Whether you live in Israel or are planning a destination wedding, there are many ways to make your simcha socially and environmentally responsible. By Rachel Cravit
While you may not be greeted at Ben Gurion Airport with your very own composting kit, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to throw a socially and environmentally responsible simcha. The resources are all there — you just need to know where to look. And, like everything wedding-related in Israel, it’s our job at Hatunot to tell you.
• The palm studded desert oasis Ein Gedi is a great place to showcase your affinity for the Earth; we recommend checking out the Botanical Garden at Hotel Ein Gedi, which contains a thousand types of plants including baobab trees, cacti, tropical flora and medicinal plants and spices mentioned in the Bible.
• Consider hosting your event at one of Israel’s gazillions of natural parks. Your shekel will go towards an environmental venue which will also most likely provide a breathtaking backdrop for any celebration. The chalk-white cliffs at Rosh HaNikra (where guests must be transported to the ceremony site via cable car!) and ruins of a crusader fortress nestled among the ancient trees of Ein Hemed (Hebrew website only) are among the scores of natural venues available for weddings. Fortunately, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority runs an English website where you can browse a full listing of natural parks and reserves in Israel. Note: If you decide to go for a natural park or reserve, we highly recommended booking a wedding planner to sort out all the logistics. Some local planners such as Danny Marx have significant experience with outdoorsy-type events.
• Get festive and eco-friendly with EcoParti biodegradable confetti; particularly suitable for a wedding on the beach, in a forest or anywhere you don’t want to wreck. U.S. based; ships internationally.
• Have your local Israeli invitation designer work with recycled paper and, if possible, vegetable or soy-based inks.• The Jewish National Fund (JNF) has become synonymous with conservation in Israel.Invitations which benefit tree and water projects are now among their various options for eco-savvy celebrating (geared more towards bar and bat mitzvahs but could easily be adapted for weddings). The designs are pretty basic, but it’s still a cool idea.
• Skip the reply cards. Israeli weddings are much more informal than North American ones, and any Israeli friends or colleagues who receive your invitation will likely have no idea what to do with a reply card. Instead, save paper by requesting an eRSVP to an e-mail address.
• For a unique spin on JNF tree planting, consider donating to their water project instead. Distribute re-useable water bottles with a note attached explaining your donation. The notes can even be personalized and used as escort or place cards.• Make it meaningful. It is not customary to give favours at Israeli weddings, but if you want to treat your guests, consider planting a tree in their honour. JNF runs an entire program for this exact purpose; one tree will cost you $18, but that doesn’t mean you need one for every guest. A symbolic purchase of one or two trees (three cost $36 – they throw in one for free!) on behalf of your family and friends is equally lovely. You can also buy a garden for $500 or, if you have an unlimited budget, an entire grove for $5,000 (Whew!) If you decide to go the JNF route, make sure to include a few words in your program to explain the thoughtful gesture. You can even send your guests home with potted saplings and a little note attached – cute!
• Rescue Chocolate, a Brooklyn-based chocolatier, specializes in charitable wedding favours. Treat your guests to beautifully packaged vegan chocolates in whimsical flavours like peanut butter, peppermint, raspberry, pepper and mocha (certified Kosher Parve; ships internationally). Even sweeter, 100% of the proceeds are donated to an animal welfare organization (a new one is selected every month); past beneficiaries include the Jerusalem Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. JSPCA also provides donation information on their website in English, which is another great option if you or your hubby are animal lovers.
• A donation to any Israeli charity can be used as a favour. For ideas, check out the Jerusalem Post Guide to Charities & Nonprofits.
• Let your girlfriends wear dresses they already own; it’s much more resourceful, not to mention fashionable (Brides.com included matchy-matchy bridesmaids dresses among wedding trends they’re ready to retire). This option is also more appropriate for Israel, where bridesmaids are practically unheard of.
• Insisting on new dresses for your mother, sister and BFF? Search out independent local designers. Etsy is a good place to find them: right now, we’re loving the bevvy of wrap dresses in different colours from Lirola. If you’re in Tel Aviv, also check out the Dizengoff Center Designer Boutique, where up-and-coming fashion and jewelry designers sell their latest treasures each week (Thu 12:00-21:00, Fri: 10:00-16:00). You can bet they were handmade right here in Israel, so you’re not only supporting Israeli business but production as well. Your Jewish day school teacher would be so proud!
• Kulanu Boutique stocks beautiful handwoven tallitot from Ghana, handmade kippot from Uganda and various other Judaica items produced by dispersed and emerging Jewish communities around the world.
• MayaWorks is the source for rainbow coloured kippot crocheted by women in Guatemala.
• Go the Sabra route by festooning your every day vehicle with ribbons, pom poms and bows. It’s charming, cute and way better for the planet than renting a limo bus (not to mention more affordable).
• Definitely stay away from horse and carriages. I’ve only ever seen them carting tourists around Allenby in Tel Aviv; this option is shady at best, and there is no way to know the living or working conditions of the animals involved.
• Offset your wedding’s carbon footprint (which can be high if you have family or friends flying to Israel from North America, or you’re coming over yourself). Carbonfund.org(American) and Zerofootprint (Canadian) are both reputable options and provide a means for you to support various environmental projects to counter-balance the carbon dioxide produced by air travel. Air Canada also has a Carbon Offset Program (of course).