A Tree Hugger’s Guide to Tu B’Shvat

This Shabbat, we will celebrate the festival of Tu B’Shvat, the New Year for trees. The day is often marked by eating 15 different kinds of fruit or holding a Tu B’Shvat seder, complete with four glasses of delicious Israeli wine!

Many Jewish schools and communities use the 15th of Shvat as an opportunity to teach their students and congregants about the importance of trees and protecting the environment. It’s an inherently Jewish concept: our mission statement of tikkun olam – repairing the world – means improving the world by leading an ethical life. What could be more ethical than caring for our beautiful Earth?

Our world is driven by fossil fuels, which release toxic fumes into the atmosphere. We’re destroying our natural resources at an unprecedented rate: a patch of rainforest the size of a football field is destroyed every second to make space for carbon-heavy industry and agriculture. The air we breathe has never been dirtier; our oceans are full of plastic; our landfill sites are fit to burst. Year-round “seasonal” produce means our clean eating is actually filthy, and entire cities lie shrouded by smoke and smog.
Something has got to change.

Here are a few ideas on how to turn Tu B’Shvat into a world-changing eco awareness day:

1) Plants trees. Deforestation is a double-edged sword: not only is the space being used for industries that create huge amounts of dangerous gases like carbon dioxide, our natural cleansing filter – trees* – are being destroyed. Head out to your local garden center and pick out some saplings you can plant in our garden or neighborhood park. This is especially great it you have kids! Or…

2) Too urban or don’t want to get your hands dirty? Donate to a charity like the JNF, and they’ll use your money to plant trees on your behalf. They can even send you a certificate marking your trees, making this a great gift idea!

3) Set up colorful recycling bins to make it even easier to care for our world. Ideally, use separate bins for plastic bottles, tins, paper and cardboard. Different colors or bold pictures will make it simple for your kids to get involved.

4) Go green for the day. Try walking to school or the office, remember to shut off the lights when you leave a room, and use as little water as possible for tasks like washing the dishes or cleaning your teeth.

Remember – we only have one planet, so let’s do our part to look after it this Tu B’Shvat!

*Trees ‘breathe’ by absorbing carbon dioxide and giving out oxygen. They literally take dirty pollutants out the air and give back pure, life-giving oxygen.