Green Prophet in the Garden State

postcard from new jersey image

This prophet just made the flight from Tel Aviv to his childhood home of New Jersey. After a year of observing Israel and it’s eco-consciousness (and at times lack thereof), I was eager to see how the Garden State measured up to its nick name. I couldn’t help but compare my observations in New Jersey with the realities I’ve observed in Tel Aviv.


As expected, the mini-vans and SUVs still dominate New Jersey roads despite the high gas prices. There are no scooters and very few small cars. A few hybrids can be spotted but they hardly enough to make a difference. Here Israel really has the advantage on New Jersey.


Perhaps the greatest thrill of in New Jersey was the simple act of drinking Root Beer in a glass bottle and then ever so simply placing it in the recycling bin. This is nothing new in New Jersey but it speaks to a major deficiency in Israel’s green policies. Israel’s lack of recycling has always frustrated me to no end. It’s appalling. At my most motivated I’d collected hundreds of glass bottles and separated them into different sizes and varieties and walked them over to various supermarkets, sometimes being turned away and sometimes being forced to wait for upwards of half an hour. At my weakest moments I’ve…[gasp] actually thrown away foreign wine bottles that the supermarkets wouldn’t recycle. It felt awful. Then there’s the whole issue of plastic bottle recycling being controlled by the Mafia, which makes it hard to feel happy when placing one’s bottles in those yellow cages in Israel’s streets


On a trip to a traditional small town New Jersey butcher shop, the butcher talked in great length about his work with a small town farmer who’s working on being certified organic. “It’s about time,” he told me. He also stocked Empire organic chicken, the largest kosher chicken company’s first venture into green. There is similarly in Israel a small, yet burgeoning organic meat sector. I look forward to both of their developments.

I also had the privilege of entering a Whole Foods, one of the dozens in the state. These giant health food shops are so widely patronized in New Jersey’s suburbs and are so part of the mainstream that for thousands of New Jerseyans these are the supermarkets. Organic, while still a point of class distinction, seems much more mainstream than it is in Israel. See: Getting My First Israeli CSA here.

And as is only beginning in Israel, farmstands and farmers markets have become fixtures of food shopping life in the Garden State’s small towns. Yesterday in beautiful Basking Ridge, New Jersey, the Crane Farm’s roadside vegetable stand was packed with beautiful produce and eager customers. I waited to buy a watermelon and lettuce as one of the workers was cutting fresh flowers from her field.


And somehow compost was in the air, or at least in people’s backyards. A number of mainstream New Jersey families had begun composts and even more had inquired about it. As an avid proponent of composting Tel Aviv, I was eager as ever to offer my suggestions to aspiring New Jersey composters. The size of people’s backyards makes it much easier for me. I was even escorted to a Garden State environmental center where an exhibit on compost and instructive diagram with all of the compost stages was meant to inform New Jerseyans about the simple decomposition process.

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