” The New York Times January 1,...

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Greening Hanukkah

Hanukkah is a time where we celebrate the renewal of the eternal flame and rededication of the Temple. It is a great time to rededicate ourselves to the goal of preserving God’s creation, conserving energy and helping the environment. Here are a few things you can do leading up to, and during, the holiday to rededicate yourself to making the world more eco-friendly. GO GREEN IN YOUR HANUKKAH GIFTING: • Give Alternatives to “Stuff”: Consider giving gifts that do not create waste. Give a museum membership, tickets to a play or a certificate to a local restaurant. • Buy Gifts at Fair trade stores: One way to show that you care about the environment is to purchase gifts at fair trade stores. Items you purchase typically are made by local artisans and buying handmade jewelry, bags and clothes from fair trade shops helps provide a living wage for these artisans. Typically products sold are made from natural and organic materials. • Look for Gifts from your Favorite Environmental Organization: Several national environmental organizations sell clothing, bags, calendars and similar items either online through their websites or at bookstores in your neighborhood. A portion of the sales price benefits the organization and its environmental mission. • Give Recycled Items: Some locally owned stores carry items that have been recycled from other products. This is a great alternative to a mass-produced present. Your unique gift of recycled art, jewelry, a handbag or similar item will keep items out of landfills and offer your loved one something that is truly unique. GO GREEN IN YOUR HANUKKAH CELEBRATION: • Use Hanukkah candles made of beeswax or soy rather than paraffin candles made from petroleum. Beeswax or soy candles are made from natural ingredients and also produce less soot and smoke than paraffin candles. • Make a healthier batch of latkes by using local, organic potatoes and onions and cage-free, organic eggs. Look for a winter’s farmers market to buy your potatoes, onions and eggs. In St. Louis, the University City Market in the Loop and the Maplewood Farmers Market have winter hours. Resolve as a household to conserve energy, identifying specific actions you can take over the next year. This could include replacing conventional light bulbs with CFLs, starting a backyard vegetable garden in the spring or doing more walking and less driving as a family. Happy...

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