For 2011 the Assembly of Rabbis and the Reform Movement is promoting a major food sustainability initiative for discussion and implementation by synagogues. A recent adult education evening held at Kol Chai studied some Jewish texts on the environment, and then went on to make some suggestions for us as a community. Kol Chai has had a fair trade policy since 2003, which is promoted by a notice in the kitchen, but it is not easily implemented because we are a grass roots community, where everyone is entitled to an opinion and many different groups get involved with catering.
So we have come up with some suggestions, most of them fairly simple, which might be feasible:
• FISH None of us were really sure which fish to buy—which are endangered and which are OK. We thought it would be a good idea to have some information on our website.
Please see further information at this link:
• HONEY The movement is promoting the idea that communities could produce their own honey for Rosh HaShanah. We thought it would be a good idea to find out if anyone keeps bees in the community, and if such an idea might be feasible.
• EGGS We felt Kol Chai should ban battery eggs.
• GARDENING All of those who have gardens grow some fruit and vegetables in their gardens. We discovered an amazing variety of produce grown. We could promote this and perhaps, as some communities do, have a gardening group, or even a community allotment.
• ORGANIC VEG BOXES 40% of those who came to our discussion have organic vegetables and/or fruit delivered. This too could be advertised and promoted. The veg boxes use less food miles and packaging. We should provide information on local veg boxes and farmers' markets
• FOOD WASTE We realise that a lot of food gets wasted at Kol Chai because we tend to over cater. We need to estimate quantities more carefully, and take food home rather than leaving it in the fridge. Chavurah meals are much less wasteful because people bring a dish from home and take home the bowl with the remaining food. For this reason it seems eco-friendly to promote chavurah style meals rather than catered whenever possible.
• PAPER PLATES etc We could probably manage to avoid these more often, and we need to research which ones are more eco-friendly. We felt it important to try to cut the use of paper plates and cups.
• WATER With a drought looming, we are all going to have to save water, and the synagogue has to play its part.
• OFFICE PAPER We felt that printing should be done double sided whenever possible.
• HARROW AGENDA 21 The chair of Harrow Agenda 21 (http://www.harrowagenda21.org),, Mick Oliver, was at the meeting. Harrow is fortunate in having this active environmental group which works closely with Harrow Council. I have been asked to send a report about what we are doing for their June newsletter. We could invite them to speak on another occasion and/or show the DVD they have made on waste disposal.
• LINKS WITH LOCAL CHURCHES Congregants from a local church attended the meeting. They have been having similar discussions about what they can do. This seems to be an area of potential co-operation.
I welcome suggestions from anyone reading this about how to promote and implement these ideas.
Rabbi Michael Hilton