Use these successful and replicable congregational programs to engage your community in environmentally responsible behavior. Search for other "green programs" by logging on to Communicate! and searching the keywords "greening", "environment" and "tikkun olam."
Carbon Neutral Celebrations Temple Rodef Shalom, Falls Church, VA The Temple Rodef Shalom community loves celebrating life cycle events, but they understand that their celebrations can have a negative impact on the environment. (The auto mileage, air travel, hotel stays and other activities all contribute to creating more greenhouse gases.) In light of this, Rodef Shalom encourages "carbon-neutral" b'nei mitzvot, weddings and other events. To help in this effort, Rodef Shalom's Green Team has developed a "Carbon Footprint Calculator." This calculator helps you estimate the greenhouse gas emissions stemming from your event's activities, including the air travel, driving distances and hotel stays. It then directs you to different organizations that you can help by funding emission reduction projects to offset your emissions, effectively making it "carbon-neutral." (This great program, developed by Daniel Klein, also appears in the Communicate! database.)
An Interfaith Green Alliance Temple Hesed, Scranton, PA Temple Hesed recently became the first congregation in Pennsylvania to take a significant step toward a "greener" future by joining newly formed Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light. PA-IPL is the newest chapter in the national Interfaith Power and Light movement, which was started a decade ago by Rev. Canon Sally Bingham to help congregations, faith-based organizations and people of faith address climate change as a moral issue through advocacy, energy conservation, energy efficiency and the use of clean, renewable energy. Rabbi Daniel J. Swartz, Temple Hesed's spiritual leader, is part of the steering committee getting PA-IPL up and running, and PA-IPL is already making presentations across the state to let congregations know what they can do to take action to address climate change. Temple Hesed is also working constantly to "green" their own building and facilities by reducing energy and resource consumption, and partnering to support clean energy projects in Israel.
First LEED Certified Congregation Congregation Beth David, San Luis Obispo, CA Congregation Beth David is the first LEED Certified synagogue in the world. The "green" construction of their building and land embodies the Jewish doctrine of tikkun olam by using sustainable design and materials that have minimal or no environmental impact. The building includes excellent use of skylights and windows to maximize natural daylight, motion detector light switches to save energy when rooms are unoccupied, landscaping with native plants that require minimal water and the use of non-toxic, recycled finishing materials throughout the building.
Living Green Temple Emanuel, Kensington, MD Temple Emanuel's Green Shalom Committee has been engaged in greening its synagogue for twenty years. They have begun a "Zero Carbon" initiative and published a Green Shalom Guide on their website. In 2003, the Temple completed an extensive renovation and expansion of its physical facilities, using environmentally sound planning principles and products. It has been designated as an Official Partner of the Energy Star Buildings for Congregations Program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Roxbury Farm Partnership (Community Sustained Agriculture) Congregation B'nai Yisrael, Armonk, NY The Roxbury Farm Partnership provides interested members of the synagogue, local mosque and churches with the opportunity to purchase shares in a local farm. Community members receive fresh, local produce on a regular basis, participate in text study sessions about healthy eating and caring for the land and donate excess produce to those in need. This project creates a culture of healthy and responsible consumers, encourages family meals and shares fresh produce with those who cannot usually afford them.
Building Green Temple Bet Yam, St. Augustine, FL When Bet Yam began construction on their new synagogue, a major goal was to "build green." One of the major aspects of this building program was to use structurally insulated panels (rather than wood frames or concrete) which saves the congregation heating and air conditioning costs. Additional "green" steps were taken by using environmentally friendly paint, maximizing the use of direct sunlight, installing a solar-powered Ner Tamid and using eco-friendly wood to build the ark.
Greening the Educational Wing M'kor Shalom, Cherry Hill, NJ When M'kor Shalom began renovating their congregation's educational wing, they took steps to "go greener." Renovations include low-flow faucets and toilets, recycled doormats, planting of native trees and shrubbery and the purchase of eco-friendly and recycled building materials.
Sustainable Living Torah Gardens Temple Israel, Tallahassee, FL Temple Israel is in the process (over a ten-year period) to build a sustainable living garden inspired by the five books of Torah. The B'reishit (Genesis) Garden will include a "Tree of Life" wall and fruit trees, the Sh'mot (Exodus) Rain and Butterfly Garden will include rain barrels and solar stone sculptures, the Vayikra (Leviticus) Learning Center will provide tables and a small greenhouse, the B'midbar (Numbers) Promised Land Vegetable Garden will include vegetable garden beds and the D'varim (Deuteronomy) Meditation Garden will include shaded trees, a fire pit and fountain. This garden will provide religious school children and community members the opportunity to learn sustainable gardening techniques, provide outdoor space for study and meditation, provide flowers for events and holidays and produce fruits and vegetables that can be used for synagogue meals and donated to local shelters. Through this garden, Temple Israel hopes to nourish congregants' appreciation of nature, encourage acts of mitzvot through cultivation and harvest, and teach environmental sustainability.
Interfaith Sustainability Network Blitz Congregation Beth Israel, Walla Walla, WA Congregation Beth Israel partnered with local faith communities to host a five-day interfaith advocacy and education blitz. Included in the blitz were an interfaith "creation care" workshop, a meeting with the local newspaper's editorial board and an interfaith advocacy visit to their state representative's offices.
Green Team Congregation Beth Or, Maple Glen, PA Temple Rodef Shalom, Falls Church, VA Temple Sinai, Atlanta, GA In an effort to jumpstart their congregations' environmental awareness, new eco-friendly choices are made. Spearheaded by a "Green Team," these synagogues are adding additional recycling bins, putting their newsletters online, discontinuing the use of styrofoam products, conducting energy audits, replacing windows and light bulbs, holding environmentally-themed programs (e.g., a screening of An Inconvenient Truth), encouraging families to "green" their homes and more. Each congregation has become partners in local environmental organizations and are highlighting their efforts in the "Green Corner" or "Green Report" section of their synagogues' bulletin.
Reusable Cloth Bags Temple Shalom of Newton, Newton, MA Temple Shalom of Newton created and successfully sold cloth, reusable shopping bags. Congregants are encouraged to use these bags in lieu of single-use paper or plastic bags and to use them to carry home groceries, drugstore items and anything else shopped for even department store purchases! In addition to the environmental benefit of reusable cloth bags, there is also a congregational benefit: If your synagogue chooses to put its logo on the bag, its also an advertisement!