HOME: Eco-friendly disposable tableware for Sukkot
When you’re dining under the stars in your sukkah, the last thing you want to think about is washing dishes. Fortunately, an array of stylish, eco-friendly, disposable plates and cutlery is available to dress up your table while making cleanup a breeze.
Because Sukkot is a harvest festival, it’s only right that we consider environmentally friendly alternatives for setting the table. How can disposable dinnerware be green? There are three primary ways:
• Biodegradable: The product will break down within a reasonable amount of time in a natural outdoor environment.
• Compostable: The product is not only biodegradable, it also releases valuable nutrients into the soil as it breaks down.
• Sustainable: It is made from resources that are replenished as quickly as they are consumed.
Now, instead of paper plates, you can find dinnerware made from bamboo, sugarcane, palm leaves and even tapioca starch.
This elegant Japanese line of disposable plates, bowls and cups, with their wavy, minimalist shapes, is more beautiful than most ceramic or glass tableware. Only nontree, renewable resources are used to make them — sugarcane fibers, bamboo and reed pulp. They are also compostable, so they don’t have to end up in the landfill. (Photo from Verterra.com
VerTerra plates and bowls are made from palm leaves and molded into their shapes with steam, heat and pressure. No trees or branches are cut in the manufacturing process; only leaves that have fallen to the ground are used. The product naturally biodegrades in less than two months after disposal. (Photo from bambuhome.com
A popular line of disposable dinnerware you’ve probably seen at Whole Foods, Bambu Veneerware is made from 100 percent bamboo and certified organic. The Bambu line is extensive, including round and square plates, forks, spoons, knives and even “sporks.” And you can wash them and use them more than once. (” target=”_blank”>worldcentric.org)
Dahlia by EcoProducts
Photo from ecoproductsstore.com
Made from a premium blend of sugarcane and bamboo, which are 100 percent renewable, Dahlia plates and bowls are known for their signature leaf shape. They are compostable and surprisingly sturdy, as the surface is grease- and cut-resistant. (Photo from sustyparty.com
At first glance, Susty Party tableware looks just like any other colorful paper plates you would find at a party-supply store. The difference is that all the products in the line, which include plates, bowls, cups, straws, cutlery and napkins, are made from renewable or sustainably harvested materials. They’re compostable, nontoxic and made in North America. (” target=”_blank”>bambluware.com)
Sinai Temple puts its food where its ‘moral diet’ is
“What’s this? Kale or chard?”
“Oh look, little red onions.”
“Here, taste these peas. They are so sweet.”
Farmer Phil McGrath had just made his inaugural delivery of 25 boxes of fresh, organically grown fruits and vegetables to Sinai Temple, where organizers of the synagogue’s new CSA (community supported agriculture) venture stood admiring and even sampling the boxes’ contents.
“This is a pretty monumental day for McGrath Family Farm,” said McGrath, 55, whose farm, in business in Camarillo since 1871, was participating in its first CSA, a partnership in which a group of people sign up in advance to receive a weekly allotment of fresh fruits and vegetables from a local organic grower. The participants essentially become shareholders in the farm’s harvest, assuming both the risks and rewards.
It was also a monumental day for Sinai Temple, where CSA organizers, under the direction of site coordinator Lisa Rose, stacked the cardboard boxes in the shade, set out the sign-in sheet and weekly newsletter and prepared for participants arriving on the synagogue’s Holmby Avenue side.
People started showing up almost immediately. Some came to pick up their boxes; others considering signing up or just curious about CSAs.
Sinai Akiba parent Lisa Lainer had learned about the CSA only the day before. “I don’t have time to go to a farmers market. It has to come to me,” she said.
Another temple member, Sandy Croll, came to fetch her box, which she is sharing with some friends. “I think it’s a good cause, but I just want some recipes. I’ve never made a beet in my life,” she said.
Sinai Temple first committed itself to starting a CSA in response to a Jewish Journal editorial about ethical eating by Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman (“Moral Diet,” Jan. 5, 2006). In a letter to the editor, Senior Rabbi David Wolpe wrote, “This kashrut initiative expresses that holy purpose of taking care of God’s gift.”
