Elana Weberman

University of Michigan Hillel’s Sustainability Committee works to mitigate climate change and encourages students to take action.

Featured photo courtesy of U-M Hillel

By Elana Weberman, jewish@edu writer

As we approach a growing population, upwards of 7.7 billion people worldwide, our supply of natural resources decreases, posing the greatest challenge our planet has ever faced.

We must prevent a temperature increase of 3 degrees (Celsius) to avoid setting off an irreversible chain of ecological degradation. How can we shift our behaviors to mitigate the increasing effects our actions have on our planet?

Composting, the practice of converting food scraps and organic matters into soil, offers a promising solution. This year, University of Michigan Hillel has created a Sustainability Committee to provide a space that enables students to “be the change [they] wish to see in the world.” Essentially, this committee serves as a launching pad to support students in accomplishing goals focused on enhancing sustainability practices both as individuals and as a Jewish community.

Through an increase in sustainable food options, more efficient energy usage, close partnerships with students, institutions, community leaders and organizations, and the development of a new composting program, Hillel is working toward upholding the Jewish tradition of repairing the world, or tikkun olam.

Our goal is to be active as leaders in the Jewish community, to inspire individuals to take responsibility and act on the climate crisis and to ensure a strong future, L’Dor V’Dor, from generation to generation.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), one-third of all food produced is wasted. This wasted food goes into a landfill and creates methane gas as it decomposes. Methane gas is a potent greenhouse gas that gets trapped in our ozone layer and ultimately causes unsustainable global warming, heating our planet in ways that may jeopardize life as we know it.

As U-M works toward our goals for the President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality, we must all collaborate, sharing diverse qualities, to strategize and implement practices that have any chance of sustaining our planet. Hillel is working to take an active role through our Sustainability Committee, allowing individuals to contribute to a cause much larger than themselves.

Similarly, this past summer, Tamarack Camps started a new composting program thanks to the Farber Farm Team, the “Green Team,” Tamarack’s administrative staff and Kandel Dining staff. The program engaged 1,300 people weekly and generated 1,400 pounds or 600 gallons of food scraps, which equates to 5,320 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions that were reduced by composting. Composting revolutionizes the way individuals and our broader communities approach environmental practices.

What can you do to make the world more sustainable? Get involved! Begin composting in your home, school or workplace; start a Green Team; closely examine the foods you consume and their procurement practices; vote for people and policies that support our environment and; most simply, engage in conversations to spread the word.

If you want to get involved or get advice on how to begin your own sustainability committee, reach out! We need everyone to come together to fix the climate crisis and make the world a better place for ourselves and for future generations. The changes must begin today.

Elana Weberman is a U-M student from Bloomfield Hills.

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