EMBODYING OUR SPIRITUAL VALUES IN OUR BUILDING
Congregation Kol Emeth, Palo Alto, California won the 2020 Cool Congregations Planning Award for their new net zero energy worship facility and zero waste plans. They had outgrown their aging building that had failing systems such as heating and cooling that were costly to maintain. They wanted to embody their spiritual values in constructing a new building that avoided waste of energy and resources, inspired their congregants, and provided for greater involvement with the local community. The entire congregation of 1200 rose to the challenge and raised $25 million in record time and the building is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2020.
The new building has been designed to embody the spiritual beliefs and religious practices of the community, as well as to support learning and celebrations for all ages. The site and building will maximize daylighting, capture water for irrigation, support solar electricity production, encourage EV and bike commuting, and use other green building principles. They expect to save approximately $66,000 in energy costs once the new building is completed.
The congregation has also committed to zero waste inspired by their religious beliefs to avoid waste, (Baal Tashchit) which in the modern era is expressed in sustainable practices. The leadership team has met with the City of Palo Alto and the waste hauler to get advice on green purchasing, waste sorting and other measures to reduce consumption, and to ensure that waste is either composted or recycled as fully as possible. The educational staff will work with students and families to encourage zero waste practices as part of the congregation’s values. They hope to inspire their congregants towards more sustainable living in their homes and workplaces. They also hope to inspire other faith communities to orient themselves in affordable, doable ways towards embodying care for the Earth as a central religious value.