The initiative was put into action when Rabbi Ahud Sela joined the synagogue last July. He was familiar with Hazon, the New York-based community organization committed to sustainable farming and eating, and its Tuv Ha’Aretz CSA program, from his days at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He also discovered McGrath at the Santa Monica Farmers Market.
Sela hopes the CSA will educate participants about organic farming and instill a relationship to the land. “We have only a historical connection, because the agricultural component seems so irrelevant to our culture,” he said.
Sinai Temple’s CSA is the first in Southern California affiliated with Tuv Ha’Aretz, which is the first Jewish CSA program in the United States. Tuv Ha’Aretz, which has a double meaning, “good for the land” and “best of the land,” began with one CSA in New York City in 2004 and now has 16 in the United States, as well as two in Canada and one in Israel.
Tuv Ha’Aretz works like other CSAs but incorporates Jewish learning and leadership opportunities. The organization provides participating synagogues and Jewish community centers with a comprehensive instruction manual, training at its annual food conference in December (scheduled December 2009 at Pacific Grove’s Asilomar Conference Grounds) and ongoing support and networking.
Sinai Temple participants, who do not have to be synagogue members, must commit for one growing season, from April through December. The cost is $1,600, or about $40 a week, and boxes can be shared. Sign-ups remain open until early May.
But the program is more than a food delivery service.
Participants must volunteer to oversee two pickup shifts on Thursday afternoons from 2:30 to 5 during the season. In addition, they are required to volunteer at least once at either SOVA Food Pantry or Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition. Sinai Temple is the only Tuv Ha’Aretz CSA that requires this work commitment.
“We’re concerned not only about the food going into our mouths but about feeding others also,” Sela said.
Boxes that are not claimed are delivered to Liberty House, a sober-living facility in nearby Century City for people recovering from alcohol or drug addiction.
Additionally, there is an educational component headed by Sinai member Veronica Nessim, who is planning a field trip to the McGrath Family Farm on Monday, May 26.
“We want to show the families where the food comes from,” she said. She is also distributing recipes and planning cooking classes because, she explained, not everyone knows how to steam an artichoke.
Other Southern California synagogues are looking into Tuv Ha’Aretz’s CSA program, including Temple Isaiah, which is “exploring the possibility,” according to Rabbi Dara Frimmer.
Meanwhile, the Westside JCC is celebrating the one-year anniversary in May of its CSA, run by the Tierra Miguel Foundation in San Diego County. About 12 to 15 families receive a box of organic fruits and vegetables on an annual or seasonal basis, costing about $40 a week, according to Brian Greene, JCC executive director.
But for all CSA shareholders and growers alike, the goals are similar.
“The whole thing about community supported agriculture is against globalization and fast foods,” McGrath said. “This is what your grandfathers and my grandfather used to do. We’re going back to our roots. No pun intended.”
To become a shareholder or to obtain more information about Sinai Temple’s CSA, contact Lisa Rose at email@example.com.
To become a shareholder in the Westside JCC’s CSA, call (323) 938-2531.
McGrath Family Farms: http://www.localharvest.org/farms/M3498
Tierra Miguel Foundation: http://www.tierramiguelfarm.org/
It’s a nice day for a green wedding
Jessica Kraft didn’t wear a traditional flowing white, off-white or ivory gown during her wedding day last October. Instead, the 29-year-old college professor made her way down the aisle at the UCLA Faculty Center in purple and gold.
While the San Francisco resident — whose husband grew up in Los Angeles — considers herself unconventional, her unusual frock had little to do with balking at tradition.
“I wanted my dress to be sustainable fashion,” said Kraft, referring to her desire that the garment’s production have little impact on the environment. Kraft’s eco-friendly dress was made from organic hemp, chiffon and a little vegetable dye.
But the nontraditional dress was just one part of Kraft’s “green” simcha. In lieu of sending out paper invitations, Kraft and her husband, Jordan Elias, sent out their invites via e-mail, used organic flowers, registered for green products like bamboo kitchenware and bath towels made of organic cotton and hired a biodiesel van (which runs on peanut oil instead of gasoline) to transport their guests to the ceremony. In addition, they donated 3 percent of their gift registry proceeds to the National Resource Defense Council, a national environmental action organization.
