Guide to an Eco-Bar/Bat Mitzvah Observance

Bella Bogart

Bogart is a rabbinical student in the ALEPH smikha program. This Guide was done as a project for the class on EcoJudaism taught by Rabbi Arthur Waskow in 2009.

Resources, Suggestions and other Tidbits
for Creating an Environmentally Conscious Simcha

Entrances to Holiness are everywhere
The possibility of ascent is all the time
Even at unlikely times through unlikely places
There is no place on Earth without the Presence

Mazal Tov, Family!

You are in the process of planning one of the most wonderful simchas. Choosing to celebrate this in a way that also honors and protects our planet is not just our ethical responsibility, but also a form of hiddur mitzvah (enhancing and beautifying a mitzvah). Below are just a few suggestions and resources that I hope will assist you in this endeavour.

 Avoid decorations designed for one-time use (streamers, balloons, etc.)
 Create centerpieces from what you have. For example, a favorite piece of pottery makes a great focal point for a table. Consider making centerpieces from fresh fruit and vegetables or potted plants; decorative baskets of food, toiletries or other items that will then be donated to local organizations are a great “bonus mitzvah” alternative.
 When using flowers, buy local, organically-grown flowers
 At the end of the event, encourage guests to take decorations with them to enjoy in their own homes.


Back to Earth Organic Catering -
The Green Table - we hold both quality and sustainability as our guiding principals
Organic Chef - responsible environmental management & zero waste events
Event Planners:
A good event planner can make your vision into a reality while minimizing your stress. Eco-friendly event planning is rapidly growing field that is attracting many talented and qualified individuals. Make sure to get local references prior to engaging a planner.

Eco-friendly event planning businesses are now located throughout the country. Below are just a few local listings:

Gifts and Goodies:
Instead of bringing wrapped and packaged presents, guests simply RSVP and make secure online contributions that are pooled for the purchase of ONE memorable gift and to support ONE meaningful cause. Select an eco-friendly birthday party invitation, choose a cause and invite your friends. No Driving. No Shopping. No Wrapping.


Email/Online – is a service that allows your guests to login and RSVP online--eliminating the paper from RSVP cards! They have templates especially designed for Bar/Bat Mitzvahs--with a variety of themes and colors to choose from. Also a great way to provide lots of information to your guests!

Eco-Friendly Print Invites –

Looking for something novel? How about a plantable invitation?

Plantable seed paper, just soak for 5 minutes and plant in your garden or in a pot!



Use what’s already available! Most synagogues have a ready supply of kippot. Many have a large supply of all-white ones tucked away for the High Holidays; if uniformity is important to you, perhaps you can borrow them for the day.

“Pot-luck” – Ask guests to bring an assortment of kippot from home. (Make certain they are labeled if they need to be returned).

Believe it or not, you can even purchase recycled kippot to offer your guests when they arrive for the ceremony. Fair Trade Judaica can point you to some vendors, or you can do an internet search for recycled kippot. If you do purchase kippot, consider donating the extras after your event. Perhaps your synagogue can use them for Shabbat.


Fair-trade: A key tenet of Judaism is to “pursue justice” – Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof. One way we can act on this is to ensure that our consumer habits assist economic advancement for others around the globe. Working in cooperatives, Maya weavers work to overcome extreme poverty, without giving up their cherished culture. When you purchase these Judaica fair trade products you are practicing Tikkun Olam, the Jewish practice of helping to repair the world.


Eco-Suede – is the eco-friendly, vegan alternative to
suede-leather kippot. They look like suede kippot, but
are made of recycled cardboard.
Black Hemp Organic Cotton

We are thrilled to offer a line of high-quality yarmulkes made with the most important of ideals as our top priority: mishpat- - justice.

Looking for something novel? Try an African kippah made from a soda can!
Each kippah (5.9 inches) is handmade from recycled soda cans, lined with black vinyl and hand stitched with coloured telephone wire so that they are comfortable to wear. They are available in a variety of "flavours"-colours, including orange fanta, fanta grape, lemon twist, appeltiser (carbonated apple juice) and grapetiser (carbonated grape juice. Kippot in silver are available using the inside of the can. African Home is a member of the World Fair Trade Organization.
Party Supplies:

 Use dishes, cups and utensils that can be washed and reused, rather than single-use food serviceware. If you do not own enough of an item, rent from a local rental company.
 If you must use single-use dishes and utensils, use compostable items made from corn and/or sugarcane and find a local source to compost them.
 Provide cloth napkins instead of paper.
 If you must use paper napkins, make sure they’re made with 100% post-consumer recycled content.

Handmade tablecloth Runners & Napkins Shweshwe fabric is handmade entirely of natural, 100% South African cotton, and is fairly traded.



 Heirloom - Consider the deep meaning of handing down a tallit m’dor l’dor; is there an older relative with whom your child has a bond who might wish to pass on a tallit? If you will be purchasing a tallit for your child, suggest they choose one with the anticipation of passing it to their own child.

 “Repurposed” Fabric – a tallit can be made of almost any material. You may already own the perfect piece of cloth, e.g. a lace tablecloth, silk kimono or woolen shawl.


Low-impact Fabrics:

Tencel - is a fiber made from wood pulp
in an environmentally safe low- impact
process. Because of this minimal
environmental impact, many consider
it ‘eco-kosher.’ Tencel is fine, soft and
verystrong and has a lovely natural
luster. It drapes very well, is much
lighter and cooler than wool, and is far
more affordable than silk.

