3 Ways Your Congregation Can Get Involved in Environmentalism

Inside Leadership

3 Ways Your Congregation Can Get Involved in Environmentalism

Graphic of a hand holding a lightbulb that appears to contain a mountain and windmills

As we look toward Tu BiSh’vat and the emergence of spring, we are called to think about the environment that surrounds us and our connection to the land we inhabit. We are asked to consider our obligation to care for God’s world.

Reform leaders are responding to the call to fight against climate change and environmental injustice: congregations in the Reform Movement are becoming catalysts for protecting our planet; lay leaders and clergy are becoming environmental stewards in their communities; they have taken on creative and innovative programs in pursuit of addressing environmental issues and climate change. Working with the Religious Action Center, these inspiring leaders affirm our steadfast commitment to protecting the environment.

There are a multitude of options to get your community involved in climate change and environmentalism. Here are just three ways to get started:

1. Join the GreenFaith Energy Shield program.

GreenFaith, a partner of the Religious Action Center, is an interfaith coalition for the environment. The GreenFaith Energy Shield is a national designation signifying that a faith-based institution has taken steps to reduce their carbon footprint and engage their members in environmentally-friendly practices. In joining the GreenFaith’s Energy Shield program, your congregation will reduce its carbon footprint, save money and engage members – and gain recognition for your achievements. The program can be completed in a short amount of time, and enrollment is waived for the next 20 congregations that join.

The Energy Shield program is a great option for congregations that have already taken on greening work in their synagogues, as well as for congregations who are looking to get started in this area. GreenFaith and the RAC provide the resources and tools needed to make this a meaningful and fun experience for your congregation. Learn more about this opportunity.

2. Apply for a Travel Justly Microgrant.

Registration at every major Reform Movement event and conference since 2008 has included an option for participants to donate to Travel Justly. When we fly or drive long distances, our activities emit significant amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

To date, the RAC’s Travel Justly campaign has collected and allocated more than $15,000 to projects that reduce our carbon footprint. The funds have been allocated to greening and sustainability projects in Reform congregations, camps, kibbutzim, local communities and other URJ affiliates.

This year, 13 congregations will be awarded $500 to help fund an environmental sustainability project or a food justice project. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis through April 1, 2017. Here’s how to apply.

3. Tune in to our Environment Online Learning Webinar Series.

The RAC is excited to announce the launch of our environmentally focused online learning series, "Rooting Congregational Life in the Environment." This opportunity is open to lay leaders, rabbis, congregational staff, and anyone in the Reform Movement who wants to learn more about addressing climate change through a Jewish perspective.

During this webinar series, you’ll learn how to engage your congregation in environmentally conscious practices. We’ll explore topics such as greening your building, community gardening, food justice, and environmental programming and advocacy. We hope to continue the dialogue of teaching about environmentalism beyond the hourly webinar.

We encourage you to help us bring this conversation to life in the Greening and Environmentalism group in the Tent. Join us there to ask questions and share ideas and resources after the webinar each month. The first webinar will be on January 24 at 2pm EST.

How is your congregation committing to the environment? We want to hear all about it!

For questions about any of these programs, please contact Liz Mitlak, Congregational Engagement Fellow at the Religious Action Center.

Have something to say about this post? Join the conversation in The Tent, the social network for congregational leaders of the Reform Movement. You can also tweet us or tell us how you feel on Facebook.

Liz Mitlak is the congregational engagement fellow at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Originally from Indianapolis, IN, she is a member of Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation and graduated from Miami University of Ohio with a degree in social justice studies.

Liz Mitlak
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