Friday, August 14, 2009

Green Bar Mitzvah Video on PBS

Anna Hackman, Bar Mitzvah Mother and Editor of explains their green bar mitzvah choices.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Green Bar Mitzvah Tikkun Olam Contest!

Twisted Limb Paperworks is running a contest to promote tikkun olam projects.

Healing the World
Twisted Limb Paperworks is proud to announce the first annual Tikkun Olam Service Award for the mitzvah service projects that offer the most creative and most impactful solutions to an environmental or social problem in your community or the world.

Two awards will be given, one for the most creative solution and one for the most impactful solution to an environmental or social problem.

Each award winner will receive:
Handmade 100% recycled Twisted Limb invitations and thank-you notes for her or his bat/bar mitzvah (up to a $1500 value).
A handmade beautifully framed certificate recognizing your achievement.
Recognition through a press release,, and the Twisted Limb website, blog and facebook page, which will be set up to help raise money for your cause.
Each participant will receive:
50 personalized 100% recycled thank-you notes with the purchase of bat/bar mitzvah invitations from Twisted Limb Paperworks.

To apply:
You must be 11-13 years old and preparing to become a bat/bar mitzvah in the fall of 2009 or at any point in 2010.
E-mail a 1-2 page essay outlining your project, goals, methods, and why this particular project is important to you, to by August 30, 2009.
Give us your name, address, phone, e-mail, and synagogue at the top of the essay.
The Twisted Limb staff will post details of the three projects we consider to have the most creative and farthest reaching solution at on September 17, 2009 and will encourage our customers to choose their favorite to be the award recipient.
Recipient will be announced on September 30,2009.

For more information see Twisted Limb Paperwork's website.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Don't forget the "reduce" in "reduce-reuse-recycle"

Marc Itzkowitz Wrote:

I just heard your story on NRP and while I applaud your efforts to make Bar Mitzot "green" one thing that didn't come out (and maybe you said this and it got edited out) is that the best way to be green is NOT to replace non-green products with green products but to eliminate the use of the product at all. For example while hemp kippot are more green than regular ones there is absolutely no need to have them. I have a drawerful of kippot from weddings and bar-mitzvot that are gathering dust and are never used. Most temples I have attended have buckets of kippot to use for the service and don't need anymore.

Oh and while the centerpiece ideas that are then subsequently donated are also interesting wouldn't it be better to just not spend the money and instead donate that directly?

Unfortunately the green movement has long since lost its focus (or been co-opted my marketing). I heard one commentator officially declare it dead when they saw "green styrofoam packing peanuts" . They were labelled green because instead of decompossing in 11 million years they would decompose in 7 million years.

Thank you for listening.

- Marc Itzkowitz

Kate Answered:
Hi Marc,

Thank you for writing - you make excellent points. I agree with you that substitutions are not the answer, and that decreasing consumption has to be part of the solution. Although our interview was cut down from fifteen minutes to just a few, I did manage to sneak this message in when Gellerman makes a joke that the yarmulkahs he has are all recycled because they come from someone else's bar mitzvah and I say "recycling is another form of being green, and instead of getting any kind of new kippot or tallis you can borrow all that stuff."

Several of the bar mitzvahs I have written about here focus on decreasing waste and avoiding the pressure to buy "new everything" for the event. I think the real message is that before families spend an extra hundred dollars on plastic hats and foam noodles for the dance floor, they should think about whether the kids really need that stuff. The same hold true for items that are unlikely to be used often and can be borrowed (like the yarmulkahs).

I also agree with you that direct donations are a wonderful way to honor a child's bar or bat mitzvah celebration, and giving donations in lieu of favors is very popular. Some families do indeed skip centerpieces, but I think an important message of the green movement is that you don't have to sacrifice style to be green, and many families will want to have centerpieces - which is fine. The key is to find items that can be donated, as discussed in the interview, or that are reusable. For my nephew's bar mitzvah, my mother made beautiful centerpieces with live plants in wicker baskets. For my wedding, my husband and I filled bowls with rocks from the beach near our house (and returned them after the wedding). There are so many creative ways to have festive decor for an event without harming the planet.

Finally, I understand why you feel like the green movement has been co-opted, and greenwashing in certainly a problem. However, I have met many dedicated individuals, and have worked with companies that are genuinely trying to make a difference. I always encourage people to be careful about what they buy, to look for third party certifications (e.g., organic, fair trade, etc.) whenever possible, and to search for companies that are members of eco-minded trade organizations, like Green America. One way to be green is to support those who are working to truly make a difference. Go Green!

Image: NASA and the NSSDC

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rec Center Reception

Joe Rosen (pictured on the right above with his younger brother Zev) had his Bar Mitzvah on Dec. 6, 2008 in Woodbridge, CT. His parents, Eve and Marc, took a number of steps to decrease the impact of the event, starting with the invitation. Instead of choosing a paper invitation, they used Wedding Windows to create a website with all of the information on it and sent out an electronic save-the-date and RSVP link.

