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Environmental Justice & Sustainability

Social Justice & Activism

Climate change is the most catastrophic crisis facing our planet. As Jews, we must organize around our climate crisis in solidarity with frontline communities in New York City, across the U.S., and around the world. At BJ, we affirm the principles of climate justice and support a just transition toward a regenerative future for all. 

We yearn to cultivate environmental justice, recognizing that low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately affected by air, soil, and water pollution. We practice food sovereignty with Hazorim, BJ’s Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and our Community Composting Initiative. We encourage environmental activism and ecological education through our BJ Environmental Advocates group to ensure that all people have access to potable water, clean air, and a healthy climate.

Our synagogue is located next to two urban ecosystems—Riverside Park and the Hudson River. As global temperatures change and sea levels rise, the ecology of the Upper West Side will be at risk. This will have drastic implications for our entire community, and so we must take action now. BJ is taking action through community organizing, political engagement, education, sustainability initiatives, BJ Environmental Advocates, and our Hazorim CSA.

Sustainability at BJ

BJ is constantly upgrading our campus to be more efficient with our food, water, and energy consumption. Learn more about our initiatives with composting, facilities, kiddushim, and sustainability.

Hazon Seal of Sustainability

In 2016, Hazon selected BJ to be part of its Seal of Sustainability Pilot Program. After successful participation in the initial cohort, we are proud to have received the Seal of Sustainability each year since. Prior to joining this cohort, members of the staff, including our Operations, Community Engagement teams, and lay leaders began working to implement more sustainable practices at kiddush and around the building. Seal projects have included an LED lighting upgrade throughout the BJ campus, planters for the Community House rooftop, switching to fully compostable plates and cups, investing in new recycling bins, and purchasing a washer and dryer to wash linens.

Green Kiddush Initiative

We need volunteers to encourage composting and recycling at Kiddush! We can all play our part by being mindful of how much food we take and placing all of our leftover items in the appropriate bins. Volunteers will be standing next to our recycling and composting stations to help guide you. In order to make this happen, we need you to join us. This is a great opportunity for individuals or families. All we ask is for you to commit to one Saturday through June. To find out more about what it entails, contact Larissa.

Environmental Advocates

This committee of volunteers works to promote sustainable practices at BJ and in partnership with citywide campaigns to reduce waste, increase efficiency, and protect the health of our urban ecosystems. Click below to learn about our past campaigns and reach out to the co-chairs to get involved.

Co-chairs: Les Judd, Sandra Rocks

Jewish Climate Action Network NYC

Jewish Climate Action Network NYC (JCAN) works through education, activism, and organizing to add an urgent and visionary Jewish voice to the climate crisis. Many BJ members are actively involved JCAN’s work, and in helping to align BJ’s environmental advocacy work with that of the greater coalition.

JCAN has built a network of partnerships and relationships with Jewish and other environmental justice leaders, and supports campaigns that are working toward:

  • A just transition to 100% renewable energy in New York State
  • A penalty for large organizations that continue to pollute our climate
  • The retrofitting of dirty New York City buildings to clean, efficient energy
  • An end to new fossil fuel infrastructure like the Pilgrim Pipeline
  • The ramping up of off-shore wind energy for New York State

Transform Don’t Trash NYC

BJ members were involved in the Transform Don’t Trash NYC campaign from 2016 to the successful passage of legislation in the NYC Council in October, 2019. The campaign proposed systemic changes to the commercial waste industry in New York City. For decades, commercial waste in NYC has caused problems for local communities and workers. Each year, our restaurants, offices, and businesses produce over 5.5 million tons of commercial waste (excluding construction waste), which is currently picked up by over 4,000 trucks owned by over 230 individual companies. This staggering amount of waste ends up going to landfills and incinerators, rather than being recycled. Clearly, this is not an environmentally or economically sustainable system.

B’nai Jeshurun was proud to be part of a robust coalition of environmental justice, labor, and community groups including the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance (NYCEJA), ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Joint Council 16 & Local 813.

