The Jewish tradition of keeping kosher is a way of showing respect for food, and for the living things that are sacrificed to provide it. With standards based on values for proper behavior, some foods are, and some are not, acceptable for use.
Some have looked to extend the concept of kosher to a range of products that were not considered in ancient times. For example, is it good and right (is it kosher) to:
eat meat from animals that are force-fed and kept in small cages in factory farms?
eat vegetables grown by drenching the earth in pesticides?
eat products that contain suspected carcinogens?
use paper made from destruction of old-growth forest?
do business with companies whose policies have caused substantial pollution?
As these questions include consideration for impact on the environment, the term, eco-kosher, has been used.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow explained that, when eco-kosher has been examined in context with Jewish practice, several values have been considered, including:
tza’ar ba’alei chai’im (respect for animals [literally, concern for the “distress of those who possess life”])
bal tashchit (not ruining the earth)
sh’mirat haguf (protection of one’s own body)
tzedakah (sharing food with the poor)
b’rakhah and kedushah (consciously affirming a sense of holiness and blessing in food [often expressed before meals, by praising God for the earth’s bounty])
These values are shared in other religious traditions, and among people who are not associated with religion. As can be seen as people drive hybrid cars, install solar panels, and are “religious” in their commitment to recycling, an eco-kosher mind-set is already present in many people who have never heard of the term.
Eco-kosher encourages attention to the sources of food and other products, with a desire to act in ways that are respectful and that may contribute to preservation of the environment. As is seen when people choose to pay higher prices for kosher foods, “fair trade” products, and conservation, efforts to act in ways that are kosher can involve something more than just practical self-interest. As it considers other creatures, other people, and the natural world, and as it affirms beliefs and puts values into practice, it can be a way of expressing something spiritual/religious.