To decrease the carbon footprint of the event, both the ceremony and reception were held at the synagogue. They avoided buying new or disposable items by borrowing what they could and renting the rest.

Everyone (Eve, Marc, Joe and Zev) wore outfits that they already owned. The family also chose to skip buying monogrammed kippot and a new tallis. "Joe really did not want a tallis, so we just borrowed one from the synagogue - I certainly did feel pressure to buy one but I resisted. We also used the kippot available at the synagogue." said Eve.

They saved paper at the reception by renting glassware and decorated the tables with live potted plants. The plants were used again to decorate the tables at brunch the next day, and at the end of the party guests were invited to take them home.

Instead of a traditional dance party, the family hosted a small reception at a local rec center so "no plastic toys, dj, etc were used." The kids enjoyed ice skating...

..and the adults enjoyed laser tag!

For dinner, guests were served local lamb and organic fava bean soup, prepared by Robin Bodak. For decoration, Eve borrowed paper flowers and lanterns from a friend, who had used them for her daughter's bat mitzvah a few months earlier.

Music for the dinner was played on borrowed speakers and "a cousin and uncle provide an ipod with music for evening party."

Mom's Take on Going Green
"Thinking green gave me a whole new paradigm to consider my choices for Joe's Bar Mitzvah. There were many things I had often thought were wasteful or unnecessary ( like buying kippah instead of using the ones already at any synagogue ), and I found considering the environmental impact freed me up to just say no to certain things and spend less time and money on others while still having a celebration that we enjoyed."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Green Simcha Project

Emily Asked:
My Bat-Mitzvah is in March and for my mitzvah project i wanted to make a booklet about how to "green" a simcha. Can you help me. I'm trying to find info on all sorts of topics, so any ideas would be helpful.
P.S. -> Websites would also be helpful. :)

Kate Answered:
Hi Emily,
This is such a great idea and I am delighted you are doing it! When you are done I would love to see what you have made! I have a lot of ideas that I think would be helpful. First, many of the chapters and resources in my book The Green Bride Guide: How to Create an Earth-Friendly Wedding on Any Budget also apply to bar and bat mitzvahs, so you should be able to get a lot of what you need from it.

Second, I recommend taking a look at Green & Just Celebrations, which you can download for free form Jews United for Justice. It has a lot of great tips and resources and would be a good model for what you want to do.

Please let me know if there is anything else I can help you with for this project and keep me updated on you progress,


Friday, October 10, 2008

Wondering how much your celebration will cost?

You can use this tool to get a rough approximation. It was built for weddings, but you can check off the elements you are planning to have and enter your zip code to find out approximately how much it will cost.

Powered by:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Stuffed Animal Centerpieces

In June, I wrote about creating centerpieces with canned goods and donating them after the party to help feed the hungry. Judy Yublosky, from A-BnC Parties and More, Inc., wrote in sharing pictures of the stuffed animal centerpieces she has done for charity-oriented bar and bat mitzvahs. What a great idea!

Green Bar/Bat Mitzvahs
I have done many Green Bar/Bat Mitzvahs in my 19 year career in making centerpieces. As you mentioned, many centerpieces involve food that is later given to a food pantry or shelter. Food baskets are even being used instead of flowers on the Bemah during the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service. Not only does the food basket last longer than the flowers, it can be donated and put to good use after the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

Stuffed animals are another popular choice. I can recall one Bar Mitzvah where the Bar Mitzvah boy wanted animals in their natural habitat. I used actual trees and leaves and grass and, after much research from the Bar Mitzvah boy, we came up with what their natural habitat should be. We used stuffed animals which were donated after the Bar Mitzvah to a children’s shelter. The place cards were printed on recycled paper to save the trees. All guests were asked to bring in canned goods that were then donated to a food pantry.

Here are some pictures from other events I have done:

There was a stuffed animal on top of the dog house and dog supplies inside dog house. All were donated after the event.

This shows a stuffed teddy bear used as a centerpiece.

These sand toys were then donated to a children’s hospital after the event.

For my own daughter’s Bat Mitzvah I crocheted dresses for dolls. The dolls were donated to the children’s ward of a local hospital for the girls to enjoy. The tubes in the centerpiece were silver vases which were then filled with flowers and taken to a nursing home after the Bat Mitzvah. The picture below shows the centerpiece used on the place card table. The place cards were little dolls with the name of the guest(s) and the table they where they were sitting on a little piece of cardstock attached to the doll with a ribbon.

Going “Green” not only helps our environment by keeping items out of the landfills, but it also helps people that are in need of the items that are donated. It is definitely a “win win” situation.