Written by Eva Jason
בל תשחית (Bal tashchit) is the Jewish commandment from the Torah that tells us not to destroy or waste unnecessarily. The Torah explicitly forbids the cutting down of fruit trees because fruit trees are a source of food that should not be wasted. This commandment rests upon the idea that God created the Earth and we must respect it. Also, it is important to note that the Earth does not have infinite resources and we should treat it with respect and care. Here are some tips to incorporate the idea of בל תשחית into your life.
- Forgo packaging. Grocery stores will often sell produce in unnecessary plastic or styrofoam packaging. Try to buy stuff that doesn’t come in a cardboard box covered in plastic. In fact, many times the packaged items will be more expensive or a bad avocado might be grouped with 3 good ones. Plus, buying in bulk can also lead to unnecessary waste because fruit will ripen at the same time before you can eat it all. If you pick out your own fruits and vegetables, you will probably pay a lower price, get better quality food, and make less waste!
- Thrifting is not only trendy, it’s environmentally friendly! New clothing is a big source of waste, from the fabric, dyes, transportation and packing of that single garment. “Fast fashion” retailers tend to make low quality clothing with no thought into the environmental impact nor the factory conditions for their workers. If you end up buying a used piece of clothing, you cut all of that out and you will look chic! A way to cut down on costs and environmental impact is to organize a clothing swap with some friends. Not only will you get a cool new wardrobe, it will be completely free.
- Just skip the waste! Bring a reusable bag with you to the grocery store, or just bring one around with you in general! Skip the receipt at check out. A lot of times, coffee shops will give you a discount for bringing your own mug. Use a reusable water bottle to avoid disposable plastic ones that sit in landfills for millions of years before decomposing.
- Use it all! Freezing food that you think you can’t eat before it goes bad is a great way to reduce your waste. Don’t let that spinach go in the trash. You can freeze it and cook it up later or add it to a smoothie. We tend to scrap vegetable peels, but the skin actually contain many nutrients. Leave the carrot skin on to give roasted carrots an earthy taste. Ginger peels give steamed rice a nice kick. Onions roots, potato peels, and herb stems make a great soup base when simmered together. Just make sure to clean the skins of carrots, potatoes, and other root vegetables very well. An apple or banana with a lil’ bruise tastes just as sweet. Produce doesn’t have to look perfect to taste great.
- Challenge consumer culture! Buy a multi-use product, such as a lotion that can be used for your face, body and hands. Baking soda can be used as a teeth whitener as well as shampoo. Coconut oil is a great moisturizer that doesn’t contain any aluminum, sulfates, or parabens. These additives can be toxic to our body and the environment. Buying fewer products cuts down on the waste produced from plastic containers. Glass containers are more recyclable than plastic, while aerosol cans (containers for mousse or shaving cream) are often difficult to recycle.
- Carpooling and ridesharing can be a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Not everyone needs to drive to the party–go together and use less gas. Public transportation is another great way to get around. The bus or train is already heading in that direction, so might as well hop on! By not driving your own car, you save gas and you will get to where you need to be. Or you could bike/skateboard/rollerblade/walk and have zero carbon footprint.
- Share resources with your neighbors. Borrow a lawn mower or vacuum from that nice old couple next door. If they already have one, they will most likely let you borrow it for a day of use. Share straighteners and blow dryers with roommates to avoid costs and clutter. If you are only using items such as mops, lawn mowers, car washing supplies or a weed wacker a few times a year, it is definitely worth it to set up swap with neighbors and friends.
- Turn off the lights and unplug outlets when you are not home. Even a charger plugged into the wall without a phone attached uses energy. Don’t be an energy vampire.
- Make every drop count. If it’s yellow, it is mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down. Do I need to explain this one? Use grey water to water your garden. If you are waiting for the shower to heat up, stick a bucket underneath to collect the excess downpour, then use it to water your beautiful California Golden Poppies. Only run the dishwasher and washing machine when it is completely full, and run it cold when you can. Investigate how much water is used to produce your favorite foods. Tofu is a great source of protein that is far less water intensive than meat. Take back the tap!
Find which rules to reduce waste work for you and implement them into your daily life. No matter if it is for financial, environmental, or personal health reasons, know that your effort to reduce waste is vital!