Disposable or not disposable, that’s the question


With some friends we hold an “after Tu B'Shvat” celebration, in my home town, Santiago de Chile. After having a picnic, I taught a shiur (class) on the topic. After studying about trees in Judaism, we ended up having a long discussion about the use/abuse of disposable items. Half of the group argued that if you use it for a holly purpose, like having many guests on Shabbos, it should not be considered as Bal Tashchit (“Do not destroy”, a biblical commandment which root is not to destroy a fruit tree on war time; it was extended by our sages, considering any kind of useless destruction as Bal Tashchit, or wasting anything that could be reused). Even though I will try to host as many guests as I could on Shabbos , G-d willing, without using disposable dishes, I get their point. But a completely different story is when it’s not Shabbos, and you don’t have guests, and you don’t have a huge family. Then is either an act of laziness or of ignorance. That situation brings me back to my first month at my seminar (a year ago), in Jerusalem. The day I got there, I almost cried, because EVERYTHING was disposable: plates, cutlery, cups, tablecloth, water bottles… the amount of waste produced per day was enormous! In a seminar dorm, every girl is responsible for her own items, which means that washing the dishes required one minute! Therefore, this situation was due to laziness and ignorance. Being a doer, instead of sitting, complaining, and judging my new roommates, I started doing small changes and spreading the message. My first move was to hang a big bag to recycle all the plastic bottles. Then, I convinced them that it was much cheaper to buy a filter jar than buying all those bottles. So we did, no more bottles! Meanwhile, we found real cups and glasses in the shelves and started using them. Later, with a friend we bought real dishes. Soon after, another friend bought real cutlery. Afterwards I bought a thick plastic tablecloth, and so on, our house ended up being a home instead of a camping site.

Even though one of the girls after all kept using disposable dishes at the dorm, I never measured the impact I could generate on them, until one the girls told me, days before her wedding: “you know Daffy, before I met you I had stupid thoughts, I wanted to have everything disposable at my house, since I did not know a thing about this. And now I bought real stuff for everything. Thank you so much”. This time I almost cried again, but this time were happy tears.

But this story is not about me, is about all of us! You have no idea how powerful our actions are in terms of teaching, we should take it seriously, and live as a live example! It works!

2 Replies to "Disposable or not disposable, that's the question"

  • Joelle Novey
    February 14, 2011 (10:03 pm)

    Yes, Jewish communities should all be thinking about moving off of disposables! This story, from the book “Empowered Judaism,” comes from Tikkun Leil Shabbat in Washington DC: http://3bl.me/rt2xcs

  • Deborah Klee Wenger
    February 27, 2011 (7:55 am)

    This is inspiring! Thank you!

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