September 03, 2015   19 Elul 5775
Eco-Friendly Sukkot: Greening the Harvest Festival
Aug. 14, 2008
Suggestions on making Sukkot celebrations environmentally friendly.

A project of HUC-JIR students under Rabbi Arthur Waskow.


  • Present a program and meal for Sukkot which is environmentally sound. 
  • Teach children and adults the importance and ease of sustainability.

Project Implementation:
1. Decorating the sukkah: Sustainable decorating alternatives for the children: squash stamps, water soluble paints, recycled paper for paper chains. For Sukkot quotes: See Appendix I.

2. Vegetarian Buffet Meal:
The facilitator leads the group in the Motzi, explaining that the prayer thanks God not only for the product (bread) but also for the materials and process that go into our food. The buffet consists of dishes prepared by the committee. Ingredients are purchased from local farmers at local farmers’ markets. Next to each dish is a list of its ingredients and where they are from. 

  • For a sample menu, and possible local ingredients, see Appendix II
  • For more information on the importance of local greenmarkets, see Appendix III
  • For more information on local food, see Appendix IV.

3. Dessert Discussion: The leader explains that eating in the sukkah is a mitzvah and introduces discussion questions: 

  • What did you learn/what interested you from the quotes and food information? 
  • What connection do you make between Sukkot and locally produced goods? 
  • How does this emphasis on Sukkot and locally produced goods connect to your daily lives and habits? 
  • In what ways should the congregation advocate for a greener society? Locally? Internationally? (Local options for the synagogue include: onegs using local products, studying this issue and its link to Judaism, using biodegradable goods for synagogue programs, petitioning local stores to provide biodegradable products)

4. Community Action Initiatives: 

  • Discussion Materials: What are the vegetarian options for the synagogue? See Appendix V.
  • Discussion Materials: Why change to biodegradable goods? See Appendix VI
  • Discussion Materials: Funding local harvesting efforts in third world countries. See Appendix VII.

Appendix I: Sukkot Quotes
After creating the first human beings, God led them around the Garden of Eden and said: ‘Look at My works! See how beautiful they are, how excellent! For your sake, I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil or destroy My world – for if you do, there will be no one to repair it after you. (Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13)
One generation goes and another generation comes, but the earth abides forever. (Ecclesiastes 1:4 - Ecclesiastes is traditionally read during Sukkot)
You shall celebrate the Festival of Ingathering (Sukkot), at the end of the year, when you gather in the results of your work from the field. (Exodus 23:16)
On the fifteenth day of this seventh month there shall be the Feast of Booths to the Lord, to last seven days. (Leviticus 23:34)
Mark, on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the yield of your land, you shall observe the festival of the Lord to last seven days: a complete rest on the first day, and a complete rest on the eighth day. (Leviticus 23:39)
After the ingathering from your threshing floor and your vat, you shall hold the Feast of Booths for seven days. You shall rejoice in your festival, with your son and daughter, your male and female slave, the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow in your community. (Deuteronomy 16:13-14).
You shall hold a festival for the Lord your God seven days, in the place that the Lord will choose; for the Lord your God will bless all your crops and all your undertakings and you shall have nothing but joy. (Deuteronomy 16:15)
Ben Zoma used to say, “What labors Adam had to carry out before he obtained bread to eat! He ploughed, he sowed, he reaped, he bound the sheaves, he threshed and winnowed and selected the grains, he ground and sifted the flour, he kneaded and baked and then at last he ate. Whereas I get up in the morning and find all these things done for me.” (Babylonian Talmud, Brakhot 58b)
You are what you eat.

Appendix II: Local ingredients and Sample Menu

Sample menu:

Local artisan bread
Grilled vegetables
Stuffed squash with quinoa
Dessert: apple/pumpkin pie
Organic local wine (long island) and juices

Example of local ingredients:

Wine: Buzzard Crest Vineyards, Yates County, NY
Apples: The Orchards of Concklin, Pomona, NY
Pumpkins: Terhune Orchards, Salt Point, NY
Vegetables and Herbs: Conuco Farms, Ulster County, NY
Squash: Locust Grove Farms, Ulster County, NY
Bread: Bread Alone, Ulster County, NY

