Hanukkah, which starts this year at sundown December 16, and ends at sundown December 24, is actually the perfect holiday during which to contemplate energy conservation and using Earth’s resources wisely. It tells the story of the cleansing and reconsecration of the Temple after its destruction and how there was only one night’s worth of pure oil for the menorah. But miraculously, it burned for eight nights, enough time to produce more purified oil. So the idea of making our resources go further is already embedded in the celebration.
Here are a few things to think about to make your own holiday gentler on the environment, stretch your resources further and respect the bounty that Earth gives us.
1. Don’t buy cheap, throwaway holiday items. Well-constructed menorahs, made from quality materials and handcrafted by artisans, can become family heirlooms. You don’t need to buy bags of those cheap little plastic dreidels either. Think of the pleasure you’ll get passing a special quality wooden dreidel down to a child or grandchild and telling them stories of your own Hanukkahs past.
2. Use slow-burning beeswax candles, which use no petroleum-based products. They’re smoke- and drip-free and allow you to enjoy the holiday lights longer.
3. Look for locally sourced, organically and sustainably raised food for your holiday feast. While many summer farmers markets are closed for the season, many have holiday editions where you can buy things like pasture-raised meat, eggs, milk and butter, greens raised in hoop houses or greenhouses, and long-storage produce like onions, potatoes, squash, turnips and apples, as well as value-added products made in your own area.
4. Obviously those latkes—the traditional potato pancakes—are going to require a lot of cooking oil, although using a little less won’t hurt, we promise you! Use healthy, environmentally friendly oil, and be careful how you dispose of it. Since cooking oil is biodegradable, the best way is to put it in your compost bin with some sawdust and lawn clippings.
5. You’re going to eat a lot (don’t overdo it; grandma will survive if you turn down thirds), so gather up all the scraps and put those in the compost bin too—or if you don’t have one, find a composting facility.
6. Gifts pile up during Hanukkah, since it’s a tradition in many families to give something for each of the eight days. Instead of a lot of new junk with a short lifespan, think about making or recycling gifts, or giving intangible items like a pass to a skating rink or toboggan chutes, a promise to babysit or a donation to a cause that’s particular close to friend or family member’s heart.
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