With our country’s growing concern about the environment, many couples are choosing to have eco-friendly weddings. Jewish brides and grooms-to-be in the Southland are no exception. Green event planner Deborah Kattler Kupetz of DKK Events in Brentwood says that 60 percent of her clients are Jewish. And Angelica Weihs of Angelique Events in Los Angeles has noticed an upward trend in her own business.
“I would certainly say that [green] awareness in the Jewish community is rising,” said Weihs, whose book, “The Luxury of Loving Green: Weddings in the 21st Century” (Ignite Publishing, 2008), will hit bookstores in May. These days, many young adults take steps toward saving the environment in their daily lives. Often, the mentality carries over into their wedding plans.
“Within our lifestyle, we’re as green as possible … and I drive a hybrid car,” said Melanie Lora, 29, of her life with fiancÃ(c) Sky Meltzer. “The environment is just something that’s important to both of us.”
Lora and Meltzer, Santa Monica residents, are currently planning their 2009 wedding. While they are unsure which Jewish elements they will incorporate into their ceremony, they know that that the menu will be vegetarian, the invitations will be printed on recycled paper, the decorations will be minimal and at least part of the flower arrangements will be replantable.
Other green wedding ideas include the use of soy- and hemp-based products for linens, the dÃ(c)cor and even the chuppah; using local and seasonally produced food; using ecologically chauffeured transportation; and using natural light or simply having an outdoor affair.
Many couples try to “carbon-zero” their events by offsetting the extra energy and carbons used, which, in turn, helps fight global warming. A couple might compensate for driving a car, taking a plane or using artificial light by planting trees or donating to a carbon offset project.
But with the expense of using recycled paper for invitations, buying organic food and using alternative energy sources, are green weddings more expensive than regular weddings?
“Many people mistakenly feel that a green path is a more expensive path,” said Kupetz, who prides herself on the variety of sources she uses to accomplish her green events. “Just like anything, if you know what you are doing you can be as competitive as anyone.”
Kraft was an environmental and social activist back in college and she was concerned about going overboard when planning her own wedding.
“I realized what a big event it was and how many resources we could waste in putting on this big production,” Kraft said. “Wherever you look, there’s another bridal magazine and another caterer to take advantage of the $50,000 people are spending in one day. I thought it was sort of narcissistic consumption.”
Instead, Kraft and Elias tried to keep waste at a minimum, raise awareness and include their shared value of tikkun olam, or repairing the world.
And green weddings have deep meaning within Judaism itself. Since eco-friendliness goes hand in hand with the concept of tikkun olam, protecting the planet is an extremely Jewish issue.
“When a couple adds to the inherent joy the additional blessing of tikkun olam, healing the world itself, it takes what otherwise is only an intensely personal mitzvah and turns it into a blessing in the public realm, as well,” said Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben of Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation in Pacific Palisades. “In this way, creating an eco-friendly wedding allows everyone who participates to feel that they are having a kind of double celebration — both for the bride and groom and for the planet.”
Looking back on her big day, Kraft is thrilled that her passion for the environment was a part of her simcha.
“I was happy we were able to share this urgent message that we need to protect our natural resources in the same way that Jordan and I agreed to protect and care for each other,” Kraft said.
Recycling on the fashion runway
Ever since the nonprofit organization Earth Pledge teamed up with Barney’s in 2005 during New York’s renowned fashion week to demonstrate that sustainable fashion and style can coexist, eco-fashion activists have been quipping that “green is the new black.” Almost overnight, environmentally conscious designs shed their reputation of looking like burlap sacks made for hippies and were transformed into stylish, chic and fashionable clothes.
On the New York runway, Richie Rich’s striking yellow-and-pink skirt, made out of corn fiber, was topped off with a flashy silver bustier made from recycled polyester. And Linda Loudermilk’s luxury eco line has an express goal of giving eco-glamour “a fabulous look and a slammin’ attitude that stops traffic and shouts the message: Eco can be edgy, loud, fun, playful, feminine (or not) and hyper-cool.”
Levi’s recently released a line of “green” jeans made from 100 percent organic cotton and fashion icons such as Oscar de la Renta and Proenza Schouler hail the use of sustainable materials. Even celebrities are taking part in the growing global trend; Bono launched a new line of eco-fashion titled “Edun.”