Appendix III: Importance of Local Greenmarkets
Four Reasons Greenmarket is good for our environment (from Council on the Environment of NYC:
Sustainability. Greenmarket farmers use sustainable practices. Some are certified organic. All are personally invested in the health of the water, soil, and air quality on the farms where they live and raise families.
Clean Water. NYC's water comes from reservoirs northwest of the city where sustainable farms and open space help protect our water supply. More than a dozen Greenmarket farms are in NYC's Watershed.
Energy Conservation. Transporting food long distances uses tremendous energy: it takes 435 fossil-fuel calories to fly a 5 calorie strawberry from California to New York. Fossil fuels contribute to global warming, acid rain and smog. Local foods travel short distances and use dramatically less energy.
Biodiversity. Greenmarket farmers grow thousands of varieties of fruits and vegetables, including over 100 varieties each of apples and tomatoes. In contrast, industrial agribusiness cultivates high-yield hybrids bred for fast maturation and thick skins to withstand mechanical harvest and transport. Meanwhile heirloom produce and heritage-breed livestock are vanishing from fields and plates, drastically shrinking the gene pool for those foods; the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that more than 75% of agricultural genetic diversity was lost in the 20th century. Small, biodiverse farms preserve our food heritage.

Appendix IV: Importance of Buying Local Food
10 Reasons to Buy Local Food (Reprinted from With an Ear to the Ground by Vern Grubinger, published by Northeast Region SARE, 2004.)

1. Local food tastes better. The crops are picked at their peak, and farmstead
products like cheese are hand crafted for the best flavor. Food imported from
far away is older, has traveled on trucks or planes, and has sat in warehouses
before it finally gets to you.
2. Local produce is better for you. The shorter the time between the farm and
your table, the less likely it is that nutrients will be lost from fresh food.
3. Local food preserves genetic diversity. In the modern agricultural system,
plant varieties are chosen for their ability to ripen uniformly, withstand
harvesting, survive packing and last on the shelf, so there is limited genetic
diversity in large-scale production. Smaller local farms, in contrast, often
grow many different varieties to provide a long harvest season, in an array of
colors and flavors.
4. Local food is safe. There's a unique king of assurance that comes from looking
a farmer in the eye at farmers market or driving by the fields where your food
comes from. Local farmers aren`t anonymous and they take their responsibility
to the consumer seriously.
5. Local food supports local families. Wholesale prices that farmers get for
their products are low, often near the cost of production. Local farmers who
sell directly to consumers cut out the middleman and get full retail price for
their food, which helps farm families stay on the land.
6. Local food builds community. When you buy direct from a farmer, you are
engaging in a time-honored connection between eater and grower. Knowing the
farmer gives you insight into the seasons, the land, and your food. It gives
you access to a place where your children and grandchildren can go to learn
about nature and agriculture.
7. Local food preserves open space. When farmers get paid more for their products
by marketing locally, they are less likely to sell their farmland for
development. When you buy locally grown food, you are doing something
proactive to preserve our agricultural landscape.
8. Local food keeps taxes down. According to several studies, farms contribute
more in taxes than they require in services, whereas most other kinds of
development contribute less in taxes than the cost of the services they
9. Local food benefits the environment and wildlife. Well-managed farms conserve
fertile soil and clean water in our communities. The farm environment is a
patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds, and buildings that provide habitat
for wildlife.
10. Local food is an investment in the future. By supporting local farmers today,
you are helping ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow.

Appendix V: Vegetarian Options for the Synagogue
Why eating/raising meat contributes to global food waste and an inequitable distribution of food (from
Raising animals for food is grossly inefficient, because while animals eat large quantities of grain, they only produce small amounts of meat, dairy products, or eggs in return. This is why more than 70 percent of the grain and cereals that we grow in this country are fed to farmed animals. It takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just one pound of meat, and even fish on fish farms must be fed 5 pounds of wild-caught fish to produce one pound of farmed fish flesh.17,18 All animals require many times more calories, in the form of grain, soybeans, oats, and corn, than they can possibly return in the form of animal flesh for meat-eaters to consume.
The world's cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people—more than the entire human population on Earth.19 About 20 percent of the world's population, or 1.4 billion people, could be fed with the grain and soybeans fed to U.S. cattle alone.20 Learn more about the link between meat consumption and world hunger.

