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When God created Adam, God led him around all the trees in the garden of Eden. God said to him, “See how beautiful and praiseworthy all of My works are? Everything I have created has been created for Your sake. Think of this, and do not corrupt or destroy my world; for if you corrupt it, there will be no one to set it right after you. (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13)
Temple B’nai Abraham adheres to the highest possible standard of environmental sustainability as an institution and as an agent for change among congregants and the greater community. In September 2010, the congregation entered the two-year GreenFaith Environmental Certification Program with the goal of assessing our activities, facilities and programs to appreciate what steps we are taking to reduce our carbon footprint and discover new ways to improve and educate ourselves about environmental issues.
B’nai Abraham’s Green Team is leading the comprehensive, multi-step certification process, focusing on the four areas set forth by GreenFaith: Spirit, Stewardship, Communication and Environmental Justice. Green Team members are working with congregational leaders and staff to evaluate our current status and formulate strategies that will improve our performance in each area. Together, they are considering programs, practices and policies in connection with services and rituals, adult and youth education, buildings and grounds, public relations and advocating for New Jersey’s urban residents who are most adversely affected by pollution and contaminants.
Temple B’nai Abraham has been actively involved with GreenFaith for many years, having received their award for our solar panel installation and other green practices in 2006.
Dr. Seuss' The Lorax
Wednesday, March 27, 2:00 PM, Livingston Public Library
Dr. Seuss' classic, environmentally themed children's book comes to the screen in this tale of a young boy who encounters a cantankerous forest creature after venturing outside of his artificial city in search of a tree. Ted lives in a town where nothing is quite as it appears; everything is plastic, including the plants. Hopelessly smitten by the beautiful Audrey who dreams of one day seeing a real tree, Ted boldly leaves the city determined to find the flora and grant her wish. Along the way, the young adventurer crosses paths with the Lorax a diminutive, mustached defender of nature who doesn't take kindly to human intruders. The better Ted gets to know the Lorax, however, the more he learns that his newfound friend has good reason for being a bit surly.
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Monthly Eco-Tips from the Green Team
- The average home spends about $2,000 on energy bills every year. By changing to appliances that have earned the Energy Star, you can save $75 a year in energy costs (Energy Star). Energy Star rated appliances use 10-50% lessenergy and water than standard models over their lifetime, making a big difference for the environment and your budget: http://www.energystar.gov/
- Fill a plastic water bottle ¼ of the way full with oil—this is how much oil is required to make the typical bottle of water. The numbers are staggering—adding up the plastic used, the energy required to collect and clean the water, and the fuel it takes to ship the bottles to stores, equates to millions of barrels of oil each year (Sierra Club). Kick the bottled water habit by installing a water filteron your faucet and purchasing a reusable water bottle. Aim for a water bottle thatdoes not leach chemicals, by looking for ‘BPA Free’ labels, or by choosing stainless steel.
- Did you ever notice those small white warning flags on nearby lawns? Those warnings indicate that a lawn has been sprayed withpesticides that are harmful to children and pets. Reduce your exposure, andimprove the environment, by eliminating chemicals on your lawn andencouraging your neighbors to do the same. See www.safelawns.org for moreinformation. If you use a lawn care provider, choose one that specializes innatural lawn care, such as NaturaLawn: http://www.nl-amer.com/
- Your waste will outlive you—plastic can take up to 600 yearsto break down in a landfill, and Styrofoam never breaks down. When planningparties and events, keep the environment in mind by using reusable dinnerware.Start small with reusable utensils, since they can be easily collected and washed,supplemented with recycled-content paper and/or bio compostable dinnerware:www.worldcentric.org .
- The U.S. has 5% of the world's population but uses 25% of its natural resources (Source: US EPA). How many earths would be needed if everyone onthe planet used the same amount of resources as you? Find out by taking an ecological footprint quiz: www.myfootprint.org
- 10 seconds of idling uses more fuel than turning the engine on and off (NJDEP). Turn your engine off when you are sitting for more than 10 seconds, especially near children and in urban areas where pollution levels are already high.
