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You are here: Home » GreenFaith in the Media » Press Clips » Temple Puts Its Faith in Sustainability

Temple Puts Its Faith in Sustainability

By Staff Report
Suburban News

Temple Beth Rishon, a participant in the GreenFaith Certification Program, takes steps to 'go green', through energy conservation, green cleaning, environmental education, and more.

Temple Puts Its Faith in Sustainability

Temple Beth Rishon practices what it preaches, from using non-toxic cleaning supplies in the kitchen to ceramic mugs, here in the hands of members Mark Niederman, Nanette Dwoskin and Lynn Goldman.


Green is the new black at Temple Beth Rishon, whose members are advocating a sustainable way of life.

A small team of earth-friendly activists, called T’Green Olam, has formed and meets every other month to develop environmental education programs for children, among other initiatives.

Congregants have cut paper out of the waste stream, encouraging the use of
reusable ceramic coffee mugs on temple grounds. The temple’s walk-in refrigerator and freezer are turned off between banquets, and summer worship services are held in a room a fraction of the size of the regular sanctuary to save energy and money on air-conditioning.

"There are a lot of things like this, in a facility like this, where if you just have somebody watching things, you can save a tremendous amount," said Mark Niederman, who serves on the temple’s Board of Trustees as vice president of religion. "And this is all being done without any compromise to comfort or to functionality."

The temple’s efforts to live and operate sustainably have been recognized by
GreenFaith, a New Brunswick-based coalition founded in 1992 to inspire
sustainability among religious institutions. The organization invited the temple and a church in Chatham and in East Brunswick to pilot its certification program. Three other churches — in Martinsville, South Orange and Evanston, Ill. — also are participating in the program, but are not pilot institutions. Once the institutions complete the two-year program, they will be certified GreenFaith sanctuaries. To participate in the program, institutions pay a tuition fee based on their budgets.

While GreenFaith received six applications in May, according to Stacey Kennealy,
who coordinates the program as the organization’s director of sustainability, it expects to receive many more applications before Sept. 1, the next deadline. Kennealy said institutions apply for the program by filling out a form and creating a green team, like T’Green Olam. The team’s leader must make a verbal and written commitment highlighting the institution’s intention to participate in the program and to become an environmental leader, she said.

Kennealy said the temple was selected because of its exceptional environmental leadership to date. New Jersey institutions were chosen to pilot the program, she said, because GreenFaith wants to visit them periodically.

Niederman said GreenFaith has perfected a method of providing institutions with roadmaps and a lot of guideposts leading toward sustainable futures.

"It sounds kind of simple and trite, but they’ve really put together a very thoughtful approach to laying out tools and resources for institutions in the program," Niederman said.

To become certified, the institutions much conduct activities determined by the organization. Activities are divided into four categories — spirit, environmental justice, stewardship and communication — and include conducting worship services focused on ecological themes, educating and mobilizing congregants to recycle and reduce waste and publicizing efforts to external audiences through newspapers and list serves.

Niederman said T’Green Olam already has helped reduce the temple’s carbon footprint by restricting the use of rooms to large groups and by adjusting thermostats.

"One of the things we’ve been able to improve efficiency on is energy, by deploying facilities as they’re needed, rather than just having them running all the time," said Niederman, a LEED accredited professional in green building. And Harriet Shugarman, who also serves on the Board of Trustees, said the temple’s Andrew Friedland Preschool recently hosted an art show with crafts made of recyclable materials.

Shugarman, who spearheaded the formation of T’Green Olam in 2007, said the team will meet this summer with temple leaders and to draft a new mission statement to help steer the temple toward sustainability. The team’s name was adapted from the Hebrew phrase "tikkun olam," which means "repairing the world."

"As an advocate for environmental stewardship," said Shugarman, who was trained by Al Gore and The Climate Project in 2007 to educate the public about climate change, "I believe houses of worship are well placed to serve as examples, not only for their own congregants, but for the larger faith-based community."

Kennealy said more and more institutions want to become environmental leaders and that leaders from nearly every religious denomination are speaking out about the importance of environmental stewardship as a religious value.

"Institutions are beginning to understand their critical role in upholding this vision," Kennealy said. "They are poised and ready to become the strongest environmental leaders in this country and in the world, and we are happy to help make it happen."

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