October 14, 2016

2015 Cool Congregations Challenge Winner – First United Methodist Church

 

 

 

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First United Methodist Church of Omaha Nebraska wanted to educate the congregation on everyone’s own complicity in global warming. How to get congregants to look at their own lifestyles and become aware of our impact on the environment.

They decided to help the congregation become aware of how much greenhouse gas was produced by food waste that is in the landfills. They worked with a company that has a vermiculure process (worms) to compost food waste in Omaha. Many bulletin inserts, meeting, presentations, and posters in the narthex later, they started to sign families up to begin bringing their compostable bags of food to church on Sunday. The goal was 50 families.

Their eco group was blown away by the 65 families that signed up to bring their food wastes to church. Their pastors invited the Kim Morrow Nebraska IPL director to preach and had a children’s message with real red wigglers to explain to kids (and adults) the process. The kids were both grossed out and all wanted to touch the worms. They also had a forum for all the adult and youth Sunday school classes about environmental stewardship. All of this on their first Sunday of collecting food waste! Now, seven months later, up to 80 families are participating and filling the 500 gallon drum weekly with food waste.

Their church’s eco team wanted a project that would educate about the need to change our lifestyles to be more sustainable. The need to be accountable for our own individual and community responsibility for green house gas production. Food waste was the means to an end. People, who signed up to bring in their bags of food waste, were amazed at how much food was thrown away each week. One 80+ year old was being helped with the ten pound of food waste she brought one week (she collects from all of her condo neighborhood) and she said, “This is such a fun way to make the world a better place.”   They have had two other area churches ask for their process and plans for this composting project.

First United Methodist Church entered this project into the Cool Congregations Challenge and WON $1,000. 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!

Posted by in Food Waste, IPL CoolHarvest Stories and tagged as

October 13, 2016

Interfaith gardening in Minnesota

The Gandhi Mahal Interfaith Garden is a collaborative project with Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light(MNIPL), Gandhi Mahal Restaurant, All Saints Episcopal Indian Mission, and New City Church.

Gandhi Mahal started this backyard garden in 2012 as a pilot project with HECUA, providing local, sustainably-grown food for the restaurant. The garden is a part of a bigger network of farms and of the economic system of Gandhi Mahal, showcasing their commitment to building sustainable communities and increasing the food security of our neighborhoods. Check out what Gandhi Mahal has done over the years!

This year MNIPL is leading this collaborative urban farm program to explore the connections between food, faith, and climate change. They are growing crops that become an assortment of traditional Bangladeshi/Indian dishes at Gandhi Mahal, as well as supply the healthy, traditional indigenous ingredients for free community meals prepared at First Nations Kitchen every Sunday night, a ministry of All Saints Episcopal Indian Mission.

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Open Garden Nights were every Sunday throughout the summer. The garden serves as a radically welcoming, open space for folks from community dinner at First Nations Kitchen and neighbors to spend time at the garden.

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In June they hosted an incredible Interfaith Climate Conversation, making the connection between climate change and agriculture through their Climate Conversations model, participants spoke from Muslim, Baha’i, Christian faith backgrounds about their connection to food. This event fell during Ramadan, so afterward everyone shared in a community Iftar to break fast together, hosted at Gandhi Mahal.

October 12, 2016

Cool Congregations Sustainable Food – Midway Christian Church

Midway Christian Church in Midway, Kentucky has been on a path towards greater sustainability for years. In 2010 they joined the Green Chalice Program which provides Disciples of Christ communities with opportunities to live our their faith by caring for creation.     Midway Christian Church was looking for ways to lower the impact of their food choices on the environment.

One member of the congregation is a professional chef. With her help, and with the support of the community, Midway Christian Church was able to do several projects related to food and food justice.   The congregation began to look at making more earth-friendly food choices in several areas including gleaning and food recovery, composting and locally sources ingredients all with an emphasis on educating the community on how better food choices can be made and what options were available to congregants.

Many results have come about from their new food choices.   – The church has begun to glean twice a year at a local orchard and donate all food to Glean Kentucky or Go’s Pantry – They have hosted all-locally sources Sunday dinners in honor of Earth Day. – They now use locally source hogs for their annual Epiphany dinner. – They host breakfasts for the families of marathon runners using all locally milled grain products – The chef has begun to bring leftovers from her restaurant to church functions to prevent food waste – All food scraps from the church are now composted for local gardens – In addition to these food choices the church has switched to all eco-friendly disposable flatware

Members of Midway Christian Church believe that stewardship of creation is what they are called to do. They believe that god gave man dominion but that dominion is truly a partnership with the Earth.   This church realized that our industrial food systems have one of the largest impacts of all man made systems on the health of the planet and the environment. They wanted to act as better stewards of creation and make changes.

Midway Christian 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!

Posted by in Food, Gleaning, IPL CoolHarvest Stories and tagged as

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!