New, organic raw materials that are both sustainable and grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides or insecticides are more widely available too. Far beyond just organic cotton and hemp, contemporary eco-fashion designers can now choose between bamboo, soy and corn fibers, cottagora, eco-fleece, organic wool, linen, silk, tencel and ecospun — to name just a few. Eco-friendly, low-impact dyes and responsible manufacturing processes (employing people in good working conditions with fair wages close to home) are also part of the “reuse, recycle and renew” philosophy that define eco-fashion, according to the Sustainable Technology Education Project (STEP).
The widespread international movement has not escaped fashion designers in Israel, more and more of who are starting to incorporate eco-friendly principles into their own creative, unique styles.
But there have been bumps in the road. Organic fabrics are almost impossible to find in Israel and have to be imported at great expense. But for some young Israeli designers, this is an opportunity rather than a detriment. Instead of bringing in costly fabrics from abroad, they look for ways to use inexpensive materials that already exist at home.
For Irit Vilensky, the fabric of choice is plastic. By recycling the ubiquitous plastic bags that litter Israeli beaches and parks, she makes an uber-chic, colorful line of accessories called: Satik.
“I wanted to create something beautiful out of what everyone already has at home, so I decided to make things out of plastic bags,” she said.
Each one-of-a-kind bracelet, wallet and purse is handmade, and Vilensky says that the concept of using noxious non-biodegradable plastic bags, already banned in many countries due to their widespread damage to the environment, serves two purposes: to reuse waste and to rid the world’s landfills of a few more plastic bags.
Elanit Neutra was heavily influenced by environmental concerns in Toronto, where she studied film production. Two years ago she began using the inner tubes of black rubber tires to make her stylish, soft leather-like accessories.
“I have always been a collector, taking things from the street to make new things, and when I saw the tires, I decided to try and make something nice from the raw material,” she said.
Although the process of finding material and cleaning the rubber is long and difficult, Neutra said part of what makes her work original is that she maintains the texture and any imperfections.
“Each piece is handmade, and I spend a lot of time looking for the right composition and shaping the rubber into something elegant,” Neutra said.
Gili Ben-Ami makes brightly colored necklaces by stringing together car fuses, and Ayala Froindlich recycles comic books, inflatable pool floats and even encyclopedias to make her eco-friendly handbags. Artist Ossi Yalon paints new scenes on vintage clothing in order to refurbish the old.
“Today’s society, especially women, is obsessed with buying new clothing all the time and throwing everything away,” she said. “I am trying to point out that the same therapeutic endeavor can be accomplished by recycling the old and rejuvenating it.”
Recycled plastic bottles filled with colored water are crushed into funky toothbrush holders, mugs and vases in Doron Sar-Shalom’s designs for the home, and Zohar Yarom puts leftover sofa fabric samples to good use in her unique handbags.
“Each bag is reversible and designed to last for many years,” she said. “Part of the unique thinking in Israel requires reinventing ourselves and using what we have available, because importing is not as good for the environment, and materials from abroad are more expensive.”
Despite the greater challenges that pro-environmentalists face in Israel, such as the Israeli government’s lackadaisical interest in efforts to be more environmentally friendly in the fashion industry, some stores are still finding ways to create eco-fashion.
Cotton is an eco-friendly clothing chain in Israel founded in 1992 that now has 12 branches across the country. It is owned by fashion designer Galit Broyde and her husband Erez Moded, and Broyde designs all of Cotton’s stylish and comfortable clothing out of organic materials that are easy to clean and durable. The company adheres to environmentally friendly local production, sells reusable shopping bags, and tries to promote education in Israel.
“For us, green fashion is not a trend; it’s a lifestyle. It’s something that we always did at home, but we started to do more in Cotton in recent years,” Broyde said. “We do everything we can, but no one is ever 100 percent green. For that, we’d all have to go back to caves.”
According to Nirit Sternberg, the owner of Le’ela, a design store that sells exclusively Israeli creations, the number of designers exhibiting eco-friendly work in the store has seen a tremendous increase in recent years — so much so that she was able to put on an eco-design exhibit with more than 35 creators this February. Nevertheless, she points out that it’s still not as popular in Israel as one might expect: “Eco-fashion is still just beginning here. The awareness is not there yet.”
