Whether by making a synagogue or school more energy efficient, recycling office paper, ecologically sensitive landscaping, or any of a number of actions to reduce the environmental impact of daily operations, the Jewish community continues to carry out Adam’s task of “tending the garden.” Today’s buildings, grounds and urban landscapes may not resemble the Eden of our imaginations, but they nonetheless remain part of the creation for which we are charged to care.
Jewish synagogues, schools, and retreat centers have incorporated creation-sustaining practices in their buildings such as:
- Wind and solar power
- Energy-saving fluorescent lights
- Flooring from recycled and natural materials
- Energy conserving windows
- Using of unbleached, recycled paper products in offices and for community celebrations
- Purchasing washable and reusable, instead of disposable, utensils and trays
- Composting food and yard waste
Ecologically sensitive landscaping practices on the property surrounding congregations include:
- Using native plants
- Avoiding harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides
- Creating gardens that feature plants mentioned in the Torah or recall the environment of Israel
- Careful use of water and xeriscaping (landscaping requiring minimal watering) in arid regions
- Establishing community gardens
Initiatives are underway to increase the number of congregations that are employ such practices in their construction and management:
- The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life is undertaking a "Greening Synagogues" pilot project, involving three New Jersey congregations. The project is aimed at developing models for instilling an environmental focus into the operations and programming of synagogues that can be applied throughout the country.
- A "Greening Synagogues" workshop at COEJL's March 2005 conference in Washington, D.C., visited Temple Emanuel in Kensington, Maryland, and Adat Shalom Congregation in Bethesda, Maryland, two congregations that are undergoing renovations to become more environmentally responsible.