Climate change is accelerating, causing an increase in deadly climate events. This past year record-breaking hurricanes, devastating wildfires and soaring temperatures pummeled our planet.
Many organizations recognize that they play a role in reducing their carbon footprint. And The Associated began this commitment to sustainability more than a decade ago.
“That decision is part of our corporate mission and values, which is deeply rooted in the teachings of Jewish culture. It drives our commitment to be good stewards of the environment.”Ben Gershowitz, vice president of facilities at The Associated
From solar farms to green energy loans … from reforestation to education … here are a few ways that The Associated is going green.
As part of these efforts, The Associated entered into an agreement to have a solar farm constructed on a warehouse complex in Baltimore City by the end of the year. When operational this year, it will offset 50% of the electrical needs for the entire Associated system, which includes its headquarters on Mt. Royal Ave., two JCCs and other owned buildings that house its many agencies.
Concurrently, Pearlstone, an agency of The Associated, is leading by example through the installation of solar panels on the rooftop of its lodge buildings. Not only will it produce clean energy but will save the organization close to $10,000 each year.
Community members also can take advantage of a partnership between Pearlstone and Neighborhood Sun to help the environment. All residents who pay an electric bill can subscribe and receive credits on these bills.
“Less pollution, cheaper bills, investment in the local economy an shared community action are a few of the benefits of Community Solar,” says Joan Plisko, Pearlstone’s Community Sustainability Director.
Energy Loans for Nonprofits
More than 10 years ago, The Associated established a Green Loan Fun to provide low-interest loans to Jewish organizations. Several years ago, they opened this fund up to other faith-based nonprofits in the greater Baltimore region.
Nonprofits can take advantage of up to $170,000 over a five-year period to improve their energy efficiency.
Since its establishment, organizations such as Beth Tfiloh Congregation, Beth Israel Congregation, the JCC and the Talmudical Academy have used these loans to support energy conservation through lighting upgrades and renovations to heating and cooling systems, saving their organizations significant money each year. As a result, they have received significant savings — both in energy and dollars.
The Associated system has made a conscious effort to improve the local ecosystem by planting trees that ultimately that ultimately improve water and air quality, reduce runoff, sequester carbon and help decrease harmful ultraviolet radiation. It is part of a larger strategy for land sustainability.
Pearlstone’s ecological master plan for their 180-acre campus calls for planting thousands of trees, and now offers a Gift a Tree program that engages community members in supporting this reforestation effort, both through donations and actual tree-planting events in both spring and fall.
In addition, The Associated as part of this effort, has planted a significant number of trees at the Jewish cemeteries at Bowleys Quarters.
Yet if we want the next generation to become good stewards of our land, we must educate and engage the next generation. Pearlstone, which blends Jewish values with a mission to foster a culture where sustainability and environmental health are integral to Baltimore’s Jewish community. is at the center of this effort.
One of its most popular programs, the Farm and Forest School, has drawn about 100 young participants each week since the pandemic began. It focuses on nature connection integrated with Jewish wisdom.
Drawing on indigenous educational wisdom, the curriculum covers a wide range of topics from local food systems to innovative compost solutions to global initiatives in eco-social entrepreneurship. Farm projects encompass tending perennial and annual plants, animal care, mushroom cultivation, natural building, cooking, soap-making, herbal medicine and more.
“This program has been a joy for my child during this difficult time… His connection to nature, infused with Jewish and ancient wisdom, is serving as a guide for his understanding of how to be a caretaker and good person in the world,” says one parent.
Many of Pearlstone’s environmental practices, such as the recent controlled burn this spring which is part of its efforts to convert grassland from lawn to meadows, also include an educational component.