All your questions for Naomi Adler, Esq., answered! This week’s question:
How will you commemorate Earth Day?
Well, to paraphrase The Graduate, lately I’ve been thinking about just one word: Plastics. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about how our overuse and discarding of plastic relates to Jewish ethics.
Plastic makes life wonderfully convenient. But 8 million metric tons of plastic wind up in the ocean each year, impacting every species there by threatening their lives and introducing synthetic chemicals into the food chain. One of our mitzvot is Bal Taschit — “do not destroy” — which Jewish law interprets as a prohibition against waste and wasteful consumption. It’s a recognition that all that surrounds us and everything we own actually belongs to G-d. When we consume in a wasteful manner, we take for granted G-d’s creation and use it for our own selfish benefit. For that reason, we are obliged to take careful consideration before making a purchase, or before throwing something away — like disposable plastic destined to pollute our oceans.
Here at the Jewish Federation building, we’ve already swapped our kitchenware for environmentally friendly materials. And this Earth Day, I resolve to start doing better by consuming and discarding less plastic, like disposable water bottles, plastic cutlery, straws, food packaging and shopping bags. Of course, it’ll take discipline to resist the convenience of plastic. But it’s a small price to pay for tikkun olam.