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Can You Afford Going Green?

“We can’t afford it.” That’s a common response when I suggest that Jewish organizations reduce waste and pollution, protect health and safety, and demonstrate leadership in the transition to a greener world. But the truth is – you can afford it.

It’s Free! Greenburgh Hebrew Center is saving money on electricity this summer, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, by turning off the air conditioning in the social hall and holding the Shabbat kiddush in the lobby. Another no-cost step is to switch to green cleaning products that protect your members from toxic chemicals and reduce water pollution. They cost less because they are sold in concentrated form. The Jewish Community Relations Council, which rents office space in Manhattan, worked with the building management company to make the switch to green cleaning. Now all tenants benefit at no extra cost.

Get a Grant. Kane Street Synagogue replaced 200 incandescent bulbs in the historic sanctuary with LED bulbs with the help of a generous subsidy from Con Ed. The congregation will recoup the cost in one year and reap the savings in electricity costs for the 10-15 year lifespan of the bulbs. Find out about opportunities for your organization to receive free or reduced-cost upgrades by undergoing a free or subsidized audit from Con Ed, NYSERDA, NYSEG, or your energy provider.

Spend Less. Check your budget for recurring purchases. You can reduce waste while saving money. Last year the Abraham Joshua Heschel School spent $1,600 per month on paper cups. This year the school gave each teacher a personalized mug to reduce waste and save money. Similarly, at Shelter Rock Jewish Center a member purchased breakfast dishes for the Morning Minyan to eliminate the use of disposables. Be sure to track your savings from these projects so that you can invest them in more ambitious ones.

Make Money. Your expertise in greening is valuable. School groups are coming to Berkshire Hills Eisenberg Camp for green-themed retreats that generate income in the camp’s off-season. And spreading the word about your commitment to greening attracts donors. This year, Solomon Schechter of Long Island’s annual benefit, highlighting the School’s commitment to Jewish values of environmental stewardship, was the most successful ever. The theme was Shomrei Adamah (Guardians of the Earth.)

Finally, remember that your organization’s budget reflects your values. You don’t always opt for the cheapest solution. You make choices to pay your staff a living wage, provide health benefits, grant scholarships, and raise funds for programs that are central to your mission. Make the choice to go green. You can afford it.