Archive for : Environment

Celebrate World Fair Trade Day

Fair trade. It is a term that gets thrown around a lot in eco and labor-savvy consumer circles, but what does it really mean? Find out by celebrating World Fair Trade Day!

In short, fair trade is about people and the planet, and about creating and consuming the products we love in ways that are fair to both. For farmers and manufacturers, that means getting paid a living wage for the work they do. Coffee, tea, and chocolate are likely the most widely-known fair trade products, but just about anything that is grown or made by people can be fairly traded: spices, produce, soaps, clothing, jewelry – even home goods.

On May 10, join 100,000 people around the United States and Canada for one of the largest fair trade events in the world! Help promote fair trade products and justice for farmers, workers, and artisans. Get started by learn more about fair trade at the video below. Then, join one of the great events happening all over the country event, or create your own!

Repair Interview: Naomi Friedman Rabkin on Food Justice at the Leichtag Foundation

Here at Repair the World we’re celebrating National Volunteer Month and the change makers and thought leaders who make the world a better place. Recently we caught up with Naomi Friedman Rabkin, who is the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Leichtag Foundation in Southern California. (That’s her in the photo hanging out with Jewish Food Justice Fellowship Director, Rabbi Andy Kastner.)

She launched Leichtag’s wonderful new Jewish Food Justice Fellowship, is helping to create a vibrant working ranch (complete with a farm, an edible forest, and a vineyard!) for the foundation, and is meanwhile building strong, socially-active Jewish community in her community. She also is a lifelong service learning-junkie, and proud of it! Learn more of her story here:

What inspired you to get into the service and social change field?
I was raised in a family where people’s professions focused on helping others – as educators, activists, and social workers. My grandmother was one of my biggest inspirations. She was a proud socialist and a teachers union organizer. Some of my earliest memories are of her taking me to Pete Seeger concerts and anti-nuclear marches. That really oriented me to believe that people’s work was very much tied to doing good in the world.

In college in Washington DC, I got involved with service learning. All of my coursework had some service component. For example, if I was taking a women studies class and learning about violence against women, I volunteered at a battered women’s shelter. It captivated me, and from then on I got hooked into that approach to learning and experiencing the world. I ended up going to Israel and participating in Project Otzma where we did very intense service work. That spring boarded me towards focusing on Jewish service learning right as that concept was first coming into its own. Now Jewish service learning is fairly common, but back then it was new and all of these amazing programs like Avodah and AjWS were just beginning.

How has the field of service learning changed in the Jewish world over the last decade?
I think the focus is shifting, or at least the terminology is changing. There hasn’t been a departure from teaching teens and young adults about doing good, but it has become more focused. Instead of service learning broadly defined, you’re seeing programs focus on specific things like immigration, the environment, or organizing against homelessness.

What drew you to join the Leichtag Foundation?
The path started while I was in Atlanta volunteering with Hazon. Since being a participant in Otzma, I hadn’t really thought about how Jewish communal life could enhance my life. But with Hazon I was helping to develop a CSA and organize people in the Jewish community around food issues. During that time I developed a loving and unified community in Atlanta, and I started to expand beyond the CSA to create larger scale environmental and food events.

When my family moved to San Diego I had the opportunity to meet with the executive vice president at Leichtag, Charlene Seidle, and found out that Leichtag was planning to purchase a piece of land to develop food and environmental programs. I hadn’t worked for a foundation before, but I was excited about their mission and they were excited about my background and experience in the Jewish food world. It’s really a dream come true to work at a foundation that has the vision of creating a vibrant community and a farm.

Tell me more about Leichtag’s Jewish Food Justice Fellowship?
We are in our first cohort now – they started last September and will stay with us for 15 months. We wanted to invest in people in their early to mid-20s who had already gotten their feet wet in the worlds of environmentalism and agriculture and help them grow while contributing to the community. They work for food justice-related organizations for 25 hours a week doing everything from leading the North County Food Policy Council to working in an afro-ecology center. Additionally, they consult with local Jewish schools, synagogues, and senior care facilities to help build gardens or do other agriculture-related programs. And they spend 10 hours a week at the ranch developing programs, working on our composting system, planning an edible forest, and helping conceive of and lead conversations around the farm planning process.

The Leichtag Foundations Jewish Food Justice Fellows with Mark Bittman

The Leichtag Foundations Jewish Food Justice Fellows with Mark Bittman

How can people get involved?
They should check out our website and the fellows also have their own website. And if people are in the area, they should absolutely come see the ranch. We do public tours a few times a month. There is so much going on there, and it is a fantastic place to visit.

