Seven ways to host a more sustainable passover seder

Seven ways to host a more sustainable passover seder

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Danielle Nierenberg
April 10 to April 18, 2017, marks the Jewish holiday of Passover. Here are seven tips to help observers to celebrate this important holiday while keeping in line with environmental values and supporting a more sustainable food system:

Serving food from leftovers

Serving food from leftovers

1. Create New Innovative Meals From Holiday Leftovers
An important tenet of Judaism is “bal tashchit,” meaning not to waste. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), roughly one-third of all food produced for human consumption—or approximately 1.3 billion tons—is lost or wasted each year. This Passover, instead of throwing away uneaten food, incorporate leftovers into stir-fry dishes or stews, such as vegetarian cholent (a traditional Jewish stew). And for food scraps and leftovers that can’t be eaten, try composting, rather than throwing food into the trash. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 20 percent of America’s methane emissions come from landfills.
2. Serve Local and Sustainably Grown Food at Your Seder Table
The Seder table is a perfect place to incorporate locally grown food. For your charoset, a fruit and nut paste symbolizing brick and mortar, try buying locally grown or organic apples and fair-trade pecans. For your Seder plate, try buying more pasture-raised meat, eggs, and dairy products. And support farmers who are committed to sustainable practices in agriculture.
3. Unplug During Chol Hamoed
Spend leisure time your family outdoors during the days of Chol Hamoed (the intermediate days between the festivals of Passover) instead of watching TV or using electronic entertainment. By taking an occasional rest from energy-intensive activities, you can save thousands of tons of carbon emissions a year. According to Dr. Laura Iraci of the Earth Science Division at the NASA/Ames Research Center, one hour of TV watching produces 54 kilograms of carbon dioxide, which is more than the 11 kilograms of carbon dioxide produced by burning one gallon of gasoline.
4. Make Passover Eve a Meatless Monday
Passover Eve and the night of the first Seder falls on a Monday. Try using this opportunity to go meatless for at least one of the Seders. Industrial meat is the number-one contributor to greenhouse gases. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) reports that the production, processing, and distribution of meat is resource-intensive. It requires huge amounts of pesticides, fertilizer, fuel, feed, and water. The EWG also found that red meat is responsible for 10 to 40 times as many greenhouse gas emissions as vegetables and grains.
5. Eat Ugly
Globally, we have a substantial wasted produce problem; 20 to 40 percent of all produce goes uneaten, mostly because it does not meet strict grocer cosmetic standards for size, shape, or color. A variety of grocery stores sells this ugly produce, including Whole Foods and Giant Eagle.
6. Support good food policies
Use dinner as an opportunity to discuss with friends and relatives how food should be a non-partisan issue. “Reduction of food losses and waste needs to be prioritized within political agendas,” says the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition. ReFED, a collaboration of business, nonprofit, and government leaders fighting food waste in the United States, recommends standardizing date labeling, increasing food donation tax incentives, and expanding best practices in food recycling.
Find out where your legislators stand on food issues by checking out this scorecard from Food Policy Action.
7. Offer, don’t serve
Even with careful planning, it’s hard to know how much people will eat. To allow for different sized appetites, let guests decide how much they want. Creating a buffet line or letting guests serve themselves at the table family-style can reduce what gets left behind on plates.
(Danielle Nierenberg is the President, Food Tank <danielle@foodtank.com>)

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