How CSU Hillel Became More Sustainable

In the last couple years, Hillel has taken great strides to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

It all started when Addie Cutler, a former leadership team member, contacted Hazon, a Jewish sustainability organization. This was Hillel’s first contact with Hazon. At this point, Hazon wasn’t doing much with other organizations except their Adamah fellowship program.  Eventually, Nevan Mandel, a leadership team member and sustainability intern at Hillel, reached back out to them when he heard about the Hazon Seal of Sustainability project and that we were looking for pilot programs across the country to work with. Mandel explained that various institutions were asked to step forward and CSU Hillel was one of those institutions.

From left to right: Alex Amchislavskiy (CSU Hillel director), Rebecca Bloomfield, Neven Mandel (CSU Hillel Sustainability Intern)
From left to right: Alex Amchislavskiy (CSU Hillel director), Rebecca Bloomfield, Neven Mandel (CSU Hillel Sustainability Intern)

Through the Hazon Seal of Sustainability, Hillel figured out how we were sustainable and shaped ideas on how to become even more sustainable.  One project Hillel has done is to bring in locally sourced food through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) through a generous donations.  CSA is a way for people to get their produce from local farms. They pay a sum of money and are able to get whatever they need. Hillel was lucky enough to have an anonymous donor donate their CSA to us.

Other projects include building a rotary compost in the backyard.  This helps Hillel reduce food waste and the food that would be going into a landfill becomes fertilizer that we can use in our backyard garden. The garden is a new project, but Hillel has hopes that we will be able to grow organic produce, windowsill herbs, and much more. Hillel is also trying to start a bike-share program where students will be able to check out a bike from Hillel and use that instead of driving. We already have a couple of bikes that we need to fix up before use, but we are starting to make progress with this project.  

Our first compost box from 2015

Hillel also recently got a set of reusable plates in the meat kitchen. Before getting these plates, everything at Shabbat dinners was disposable or compostable. There were disposable plates, utensils and cups. We use to rarely used our reusable silverware, but have now made an effort to use them at every opportunity we can.  There is a set of reusable silverware in both the meat and the dairy kitchen and we are hoping to get reusable plates for the dairy kitchen soon.

The most exciting step Hillel is taking to become more sustainable is that there will soon be four chickens in the backyard. These chickens will provide Hillel with eggs and we will be taken care of by students and community members. The chickens are another way to reduce food waste because we are able to eat a lot of the food scraps Hillel has. We want to build our relationships between humans and animals, as well as know exactly where Hillel’s food is coming from.

Hillel has also made a greater effort to provide more vegan food at every meal to reduce our meat and dairy consumption, as well as support the diets of all of the students who join us for meals. We will not always have a strictly vegan meal, but in the past, Mandel noticed that there would usually be lots of non-vegan options with only one vegan option. Now, he sees that there are a lot more vegan options even when it is a meat meal.  

our new meat plates
Tu B’Shevat Shabbat was our first time using these plates. We had a vegan meal.

Although we have a couple ways to get rid of our food scraps in a sustainable way, Mandel has seen an improvement at Hillel since he became involved about two and a half years ago.  “It’s been really cool to see how much less food we have wasted in the past year,” he said. To teach students how to reduce their food waste, Hillel had a pickling workshop led by Rebecca Bloomfield, the Associate Director of Adamah. By pickling vegetable that are about to go bad, students now know they have other options than just throwing the food away. The workshop was such a success that many of the participants are eager to attend another pickling workshop that Hillel will host.

Students cutting veggies for pickling
Pickling Workshop with Adamah

Because of these projects and a couple others, Hillel received Hazon’s Seal of Sustainability and are working to find more ways to become more sustainable.  As the Sustainability Intern, Mandel searches for new ways to be more sustainable and keeps in contact with Hazon. They provide valuable resources Hillel can use to become more sustainable and has connected Hillel with other organizations involved with Hazon to see what they are doing for sustainability. Hillel is also a resource for CSU students who want to be more sustainable because we provide educational opportunities about sustainability, veganism and meat production.
Hillel is always striving to be more sustainable, and with Hazon’s help, we can create more sustainable projects and be very environmentally friendly.