Zero Waste Kiddush: Greening Our Synagogue

By Marc Soloway, Congregation Bonai Shalom, Boulder, CO

The Project:

On Rosh HaShanah 5767, I gave a sermon about climate change and our need as individuals and as a community to act. Immediately following the sermon, a congregant said that she wanted to start a “Green Team,” which she did.

  • We began by changing light bulbs to compact fluorescents and increasing our recycling and energy use.
  • We became a “wind-powered facility” meaning that we allowed our energy company to invest more in wind farms.
  • We also worked with a local company who specialized in “zero waste events” and made these available for bar or bat mitzvah families who wanted to have an eco-Kiddush. This company, Eco Cycle, would provide bins, compostable bags, plates, cups and cutlery for the appropriate numbers and then everything would be collected and composted.
  • After a few such events, the board asked why we don’t just do this all the time, at which point we decided to adopt a zero waste policy for all shul meals and events, even though there was additional cost involved in the bio-degradable products.

Almost everything that we use is reused, recycled or composted, with very little going into the landfill.

The Project’s Impact:

This initiative has definitely changed our awareness of environmental issues.

  • Many families have become more conscious of waste in their own homes.
  • We learned the concept of Bal Taschit.
  • Shuls in Boulder followed this action leading to a partnership in the Hazon Jewish CSA program.
  • We, 4 other synagogues in Boulder and the JCC work with a local farm to bring fresh, local, organic produce to our parking lot every week during the growing season!
  • There is a chicken coop and a community garden that have all ‘grown’ from this commitment that we made to eliminate waste.

Ongoing Challenges:

  • Education
  • Labeling of the bins!

This is a cultural change and, like all changes, it takes time. We still get confused about what goes in what bin and we do end up with more than necessary in the landfill unless we sort through ourselves.

DIY (Do-it-Yourself) Tips:

It is always good to connect such projects to community-wide study of the issues, whether in classes, focus groups, or sermons, so that the physical changes are part of a more holistic vision of community and responsibility.

We have shifted the thinking and practices of our membership in all aspects of life to consider our collective carbon footprint.

Rabbi Marc Solloway has been the rabbi of Congregation Bonai Shalom since August 2004, just a few months after his ordination from The Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. Rabbi Marc's studies were also in his native London and Jerusalem. Before training to be a rabbi, he was an actor and a massage therapist. Rabbi Marc's journey to the rabbinate and to Boulder has been a long one with lots of interesting stops along the way! So far, Marc loves being in Boulder and at Bonai Shalom and is looking forward to the relationship continuing to grow and blossom!

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