Here we continue our Celebrating Sustainably series with some tips and tricks to make your Pesach a more environmentally friendly event than usual.
It’s a busy time for Jews. The eight-day festival of Passover starts on March 30 and most Jewish households are already on an intensive search-and- destroy mission for any hidden bread crumbs in every nook and cranny of their house.
Passover, or Pesach, is a festival of freedom: it marks the liberation of Jews from slavery in Egypt, led by Moses. It is said that the mass exodus happened in such a hurry that the people didn’t even have the time to let their bread rise. They thus carried unleavened bread with them for their arduous journey ahead, a tradition marked till date by banishing all leavened grains during Passover. It is observed by avoiding all chametz (leaven), and highlighted by the Seder meals that include: matzah (unleavened) bread, bitter herbs made from horseradish, a lamb bone, a roasted egg, a green vegetable to dip in salt water, Charoset (a paste of chopped apples, walnuts and wine), and four cups of wine. During the evening the story of how the Israelites fled from Egypt is retold from a book called the Haggadah.
Passover, with its important message of freedom, is also a perfect opportunity to combine traditional Jewish wisdom with our contemporary need to free ourselves of unhealthy and unsustainable practices. Not only is it a time to reflect but also to take responsibility for ourselves, our community, and the world. And there are quite a few good people ready to help you do that.
Hazon, a US-based organisation working to “create a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community, and a healthier and more sustainable world for all”, has some great tips on their website to help you celebrate Passover sustainably. Hazon's award winning blog, “the Jew and the Carrot,” is also a good place to find ideas on food sustainability and the Jewish Food Movement.
Here we have picked a few tips from these websites to help you make this Pesach greener.
1) Pre-Passover clean-up: A key aspect of Passover is spring-cleaning the home before Passover begins. You need to dust, mop, sweep, and wipe each surface in your home to rid it of any chametz that might be present. But this doesn’t have to mean loads of toxic cleaning products and harsh chemicals. You can find several natural, organic cleaning products that are free of harsh chemicals and do not leave a toxic trail in the environment. And what’s more, they are easily available online, and in supermarkets, are as good as chemical-based products, and are cheaper than toxic products in most cases. You can check out for brands like, Earth’s Choice, Ecogreen, Organic Choice, etc.
2) Getting rid of chametz: While the house needs to be rid of all foods and beverages containing wheat, barley, rye, oats, or spelt in a leavened form it doesn’t necessarily mean sending lots of good, perfectly edible food down the bin or burning it off a night before Passover, as is traditionally done. You can plan ahead and get rid of all your chametz in a sustainable way by trying to finish off all such products before Passover. If there’s more than you can possibly consume you can donate it to those in need or pass it on to friends.
3) Avoid disposable plastic dishware: While using Passover-only dinner sets year after year is the best thing to do for the environment, not everyone appreciates all the dishwashing that follows. So, if you must use disposable dishware make sure you avoid Styrofoam or plastic, single-use cups, plates, and cutlery. There are a lot of eco-friendly options available now made from bio-degradable materials, like palm leaves, bamboo pulp, poly-lactic acid (PLA), sugarcane pulp etc. They are cheap, biodegradable, and non-toxic.
4) A vegetarian or vegan Seder: Why not go lower on the food-chain and serve a vegetarian/vegan Seder this Passover? You can get rid of your “gastronomical chametz” too that way. There are a lot of different things you can try, like quinoa salad, matzah tortillas, vegetarian matzah ball soup, roast vegetables with rosemary, Israeli salad, etc.
5) Buy local: Eat meat if you must, but try to buy it from your local butcher instead of buying frozen, packed lamb-bone which you have no idea about where it came from. Buy your eggs, veggies, and apples and nuts, for Charoset, fresh from the local farmer’s market. This way you know that your food hasn’t travelled thousands of miles and has a low carbon footprint. Also it supports your local businesses. Check out Local Harvest to find good food close to you.
6) Bake your own matzah: Try your hand at baking matzah at home, this year. It is not an extremely hard task and might even be a fun activity you can involve your kids in. Find the recipe here
Even if you can’t include all these things in your Passover to-do list try picking as many as you can, as a challenge. Don’t forget: when it comes to saving our environment, every little bit counts.