Taking the leap of having a home garden is an exciting and meaningful project a family can take on together.
Gardening can also be a powerful way to share your Jewish values-whether composting to reduce food waste while nurturing your garden, donating the food you grow, or fostering the growth of pollinators.
We hope home gardeners can be inspired by some of the incredible community initiatives that were taken on by the 80+ members of the Hazon Seal of Sustainability. This is a 12-month program designed to support organizations and communities working to create a healthier, more equitable, and more sustainable world for all.
"Our largest impact on the community has been through our comprehensive composting campaign," said Rabbi Anna Levin Rosen of the University of Chicago Hillel. In partnership with student leaders and with support from campus environmental organizations, Levin Rosen had examined the whole University of Chicago Hillel's environmental footprint, and together they designed a new approach.
"We began purchasing only sustainable and compostable paper goods and began composting all of our food waste as well," Levin Rosen said. "Our partnership with Healthy Soil Compost allowed us to send 5-6 full 35-gallon bins of food scraps, along with plates and utensils, to be composted weekly-which otherwise would have been sent to the landfill."
UC Hillel also volunteered to be a site on campus where students could bring compost from their homes.
Lombard's Congregation Etz Chaim of DuPage County launched a Victory Garden project with 30 families. The congregation sends seeds to their families to plant in their home gardens; once the crops are ready, half of the harvested produce is donated to local food banks.
"In the Torah, we are told to feed the hungry by not reaping to the edge of our fields and leaving the gleanings for the poor," said Etz Chaim Green Team Member Mary Hason. "With our vegetable gardens, we go a step further by harvesting the produce and sharing half of it with local food banks, so they can have fresh vegetables."
Just as there are little free libraries in neighborhoods around Chicago, there are little free food pantries that would welcome fresh produce.
In New York, the Woodstock Jewish Congregation joined a local project fostering people's growing native plants in their gardens. It is part of Woodstock NY Pollinator Pathway, a larger initiative aimed at creating a corridor in the Northeast for pollinators.
The congregation also participates in a joint project with Woodstock Land Conservancy and Woodstock Transition NY doing an annual film/discussion series focused on sustainability efforts in their community. This year, some of the events will focus on regenerative farming, growing one's own Victory Garden, and creation of edible eco-landscapes in public and private spaces-even along urban streets-which over time can provide free food both to people and wildlife/pollinators.
Linking Jewish values to substantive action toward sustainability and climate-centered goals, Hazon Seal sites are supported, encouraged, and guided every step of the way in taking on sustainability projects and initiatives like these to support their communities and in turn, to build a healthier, more sustainable world.
For tips about how to get started composting in your home garden, visit epa.gov/recycle/composting-home.
For a plethora of curated online resources, and to learn more about the growing national network of Hazon Seal sites around the country, visit Hazon's website at seal.hazon.org. Hazon is building a movement that strengthens Jewish life and contributes to a more environmentally sustainable world for all.
Liana Rothman is the National Programs Coordinator for Hazon.