HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? – The Eco Chavura Story

 I didn’t set out to create Eco Chavura (pronounced like Chanukah).  It simply evolved, much as things do in nature.  The Temple’s Building Committee asked me to conduct an inventory of things we could do around the synagogue that would have an environmental benefit.  By that I mean that the project would help generate less waste, use less energy and promote conservation.  As with most of our homes, I discovered a multitude of opportunities at our religious “home”.  At the same time, I also realized how much was already happening at the Temple.

Here are just a few examples:

–          The showing of the movies Trashed and Food, Inc by our Social Action Committee highlighted the growing landfill problem we face due to our throw-away, disposable society and the unsanitary, overcrowding living of animals destined for human consumption;

–          The steady, gradual, switch from incandescent light bulbs to more efficient CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) throughout the building;

–          The switch from paper D’var bulletins to electronic versions;

–          Gan Emunah – the native plants garden planted in our front yard last spring requires less maintenance (water and chemicals) and supports butterflies.

–          Gan Sholom uses discarded egg cartons, paper towel rolls and other household items for their craft projects.

With this “inventory” in hand, my goal was to find the most organized way to mobilize and organize these activities into a cohesive program.  Luck was on my side.  Enter – a national non-profit that helps religious institutions “green” their places of worship in a holistic fashion.

GreenFaith has a certification program that helps temples and churches integrate environmental practices into all types of activities – religious education, environmental justice, stewardship (e.g. recycling), spirituality (sermons), etc. (see  With the blessings of the Board, our Eco Chavura team has two years to fulfill GreenFaith’s certification requirements.

We’ve begun our journey and welcome your involvement and ideas.  Contact me at with ideas and questions.

Karen Lewis is a member of Eco Chavurah.  She holds masters degrees in business and public policy which she has used in both her professional and personal lives.  Her goal this summer is to start composting.