I recently read an essay by a 50-something mom who was longing for the days when her kids were young and every holiday season was filled with their screaming voices, sibling rivalry and oodles of time spent carting them to holiday plays, tree lightings and menorah ceremonies. Her words were so full of longing for those early years that it made me realize not only do I take those very moments for granted, but I actually dread them. Between managing the stress of the holidays, I’ve found myself yearning to fast-forward to a period when my kids will be old enough to fix their own sandwiches and plan their own play dates.
While this mom sheepishly acknowledged harboring similar feelings at the time, it’s ultimately those seemingly simple moments, like watching her kids’ faces light up at the sight of a Santa and their attempts to fry up potato pancakes while littering the kitchen floor with oil drippings, that she wishes she would’ve appreciated more.
And this holiday season I'm going to try and break out of my family's boring traditions and create some new ones- which is really code for Go greener! While I love a good latke dipped in applesauce- it is doubtful that I will be grating potatoes and frying them up in a pan this Chanukah ( I will leave that to my very capable husband) !
If you are determined to make this most auspicious Chanukah greener and more meaningful than your celebration last year author of the book, Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, Corey Colwell-Lipson offers Five Tips for a Greener Holiday!
1. Shop locally. The food in the average dinner travels about 1500 miles to get to your table. Shopping locally can not only save fuel and lessen carbon emissions, but supports the economy where you live. A locally owned independent business returns approximately 80% of each dollar spent back to the community. Plan your dinner around what's in season close to where you live. If you've never met your local farmer, plan a visit prior to Thanksgiving. You may be surprised at the variety of foods available. Check out www.LocalHarvest.com for farms near you.
2. Avoid overbuying. It's tempting if you've invited a crowd, to buy out the store. But buying too much food results in waste. If you expect leftovers, ask your guests to bring clean glass jars to take food home in or prepare them yourself in advance. Avoid packing in plastic zip bags which most people throw away after one or two uses. Instead of tossing leftover scraps, find out whether you are allowed to add them to your yard waste bin for composting as is available in some locations. And of course, if you have your own compost pile or bin, be sure the bones end up there instead of in the garbage disposal.
3. Start a new tradition. Green is about more than saving the Earth. It's about making closer connections with people, promoting all aspects of health of human beings as well as the planet. Enjoying the company of friends and sharing traditions is just plain good for us. Invent your own special rituals. Maybe it's having each guest write down what they're grateful for, and reading each other's. It could be putting on a puppet show about gratitude or creating a gratitude time capsule you open the following year. Maybe it's about a game you play only on Thanksgiving, a funny toast or a craft. Let your own family and its history be your guide.
4. Think organic. We know that people think organic is too expensive, but conventional food is often much more expensive in terms of both human health and that of the Earth. We suggest that by planning ahead, and banding together, you can mitigate a lot of the extra cost. It's too late for this year, but if, for instance, you'd love to purchase an organic free range turkey, find out the price, then put away a bit every month. By next year, you'll have the best tasting, best-for-you-and-the-Earth gobbler. Organic potatoes, squash and some other root vegetables are not much more expensive than their well-sprayed counterpoints, and worth the difference. Buy in bulk where you can and don't ignore mainstream stores. Even Costco is carrying organic green beans!
5. Decorate using imagination instead of money. Bring in branches, leaves, even pretty rocks from the yard to decorate the entry to your home. Hot glue dried leaves to branches and use as a centerpiece. If you don't have enough tableware for all your guests, invite them to bring their own, preferably with a story they can share before dinner. Few of us own tablecloths big enough for a dozen people or more. Check out your local thrift store. Choose three or four coordinating cloths, pieces of fabric or sheets. Fold over the cut edges as required and iron. No sewing required! Choose beeswax candles which give offer a pleasant glow, a delightful aroma and burn more cleanly than conventional candles.
So, parents, I’ll leave you with these thoughts to hold close to your heart as you embark on some of your holiday expeditions. Time is fleeting, and when it’s gone, you’ll only remember the good stuff–perhaps because you’ll be too senile to remember the rest! Bottom line: Happy Chanukah – relish the small moments (if you can muster the patience!)