- Worldwide meat production releases more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector .combined (Source: UN Environment Programme). Start small by eliminating meat one day per week, or challenge yourself by taking a week-long vegetarian pledge. See www.meatlessmonday.org or www.vegetariantimes.com for good recipes and more information.
Follow this simple recipe for an all-purpose cleaner: 4 cups warm water
2 Tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons of natural liquid soap (such as Dr. Bronnor’s orange scented)
10 drops of essential oil (Lavender, Pine or Tea Tree)—optional, but helps disinfect and adds a good smellMix water, vinegar and baking soda first, then add the soap and essential oil.
- Many cleaning products contain chemicals that are bad for your health and the environment, and have not been adequately tested for their harmful effects. Clean safely by making your own green cleaners.
- As much as half of the energy used in your home goes towards heating and cooling. Start saving money and energy immediately by adjusting your thermostat—in winter, be sure to lower the thermostat by at least 10 degrees when you are not at home or are sleeping (vice-versa for summer).
Community Protection Act for Newark
Temple B'nai Abraham's Green Team recently gathered 56 signatures on a petition to support the Community Protection Act for Newark. This petition is a project of the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance (NJEJA), an alliance of about 40 New Jersey-based organizations and individuals working together to identify and eliminate environmental injustices in communities of color and low-income communities State-wide.
The Community Protection Act for Newark, the subject of the petition, is a proposed ordinance which would give Newark decision-makers the authority and obligation to evaluate the "cumulative impact" of any proposed new development in the city. The incremental impact of a new project in an already polluted area may be more serious than the impact of that same project in an area whose baseline conditions are more favorable. Under this ordinance, before approving new development, decision-makers would have to assess the impact of that development on the environment in the context of the conditions that already exist.
Decision-makers would be required to take an inventory of existing conditions, including some basic information about current sources of pollution and the population in the community, such as race, ethnicity, age, condition of housing, jobless rate, etc. Furthermore, the ordinance would empower decision-makers to make developers identify alternative ways of achieving their goals, and to identify and select the least harmful alternative. Finally, the ordinance would ask developers to explain how their project will make conditions in the city better and not worse.
The NJEJA has been negotiating with the city, and the city has agreed to alter current land use laws to:
1) change industrial zones to conditional, allowing for the requirement of further assessments
2) create an enhanced environmental resources inventory that includes the concept of cumulative risk
3) pass an ordinance that requires a cumulative impact analysis of new activities.
The Newark City Council will hear testimony on the proposed ordinance at open hearings in the near future, at which time NJEJA members plan to introduce the petition signed by Temple B'nai Abraham members. For further information, or to become involved in this effort, please contact Bob Singer.
Environmental Justice Alliance (NJEJA) Meeting
On March 19, 2011, Green Team member Bob Singer attended the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance (NJEJA) meeting in Trenton. The NJEJA is an alliance of New Jersey-based organizations and individuals working together to identify, prevent, reduce and/or eliminate environmental injustices that exist in communities of color and low-income communities. For example, New Jersey has a long history of locating environmentally toxic and hazardous facilities in communities of color and working class neighborhoods, causing disproportionate environmental burdens such as early deaths, chronic sickness, lost work time and wages, learning and behavioral disabilities, and lost school days for members of those communities. NJEJA is committed to halting and reversing this legacy.
The one-day conference included two main themes:
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Race and Poverty -- Both race and poverty are directly correlated with pollution and health inequities in the urban environment. The NJEJA presented data and case studies demonstrating this correlation. (See attached charts.)
Cumulative Impact -- Many New Jersey neighborhoods are besieged by combinations of pollutants that result in a cumulative impact greater than the sum of its parts on the health, welfare, and well-being of those residents. NJEJA is committed to bringing people together to develop public policies, actions, and programs to prevent and stop these detrimental impacts.
Since then, Bob Singer has maintained contact with the Statewide Coordinator, Henry Rose, and has participated in various programs, including a petition drive related to Cumulative Impact legislation. The resulting petition has been presented to the Newark City Council.
