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4 Ways to Wrap Up Hanukkah More Sustainably

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Hanukkah is the festival of light; this year, why not make it a festival of less waste, too?

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.

Gift strategically. If you’re still doing some last minute shopping, consider picking something clever and sustainable: Perhaps you give a secondhand book each of the remaining nights, or a series of handmade gifts (think easy DIY crafts or homemade beauty products).

How do you celebrate Hanukkah sustainably? Share your ideas in the comments below!

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.

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  • Rachael T. 2 years ago
    Love this :) Thank you for sharing!
  • Pam M. 2 years ago
    we only give one night of gifts rather than 8, I reused gift bags/tissue paper and ribbons, we also forgo cards.
  • Bobbi S. 3 years ago
    I pour my hot oil on weed patches in my yard--dead by the next day, and the bugs don't seem to mind!
  • Carla N. 3 years ago
    My family celebrates Christmas, not Hanukkah, but many candles are burned at evening dinners and parties, so I appreciate the tips on reusing melted wax as well!
  • Jessica H. 3 years ago
    Thanks to those who set the record straight regarding the lighting of the menorah and the disposal of the candles! In my interfaith family, we put a lot of heart into our celebrations but aren't always aware of the traditional and most observant way of doing things. I hope all of our readers will observe the holiday in a way that they feel comfortable!

    I still, hover, do enjoy turning off the lights and just sit enjoying the beauty of my lit menorah!
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