Use organic oil to make your latkes this year.
Use organic oil to make your latkes this year. (iStock)

Make the holiday more earth-friendly this year.

As we continue to think of new and creative ways to lead more sustainable lives, even our annual Chanukah celebrations can be transformed into greener, Earth-friendly practices.

This year, there are numerous steps you can take to have a healthy and sustainable Chanukah with loved ones. Here are nine ways to have a green Chanukah without skimping on traditions.

1. Transform Your Latkes

Typically served with sour cream or applesauce, a few simple changes to a traditional latke recipe can go a long way in creating more sustainable meals for the Jewish holiday.

Opting for an all-natural or organic sour cream can be a great start, as can creating your own applesauce from locally purchased apples.

For a new and healthier taste, consider making latkes out of sweet potatoes as well.

2. Cook with Organic Oil

Oil is a staple of Chanukah cooking, which means using an organic oil can increase sustainability. From latkes to roasted vegetables, having an organic oil on hand can help you create a number of flavorful dishes.

“We recommend palm oil that comes from a regenerative forest,” suggests Wren Hack, director of Hazon Detroit, a Jewish organization that promotes sustainability. “It won’t hurt the planet as much as everything else.”

3. Choose Local Potatoes and Onions

Potatoes, onions and other root vegetables are a mainstay in the fall and winter, which means these items can easily be found when grocery shopping.

Buying produce from local vendors or farmers markets not only helps support Michigan-based small businesses, but it also helps promote sustainability while cutting down on food waste.

“Many farmers markets are still open,” Hack says, “like Eastern Market, Royal Oak and Pontiac.”

Buy potatoes and onions from local growers.
Buy potatoes and onions from local growers. iStock
4. Gift Fair-Trade Chocolate

Unlike traditional chocolate, fair-trade chocolate is a chocolate made with cacao beans that comes from farmers who are guaranteed a fair price for their crop.

With chocolate gelt being one of the most endearing Chanukah traditions, especially for kids, consider gifting fair-trade chocolate instead for a sweet yet sustainable choice.

“We recommend Chocolove, Dagoba, Equal Exchange and Sunspire,” Hack says. You can also try making your own gelt from a number of online gelt recipes, simply subbing in fair trade chocolate.

Use fair-trade chocolate for your Chanukah gelt.
Use fair-trade chocolate for your Chanukah gelt. Getty Images/iStockphoto
5. Create DIY Gifts

Rather than buying something store-made or mass-produced, create your own DIY Chanukah gifts for loved ones that can prove to be just as memorable and heartwarming.

Some ideas include taking a photo and creating your own frame, knitting a scarf or hat or making your own beeswax candles.

6. Donate to a Good Cause

Rather than gifting Chanukah gelt or presents, ask loved ones if you can make a donation in their name instead.

Local emergency food providers and hunger relief organizations are both excellent choices during the holiday season, when many families struggle to put a hot meal on the table.

7. Practice “Eight Days of Action”

For the eight days of Chanukah, consider using this time to give back to the community (and planet).

“A lot of local food pantries, if they don’t need volunteers, they certainly need food,” Hack says.

Small but meaningful steps can include volunteering for a night as Hack suggests, cooking a meal for someone in need or setting aside family time to watch a film about food justice.

8. Reuse Gift Supplies

Instead of opening a gift and throwing away the bag or gift wrap, consider reusing gift supplies to help cut down on holiday waste.

Beautiful gift bags in particular can be reused a number of times, reducing your use of paper and plastic.

For homemade Chanukah gift bags and wraps that are reusable, Hack suggests visiting online retailer Etsy, which has a number of creative options for sale.

9. Use Green Chanukah Decorations

Just a few small changes in your Chanukah decor can amount to big gains for sustainability. 

“Try crafting a dreidel out of recyclable materials,” Hack says. “Also, as a family or community activity, make your own menorah using recycled materials.” 

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