Eight Steps to a More Sustainable Hanukkah

Feasts and festivals are undoubtedly our favourite times of the year but with all the food, decorations, and gifts, our festivities can take a real toll on our environment.

Over the coming weeks and months, we will be looking at how we can adapt our festivals and celebrations to be more sustainable. As Hanukkah – the Jewish Festival of Lights – begins, we take a look at some of the steps we can take this year to be a little kinder to our planet.



The feast of Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem and the miraculous lighting of the menorah. During the Maccabean Revolt, Judas Maccabeus ordered his men to reclaim the Temple for the service of G-d, and to find and relight the menorah. However, when they found the lamp, there was only enough pure olive oil to last just one day, but the flame stayed alight for eight full days, leaving them enough time to obtain more oil.

As such, the lighting of the menorah is central to the Hanukkah tradition, but there is a cleaner – and more authentic – way to celebrate.

The majority of modern-day candles are made using paraffin, a fossil fuel that is both harmful to the environment and also our health. Why not have a greener Hanukkah and opt for candles made from beeswax or even coconut wax? Or better still, why not go back to the very heart of Jewish tradition and light olive oil instead? For an added bonus, don’t forget to use wicks made from recycled materials and use a rechargeable lighter to light your flames!

Think long-term

You can’t light candles without a menorah. We love to see menorah lamps used year after year and passed down through generations, but sometimes it’s necessary to buy new. If this is the case for you, make sure your lamp will stand the test of time. Make sure your menorah is durable and preferably made out of long-lasting materials such as metal, glass, or ceramics. It’s also always good to support local businesses, so check first at your local Judaica shop and ask if they have any locally-produced lamps – this also has a better impact on the environment. Alternatively, you could ask around your relatives to see if they have a spare you could use, or consider making your own from recycled materials.

Another much-loved tradition is playing dreidel. If new dreidels are on your list for this year, avoid buying plastic dreidels where possible. Instead opt for wooden or traditional clay dreidels. You can even make your very own clay dreidels, or ones made from recycled paper.


Plant a tree

When G-d first revealed the menorah to Moses, the description in Exodus (25: 31-41) is described in particular detail: “And there shall be six branches going out of its sides, three branches of the lampstand out of one side of it, and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side of it; three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on one branch, and three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on the other branch –“. This incredible description is in perfect harmony with the theme of nature, reminding us of the miracle and sanctity of creation itself.

Why not pay a small tribute to the beauty of G-d’s creation by planting your own tree? Whether this is in your own garden, part of a community project, or a donation to a tree-planting project elsewhere in the world, this is a wonderful way to give back to our planet and thank G-d for His creation.



Continuing the theme of decorations, another great way to celebrate a greener Hanukkah is by ensuring our decorations are kinder to our planet. If you’re looking for new decorations this year, why not try and find some made from recycled materials, or reuse paper and cardboard you have at home to make your own?

If your menorah is looking a little worse for wear, you could consider using an alternative to silver polish, such as bicarbonate of soda, or source natural cleaning products.


Package-free celebrations

Aim for a package-free Hanukkah by reducing your use of single use plastics and unnecessary packaging wherever possible. Think about reusing wrapping paper – or using paper and cards made from recycled materials – or you could even use your child’s artwork as wrapping paper. If you’re particularly artistic yourself, maybe you could recycle paper with your own artwork and use that to wrap gifts?

When buying gifts, food, or other household products over the festive season, think twice about the packaging you use, opting always for reusable bags, fresh produce without packaging, and using for refillable bottles or plastic-alternatives for household and personal care items.



From delicious latkes with lavish lashings of sour cream, to mouth-watering brisket, and everyone’s favourite: gelt; food is an iconic part of Hanukkah celebrations. However, there are plenty of ways you can enjoy these tasty treats whilst also having a positive impact on the planet.

The biggest key is to shop locally. By cutting down the journey from farm to plate, we can reduce the amount of greenhouse gases being pumped into our atmosphere. So, why not pop down to your local farm shop to stock up on potatoes and onions? Perhaps even consider growing your own for next year?

Reducing your meat and dairy intake is also another great way to improve your carbon footprint. Why not opt for a dairy-free dollop of sour cream with your latkes, or maybe consider a vegetarian seitan brisket instead of the traditional beef? However, if you’re still very firmly “Team Beef”, perhaps speak to your butcher to discover more about whether the beef is sourced locally and if it was fed sustainably.

Finally, enjoy guilt-free gelt this Hanukkah by shopping around for Fair Trade and maybe even vegan gelt.



When buying gifts – whatever the occasion – it’s always important to ensure wherever possible to buy ethical and environmentally-friendly gifts. At this time of year especially, the sheer amount of products being brought can send huge amounts of waste to landfill, taking a long-lasting, devastating toll on the environment. Handmade products using natural materials are ideal ways to help the planet when finding gifts for your loved ones. Often, you can find handmade gifts made by families or communities that rely on that income to survive, or some stockists may donate some of their profits to charity. Alternatively, you can aim for zero waste and opt for an experience gift instead.


Giving without the gifts

Giving isn’t just about gifts. Why not challenge yourselves this Hanukkah to eight days of random acts of kindness? Buy a coffee for the person behind you in the queue, donate an hour or two of your time to your local soup kitchen, visit someone who lives alone, or cook a meal for someone who is sick.


Hanukkah is a time for miracles and remembering G-d’s love for his chosen people. During this blessed time, we can give thanks for the miracle of creation itself by choosing to take better care of it and reflect G-d’s love by being kind to the planet and people around us.

We wish you a very joyful and peaceful Hanukkah!