Eco-friendly aspects of the simcha can elevate a young person’s conscience
Given that many high-profile celebrities expound on the virtues of their environmental involvements (among them, Natalie Portman and Alicia Silverstone), it is inevitable that eco-friendly activities, foods and fashion — along with a side of social justice — will appeal to a wide range of teens … and that this will get some of them seeing green for their bar or bat mitzvah.
Kattler Kupetz is best known in Southern California for creating eco-friendly parties covering everything from the selection of the foods to the décor to the post-ceremony activities with a philanthropic slant.
“The whole point of a bar or bat mitzvah is to validate a teen’s learning from a sacred text and then finding ways for him or her to use the knowledge,” said Kattler Kupetz, who fell into her “green” business several years ago by accident, when her daughters’ green b’not mitzvah proved to be a hit with the guests.
“I had to really develop, create and advocate for all the other elements that would complete the experience,” Kattler Kupetz recalled. “During the process of sourcing the party elements and planning the activities, I was surprised at how far I could make my dollars go and how I was able to find ways to connect with the community and even Israel by sourcing things from local vendors and seeking out alternatives for décor and activities. It made me realize how interconnected I could make a celebration be on different levels.”
Live orchid plants used as a centerpiece can be replanted. Photo courtesy of SRO Events, Inc.
Celebrity event planner and author Rená Puebla (A natural grapewood centerpiece is surrounded by herb plants that can be donated to food pantries. Photo courtesy of SRO Events, Inc.
Among trends Kattler Kupetz sees taking shape are girls visiting vintage clothing shops instead of department stores or trendy boutiques.
Puebla says that Southern California offers interesting alternatives to the traditional hotel or banquet hall, including whale-watching trips and beach picnics with a guest speaker from an ocean preservation organization explaining why the ocean is so important and the importance of the ocean to the climate and global warming.
“Party favors [for outdoor-specific events] can include a beach bag with a water bottle that includes a filter, a hat, a pull-over and beach sandals, all made from eco-friendly materials,” Puebla said. “In terms of clothing that works for casual and formal gatherings, H&M just launched an eco-friendly formalwear line called Conscious Exclusive that is also budget-friendly and includes age-appropriate styles.”
Kattler Kupetz also encourages “twinning,” where families financially affiliate their child’s celebration with a charity so the day not only syncs in with the child’s mitzvah project but also raises money and awareness for a greater cause. Some of her favorite organizations are Remember Us (r“>nacoej.org/get-involved/be-a-twin); and AMIT (“>http://www.sroevents.com), has seen other trends taking shape, including sourcing food from local farms and purveyors, and doing some form of online invitation.
While Kattler Kupetz says companies like Evite Postmark have raised the bar for online invitations, Hassel admits that some of her clients still feel that online invites diminish the importance of the big day. A compromise she suggests is sending out the traditional invitation but replacing the reply card with a prompt to RSVP by e-mail or on a Web site set up for the teen’s bar or bat mitzvah.
As always, issues of finance sometimes trump issues of conscience, and Hassel says there are clients who haven’t gone green because preparations for a specific theme can end up being more expensive than one might expect. By the same token, however, she points out that many things she recommends to cost-conscious parents can also end up being environmentally conscious because recycling is involved.
Even if a family doesn’t bring up the issue of being eco-friendly, Hassel believes that there are teachable moments in the process.
“We can suggest to kids, for example, that we skip such party favors as glow sticks, plastic sunglasses and other ‘toss-outs,’ as they are not biodegradable and will sit on the floor and end up going into landfills after the party.”
Another way Hassel said teens can be channeled toward more purpose-driven b’nai mitzvah experiences is through centerpieces. In lieu of flowers, parents can make a donation to organizations like the SOVA Community Food and Resource Program (