A plastic-free world for this Rosh Hashanah

Let’s turn the page and commit to becoming more conscious of our ways and habits.

By
September 19, 2019 21:31
A plastic-free world for this Rosh Hashanah

PLASTIC BOTTLE floats in the Mediterranean Sea, at Zikim beach near Ashkelon. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

I stepped into the shower again this morning feeling the bliss toward the water that was to pour over my head and body. Somehow, showering is a door to connecting with one’s self, one’s body and one’s nature. And it somehow felt very awkward this morning to have to hold a plastic container and squeeze the shampoo out of it and onto my palm. It felt like my showering custom that involves a plastic container of shampoo was out of sync with the natural world, and was only causing more plastic waste to pile up on the masses of plastic we collectively produce and throw out without thinking of the consequences.

Don’t get me wrong, my family is considered quite ecologically minded. The five of us live in a 75-square-foot flat in the city, we compost all our organic waste in the garden, own one hybrid car, and fly at most twice a year to Greece, which is an hour-and-a-half flight.

But still we shop in the supermarket, and at times our choices are not the most conscious ones, as there are not many conscious choices on offer there. So this morning I woke up feeling I was ready to reclaim the old soap bar that I had grown up with in the ‘70s.
When I was a child in Athens, we were washing our hands and body with soap packed in a piece of paper, and there were even places where you could simply buy your soap bar unpackaged out of a basket of soaps. I seem to remember that there were green soaps you could wash your hair with, and I am determined to reclaim this pro-life option yet again.

Since last year, we have downsized our shopping basket. We discovered a small grocery store a 10-minute drive from our home in Beit Safafa that has the essentials, and enjoy the personal contact with the owner and his sons, who are eager to listen to clients’ suggestions. Last year, I showed the owner the net bags I had bought that are reusable, into which one can put groceries instead of using plastic bags. The point being, the famous slogan of: Reuse, reduce, recycle.

Today, Friday, at 10 a.m., schoolkids worldwide will gather in their respective cities, villages and squares to demand a better handling of the world and its resources by the adults. Our kids have realized that our way of life is not sustainable to the upkeep of the world, and are calling on us to change our habits so that we save them from inheriting a hot, extreme weather-prone, polluted world, with its animal species near extinction, and its coral reefs dying out.

AT THIS turn of the year, let’s turn the page and commit to becoming more conscious of our ways and habits. Our kids cry out to us to realize that in our unconsciousness, we are part of the problem. They ask that we collectively step out of what is convenient and easy into what is pro-life.

I went for my weekly Pilates class at the First Station last Friday and joined my dear friend Micah at the fresh juice kiosk by the train tracks on Derech Bethlehem to touch base. I was feeling on the verge of getting a cold that morning and ordered a fresh juice with a lot of vitamin C-rich fruits and a slice of ginger. When I was offered the drink in a one-time plastic container, I felt conscious of it being problematic. On the one hand, I wanted to feel the positive flow of energy that the fresh fruit would offer my body; on the other hand, I felt bad about having to drink it out of the plastic container without the option of having it in a glass and without a straw.
The woman who blended the juice with care also felt my uneasiness with receiving a straw, and went on to say that she was sorry to have filled the plastic cup beyond its capacity and, alas, had to cover it with an additional plastic lid, for which I had no choice but to use a straw.

So much waste for a healthy portion of juice, I thought, feeling there had to be a better way.

Why can’t this be served differently? Why can’t we go back to simple glasses made of glass, or move on to materials that are biodegradable? We will pay a bit more now, but are saving the Earth and the seas for our children to enjoy, too.

In the same way, my husband and I are trying to save our Jewish heritage for our children to inherit. This summer, we led an initiative to preserve the mosaic floor of the ancient synagogue on the island of Aegina in Greece, dating back to the 4th century CE. This, like our polluted Earth, is a remnant of the Jewish community that once lived on the island but is dying out. We raised people’s awareness on the importance of safeguarding this endangered cultural gem of Greek Jewish heritage, very much like children are asking us to safeguard our endangered planet. People poured in from Greece and abroad to visit the mosaic and support the initiative. Raising awareness is the first step toward the solution: Unless we communally intervene, what is important may not survive into the future.

The same is now true for the world we live in, our home. Unless we take care of our home, its seas, forests, vegetation and animals, they may not survive to sustain future generations.

Let us all question our ways this year, and stop to consider how we can substitute our choices for cleaner, sustainable, pro-life ones so we collectively enjoy “life’s juice” – not just now but for many generations to come.

The writer and her husband, Dr. Elias Messinas, are the co-founders of NGO Ecoweek, ecoweek.org.


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