Chag Urim Sameach! Happy Chanukah!
I love so much about Chanukah! I love that it reminds us to be ourselves when we are surrounded by people (for most of us here in the U.S., usually lovely people) who have different traditions than we do. I love that we are, literally and figuratively, bringing light to the darkest time of the year. I love the reminder that a small band of activists can accomplish quite a lot if they put their minds to it (although I do not recommend taking up arms except in very, very exceptional circumstances!).
Chanukah also means latkes, sufganiyot (donuts), and lots and lots of oil. Whatever your preferred frying oil, what if you decided that the oil you purchase will only be packaged in glass containers from now on? It’s one small piece of your pantry – but if we all do it, it takes a huge number of plastic bottles out of the waste stream.
Remember: even those things that truly are recyclable are difficult to recycle these days. Many of the countries that took our plastic recycling are refusing to take it anymore. This means that what you think you are recycling may actually be going to landfill or the ocean. Moreover, remember that any plastic that is too dirty or full of leftover food cannot be recycled, and it can contaminate an entire container of plastic so that none of that plastic can be recycled.
Of course, oil in glass bottles tends to be more expensive and can be more difficult to find. I am sorry that it often costs more, or is less convenient, to be environmentally responsible – but as I mentioned in my first blog – this extra expense and inconvenience is often the case.
What do we do about greater expense and less convenience? We need to be in it for the long haul – and - I think the only way this will get better is if we band together to insist on change. Luckily for us, we can take our inspiration from this very holiday! If the Maccabees had not believed in their cause, or had decided that their small group of voices could not make a difference, we would not be here today. We can make a big difference – we just have to put our money where our mouth is, and we might need to yell a little. But if anything is worth yelling about (at least figuratively – say by writing lots of emails and letters, and by voting) it’s got to be saving this tiny planet that we all share, right? We all want our children and grandchildren to live good lives, right?
So – to quote an activist who was not Jewish, but who understood how to bring change: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead)
By the way - did you know that you can recycle your used cooking oil? How you recycle varies from community to community, so you do need to check with your local waste management company. In my community, for example, once your used cooking oil is cool you pour it into a screw top plastic container; then you leave the container on the curb next to your recycling and garbage carts on the day of your recycling pick up.
Many waste and garbage companies have an app these days - making it easy to look up how to recycle different items, which kind of plastics are recyclable, etc. Check to see if your waste management company has such an app and if they don’t, suggest that they create one.
And, instead of asking you to write a letter this month, I’d like to invite you to take a different form of action now and in the future, especially for those of you here in North America: Let’s talk about wrapping paper and greeting cards.
Wrapping paper can only be recycled if it is pure and simple paper. Wrapping paper with glitter, or that is metallic, is not recyclable. Check with your local recycling company, because many recycling companies will ask that you remove scotch tape (truly!) and be sure that you do not try to recycle any ribbons or bows.
Greeting cards can be hard to recycle if they have plastic on them. The greeting cards that make sounds or sing a song have a little chip and battery in them – which is not great for the environment at all. If you do receive cards that make sounds, you need to remove those parts of the card before you can recycle them (put them into e-waste if that is a possibility in your community). Please also be aware that you cannot recycle foil lined envelopes.
One thing that you can do with your old greeting cards, is donate them. St. Jude’s Ranch for Children https://stjudesranch.org/recycled-card-program/ will take some of your old greeting cards. There may also be local organizations near you that would like to use your old cards. Consider reaching out to day care centers, preschools, adult care centers, or even boys and girls clubs in your area. They might take them to use for crafting. See what you can find in your area – you might be pleasantly surprised.
Wishing you a beautiful and meaningful Chanukah season –