Dear Umbra,

My bat mitzvah is coming up, and at my synagogue, we give out programs. This year, in my program, I would like to include some tips to lead a more eco-friendly life (when to turn off lights, etc.). Will you please help me with these ideas?

Minnetonka, Minn.

Dearest Talia,

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Mazel tov! You probably have seen some Top Ten lists of best actions for the environment, and if you haven’t, take a look at my Top Ten review and Consumption Manifesto, which cover the basics. For your bat mitzvah, you have an excellent opportunity to be quite specific in your suggestions. There are two aspects you can bring out in your tips: One is describing environmental stewardship in the context of Judaism, and the other is tailoring suggestions to your specific congregation and location.

There’s green in there.

Photo: iStockphoto

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While I don’t know exactly how the Torah, other Jewish texts, and your particular branch of Judaism can be brought to bear on environmental issues, what I imagine is that specific parts of the Torah instruct on care of our resources, stewardship of the land, providing for future generations, and the like, and that if you cite specific passages you’ll bolster your legitimacy. You’ll have to look the passages up, or figure it out with your rabbi. Then you can open your program with these passages as a way of introduction to environmentalism that is an obvious match with your faith.

Moving on to the actual tips, the priorities for action pretty much align in Top Ten lists from around the country. What you can do is offer even more specific suggestions to your fellow congregants, based in your community. For example, driving less is a massive priority. How about mentioning specific ways to drive less to the synagogue? Are there bus routes to mention, or is there a bulletin board where people could arrange carpooling? Could you ask folks to make a goal of setting aside extra time one day a month for a walk to services? Replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs is an easy, quick, good thing to do. Can you suggest local stores that sell CFLs, and even quote prices and energy savings to further motivate people? Perhaps there is an environmental issue important to you, and you would like people to write their congressional representatives. You could describe the situation and include the representatives’ addresses.

I’m sure you can figure out which issues seem most important to you, from looking at Grist in general, the lists I’ve provided in the past, and the websites of Minnesota environmental organizations such as the (randomly selected) Sierra Club. It will take a little research, but you’ll learn a lot in the process. Mention these issues in the program, even if they aren’t on an official list, because any suggestion that comes from the heart is bound to be heard. Have a fun bat mitzvah, and good luck with your sure-to-be-fabulous programs.


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