Back to Stories & Articles

March Environmental Pledge: Waste and Consumption

This 5782 shemita year challenges us to evaluate our regular routines of production and consumption and to commit to the spiritual work of environmental stewardship. Joining BJ’s Environmental Pledge is an investment in the land that sustains us all: Planet Earth. 

Commit to this pledge by taking on (at least) one recommended action per month. 

Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement, to look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted.” – Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Learn more about the pledge and find more resources here.

Jewish values

One of the practices required during shemita is to allow the land to rest. Any harvesting done during the shemita year cannot be wasted but must be fully consumed in a manner that considers the needs of our communities and the importance of shared resources. Shemita reminds us that the physical world and its resources are not to be overused or abused.

As Shomrei Adamah, guardians of the physical earth, we must boldly reckon with our personal tendencies towards rapid consumerism and society’s destructive patterns of “take, make, and waste,” and strive to strike a more fruitful balance with the physical world we have inherited, including all its materials and resources.

The Science 

We tend to quickly forget about the things we throw away, as if they cease to exist when we are finished using them. However, the environmental impacts of material goods persist long beyond when we discard something. 

The world generates more than 2 billion tons of waste every year, and 14 million tons of waste and recyclables in New York City alone. Waste fills our oceans and our landfills, wreaking havoc on public health, marine life, and the environment. Trash sitting in dumpsites and landfills releases methane gas and the burning of trash all over the world emits dangerous levels of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to the warming of our planet. 

We can all help reduce the environmental impacts of our trash by incorporating the values of REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE into our daily choices—reducing our amount of waste, reusing material goods, and recycling or disposing of things we no longer have use for in an ethical and responsible manner. 

The Pledge 

Something Easy: 

This month and every month going forward, I will:

  • Decline throwaway utensils and packaging when ordering takeout, and instead use reusable utensils. 
  • Pick-up my takeout instead of delivery to avoid excess plastic bags.
  • Learn and observe local recycling laws.
  • Carry a reusable water bottle, coffee cup, straw, and utensil kit with me to avoid buying single-use plastic items.
  • Donate or drop off clothing I no longer need at a textile recycling center and buy “new” clothing from a second hand shop.
  • Repurpose or restore old furniture. Donate to places like Housing Works and other thrift shops. 
  • Add a small amount of water to lotions, soap, shampoo and other products that have something left at the bottom of containers.
  • Buy a reusable tote bag that fits in my everyday bag, and reuse paper or plastic bags
  • Make and stick to a shopping list! Buy local, seasonal produce and use all the components of every ingredient. 
  • Eat or repurpose all my leftovers.

Something A Little Harder:

This month and every month going forward, I will:

  • Compost by collecting my household’s food scraps and other appropriate waste, and then bringing it to BJ or other compost drop-off site.  
  • Advocate in my own apartment building–making sure the building observes recycling laws properly and is registered for curbside compost pick up, NYC’s clothing recycling and electronics recycling services. 
  • Prioritize the sustainability of products I purchase by researching brands and labels definitions; even the simple decision of which brand of toilet paper I buy has environmental implications. Buy products with logos that say “made from recycled materials.”
  • Make my own home-cleaning products with simple, everyday ingredients.
  • Wrap any presents I give this year with newspaper or brown bags instead of buying wrapping paper. 

Something More Challenging 

This month and every month going forward, I will:

  • Shop at places where I can buy in bulk and bring/fill my own containers, such as farmers’ markets, co-ops, or zero waste grocery stores. Even Whole Foods sells items like dried beans and grains in bulk! 
  • Make (DIY) gifts for birthdays and holidays instead of purchasing something new, or give the gift of my time and energy instead of material goods. 
  • Zero waste-ify my home!  There are waste-free alternatives for almost everything in my home, from paper towels to diapers to dryer sheets and more. I’ll pick something I use a lot to replace with a zero-waste alternative, and start there! I’ll look here and here for inspiration.

Mask Recycling: Recycle your disposable masks in BJ’s Zero-Waste Box, located in the lobby of the BJ Community House. We’re collecting all used non-woven disposable plastic-based masks (including surgical, dust masks, KN95, and N95 masks) so they don’t end up in our landfills, city streets, and oceans.

 

Additional Resources

Written By Kiana Davis

Kiana Davis is the Social Action/Social Justice manager at BJ. She previously worked at the Safety Net Project of the Urban Justice Center as a Policy Analyst and Public Benefits Advocate, and at t...

View Profile