June 22, 2017

Canning for the Climate

What does preserving summer fruits and vegetables have to do with Climate Change?

Making small changes on where you source your food, planting a container or backyard garden, and learning to preserve the seasonal harvest can reduce the amount of carbon your household emits. You can also help reduce your carbon footprint by reducing waste of food at home and cutting the transportation emissions of your food by buying local.

Food Waste

Have you ever opened your refrigerator and had to throw away your wilted vegetables and moldy fruit because you did not use them in time?  In the United States around 25% of food is wasted at home. Food waste that goes to the landfill breaks down anaerobically and produces methane; methane is 21 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas.

But knowing a few easy methods like pickling and jam making can help you reduce the amount of waste you have from your extra produce. Canning extends shelf life and locks in nutrients without using chemical preservatives or sealing the food in plastic, which can degrade and release toxins into your food. Properly canned food is shelf-stable for up to a year and can be stored at room temperature. From pickles to applesauce, strawberry pie filling to three-bean salad, there’s lots of room for creativity.

Local foods means less transportation emissions

On average your food travels about 1500 miles from the farm to your table. Food that travels by trucks, trains, planes and ships has expanded our opportunities to get foods out of season but has increased the carbon footprint of our food. Food produces about 8 tons of emissions per household, or about 17% of the total. Worldwide, new reports suggest that agriculture produces around half of all man-made emissions. You can reduce the carbon footprint of your food by up to 7% by eating locally.

By buying or growing your foods locally you are taking an easy step to cutting the amount of emissions used for your food. Also consider buying local produce that can be grown in your regions without extra help such as greenhouses.  Since you are buying local you have a shorter window of time when you can get your favorite produce.  By preserving and canning you can have what you love to eat year-round without having to buy produce shipped from other parts of the world.

 

Click here to get your Canning for the Climate Kit

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October 10, 2016

Cool Congregation Gardens – St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church

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St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lacey, Washington entered the 2015 Cool Congregations Challenge with their Community Garden.

Their church had slightly over an acre of land that had been fallow and unused for years. One of their church members really wanted to instill a love of the planet into the Sunday School kids so they started vegetable seedlings and planted them in the back lot.

A small group was formed in 2011 from the church and many skeptical members watched from the sidelines (“How are they going to do an ORGANIC garden?”) Kiwanis of Olympia had three large Food Bank gardens and they helped the church set up low pressure irrigation that irrigated just the crops, they supplied them with seed potatoes for 2000 row feet, explained how to harvest, and supplied some equipment. A core group of volunteers worked very hard in 2011, & 2012 to weed and maintain the garden and at the end of the second summer the skeptical members were very impressed! Their ranks of volunteers and monetary supporters continues to grow. They are fully pesticide free, and all organic.

What started as a Sunday School class planting veggie starts is now a well established Community Garden with 46 raised beds offered free to community members (drip irrigation included) each growing season, and over an acre of cultivated land which grew 9100 pounds of produce for the Thurston County Food Bank. This brings our total since 2010 to 33,600 pounds. They believe others find inspiration in this project from the diverse partnerships that have been formed.

Today they have a vibrant, community-based, environmentally sensitive garden where learning, relationship building, fun, and very hard work all come together.   Lacey Parks and Recreation dept. advertises their free raised beds and we have many more community members than church members using their raised beds and helping in the Food Bank garden.   Mountain View Elementary, a large elementary school across the street, working with the Food Bank educator, sent 22 field trips for a total of 700 children to the garden this past spring to plant veggie starts and seeds, identify and taste fresh veggies, and have a healthy snack . The children were ecstatic to plant, grow and harvest vegetables, as well as learn how vegetables can not only be weird and beautiful, but also nutritious for the body. Several kids stated that “This is the BEST field trip ever!”   GOD’S work, OUR Hands. Komachin middle school science department grew broccoli and cabbage starts for them as part of their science curriculum. Cooking classes, provided by a grant, were also provided to all classes by Food Bank educator and their members using garden produce and other food.

“Our Members are very proud of our lovely garden space and some community members like to stroll through the raised bed garden, sit at our picnic table, and just enjoy nature.”

 

St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church entered this project into the Cool Congregations Challenge.  If you have a great project going on at your congregation enter it into the 2016 challenge an you could win your congregation $1,000!

October 9, 2016

The Shalom Park Community Garden – Temple Beth El

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Temple Beth El and four other Jewish organizations on Shalom Park in Charlotte, NC came together in 2015 to launch Shalom Green, the Shalom Park Environmental Initiative and created the Shalom Park Community Garden as a key component of the initiative. Shalom Park is a 54 acre campus, which is home to two synagogues, a Jewish Community Center, several schools, and a number of other Jewish agencies. The goals of Shalom Green include reducing the carbon footprint of buildings and operations on Shalom Park, providing environmental education, and sparking community-wide conversation about and action toward environmental sustainability. Temple Beth El and its Shalom Green partners needed a central, collaborative project, which would provide opportunities for environmental education, connect congregants with the natural world and serve as a visual reminder of the community’s broader sustainability efforts. The Shalom Park Community Garden provided a perfect solution.

As a result of these efforts, an unused lawn was converted into a functioning outdoor classroom and organic garden. Volunteers built ten raised beds for vegetables, whose yield will be donated to a local meals on wheels program, and several in-ground beds, which contain plants of Jewish significance, such as pomegranate and fig trees, herbs and grape vines. All soil, seeds, plants and fertilizers are organic, and irrigation for individual beds was designed to minimize water usage. Plants were selected and placed to offer opportunities for lessons in organic gardening, pollinators, companion planting and natural pest control. Lessons in the garden combine practical instruction in organic gardening techniques with a discussion of Jewish environmental values and larger issues related to living sustainably and protecting the planet. In its first months, the garden engaged youth from from synagogue religious schools and youth groups, the Charlotte Jewish Day School, the Charlotte Jewish Preschool and a Jewish Community Center Teen Camp in environmental learning. Future plans include educational opportunities for families and older adults as well. More than 150 young people and adults participated as students and volunteers in the inaugural season of the Shalom Park Community Garden, and spring and summer gardening seasons will bring opportunities to engage and educate even larger segments of the Shalom Park population.

The obligation to preserve the earth for future generations is deeply rooted in Torah and Jewish tradition; yet, being good “stewards of Creation” is not always easy and is not always foremost in our minds. Temple Beth El was inspired in our efforts by a congregant, who said the thing that keeps him up at night is his concern about the future of our planet. They were inspired by the shared enthusiasm of Jewish organizations across Shalom Park for the opportunity to learn about and implement changes to make our congregations and community more sustainable. And they were inspired by Judaism’s profound respect for and connection to the natural world to bring Jews of different affiliations and Jews of no affiliation together in pursuit of our common environmental values. By participating in Shalom Green and the Shalom Park Community Garden, Temple Beth El is working to focus the congregation’s attention on the critical need to protect our planet, with the goal of creating meaningful changes in the way we live our lives as individuals and as a congregation.

Temple Beth El entered this project into the Cool Congregations Challenge.  If you have a great project going on at your congregation enter it into the 2016 challenge an you could win your congregation $1,000!