The B'nai Mitzvah year is one of learning, planning, shlepping, and growing. Here are 7 great ideas for "greening" this important lifecycle event.

7 Ways to Green a Bar/Bat Mitzvah

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.  ~Native American Proverb

The B’nai Mitzvah year is one of learning, planning, shlepping, and growing. We want our kids to become Jewish adults and understand how to continue to grow and learn as a Jewish adult throughout their lives. We teach them Torah, prayers, customs and HOPEFULLY we teach them to give back through tzedakah and to help repair what is wrong with the world through Tikkun Olam.

We can start repairing the world during this transition from Jewish childhood to Jewish adulthood. Here are 7 great tips for greening the Bar Mitzvah year, the service and celebrations:

1. Start with the invitations. You have a date for the event. Plan ahead and use recycled paper for your invitations. You can even get paper with seeds in it so that when the recipients are done with it, they can plant it in their garden and grow flowers or veggies. Less is more.  Try not having as many envelope: many people now make the RSVP card a postcard (thus no envelope) or even better, have guests RSVP by email.  Remember to have a phone number to RSVP as well for those few people who do not have an email address. You can make your own invites for less money as well. If you print it on your printer, try downloading free eco friendly fonts that use less ink. Of course you can be completely green by making an online-only invitation. Choose your green limit and push the envelope!

2. Tutor nearby. If a tutor is part of the plan, choosing the tutor for your kids is a very important decision. Are the personalities right, the level of learning a good match? You can also look to see if someone is close by or near a bus route from your child’s school or your home. Maybe ask your kids to bike to their lesson on warmer days.

3. Ordering kippot can be green. Eco Suede makes a Kippot <br>(Jewish headcoverings)kippah from recycled cardboard. Fair trade kippot from Guatemala are also a wonderful choice.

4. The Mitzvah project is a natural fit.  Doing a “Mitzvah project” has become a wonderful part of the B’nai Mitzvah process. There are many wonderful projects that kids can do to help the world. If your child has a leaning towards helping the environment, they may be inspired by a child in our community who, this past summer, helped fund and organize solar panels for the Boulder Humane Society. Per Dustin Michels, age 12 at the time, “I helped the Humane Society to go green through solar because I hoped it would make an impact on the environment, the community, and their electrical bill.” WOW!




5. Think trees instead of flowers. Instead of ordering flowers for the Service at the synagogue, you could buy a plant or small tree to plant after the festivities. If it is the middle of winter, you can make a sign that says you will plant a tree at the synagogue in the spring. This can be even less expensive than a fancy arrangement and “green” the synagogue for many many years. If it becomes a tradition for a synagogue, a small B’nai Mitzvah garden can be planted and new Jewish adults can be represented by planting their own trees, contributing to the synagogue and to the planet!

6. Make your event Zero Waste. Ok, the day has arrived after all the studying and planning. The Torah, Haftarah, and Drash (speech) are perfect and it is time to celebrate. You can go to Ellie’s Eco Home Store next to Sunflower Market and purchase all the plates, flatware and cups in compostable form. Don’t forget the compostable bags for the trash. Made from either corn or potato, these products can go into the compost instead of the landfill. Landfill produces methane gas which is 7 times more harmful to the climate than carbon. Try to buy bulk food products or products with less packaging. And although, I admit, I am a meat eater, I know that meat is the leading cause of global warming. So I try to limit my meat and fish intake. Plus, with Kashrut laws vegetarian is SO MUCH EASIER for the B’nai Mitzvah celebrations. I’ll post some great vegetarian Indian Kiddush recipes in an upcoming article. Also, think about using locally grown food.

7. Decorations with more use. When thinking about decorations, think about making something that can be donated to the needy afterwards. Recently I went to a Bat Mitzvah were the center pieces were new mens socks and gum balls. The gum was eaten during the celebration and the socks were donated to the homeless shelter where they are in great need. Instead of decorations that will be thrown away, they were used for a worthy cause. It can also be tied into the the Mitzvah project your child has chosen.

Make this special time in your families lives a memorable and green one. We are all on our own special Jewish and green path. Chose the path that is right for you and your child. And in the process make a difference and repair the world.  Please share your ideas, and teens – we’d love to hear about your mitzvah projects!

About Debbie Garelick

Debbie is a local Realtor, business woman, mom of two teens and wife of Robert (almost 25 years). She is a strong advocate for local environmental issues in the Jewish community. Also, she is an advocate for juvenile diabetes. Debbie has lived in Boulder since 1974 except for 6 years when she lived in Israel residing on Kibbutz Maagan Michael.

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  1. Fair trade kippot from Guatemala. Outstanding!