In my house, we’re in the midst of celebrating Hanukkah, which has always been one of my favorite Jewish holidays. A week of gifts, candles, and fried food… What more could you want?
In my effort to celebrate with less waste, I’ve come up with a few ideas on how to incorporate some sustainable habits into some of Hanukkah’s most important traditions.
Don’t trash that candle wax! Tradition dictates that Hanukkah candles should not be repurposed for any other use; if you celebrate a more secular Hanukkah or are using candles at your dinner table, you can get creative with the melted wax. Hanukkah candles don’t last long before they burn out, but if you have to blow them out before they’ve run their course, be sure to save them for another night or for next year. And as for all that wax that’s dripped down your menorah, that candle wax can take on new life, too: Turn it into a firestarter, rub chunks of the wax on sticky zippers to loosen them, or melt the pieces together to make new tea lights. Holiday bonus! Two more candle-related tips:
- When the candles are burning, enjoy the flicker of the light by turning off electric lights; you’ll save a little electricity at the same time.
- Ditch disposable lighters (properly) for matches or refillable/reusable lighters.
Be responsible with cooking oil. In Hanukkah tradition, you enjoy fried foods like latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (fried jelly doughnuts) in commemoration of the miraculous bit of oil that lasted long enough for the beleaguered Jewish tribe to light their menorahs, or lamps, for eight days. While these crispy treats are delicious, the oil that’s left after frying is not so pleasant. If you are careful with your cooking oil — don’t overheat it, carefully filter it after use — you can reuse it several times. Afterwards, be sure to dispose of the oil properly it properly: Some cities or haulers will collect cooking oil for repurposing; whatever you do, don’t rinse it down the drain, as that’ll cause plumbing problems and could contaminate your city’s water systems. If your city or hauler doesn’t collect the oil, let the spent oil cool before putting it in a sealed container and throwing it in the trash.
Get crafty with gelt wrappers. The foil wrappers on the chocolate coins that children play with (and eat) on Hanukkah can be used for lovely craft projects long after the candy’s been eaten. A good thing, too: Foil that has food residue on it isn’t recyclable.