Seeking Environmental Justice in New Jersey
When Thomas Belton was growing up in Jersey City in the 1950s, he and his brother thought nothing of playing in the scrap yards and abandoned factories of Jersey City and swimming under the coal towers by the Hudson River where Liberty State Park now lies. They would catch fish from the river with their father and later eat them. They, like the rest of New Jersey, were unaware of carcinogens being dumped into their favorite swimming spot. Belton's brother and father both died of cancer (leukemia and lymphoma, respectively), leading him to a career in environmental protection, specifically considering the link between environment and disease. Representatives of the Green Team recently attended a presentation by Belton, a Jersey City native and scientist with the NJ Department of Environmental Protection's Office of Cancer and Toxic Substances Research, based on his book, "Protecting New Jersey's Environment: From Cancer Alley to the New Garden State."
In addition to his personal story, Thomas highlighted several New Jersey environmental issues and the affected citizens’ efforts to seek justice when faced with health threats. His book translates these environmental concerns into human interest stories, personalizing the issues and putting human faces on problems many of us might otherwise ignore. At the presentation, he shared in detail the environmental justice area of Waterfront South in Camden.
The New Jersey Council for the Humanities named the book a 2010 Honor Book. Green Team member Lisa Reisboard has a copy of the book and will make it available to any interested member of the congregation.
Green Spaces: Reserved Parking Spaces for High Mileage Vehicles
American Jewish Committee (AJC) is partnering with Temple B'nai Abraham and other houses of worship on Green Spaces, an initiative that educates our communities about the importance of reducing America's dependence on oil. TBA has reserved a parking space (see photo of sign above) for vehicles that reduce oil use, such as: hybrid, flex-fuel, electric or those vehicles that get more than 30 miles per gallon. This special parking space is available on a first come, first in basis.
So if your vehicle fits the parameters...drive right into this special Green Space!
Members of Temple B’nai Abraham’s Green Team attended an Environmental Leadership Training program sponsored by Greenfaith in November 2010, followed by an environmental justice tour of the Ironbound section of Newark. In October 2011, Cynthia Mellon, Community and Environmental Justice Organizer for the Ironbound Community Corporation of Newark presented a program at Temple B’nai Abraham. This article is the Green Team’s attempt to share what we learned.
Environmental justice can be defined as the equitable distribution of environmental burdens, such as pollution, industrial and waste facilities, across the population, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, religion, etc. A quick glance across the State of New Jersey tells us that environmental justice does not prevail in our home state. Western Essex County, home to many of us at Temple B’nai Abraham, is largely free of industrial facilities spewing pollutants into the air or water. Such facilities are commonplace in less affluent communities like Newark, Linden, and Elizabeth.
The Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC) has been serving Newark’s Ironbound community for over 40 years. The ICC has Service and Community Development programs that assist children, families, adult education, senior citizens and the overall community. Cynthia Mellon, speaker at Temple B’nai Abraham’s October 2011 Dinner in the Sukkah program, organizes the ICC’s critical Environmental Justice program.
The Ironbound has historically been an industrial and residential community where factories operate right next to homes. Not far from the colorful Spanish-Portuguese-Brazilian restaurants for which the area is known are residential neighborhoods that suffer from serious environmental conditions. Bound on all four sides by the airport, highways, rail lines and the Passaic River, the Ironbound is one of New Jersey’s most polluted areas. Since the Ironbound is home to both the State’s largest garbage incinerator and one of the country’s most contaminated sites -- a former Agent Orange factory -- and has both active and abandoned industrial facilities, close flight paths and active truck routes, the ICC has worked to improve the quality of air, water, and green space in the Ironbound community.
Air – The ICC is making sure that the largest garbage incinerator on the East Coast accounts for its impact on the community. It is located within a half mile of two federal low-income housing tracts with a combined population of 8,000. This facility operates around the clock, burning about 2,800 tons of waste daily, year-round, half of which comes from New York City. With its mercury emissions, the facility has been in violation of the Clean Air Act for the past six years. The ICC is also bringing industry and government to the table to cut down on idling in Newark’s ports, a major contributor to air pollution in the Ironbound.
