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April Environmental Pledge: Food

This 5782 shemita year challenges us to evaluate our regular routines of production and consumption and to commit to the spiritual work of environmental stewardship. Joining BJ’s Environmental Pledge is an investment in the land that sustains us all: Planet Earth. 

Commit to this pledge by taking on (at least) one recommended action per month. 

Learn more about the pledge and find more resources here.

[The Sages] have taught a general rule regarding shemita that anything that is considered to be food for humans or animals…it and the money [exchanged for it] have kedushat shevi’it [holiness of shemita].

– Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Shemita and Yovel 7:13

Jewish Values

Food is an integral part of our Jewish traditions. During the shemita year, all the food that grows in the Land of Israel is meant to become communal property, shared freely and equally amongst people regardless of whose land it is on, recognizing that our land and the food grown on it are inherently gifts of God’s creation. Judaism demands that we bring awareness and holiness to all the ways we eat, access, and purchase food. 

The Science

Our vast and complex food system is interconnected with widespread global challenges, such as climate change, animal welfare, chronic illnesses, social inequality, and environmental degradation. Food production, most notably the meat industry, has altered our planet more than any other human activity, accounting for a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity and habitat loss, and soil erosion.

Moreover, millions of people face constant food insecurity or hunger, reside in food deserts, or rely on emergency food provision. In the United States, some of the people who help bring us the food we eat, such as farm workers and grocery store workers, are, paradoxically, unable to feed themselves. 

The Pledge 

Understanding how the food we eat is connected to environmental, health, economic, and political systems helps us make informed decisions, advocate for change, and even impact our agricultural system. Start with some of these actions to empower yourself into becoming a true “food citizen.”

Something Easy

This month and every month going forward, I will:

  • Eat local and seasonal foods to reduce my carbon footprint and get to know the people who produce my food by shopping at farmers markets, joining a CSA (community-sponsored agriculture), and/or eating out at farm-to-table restaurants. 
  • Replace one meat product in my diet with a plant-based alternative. 
  • Reduce my food waste by freezing fruits and vegetables that will otherwise go bad and using them later for stocks, sauces, or smoothies.
  • Compost my food scraps by dropping them off at BJ or other compost collection sites.

Something a Little Harder

This month and every month going forward, I will: 

  • Cook at home more than I eat out so that I am more aware of what is in my food and where it comes from.
  • Eat at least one meal a day that is 100% plant-based.
  • Buy Fair Trade, Organic, and Free Range foods to support fair treatment of food employees, animal welfare, and the earth. Learn more about food labels here and here.
  • Replant my vegetable scraps in my own kitchen to save money, reduce food waste, and grow my own food]. 
  • Only put food on the table that is needed at the moment, and reduce the total amount of food served at meals. 
  • Vote with my fork – use my voice, time and power to advocate for a better food system. Learn more here and here.

Something More Challenging 

This month and every month going forward, I will: 

  • Not eat meat or animal-based products for at least the month.
  • Grow my own food by planting a vegetable garden or joining a community garden.
  • Preserve foods longer by learning how to can, pickle, and ferment my produce.


Additional resources

Read more about the benefits of plant-based eating in The Win-Win Diet and here .

Watch the films Wasted: The Story of Food Waste and Fed Up.

Learn the rules and regulations of food with Food Policy 101.

Stay up to date on food policy happenings at Civil Eats, NYC Food Policy Center and NPR Salt.

Understand food insecurity in the United States and issues affecting farmworkers.