Use eco-friendly menorahs, dreidels, and other Hanukkah decorations
Like Hanukkah gift-buying, Chanukah decorations can be another drain on the budget and the environment. Disposable dreidels handed out at temple and mounds of wax burned in our menorahs add to the environmental concerns surrounding this joyous event. But if you’re looking for ways to create the perfect green Chanukah, look no further! Here you’ll find all manner of ideas for creating and buying eco-friendly Hanukah decorations.
Eco-friendly Hanukkah lighting and candles
As the festival of lights, Hanukkah can involve a great many sources of illumination—be they candles or electric ornaments or menorahs. Classic paraffin candles used in many menorahs and Hanukkah light displays around the world are often made from petroleum byproducts, which means they’re non-renewable and contribute to the hazards of the petroleum industry. But natural choices made from a variety of renewable ingredients (such as palm oil, beeswax, and soy) for your menorah and other decorations do exist. And they’re healthier for you and your family—when paraffin burns, it produces the same soot as burning diesel fuel. The air contaminants in paraffin fumes include toluene, benzene, methyl ethyl keytone, and naphthalene—the same substances found in paint and varnish removers. These problems are avoided with most natural candle choices.
But the burning of any candle—natural or synthetic—emits a small fraction of carbon dioxide (CO2). In fact, the Green Hanukkia campaign maintains that every menorah candle that burns produces approximately 15 grams of CO2. It’s not a huge amount, but collectively can add up to a significant amount of candle-burning over one Hannukah season.
For this reason, some Hannukah celebrants are opting for electric menorahs (while others are restricted against burning candles in their apartments for safety reasons). So if you’re looking for alternatives to candles, look for sustainable ways to light-up electrically by following these basic energy-efficient lighting principles to start saving electricity and money. The most cost-effective choice are menorahs and other lighted decorations that use light-emitting diodes or LEDs, which are small bulbs that work when electrons move through a semiconductor material. Why?
- Energy efficiency: They use nearly 90 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs resulting in much lower energy consumption, and that means fewer greenhouse gas emissions and cash in your pocket over the long run.
- Longer lives: LEDs are “solid state” lights that do not have any moving parts, glass, or filaments. What this means for you is that they can last up to 200,000 hours (which equals lifespans almost 10 times longer than regular bulbs) without ever burning out or breaking, so that fewer replacements are required and less garbage is created.
- Increased safety: The risk of fire is greatly reduced when LEDs are used since they are cool to the touch (making them safe for little fingers, too).
Green Hanukkah decorations
Naturally, lights and candles are often central in Hanukkah decorating schemes, but what of the ornaments, Hanukkah bushes, centerpieces, and other decor items used during this eight day celebration? Many of the products on the market are made from non-renewable, often toxic and unrecyclable materials that are not only unhealthy for our families, they’re casting a less-than-joyful glow on the earth. They require loads of resources, energy, and water to make and distribute, and often end up in the trash where they’ll take hundreds, if not thousands, of years to break down.
Thankfully, many unique, stylish decorations made with earth-friendly materials now exist. You can certainly purchase eco-conscious Hanukkah decorations to adorn hearth, table, and door, but if you’re looking for ways to craft some homemade Hanukkah decorations this year, we’ve got you covered, too. Check out these great green craft projects (suitable for varying age groups) that’ll help you achieve a low-cost celebration.
- Dreidel: Make your own dreidel from used cardboard, paper, or a clean, dry milk carton.
- Menorah: Construct your a recycled menorah out of scraps of wood, or just use votives and ribbon from around your house to fashion a stylish row of individual menorah candles as a table centerpiece.
- Star of David: Decorate your home with simple Star of David crafts such as a picture frame made from popsicle sticks or one made from a patchwork of fabric scraps.
- Hannukah bush: Of course, almost any tree can be used to represent the Hannukah bush—a houseplant, and outdoor tree, or even a live evergreen from a Christmas tree lot or farm. But you could choose to skip the tree all together and instead make a symbolic donation to a tree planting project through the Jewish National Fund. Whatever you choose, be sure to decorate it blue and white with eco-friendly ornaments and lights.
- Sounds of Hannukah: Instead of filling your home with tangible decorations and ornaments, why not “decorate” your home by playing “Ma’oz Tzur,” “Mi Y’maleil,” or “Chanukkah, Oh Chanukkah.” This can cost very little, creates less garbage (especially if you purchase e-tunes online sans packaging through iTunes or Amazon.com), and requires very little setup or take down.