Water– The Ironbound is home to a Superfund site along the Passaic River that contains the world’s largest concentration of dioxin -- one of the first to be labeled a Superfund site in 1983. Manufacturing operations since the 1940s, including the production of DDT and phenoxy herbicide (Agent Orange used in the Vietnam War) led to current conditions. The ICC informed and empowered residents who fought to make sure the site was capped and remediated. Three decades later, they still monitor this issue while embarking upon a community-wide waterfront vision to restore the river for recreational community use.
Land– In the early 1900s, a Passaic River salt marsh was filled with refuse and construction debris to create Doremus Avenue – Chemical Row – that has been home to refineries churning out chemicals ever since. With the highest toxin concentration in Newark, thousands of pounds of chemicals are emitted on this stretch of road within one mile of schools and public housing. In addition to addressing this serious issue, the ICC was instrumental in organizing residents to preserve Riverbank Park as an oasis for residents. Similarly, today they are leading the vision for a green belt along the Ironbound’s riverbank. Working with industry and government, they’re pushing for the day when families can gather and relax along a clean and healthy river.
(Sources: Environmental justice tour led by Dr. Ana Baptista, a leader of the ICC, and Rev. Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of Greenfaith;http://www.ironboundcc.org/node/103)
Open Community Forum: Face to Face: Community Conversations on Environmental Justice
Interested in learning more about environmental issues facing New Jersey today? This fall, there will be a series of community environmental forums held at public libraries, hosted by the NJ Council for the Humanities, entitled Face to Face: Community Conversations on Environmental Justice. The topic is Why Environmental Justice Matters (Date TBA, Trenton). Each of these forums will bring together traditional scholars (historians, policy analysts, philosophers and so on) with community members and activists to discuss, in an open and engaging way, how we can pay close attention to issues of justice and equity in our environmental decision making. Our further goal is to use history to frame the discussions. Each of these forums is free and open to the public.
For more information, contact Lisa Reisboard at email@example.com.
A note from Lisa Reisboard...
Interested in the environment? Want to help TBA meet its GreenfaithCertification Program requirements? Listen to a recent pre-recorded webinar on Stewardship and find out ways you can help in the areas such as of Energy, Food and Water, and Grounds Maintenance:
GreenFaith Water Conservation Tips:
Water is the essence of life. Yet clean, fresh water is becoming scarcer globally because of waste, pollution, and climate change.
GreenFaith can help you to conserve water – at home and at your house of worship or school.
Did You Know. . .
A kitchen faucet that’s run for 4 minutes a day uses nearly 4,000 gallons a year?
A 7-minute daily shower uses over 9,000 gallons a year?
Only 1% of all water on earth is suitable for human consumption?
You Can Make a Difference
You and your house of worship can conserve water by taking several simple steps. GreenFaith wants to help.
- Click Here for GreenFaith's Water Conservation Tips for Homes
- Click here for GreenFaith's Water Conservation Tips for Houses of Worship.
Become a water conservation leader today!
MUSEUM SHOWCASE SPOTLIGHTS
TBA: Our Environmental Journey
For the months of January & February there was a wonderful exhibit in the temple's Sodowick Museum Showcase entitled TBA: Our Environmental Journey chronicling in photos and relevant items the temple’s “green” initiatives sponsored and implemented by the Social Action Committee (SAC) and its Green Team.
The display was fashioned and crafted by the SAC exhibit chairs and SAC Green Team members Lisa Reisboard and Susan Ochs-Scher. Included in the display are photos of the solar panels installed on the temple’s roof in 2006 through the efforts of TBA Facilities Manager Tracey Bent and SAC member Deborah Prinz with the guidance of Reverend Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of GreenFaith Pictured in front of the showcase (l-r) are Lisa Reisboard and Susan Och-Scher.