Re-Greening Sukkot

(Cross-posted at The Jew & The Carrot)

I love sukkot, but one of the things that has always frustrated me about my favorite holiday is how wasteful and totally un-green it usually is.  Here’s a holiday where we’re commanded to live outside, to experience the outdoors in a personal and spiritual way, and we celebrate it with pounds of paper plates, plastic utensils and tablecloths, and even food decorations that basically amount to wasted food.gourd hanging sukkah

I would think that during sukkot we’d all be making an extra effort to be environmentally friendly, to leave a small footprint and all that, but in reality, I rarely see that happening.

I have some tips and ideas for those who want to try to re-green their sukkot, but I have to add the sad personal disclaimer that I won’t be able to employ most of these strategies myself this year.  Because of other things that have been going on in my life  I haven’t been able to commit myself to making these changes right now.  I even ::cringe:: flew home for the first part of the week, which means that I’m feeling extreme guilt about my favorite Jewish holiday (and also buying a TerraPass to try assuage some of that guilt) and all of the carbon emissions I’ll be causing for my celebrations.  But for next year, here are some of my plans:

Recycled and Recyclable Tablescape

I wish I could convince the other members of my sukkah to just use our regular dishes in the sukkah, and toss them in the dishwasher after yontif.  But I don’t see that happening, and I do understand the danger of trying to bring a set of glass dishes out to be used on our concrete patio.  So instead, how about Preserve Tableware, which comes in pretty colors, is made from recycled plastic, and can be recycled at the end of sukkot.  It also can go in the dishwasher if you are willing to use it in your sukkah from year to year.  (Also great for your Shavuot picnic).  Preserve makes cutlery, too, and you can get some biodegradable serving utensils at Bambu.

Reuse Your Decorations

One of my favorite parts of sukkot is making paper chains, stringing gourds, and doing all kinds of crafty things to be hung in the wall of our sukkah.  But all of these activities can be really wasteful.  If you are going to make paper chains, consider using newspaper instead of dyed construction paper, and remember to recycle then chains when you’re taking down your sukkah.  Gourds can actually be reused from year to year (they’ll be much lighter the second year when they’ve dried out) and if you’re not going to reuse them, at least toss them into the compost heap when you’re done with them.  And all of those decorations you make?  Get them laminated before you put them up, and then you can use them every year without worrying about having them ruined by the inevitable sukkot rain.

Yard Cuttings For Schakh

Yes, you can probably order a bundle of branches through a synagogue, youth group or Judaica store and have it delivered to your house for a pretty penny, but how about just collecting branches and leaves from your own garden for a month or so before the holiday.  A trip to the dumpster behind your local nursery or florist will probably yield some nice filler, too.

For more tips on greening your sukkah, check out the resources combined by ARZA and our own ideas for a simple and DIY sukkot.


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