The festival of Sukkot is one of the easiest on the Jewish calendar: You’re not required to fast, repent or eat copious amounts of donuts for a whole week. Instead, (almost) all that’s required is to erect a simple structure in your garden or on your balcony and welcome guests, Covid permitting of course.
In the past few years, it’s also become somewhat of an eco-holiday, since it marks our ancestors’ wandering in the desert as well as the harvest season. And we have some suggestions on how to make your holiday as green as can be. This year, Sukkot begins the night of September 20.
- Use old sheets or discarded items for your Sukkah walls
The sukkah, or temporary dwelling, that gave the holiday its name is required to have a roof made of vegetation through which you can glimpse the stars. But when it comes to its walls, you can really go wild. We’d recommend opting for old bedsheets, discarded tablecloths or any other large swaths of fabric you have lying around instead of anything new or plasticky. Not only will these items flutter beautifully for social media, but also give your sukkah an appropriately relaxed, desert-y vibe.
- Decorate with recycled items
You can go down three ways here. The first would be to simply recycle your ancient sukkah decorations, including the pictures your now adult children drew back in kindergarten. The second is to take the heaps of cartons, bottles and – should you still have them – old CDsstored at the back of the house, give them a bit of a paint job and proudly hang them up. Lastly, you could gather fallen pinecones, green branches and decorative leaves (just don’t pick them specially!) and stylishly hang them from the ceiling or pin them to the wall.
- Volunteer to do the dishes
We all know that paper plates and plastic cutlery are a big no-no, but somehow everyone allows themselves a bit of leeway when it comes to the holidays and endless entertaining. Biodegradable dinnerware is considered somewhat better, even though in many instances it doesn’t really get recycled. The simplest thing to do, friends, is to nobly volunteer ahead of time to do the dishes one night, especially when you’re the guest. Not only will you be keeping the world a little cleaner, but you’ll forever be looked upon kindly by your family and friends. Especially if you’re a guy, but that’s already another story.
- Go vegetarian, or even vegan
After a month-long food fest, we can think of nothing better than a wonderfully fresh and light meal. In keeping with our eco-friendly theme, it’s also worthy to note that a meatless meal utilizes a fraction of the environmental resources a steak requires, so it’s really a win-win situation for both our waistlines and the planet.
- Eat locally grown, seasonal produce
While we’re on the subject of food, it’s good to bear in mind the carbon footprint of our favorite fruit and vegetables. Luckily, since Sukkot celebrates harvest time, we can enjoy the bounty of the season without worry and feast on pomegranates, fresh dates and the last fruit of summer.
- Invite your neighbors, they’ll come by foot
In Israel, it’s customary to travel up and down the country during the High Holidays to visit family and friends. Aside from leaving parents truly traumatized by their kids, these long car journeys aren’t particularly green, leading us to recommend that you keep things local and get to know your neighbors. At least for some of the holiday.
- Live a little like our gadget-free forefathers
Since Sukkot is all about dwelling in tents like our ancestors, we suggest taking things just a tiny bit further and really committing to the ancient lifestyle by turning your sukkah into an electronics-free zone. This way, you can lounge back amid fluttering bedsheets and luxuriously contemplate whether you’d prefer to read, paint or even take a good old-fashioned Yom Tov nap.
- Don’t throw everything away once the holiday ends!
It’s hard to break old habits, but after celebrating the greenest Sukkot ever, please make sure you don’t throw everything out. Keep the old bedsheets another year, stow away the homemade decorations and don’t be tempted to buy a new holiday dinner set. Planet Earth thanks you.
- Get everyone involved, but don’t be annoying about it
Last but not least, it’s important to discuss how to convey your newfound holiday greenness. No one likes to be preached to, and a long lecture on the evils of the meat industry will likely put everyone off their dinner. Instead, lead by example, get the kids to do the dishes, casually mention the efforts you’re making (if only to explain the wonky decorations) and simply enjoy the holiday. Chag Sameach!