I’ve been thinking about faith communities a lot lately. This is the first year that we have been participating in Faith in Place’s Indoor Winter Farmers Markets.

Faith in Place is a great organization that supports the environmental efforts of faith communities in Illinois. Their stated mission is “to empower Illinois people of all faiths to be leaders in caring for the Earth, providing resources to educate, connect, and advocate for healthier communities.”

This year their farmers’ markets are popping up in 17 different churches or synagogues in Chicago and Chicagoland.

We have a long and collegial relationship with them. We’ve helped to make their Green Team Summit at the Field Museum a zero waste event for several years. They also compost, with our help, at their office in downtown Chicago and have since 2015.

You have probably realized that we like to get out in the community and educate. We’re grateful to Faith in Place for providing us these opportunities.

We are a mission-based company. If we were doing this to get rich, we would never have even started. Recently, we adopted this mission statement:

To mitigate climate change by recovering organic resources through commercial composting and zero waste education and by doing so, create community around sustainability.

I have a personal connection to a couple of communities in the Jewish faith. As you can imagine, they both compost and I helped to facilitate that. Yom Kippur is the most well-attended synagogue holiday of the year. That is also a day that fundraising often happens for the year. It makes sense to do this when you have the most people present. I was really impressed that Mishkan Chicago, the synagogue where I spent High Holidays this year listed composting as a gift choice on their pledge sheet. You could sponsor a month of composting. We love it when our customers wear their sustainability on their sleeves.

My personal relationship with Mishkan’s composting program includes hauling totes in my minivan. That minivan is no longer with us and my Prius, nicknamed Zero Waste Clown Car, can only accommodate one of our 32-gallon totes.

Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation (JRC) in Evanston, the other synagogue that I hang out at, truly wears its sustainability on its sleeve. On its website home page is a section that begins “The Green Synagogue…” In 2008, they built the first platinum LEED-certified green synagogue in North America. You can read about their beautiful building here. It follows that continuing environmental practices would include composting when this service became available. They have been our customers since 2012. It is really easy to have a zero waste event there and you do not have to be affiliated with the synagogue to rent the space.

Erlene Howard, our founder, started a composting program at her congregation, Unitarian Church of Evanston (UCE), in 2010.  Like many faith communities, UCE has a very active Green Team. They use reusable mugs that were donated by congregants from their own homes. I love this idea! Who doesn’t have more mugs than they need? They also use reusable silverware and reusable plates at dinners. They compost all of their community events from weekly coffee hours to large community dinners. Their sustainability efforts are not limited to waste. They have made changes to their physical space both inside and out to recover other valuable resources. They also have several spaces for rent in their building.

We have three faith communities that offer a subscription composting service, at the house of worship, for members-only. This can be helpful for people who live alone, don’t produce a lot of food scraps, and are willing to schlep their scraps in order to divert them from the landfill.  Members are asked to pay a small fee but this would be less than the cost of having our bucket swap service at their home. We love that faith communities are composting communally. Usually a member of the faith community takes on the project of managing this.

Many other houses of worship have hosted zero waste events with our help. Zero waste events are a great way to educate a bunch of people at once and they have a domino effect. You never know who will be inspired to either embrace sustainability in their own home or bring it to their workplace.

Last month we added the restaurants that are in our composting community on the commercial composting section of our website and this month we’ve added the faith communities that are composting through us on a regular basis. Don’t see your faith community on the list? Could you be the one to start the conversation? 

When I had the idea for this blog post, I googled “Faith Communities and Sustainability.” I found this lengthy abstract called “Religion and social values for sustainability” that referenced a really compelling description of what needs to happen if we are to mitigate climate change.

“Indeed, Martin et al. (2016) argued that “we need fundamental shifts in values that ensure transition from a growth-centered society to one acknowledging biophysical limits and centered on human well-being and biodiversity conservation” (p. 6105).”

Amen to that!

Author Details
Zero Waste Consultant | Collective Resource, Inc.

Mary Beth strongly believes that, “It’s always better to be doing something rather than nothing.” If you’re thinking of composting at home, she can help you work out what your particular “something” can be.

She’s confident a solution can be tailored to fit anyone’s needs and ambitions. “Anyone who eats can be a CRI customer, whether you are an individual or a large organization. I want you to understand the advantages of composting, and I can show you how CRI can make it easy.” Mary Beth has successfully designed waste diversion strategies for individuals, schools, houses of worship and other communities. She’s received the governor’s Environmental Hero award for her work at her daughter’s school. Whether you’re starting with a backyard bin, a kitchen bucket, a worm farm, or large-scale commercial collection, Mary Beth can be your good-natured guide.