Find it! Store-bought Hanukkah decorations
Eco-decorating for rushed and/or non-crafty folks just got easier. Just look for products with some or all of these basic, eco-attributes:
- Renewable: Choose products made from materials that are renewable. Avoid things made with synthetics, such as plastic, polyester, and PVC (polyvinyl chloride) which are made from non-renewable petroleum. Instead, choose materials like cotton, hemp, bamboo, jute, natural rubber, silk, and other alternative fibers.
- Biodegradable: Look for products that are made of materials that easily and quickly biodegrade. Most often this includes natural products that can be put in your compost pile or bin, and is especially important for products with short lives (such as disposable dishes, napkins, and other textiles).
- Recycled and recyclable: Many flashy, novel Hanukkah decorations contain very little recycled material, and too often they’re also non-recyclable (plastics, metals, Styrofoam, etc). So instead of buying stuff that will likely end up in the landfill in one or two seasons, go for decorations with high recycled content that indicate they’re recyclable when they no longer work.
- Energy-saving: Choose products that will save energy throughout the holidays such as energy efficient lighting and light timers.
- Reduced toxicity: In both textiles and food items, this means choosing Certified Organic, as well as those made with plant-derived ingredients.
- Certified green: A great way to be sure you’ve picked up a green product is to look for green certification logos that indicate verifiably eco-friendly products. These provide assurance that the materials (wood, metal, fabrics, etc) were sourced sustainably, free from animal cruelty, are recyclable or biodegradable, and contain few if any toxins.
Don’t have a Hanukkah bush in your home? Add the scent of fir and balsam to your celebrations with this 100 percent soy wax candle that’s hand-poured into a reusable tin. Each candle is metal-free and uses all-cotton wicks for a clean burn (30-35 hours).
Light up your Hanukkah festivities with this electric menorah that uses super bright LED bulbs. It’s battery-operated so doesn’t require a plug and is perfect for those living in buildings where open flames are not permitted. The lighting sequence is controlled by the on/off switch at the base.
This beautiful menorah is hand-made by partners in a fair trade workshop in El Salvador. It’s made from pine taken from a Chilean reforesting project and finished with water-based, toxin-free paint.
Whether you’re cooking up some latkes or burning oil in your traditional menorah, choosing oil that’s both kosher and organic will ensure it’s sustainable and appropriate for your Hanukkah celebration.
Decorate your fridge with these stylish recycled bottle caps that come imprinted with sayings like “Happy Hanukkah,” “Miracle of Miracles,” “Mazel Tov!,”and “Light the Menorah.”
Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel! Play the traditional Hanukkah game with this colorful piece made in a fair trade shop in India. Though its eco-attributes are minimal, purchasing items from the The Rainforest Site will help preserve rainforest habitat.
If you’ve got a modern, techie flare, this menorah is for you. Made from recycled motherboards, these menorahs use batteries, making it easy to use almost anywhere. The switches allow you to light individual LED candles for every night of the celebration.
Want to carry some gelt and a dreidel around in your wallet? Look no further than this Naked-ID designed “credit card insert” that disassembles into a two-dimensional dreidel made of recycled steel. Even if you don’t travel with it, its slim construction will reduce transport fuel consumption on its way to you. Package comes with an ancient bank note.
Bring a touch of elegance to your Hanukkah celebrations with this glass menorah made from recycled materials. Comes with either a polished or matte finish and is available in a variety of interesting configurations.
Adorn your Hanukkah bush or table with one of these handmade sun-catching ornaments. They’re made from broken window panes which have been crushed, melted, colored, and poured into molds.
Add an interesting touch to your Hanukkah decorating scheme with this recycled steep pipe menorah. Made by artisans who believe religion doesn’t have to be tacky, this piece works with all normal candelabra candles. Also comes in white with Swarovski crystals for a more refined look.
Line your Hanukkah table with one of these dreidel-inspired, silk table runners. Silk is naturally renewable, biodegradable, and very sustainable and makes a luxurious addition to any holiday decorating scheme.
Adorn your Hanukkah table with one of these unique centerpieces made from recycled bicycle chains. Made by artisans in India, this menorah is sustainable and fairly-traded, yet inexpensive.