When Shaare Torah celebrated Tu B’Shevat with lunch earlier this year, the amount of trash the synagogue made amounted to “a shopping bag full of landfill trash,” said Beri Kravitz, a former chair of the Gaithersburg synagogue’s Environmental Action Committee Green Team.
Thanks to the Green Team, everything else, from leftover food to utensils to dishes, was composted. Kravitz said the vegetarian, no-waste Kiddush lunch was the largest project she worked on.
The committee’s purpose is to introduce sustainable practices to all aspects of synagogue life at Shaare Torah. And the committee seeks to help synagogue members improve their care for the environment at home and at work. At the same time, they implement the Jewish value of stewardship for the earth, called bal tashchit.
The Green Team projects also embody the Jewish principle of tikkun olam, or repairing the world, Kravitz said.
Committee member Linda Gore said the group’s outdoor experiences sometimes include a naturalist to help members gain a deeper appreciation of the flora and fauna in the community. Other activities are led by the rabbi or a congregant, and include meditation or prayer.
The group has gone on two nature walks recently, Kravitz said. One focused on native plants and invasive plants. The other was based on forest bathing, a conscious and contemplative practice of being immersed in sights, sounds and smells of the forest.
Last year, the committee got together with a Mormon church and a historically Black church in the Kentlands area of Gaithersburg for a gardening project.
“The public can walk through there, and we’ve done some work by planting trees and pulling invasive plants there,” Kravitz said.
“Over the the last seven or eight years, we’ve had a lot of different activities to incorporate environmental values into Jewish life,” Gore said. “And I think that is what the Green Team is going to be working on with our rabbis going forward.”
Currently, the Green Team’s focus is transforming the synagogue’s energy use to “all-renewable” energy sources. Kravitz said the synagogue “would love to be able” to put solar panels on its roof, but there are a few factors that limit this ability, including the small size of the roof.
Gore said the congregation’s contract with an energy supplier expired. Now they’re shopping for a renewable contract after the previous one expired.
Gore added that the Green Team plans to hold a workshop on community solar, a central power plant whose electricity is shared by the neighbors.
Humans have done a lot of damage to the environment,” Kravitz said. “So there’s a lot of repairing to be done.”