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Eco-Friendly Hanukkah Traditions

Have you started preparing your eco-friendly Hanukkah traditions yet? No doubt you are thinking about polishing your menorah, dusting the dreidels and starting the search for the perfect presents.

However, how will you polish that menorah? Did you keep the dreidels from last year and what types of presents will you buy? These are all things which need to be taken into consideration if you want this holiday season to be a sustainable one.

My household Hanukkah traditions usually consists of a nightly Menorah lighting and present giving, so that each family member receives eight presents in total. We might also go to a public Menorah lighting and attend or hold our own Hanukkah party during the 8 day festival. We don't put up much in the way of decorations or exchange cards, but every family is different with their own Hanukkah traditions over decorations, food, present giving and so on.

There are a few basics though that are generally common to all and I have listed some eco-friendly ways to celebrate the holiday below which cover those basics:

The Menorah

Often a Menorah will be kept for a lifetime and may be handed down through the generations. This is kind to the environment, as they are not purchased very often and rarely go to waste. However, if for whatever reason you don't have a Menorah and you are in the market for one (or would like to give one as a present), consider these options before going and buying a new one:

  • Look into buying an antique or secondhand Menorah. You could look on-line or ask friends, family or your community if anyone has one for sale. The less far it has to travel, the lower the carbon cost!
  • You could borrow one.
  • You could make or buy an upcycled menorah - have a look on Etsy.com for ideas!

If you are shining one up that you already own, consider using an eco-friendly alternative to silver polish, such as bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) or other all-natural household cleaning products.

The Candles

Although they look very nice, burning candles is not great for the environment, so take a look at these ways to limit your impact on the environment:

  • Go natural: Natural beeswax or vegetable oil candles are the best and least polluting options for your Hanukkah traditions.
  • Reduce: To try and reduce the number of candles lit, light one Menorah together with a friends and family or go to a public menorah lighting. Instead of allowing the children to light a Menorah each, get them to take it in turns lighting candles. There are 8 nights and lots of candles, so they can all have a turn at some point (even if you have a really large family).
  • Make the most of the candlelight! Turn off the lights while the candles are burning and save on electricity.

The Dreidels

If you have young children (or adults in the family that are really big kids), then dreidels can be lots of fun. If you are in the market for a dreidel or several for your Hanukkah traditions then try to buy or make ones that will last for years and avoid plastic ones wherever possible.

Donuts and Latkes

At any Jewish festival, it is all about the food and Hanukkah is no exception. It is the time of year to have fried food and if you are doing a lot of frying then make sure you:

  • Re-use the oil as much as possible. If there is oil left over afterwards, then pour it back into the bottle (once it has cooled) for use another time.
  • Never pour oil down your sink as it may contribute to drain blockages.
  • Make large batches at once and freeze whatever you don't need immediately.

If the doughnuts or latkes are shop bought and you are likely to have leftovers, you can still freeze them to make sure there is no waste.

You might also find more ways to create a sustainable holiday meal in the Thanksgiving article here, and also be sure to check out how to keep it affordable.

Gift Giving

Secondhand, pre-loved, vintage or antique presents are all good eco-friendly options for those on a budget.

Whenever possible organic clothing, bath products, and organic food are always good options - although check the level of packaging and have a close look at the labelling to determine how eco-friendly the product actually is.

Read more about eco-friendly gift giving here.

Wrapping Paper

Both before and after your Hanukkah traditions, wrapping paper is a consideration. Although it is paper and can be recycled there is a carbon cost involved in producing and recycling it.

Instead of wrapping presents you could just present them nicely and tie a re-usable ribbon around them. Children however may find this disappointing so instead you could try the following...

Get your children to go on a treasure hunt to find their presents. Hide the present(s) somewhere around the house and provide clues to help them find it. Again, put a re-usable ribbon around each present (you could colour code them if you have more than one child).

To create more eco-friendly Hanukkah traditions, consider using your own child's artwork as wrapping paper. And keep any wrapping paper you get given and if you put it under a cloth and iron it, it will look as good as new. Use that wrapping paper to cover re-usable boxes and save for packaging presents next time.

Click here for more creative gift wrap ideas.

Holiday and Thank You Cards

My family tend not to give or receive Hanukkah cards, however we always give thank you cards. This year think about alternatives, such as e-cards or instead of spending the money on a card, make a charitable donation in the person's name instead. The charity will send them an acknowledgement and depending on the charity you may be able to include a personal message.

If you do choose to send cards, search out eco-friendly cards made with plant-based inks, recyclable paper, etc. Choose smaller cards over larger ones. Or make your own with eco-friendly supplies.

Zoe Morrison is the author of www.ecothriftyliving.com. Check it out if you are interested in slashing the budget but not your principles!

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