Cleaning Up the Messiest Holiday

It’s almost Purim, and I’m beyond excited. It’s my second-favorite Jewish Holiday (Sukkos can’t be surpassed in my heart). I love the achdus of sending and receiving mishloach manot, especially in Cleveland, where we don’t see so much of our neighbors in the cold and dreary months. I love the incredible creativity of costumes and themes. My heart skips a beat each year when I hear Esther say, “im avaditi, avaditi.” And the seuda with friends gives me a lift that helps carry me through Pesach cleaning and shopping.

What I don’t love is the tremendous amount of waste we generate each Purim. The extra bag of trash on the curb that week takes a little bit of shine off the day, especially when I think about how much time and effort and money we all put into our mishloach manot. 

But on Purim, we see that anything can change. Venahapoch hu! Here are some small changes I’ve made to make my Purim a little bit greener.

I look at everything before I toss it. Can it serve another purpose?

  • I reuse small bags as snack bags (every one reused is one baggie saved and kept from a landfill).
  • Beautiful gift bags can be saved to reuse for next year (if they are Purim themed) or throughout the year for hostess gifts, birthday gifts, and the like.
  • Lucites and small plastic containers are great for organizing. My bedroom junk drawer was transformed using repurposed containers. One mishloach manot bin holds broaches, three more keep medicine organized: one for daily medications, one for occasional medicines, and one for topical treatments. (There are also three pieces from cell phone boxes, a kids’ shoebox, and some tea tins holding things in place. My jewelry is in bead boxes that were left over from my daughter’s Talia’s bat mitzvah.)

I think about how my mishloach manot can be environmentally friendly. I’ve never come up with a mishloach manot idea that would generate zero trash. I got closer to zero with a few choices: 

  • My bags are plain brown paper with jute handles. I don’t put our name on the bag so they can be reused.
  • Foods inside are mostly packed in reusable materials: a mason jar, beeswax wrap (Rabbi Gutman assures me it’s kosher).  [Updated September 2020: I find that beeswax wrap just doesn’t hold as well as I like. I’m keeping my eyes out for a new brand that is reasonably priced and works well, but in the meantime, I’m not using it.]

I think about other ways to send mishloach manot:

  • Thankfully, the day school two of my three children go to offers a service to send mishloach manot to teachers by making a donation to the school. Instead of a lot of little packages, the teachers get one big basket with the names of the families who contributed. That cuts down on packaging waste and also saves the driving time, so you don’t waste gas, and you’re not putting out vehicle emissions.
  • A second school in the community has a fundraiser where, for a small fee, you can be included in a group shalach manos for anyone in the community. The recipient gets anything from a card to an ultra-deluxe package, depending on how many people send to them.    

I’m not going to lie. My kid’s mishloach manot are still chemical-laden nosh in plastic bags because that’s what makes them happy right now. We did choose drinks in cans rather than plastic because they are endlessly recyclable. Seventy-three percent of all the aluminum ever mined is still in use today.

Did you need this information? Did you want this information? I have no idea. But if you found it interesting and/or useful, let me know. I’m creating this blog for frum women who are interested in combining greener, lower-waste living with the demands of frum life, and I hope you’ll be a part of it.

Until next week,

Click to see the ongoing impact of my low-waste changes (updated each week). 

Amazon bag ban carbon emissions celery Chanuka Chanukah Chanukka Chanukkah COVID disinfect donuts doughnuts elul energy food waste frum Hannukah Hanukka Hanukkah jewish lag b'omer landfill lashon hara laundry line dry low-waste mishloach manos mishloach manot orthodox passover pesach plastic purim recycle recycling reduce retail therapy reusable reuse shopping single-use teshuva washcloth water zero-waste

8 thoughts on “Cleaning Up the Messiest Holiday

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing!!! There are really great ideas here!!! one thing i do for shalach manos is I use reusible packaging. for example this year we used canvas party bags i got on amazon. it was 12 for 10 dollars or thereabouts. we even found canvas bags to go with our theme!! just wanted to share.


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