Seven tips on reducing meat intake: (
1. Forget the protein thing
2. Buy less meat
3. Get it out of the center of the plate
4. Buy new vegetables, and learn new ways to cook them.
5. Make non-meat items as convenient as meat
6. Make some rules
7. Looking at restaurant menus differently

Appendix VI: Biodegradable Goods for the Synagogue
Proposal for Biodegradable Tableware or Tableware from Renewable Resources
For Sukkot Celebration (and beyond) at Temple Ahavat Etzim
Four Different Vendors, Goods, and Pricing
Branch (
o Manufacture: Made in China. Factory workers are treated properly and paid a fair wage.
o Materials:
• Plates, cups and bowls are 100% biodegradable, made of compostable sugar cane fiber (bagasse) that is a byproduct of the refining process. (Worldwide supplies are virtually unlimited. The use of bagasse eliminates the dependence on traditional wood fiber-based materials in disposable tableware. Since bagasse is traditionally burned for disposal, diverting the fiber into making tableware decreases air pollution.)
• Utensils are made of 80% potato starch and 20% vegetable oil.
o Quantity/Price:
16 oz. Bowl (pack of 50): $8.50
12 oz. Cup (pack of 50): $9.00
7" Plate (pack of 50): $6.50
9" Plate(pack of 50): $9.00
9" Compartmentalized Plate (pack of 50): $9.00
Small Tray (pack of 50): $9.00
12" Oval Platter (pack of 10): $5.50
Fork, Knife, Spoon (50 of each): $14.00

Bambu (
o Manufacture: Handmade in China. (Bambu works only with manufacturing partners who demonstrate a commitment to health and safety, environmental protection and fair labor practices. In turn, Bambu supports and reinforces worker health and safety measures, and funds international third-party auditing procedures.)
o Materials: 100% organically-grown bamboo, peeled directly from the stalk
o About:
• These disposable plates are designed for elegant entertaining, indoors or out. They're beautiful, unbleached, FDA-approved food-safe, and are sturdier than their paper counterparts. After disposal, Bambu veneerware will biodegrade within 4-6 months.
o Quantity/Price:
7" plates (pack of 8): $7.00
9" plates (pack of 8): $9.00
11" plates (pack of 8): $13.00
Forks, knifes, and spoons (pack of 8 each): $10.00
Plates are also available in bulk (pack of 100).

BioSmart (
o Materials: Bagasse, sometimes spelled bagass, is the biomass remaining after sugarcane stalks are crushed to extract their juice. Durable enough to withstand food warmers or convection air heating systems.
o Quantity/Price:
9" Plate, Round: 50 pack: $8.61, 250 pack: $33.17, 1400 pack: $159.41
16 oz. bowl: 50 pack: $8.96, 250 pack: $35.24, 500 pack: $56.95
Forks: 50 pack: $4.33, 250 pack: $16.71, 1000 pack: $57.35
Knives: 50 pack: $4.33, 250 pack: $16.71, 1000 pack: $57.35
Spoons: 50 pack: $4.33, 250 pack: $16.71, 1000 pack: $57.35

EcoProducts (
o Materials: Tree –Free, biodegradable, bagasse sturdy plates
o Quantity/Price:
9" Plate, Round: 50 pack: $6.75, 1000 pack: $65.10
12 oz. bowl: 50 pack: $6.50, 1000 pack: $84.75
Forks: 50 pack: $5.95, 1000 pack: $54.93
Knives: 50 pack: $5.95, 1000 pack: $54.93
Spoons: 50 pack: $5.95, 1000 pack: $54.16
12 oz Cup (for cold liquids): 50 pack: $8.50, 1000 pack: $112.75

Appendix VII: Funding Local Harvesting Efforts in Third World Countries
From American Jewish World Service’s Annual Report 2001-2002 (pages 24-26)
Food security is a critical component of the work that AJWS supports. In Africa, AJWS prioritizes food security in its disaster aid and relief work; in the Americas, AJWS supports groups promoting sustainable agriculture; and in Asia AJWS funding encourages sustainable agriculture and organic farming.
One example of a successful project is Kilili Self-Help Project (KSHP) in Kenya. Program participants learn ecology and agriculture techniques, which help them to produce food locally. The result is that Kenyan communities are becoming increasingly self-sufficient, increasing their food security, family income and environmental health.
AJWS also works with its grantees to enable them to partner with peers and experts, building their capacity to respond to environmental concerns. One such example is Integrando Campesinos para la Agricultura Sostenible (Integrating Peasants for Sustainable Agriculture), a peer exchange between five Central American grantees. Eleven organizations in four countries have met over three years, sharing farming techniques and strategies for protecting indigenous land rights.
The global food crisis is hurting those who are most vulnerable—the world's poor and marginalized. AJWS is working hard alongside its grantees to address these issues from a rights-based approach. It will continue to take a strong commitment to the communities of the developing world to stem the tide of the "silent tsunami."

Rose Kowel, Nicole Luna, Lauren Pack
Project for course on Eco-Judaism (Rabbi Arthur Waskow)
Hebrew Union College, NYC, June 2008

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