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Sunday, October 4, 2015

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Bialik students race for zero waste

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It seems I need to be constantly ready to have a meaningful discussion on sustainability practices within the Jewish community. You never know how and where the topic could come up. 

I recently attended a bar mitzvah at Congregation Beth Torah in Toronto. I spoke with David Young, an acquaintance of mine going back many years and currently the cantor at the synagogue, about the recent renovations that the synagogue had undergone.

As we discussed some of the points around the renovation and the abundance of natural light, which was being used to illuminate the banquet hall where we were eating, I was reintroduced to his wife, Beverley, who is vice-principal of the senior division (grades 6-8) at Bialik Hebrew Day School.

Beverley asked me about my interest in conservation and sustainable operations of synagogues. She then brought me up to date on some of the sustainability efforts she and her team have been spearheading at Bialik, currently a gold-level certified Ontario EcoSchool.

Similar to other Toronto Jewish day schools, Bialik recognized the need to improve the existing program by getting students more involved and moving toward a more visible and measurable effort.

Bialik saw the opportunity of using the leadership potential of their older students to raise the consciousness of the younger students in the school. They created a year-long friendly inter-school and inter-grade challenge called the Race for Zero Waste. In their capacity as student leaders, all senior division students have the opportunity, on a monthly rotation, to be involved in shaping the program, participate in its rollout, and to grow personally as they mentor their younger counterparts in junior kindergarten through Grade 5.

The Race for Zero Waste aims to reduce the measurable volume of waste leaving the school. Working with the school’s waste-management company, the students determined the current volume of waste and used that as a benchmark to measure the improvements they were able to influence.

The key to the effort was to reduce the amount of waste produced at the school while making sure that the school was taking advantage of the recycling programs in which the waste management company participates.

To reduce the amount of waste, student leaders encourage waste-free lunches. This did not mean stuffing the waste into the student’s lunch bag and taking it home for disposal, which would have meant shifting the waste problem from the school to the home.

Students and their parents are encouraged to put their lunches into reusable containers and to reduce the number of plastic water bottles leaving the school for recycling by using refillable water bottles.

These ideas and more are being shared with the Etzion Gaver School in Eilat. More about that in next month’s column.

An update:

• Kavana Gardens was recently selected for funding by the Six Points Venture Philanthropy effort.

•  ZooShare won Toronto’s Climatespark competition in which Robbins Hebrew Academy and Leo Baeck Day School were top 10 finalists  



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