British immigrant and organic baby clothing designer Sohpie O’Hana agrees. She started her own line, called Tinok Yarok (green baby), about a year ago, after searching futilely in Israel for eco-friendly baby clothing.
A Festival of Lights — lite
How many Jews does it take to change a lightbulb?
Here’s a hint: Sing this song by Deborah Kornfield to the tune of “I Have a Little Dreidel”:
I have a brand new lightbulb,
It’s a miracle you see;
It lights the room completely,
Using half the energy.
Oh compact fluorescent lightbulb.
I really have to kvell;
It’s just so energy efficient.
And it saves you gelt as well.
The question is, in fact, the name of a campaign launched by the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL). Humorous title and cute lyrics aside, COEJL is on a serious mission to heighten ecoconsciousness in a Jewish context, and this initiative focuses on — you guessed it — energy-efficient lightbulbs.
COEJL’s Web site describes its three-pronged approach of “engaging the Jewish community in awareness, advocacy and concrete action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote energy conservation and sustainable legislation,” in order to “change how American Jewry responds to … daunting environmental problems.”
This all sounds good, but why, you may be wondering, is this a Jewish issue?
God said this to Adam: “See My works, how good and praiseworthy they are? And all that I have created, I made for you. [But] be mindful that you do not spoil and destroy My world — for if you spoil it, there is no one after you to repair it” (Midrash Kohelet Rabbah 7:13).
And, COEJL argues, Jewish values such as tikkun olam and tzedek should be extended to include not just people but other animals and plants.
OK, you’ve conceded. It is Jewish. But is this really about Chanukah?
Well, what about the Festival of Lights? About making resources last longer than we thought they could? Like for eight nights, perhaps?
High-efficiency lightbulbs actually last eight times longer than regular lightbulbs. Imagine that. And speaking of the number eight, see COEJL’s list of eight actions in eight days as a simple and concrete way to bring some ecoconsciousness into your Chanukah holiday practice.
So, you might be left wondering, just how many Jews does it take to change a lightbulb? As many as possible. As of the writing of this article, more than 20,000 energy-efficient lightbulbs have been sold through COEJL, saving 8,250 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.
So, as you nosh on your latkes this Chanukah, be a modern-day Maccabee — take action against global warming and environmental degradation.
Rachel Kantrowitz is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles.
Skateboard Creator Builds Business on Performance
Don Tashman doesn’t look like a skater boy, not with his scraggly, brown hair and three-day-old unshaven stubble that’s yet to materialize into a beard.
This religious boy from Beverlywood doesn’t even look like a surfer boy — which he is, as these things usually go hand in hand, along with snowboarding. Tashman certainly doesn’t look like the creator and owner of Loaded Boards and Pigeons Inc., the hip skateboarding company that has brought performance boards back to the industry.
No, 31-year-old Tashman doesn’t look like a dude, not with his short-sleeved, button-down shirt, untucked over loose, brandless blue jeans, but that’s OK, because his co-workers do. The long, lean, sun-kissed blond boys stack skateboards according to styles (Fish, Hammerhead, Pintail, Vanguard) or sit on yoga stability balls at computers, looking like they’re playing video games or designing specs — something that makes them almost as happy as riding a board — any board: skate, surf, snow.
Tashman doesn’t need to look the part of the people he designs skateboards for, because he’s got the attitude, for sure — laid back, imperturbable, chill.
These are the qualities that have gotten Loaded a reputation for authenticity in a world clannishly obsessed with it. It’s been four years since he founded the company, and Tashman said he can’t keep up with demand (he declines to give actual figures) and will be forced to move offices soon from mid-Wilshire, where he shares space with his father and brothers, who work in real estate and futures exchange.
Skateboarding runs in the Tashman family, although not on the paternal side. His mother, who also grew up religious, skateboarded when she was a kid. She was sponsored by a local Velcro company. “She took her old roller skates and nailed them to a two-by-four for her first skateboards,” Tashman said. Since he was 3 years old, “she would attach me to my skateboard and pull me down hills and our neighbor’s empty swimming pool,” he said. “She always wanted me to be a cantor, though.”
Tashman didn’t become a cantor. He grew up Orthodox, attended Yeshiva University Los Angeles (YOLA) and then moved to New York to become an English major at Columbia University in 1994.