Eco-Friendly Linen and Cotton –
More Creative Ideas:

Wine – (L’chaim!):
Kosher Organic Wine
Four Gates Winery – California-based, Organic, Kosher and Kosher for Pesach, not Mevushal, several varieties
Yarden Chardonnay Odem Organic – Israel-based, Organic, Kosher, Kosher for Pesach, not Mevushal – Austria-based, bottled under the name “Queen Esther,” Organically-grown grapes, Kosher for Pesach, Mevushal, several varieites
Baron Herzog – California based, Not certified organic, but many of Baron Herzog’s wines come from “sustainably grown/low spray” grapes. Mevushal and many varieties. Ask your supplier or contact the company for more details.
Other Organic, Eco-Friendly and Fair Trade Wines
1. Alma Rosa- (Buellton, CA) Uses green farming techniques, water conservation
2. Banrock Station- (Riverland, South Australia) Contributed more that $5 Million to wetland conservation projects, installed water conserving irrigation. Runs the solar powered Wine and Wetland center.
3. Benziger Family Winery (Glen Ellen, CA) Sustainable and biodynamic wines
4. Cakebread Cellars (Rutherford, CA) Organic grapes, uses recycled glass containers.
5. Ceago Vinegarden- (Redwood Valley, CA) No chemical fertilizers/pesticides.
6. Etica- Fair Trade Wine from producers in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the US.
7. Fairhills (Western Cape, South Africa) Handpicked organic grapes. FairTrade
8. Fetzer (Mendocino, CA) Powered by renewable energies (solar, wind and geothermal.)
9. Frogs Leap (Rutherford, CA) Practices green farming. LEED certified, uses solar energy
10. Frey Vineyards (Mendocino, CA) First certified biodynamic wine in the US
11. Greenwood Ridge (Anderson Valley, CA) 100% solar powered.
12. Grgich Hills Estate (Rutherford, CA) Organic Farming, uses natural corks, solar powered
13. Hall Wines (Napa Valley, CA) First LEEDs Certified Winery
14. Handley Cellars Estate Vineyard (Anderson Valley, CA) 75% solar energy powered, avoids using chemical. Organic grapes.
15. Kendall Jackson (Sonoma, CA) Solar power, water conservation
16. Kunde Estate- (Sonoma, CA) Conserves energy, restores creek, and uses cover crops.
17. Long Meadow Ranch (Napa Valley, CA) Sustainable organic farm
18. Parducci- Mendocino Wine Company (Ukiah, CA) - 1st US Carbon Neutral Winery.
19. Paul Dolan Vineyards (Mendocino, CA) Organic and biodynamic winery
20. Quivera- Sonoma, CA- 100% organic and solar.
21. Sokol Blosser (Dundee Hills, OR) Organic, certified by Salmon-Safe ( LEED Certification
22. Wente- (Livermore Valley, CA) Farming for Future Program.

Extra Tidbits:
Favors and Gifts
• Avoid giving throw-away trinkets as party favors. Instead, select sustainable or reusable alternatives such as organic chocolates, a small picture frame or a gift certificate to a local environmentally-friendly business. Or, skip the party favors and make a donation to a local environmental charity in your guests’ honor instead.
• Give eco-friendly gifts, such as organic items or gifts made from recycled materials. Again, consider giving a gift certificate for a service or to a consignment shop.
• Avoid purchasing gifts in excessive packaging. Make sure any packaging can be recycled.
• Consider asking guests to make a donation to a local environmental organization or other non-profit instead of bringing gifts.
• When wrapping gifts, avoid extra packaging. For example, a shirt can be neatly rolled and tied with a cloth ribbon, rather than put in a box with tissue paper and wrapped with traditional wrapping paper. (Traditional wrapping paper is not recyclable.)
• Choose gift wrap that is reused or reusable, such as brown shopping bags or cloth gift bags. If you must use wrapping paper, select paper that is made of recycled content or from tree-free alternatives.
• Instead of ribbon, consider using natural fiber raffia, which can be reused and then composted. Or, use cloth ribbon, which can be reused

Food and Beverages
• Plan the menu to include seasonal, organic food from a local farm.
• Serve meatless dishes at your event (Meat production is responsible for 18% of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions and a major source of land and water degradation). If you decide to serve meat, choose meat raised sustainably by a local farmer.
• When shopping for food, buy in bulk whenever possible and use containers from home (rather than plastic bags). Choose food with less packaging, and bring your own reusable cloth bags to transport the food home.
• If you are hiring a catering service, choose one that is familiar with the concept of Zero Waste. If a caterer usually serves food in disposable containers, ask if they will use ceramic or glass serving pieces that you supply. Request they prepare your food with local, seasonal ingredients.
• Instead of using plastic silverware and paper plates, try re-usable dishware to reduce the amount of trash being sent to the landfill.
• Serve tap water instead of bottled water. Tap water is less expensive, just as safe, and uses less oil (17.6 million barrels of oil are used each year to produce plastic water bottles, and only 14% of the bottles made are recycled, the rest ending up in our landfills;
• Choose an event site near public transportation.
• Encourage your guests to bike, walk, take the bus or carpool to your event rather than drive in separate vehicles.
• Include information about bus routes and nearby bike paths in your invitation

Jewish and Interfaith Topics: