Social media, which has brought us together in new and amazing ways, has also caused an explosion in the misuse of words, without any social or ethical responsibility, or regard for consequences.

Judaism has given us a set of beautiful traditions and laws of guarding our speech that help promote respect and peaceful co-existence.

Recycling, reducing waste and shopping for local produce are all ways we interact with our environment to conserve the natural resources of our planet. We might not always be aware that we can harness that same kind of mindfulness to protect our personal well-being, relationships, families and communities. The efforts that we make to interact with the people in our environment can make a powerful impact on the mental, emotional, and spiritual energy that fuels our lives.

We associate the color green with the farms and forests that we hope to preserve and nurture by making those environmentally conscious choices. Let’s expand that spirit of preservation and nurturing to impact the choices we make with the words we use. When we interact with the people in our family and social spheres, let’s use “Green Speech.” After all, who doesn't want to have healthier and more beautiful relationships?

Jewish tradition calls Green Speech Shmirat HaLashon, literally “guarding the tongue.” The lessons of guarding your tongue fill many volumes of scholarly text. From that rich tradition, let’s focus on the following 10 Habits of Green Speech:

  1. Make only positive statements, and refrain from making derogatory ones – even if they're true.

  2. Promote people's well-being. Don't make any statement that could cause someone physical, financial or emotional harm.

  3. Humor is great, but make sure jokes aren't at someone else's expense.

  4. Avoid speaking badly – even about yourself.

  5. Communicating derogatory or harmful statements by writing, verbal hints, or body language is just as bad as saying them.

  6. It takes two to gossip. Don't listen. Change the topic or walk away if necessary.

  7. Give others the benefit of the doubt.

  8. Refrain from conveying negative stereotypes or information about a group of people or an organization.

  9. Communicate with your spouse and family with kind and supportive words.

  10. Warn a person about potential harm. For example, from an untrustworthy prospective business or marriage partner. Make sure your information is accurate.

We can internalize and make these habits our daily practice. One way to do this is by taking the Green Speech Pledge and committing yourself to this goal.

Green Speech Pledge:

  • I will try to take ethical responsibility for the words that I use and speak “Green.”

  • I will try to see how negative, harmful and derogatory words and gossip hurt people, including myself.

  • I will try to replace hurtful words with words that are positive, healing and encouraging.

  • I will try to choose words that make people feel accepted, respected and loved.

  • I will try to use words that cultivate harmony, peace and unity in my home, school and organizations by choosing words that foster cooperation, teamwork and productivity.

Let’s spread the principles of Green Speech throughout our homes, schools and communities. Together, we’ll reduce negative, harmful and derogatory words, and put an end to the gossip and verbal abuse that damage our mental health and cause us pain. When we make efforts to adopt the habits of Green Speech, we’ll be promoting awareness, values, and the practice of positive words and speech.

Our words matter. Join us as we create a Green Speech movement and make the world a better place – one word at a time.