“I was short-boarding and couldn’t get around,” Tashman said, referring to the shorter boards in vogue then, which were hard to maneuver around the streets of Manhattan. He started developing his own boards for his own use. After he finished college in 1999, he went to study at a yeshiva in Israel. After a few months there, someone convinced him to work as a traveling salesman for an Israeli technology company. He spent a year at that, then, in his wise and quiet way, Tashman cashed out his stock options two weeks before the market crashed in April 2000.
With about $150,000, Tashman spent the next two years developing the boards he’d begun designing at Columbia. Performance was key but so was finding environmentally friendly materials, like bamboo instead of oak.
Tashman said that because he surfed here growing up, he became interested in making the environment better.
“Surfing in L.A. water is to feel the toxicity — people aren’t even aware of it,” he said. Although Tashman’s is a small company, he believes that if other small companies like his and big ones like GE are more environmentally conscious, “I think we can inspire people to be aware of what they consume, what they use and how they can live more sustainable lives.”
In the end, the company created longer, high-performance skateboards, tailored for hills or parks or streets or long distances. The skateboards were unlike the other black-topped, fancy logo boards.
“We had no graphics,” Tashman said. “It was the ride first and foremost. Most boards were driven by graphics, and we wanted to separate ourselves.”
Separate the company he has, with clean, bamboo long boards that appeal to 20- to 40-year-olds, as opposed to the “17-year-old male from the O.C.,” Tashman said. The boards sell for $215 to $300 and are sold in about 350 stores nationwide and have been featured in men’s magazines like FHM and Maxim. Loaded is looking into expanding into apparel as well as snowboards, and the prototypes are laying around the office. But the company will always focus on skateboards, Tashman said.
Now that he has established the company for performance-driven boards, Loaded is adding graphics in the form of a bird — a kite to be precise, a kind of a sparrow drawn sparingly in white and gold on the undercarriage of the Vanguard.
“We’re seeing what we can get away with, and where we can go with it,” Tashman said.
Imagine standing on a high wire, suspended midair and bouncing on it. That’s the experience of being on the Vanguard, a long and flexible skateboard designed for stability. There’s a sensation of coiled-up energy, as if the rider is a spring ready to be sprung, an arrow ready to be shot — loaded, like the company name.
For Tashman and his five full-time employees, the key to the business is having fun.
“Stoke ’em,” is part of the company motto, which, Tashman explains, means, “We’re here to get people excited about the underlying excitement, to promote the visceral experience of the flow.”
Some people talk about finding meaning in life, and others talk about religion, but for adrenaline junkies, flow is the buzzword. “There is a spiritual thing [about skateboarding] — the flow, the pure exhilaration of the experience.”
Tashman also finds inspiration in Los Angeles’ Jewish community.
“It’s an exciting time to be Jewish in L.A. Jewish culture seems very vibrant — people are excited about their heritage; it’s starting to filter out from New York, and it’s like it never was when I was growing up.”
Tashman admitted it’s unusual to be a religious skateboarder, but he finds similarities between the two worlds.
“My religiosity has existed synergistically with my skateboarding. The visceral sense of flow, the intense personal engagement and the stoke it has generated and allowed me to pass on are enriching. Skateboarding culture has historically exhibited a strong sense of community. Like Judaism, I find that it promotes personal development and environmental awareness,” he said.
Aren’t they so different, these two separate worlds of Jewish life and skateboarding?
“They go hand in hand — a big part of skateboarding is how you present yourself,” he said. In the skateboarding industry there’s always the question of authenticity, whether you’re a “core” company — the rap equivalent of street cred — or an outsider trying to make a buck.
“I’ve always skirted the issue. If I can make people excited, great; if not, OK, I don’t need to classify myself in a group to achieve that,” Tashman said.
And that’s how he feels about religion. He said he’s “traditional, shomer Shabbat” but doesn’t define himself as Orthodox. “I do the things I find meaning in, and I don’t do things I don’t.”
“Both worlds can be alienating, in that myopic, or xenophobic tendencies, tend to miss the broader universalist picture,” he said. “In my opinion, the need to promote in-group behavior at the expense of creativity and exploration is sad. I can’t really be bothered by those approaches — there’s too much fun to be had.”