Jewish environmental on Tu B’Shvat

Tu B’Shvat, a “New Year of Trees,” is celebrated this year on February 4, 2015. This is a time when Jews focus on the bounty of our land and the environment. Since it is considered a “New Year” we should make resolutions and small changes in our attitude and behaviors to help our Earth. There are so many easy steps we can take to help our environment and our Earth. Every step matters. Every action is important.

NeilGoldsteinGlick180x200Sitting on the gay beach in Tel Aviv was relaxing and enjoyable for me. My music was flowing through the headphones as I was catching sun rays, and enjoying the eye candy.

Then my peace was shattered when I saw a handsome man leave the beach. He left his plastic cup and drinking straw in the sand, hoping for the waves to drag it out to the glorious Mediterranean Sea. He went from eye candy to making my eyes hurt seeing how little he cared for the environment.

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Tu B’Shvat, a “New Year of Trees,” is celebrated this year on February 4, 2015. This is a time when Jews focus on the bounty of our land and the environment. Since it is considered a “New Year” we should make resolutions and small changes in our attitude and behaviors to help our Earth. There are so many easy steps we can take to help our environment and our Earth. Every step matters. Every action is important.

Every person – you and me – are an important and integral part of Creation. We are not separate from Creation; we are stewards of Creation and stewards of our Earth. We have a duty to help heal our Earth. The mitzvah of tikkun olam – healing the world – is a key element in what it means to be a Jew. We all know that our environment needs healing. 

A Talmudic Sage posed the question, why did G-d create wheat, rather than create a plant or tree that simply made loaves of bread? Using G-d’s tools and our human skills, together we could create bread. Not only are we all created in G-d’s image, we are G-d’s partners and stewards of keeping our Earth healthy.

We live in a society detached from our earth and our waters. How do our activities affect the environment around us? We do not know where our food comes from and how it is sourced. We drive our cars, not often thinking how it changes the climate and environment. We do not think about what happens when we throw something aside — or when we leave it on the beach.

Maybe we are on the beach, and we open a bottle and the little plastic tamper-evident seal flies off into the sand. Eventually it washes to the ocean, and joins one of the many Texas sized garbage gyres that are quickly killing our sea life. Avian and marine life cannot distinguish between plastics and organic materials. They eat the indigestible plastics which float near the surface and die and painful death. Learn about what you can do about it.

Are we that important that our one time use of a Styrofoam cup or a plastic fork and knife should leave a garbage foot print for thousands of years? Once they are thrown away, they will be in a landfill forever polluting our Earth and not of any use. How many of us use a plastic cup to hold our drink then put it down forget which one was ours, and then pour another drink in another cup?

Nothing biodegrades when it goes into a landfill. It sits there forever. You’ve read about those biodegradable bags and plastics? They do not biodegrade in a landfill either. They need sunlight to break down. 

It is simple to reuse plastic items, like store bags, or plastic forks and knives. Does your synagogue use plastic and not paper? Get them to buy compostable food service items where possible. If we need disposable plates, maybe we should use paper instead of plastic.

Do we recycle? Most neighborhood/community recycling can take all types of plastics. Most Styrofoam is not easily recyclable so do not toss it in the mix. Make sure anything you recycle does not have food residue on it. Do you include your paper (old mail, office paper, junk mail, catalogs, etc.) in your recycling? Do not include food-contaminated items in your recycling like pizza boxes. When paper has food contaminants it makes the paper non-recyclable. Rinse out your cans and jars before adding them to the recycling bin. Learn where to recycle in your community.

What can we do with that grease soaked pizza box? Compost. Also it is a great way to environmentally dispose of paper towels, paper plates, paper napkins, and food waste. Learn how to compost.

We need to live up to being partners in this creation called Earth. We all want our world to be a better place, and it is not so hard to do a little something about it. It’s the only home we know, and the only home we have. Let us honor G-d’s magnificent creation, and thus honor ourselves. We need to take care of our Mother Earth.

We know that Jews will survive until the end of time; and we need to work so we do not bring that end sooner than we expect.

 

Take action and get involved: Jewish environmental organizations:

 

The Green Zionist Alliance

 

 The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life

 

Hazon, Jewish sustainable living and biking

 

Jewish online environmentalist community

 

Jewish sustainable agriculture

 

Land conservation and preservation in Israel

 

Reconnect to our Jewish roots outside

 

Every branch of Judaism supports environmentalism:

 

Orthodox Judaism and the environment

 

Reform Judaism and the environment

 

Conservative Judaism on the environment

 

Reconstructionist Judaism on the environment