”We so appreciate this honour, and will continue to strive to ensure that environmental awareness is the focal point of all our Shul activities” Co-Senior Rabbi Helen Freeman
Back in July 2020 we made the commitment to becoming an EcoSynagogue, and in May 2021 we submitted our application. During those 10 months we worked on our application every week with regular team meetings and Board updates. We audited our synagogue according to the EcoSynagogue Environmental Audit, which uses a holistic approach in improving a synagogue’s environmental credentials. Each synagogue has its own journey. We looked at all areas in synagogue life where we were already achieving and determined ways to implement changes and improve on. As a listed building, we had our limitations, so we focused more on management, prayer and teaching, lifestyle, and community engagement – this accounts for 65% of total audit points before auditing our building and consumables.
In March 2021, West London Synagogue and Liberal Jewish Synagogue supported the motion of Board of Deputies of British Jews to declare a climate emergency and recognised the global climate crisis and resolved to play its part to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2045.
This climate emergency requires coordinated action and wherever possible, a switch to renewable energy sources, carbon offsetting and participation in educational initiatives. We look forward to working together on achieving these goals.
In declaring this Climate Emergency, WLS is committed to reaching the goal of Carbon Zero and this is a national and international campaign for community engagement.
Our Rabbis frequently deliver special sermons about environmental issues. The environment is a constant theme throughout the Jewish year and features as a teaching theme in our Religion School Prospectus for those under Bat and Bar Mitzvah age, in our synagogue’s shiurim, JPrep and during Jewish and environmental touch point events such as EcoShabbat and Tu B’Shevat. Many of our learning materials, texts, prayers, meetings and classes are made available digitally or online, reducing the use of resources. We also have representation on our Social Action Forum. WLS is represented on the Board of Deputies Social Justice Committee and Climate Emergency Work Group by two WLS Deputies.
Specific environmental issues are given particular focus such as waste and the connection to the mitzvah Bal Tashchit, not to destroy or to waste, and on repairing and improving the world through the concept of Tikkun Olam. Our communications (twice weekly eNews reaches 2,100 members, website, social media and quarterly Review magazine) include contributions on environmental issues, providing updates on the progress of our environmental projects. Specifically, our communications highlight environmental issues that are relevant to current parashot, Jewish holidays and environmental touch-point events. Our communications provide additional relevant information about solutions to environmental issues by offering practical lifestyle tips and advice on caring for the environment. Despite not having land, we’ve been developing a space on our roof for a biblical garden.
Here are only some of the measures we have in place for our synagogue’s building and consumables with consideration to the environment:
- A space on the roof is reserved for planting with students and a plan is in place to collaborate with Halcyon to develop a biblical garden.
- Our boilers have an A+ rating (low environmental impact)
- We use LED energy-efficient light bulbs in our main sanctuary, in some of our halls, offices and classrooms. For each light fixture that needs replaced, an LED fixture is installed.
- Our synagogue generates some of our energy from solar panels on our roof.
- The lighting in our synagogue building uses LED bulbs in our main sanctuary, in some of our halls and in some of our offices and classrooms, the remainder are energy efficient bulbs. For each light fixture that needs replaced, an LED fixture is installed.
- The water supply to our synagogue premises is metered.
- Some of the toilet cisterns on our synagogue premises are fitted with water saving devices.
- In the event of the need to undertake a building/refurbishment project, our synagogue would insist that it be subject to a BREEAM or similar assessment to ensure best practice in sustainable building design, construction, and operation.
- The basement serves as a bicycle storage space for members who cycle.
- 55% of our electricity is generated from renewable energy, the remainder is natural gas, through our supplier – with a switch to 100% renewable in December 2023.
- Administration uses recycled paper, printers/copiers are set to double-sided copying/printing.
- Disposable catering products (e.g., paper cups and plates etc.) are biodegradable or recyclable and we are moving to having no disposables.
- Our waste is collected, sorted and recycled by our Waste Management. Most waste is reused, and remains in UK. Residual waste that cannot be reused produces energy to the national grid. Our contract has a Zero-to-Landfill policy
- Mixed Recycling (plastic, cans/tins) are processed and sent to manufacturers to turn into new products.
- Glass is turned into EcoSand and used as paving sand which can be recycled endless times.
- Cardboard/paper is baled and sent to DS Smith paper mill.
- A majority of our food and catered events are vegetarian and vegan.
On some occasions our synagogue invests its funds ethically and rates the Environmental, Social and Governance sustainability of its portfolio. We currently have a WLS Appeal to plant trees with JTree – the Jewish response to the need to plant trees and take positive action to counter the Climate Emergency. Our WLS donation will create and protect forests, whilst sustaining important and endangered ecosystems. Trees planted in the UK will be matched with trees in Uganda where they are so desperately needed.
We will continue to keep the environment central in shul life and have already been offering our support to other synagogues. We will commit to environmental learning opportunities, activities and events throughout the year for all ages and aim to reduce our Carbon Footprint by determining what new targets we can set. We will examine nearer to Zero-Waste and fewer food miles options for our supplies, and will continue to revisit our audit and improve further.