Community Composting Initiative

NOTE: All NYC residential composting programs, including curbside collection, community drop offs, and GrowNYC drop offs, are suspended until June, 2021. We encourage you to find alternate options and will include information on other composting services here as we receive it. Questions? Email Larissa.

Want to minimize your food waste? Looking for ways reduce your ecological footprint? Start today by taking advantage of our composting initiative! New York City launched a pilot composting program in 2014. Since then, it has expanded to all five boroughs. We have been part of the program since the summer of 2015, composting food scraps from our Lunch Program and our CSA, and are excited to be able to offer the opportunity to the whole community. Our goal is to provide a convenient location to bring household compost and we hope those who are nearby and frequent the building will take advantage of the program.

Collecting Compostables

Step 1: Separate your food scraps, like dinner leftovers, excess food from cooking, or rotten foods. This includes meats, bones, and cheeses: basically anything that used to be alive.

Step 2: Place your scraps into a container. You can keep the container on your counter top, in the refrigerator, or in your freezer to alleviate smells between drop offs.

Step 3: Work it into your routine! Bring your food scraps to the BJ Community House, 270 West 89th Street, whenever you visit. It’s free to BJ members and the local community. Multiple bins are available throughout the building.

Storage Methods

  • BioBag compostable bag
  • Paper bag
  • Resealable plastic zipper storage bags or plastic containers with lids (in the freezer, for transporting purposes only, not compostable)

We are happy to offer free three-gallon countertop bins and bags to those who would like to start collecting at home. Supplies are limited.

Compostable Items

• Food scraps (anything that used to be alive)
• Bread, grains, and pasta
• Coffee grounds with paper filter
• Cheese and all dairy
• Eggshells and eggs
• Fruit (pits, seeds, and shells)
• Meat (including bones)
• Fish
• Vegetables and peels
• Nuts and nutshells
• Flowers and floral trimmings
• Leftovers and spoiled food
• Tea and tea bags
• Food-soiled paper
• Paper napkins, paper towels, paper bags, and tissues

Why Participate?

Benefits of Composting

  • Composting recycles food scraps by adding important nutrients back to the soil and completing the food cycle
  • Roughly 29% of household waste is organic and can be composted
  • When you compost you are recycling, diverting waste from overcrowded landfills and reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere

Benefits to BJ Members

BJ wants to make it easy for Members to recycle more and waste less by offering this convenient compost drop off program.

The first 20 members to bring in their compost and connect with Larissa will get a free countertop compost collection bin. Others can receive free compostable BioBags.

Achieving Zero Waste for NYC

New York City has set a goal of contributing zero waste to landfills by 2030. There’s no “away” when we throw garbage into a can or litter basket. Trash goes into landfills, where it decomposes—sending methane, carbon dioxide, and toxins into our air, soil, and water. New Yorkers will be protecting our environment more than ever before.

Compost Elsewhere

For those community members who do not live on the Upper West Side, below is a list of greenmarkets that accept compost:

More information on acceptable items and a full list of drop-off locations can be found on the GrowNYC website. GrowNYC markets do not accept meat, fish, or dairy.

Community-Supported Agriculture

NOTE: For financial and logistical reasons, our farmers have made the tough decision to suspend delivery to NYC this season. There may be a possibility of purchasing bulk items from Free Bird Farm later in the season based on how things go over the next few months. If you are interested in potential bulk produce, please email Larissa.

The BJ Hazorim CSA brings healthy local food to our neighborhood, supports local, organic, and regenerative agriculture, builds community, and makes our city a wonderful place to live. We have respect for the cycles, blessings, and benefits of naturally grown food, and we honor ourselves, our farmers, and our farmworkers. We contribute to the fight against hunger by donating our extra food to those in need. We hope that connecting to the land will teach us that joyful and communal eating is a part of healthy living and growing.

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