Join Reboot On March 7-8 For the National Day of Unplugging

From sundown to sundown, March 7th to 8th, thousands of people across the world from New York and Tel Aviv, to Warsaw and Australia, will turn off their cellphones, log out of Twitter, shut down their Kindles and take a 24-hour break from technology. Sounds kinda familiar, right? That’s because the ancient Jewish tradition of observing Shabbat (the Sabbath) is the inspiration behind Reboot’s fourth annual National Day of Unplugging.

Based around 10 universal principles called the Sabbath Manifesto – things like “get outside,” “find silence,” and “give back” – The National Day of Unplugging encourages people to temporarily disconnect from their hectic, fast-paced lives and reconnect to the world and people around them. Some folks will join in because they are traditionally observant Jews who “unplug” every week. Some will join because they think it’s eco-friendly to give their electronics a little break. And some will join in simply because they want the opportunity to relax and spend time with family and friends. So why do YOU unplug?
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Spotlight On: Hazon’s (Jewish) Bike Rides

January is Healthy Living Month here at Repair the World. Stop by all month long for interviews with our favorite health-focused organizations, inspiring stories, and tips to change your life while changing the world.

Are you a huge bike fan? The kind of person who walks around with a semi-permanent case of helmet hair and feels most comfortable experiencing the world on two-wheels? If so, let us introduce Hazon – a Jewish environmental organization that works to build a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community.

Hazon believes that Jewish tradition has lots of wisdom to share about how people interact with the planet and treat their bodies. They live out these values, and help others do the same, with a variety of great programs, but it all started with bike rides. Since 2001, more than 2,000 have joined Hazon on a bike ride in New York, California, Israel, or elsewhere. The riders raise money for important environmental causes, get invigorated through exercise, learn inspiring Jewish texts, and have a fantastic time along the way.
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Celebrate Tu Bishvat with Repair the World and Around the Country

Hey everyone, it’s time for Tu Bishvat – a.k.a. The Jewish holiday for the trees. Tu Bishvat is an ancient holiday that has evolved and changed throughout the centuries into a celebration of tikkun olam (repairing the world), connecting to the environment, eating seasonal and ancient biblical fruits, and having fun at seder celebrations.

There are lots of great ways to celebrate around the country – including with Repair the World’s own Fellows. Plug in and get connected to Tu Bishvat!

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Seasons of Giving: Interview with David Weinberger of ioby

Ever heard the term NIMBY? It stands for “Not in My Backyard,” and is used frequently in environmental and social movements to describe residents or organizations that oppose local projects that they perceive to negatively impact them. For example: protesting against wind power turbines that generate alternative energy because they are an “eyesore.”

Imagine if everyone felt the opposite. If we all actively said yes and worked together to help our communities thrive. Enter ioby (or “In our Backyard”), an organization that supports community-led environmental projects by providing a crowdsource funding platform that lets neighbors support local initiatives. Like a community garden. Or a new bike lane or a recycling program. Since its founding, ioby has enabled donors to give more than $600,000 and thousands of volunteer hours to nearly 300 community-led projects in New York City and nationally. On average, donors live 2 miles or less from the projects they support: talk about community giving, and community empowerment.

ioby’s Director of Project Development, David Weinberger, took a few minutes to share ioby’s philosophies and amazing work with Repair the World. Read on!

What was the inspiration behind ioby?
The three cofounders met in grad school at Yale and all moved to New York City in 2007 for jobs in environmental fields. They began to notice that many conversations around environmental issues seemed to center around things that felt remote and far away – like icebergs melting and the plight of the polar bears. They realized that in order to help bring these issues global to the forefront, people had to start locally. So they started ioby, which is the exact opposite of NIMBY. It offers a platform for people people who have a great idea for an environmental project in their neighborhood to raise money via crowdsourced funding, connect with volunteers, and get support behind their project.

A very small percentage of philanthropic dollars end up going to grass roots groups. Money is typically reserved for traditional organizations. That’s important work, but these small, informal groups of neighbors tend to get shafted. ioby builds the capacity for them to raise money, be more self sustaining, and be strong and connected.

How many cities is ioby in at this point?
We started in New York City and went national a little over a year ago. There are projects in 80 cities right now, and we opened an office in Miami earlier this year. We are working with the Miami Dade office of sustainability, partnering on their sustainability plan and helping to connect the office to small, local groups. We were really interested in seeing how ioby would fit into a municipal government context, and Miami has a lot of interesting climate and environmental work going on right now. (Check out ioby’s Miami-based projects.) We are also working with the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team in Memphis, helping to build out the neighbor side of things.

What are the most common types of projects people submit?
A couple years ago, when we were focused solely on New York we would have said community gardening projects were most popular. As we’ve gone national,  we are seeing a lot more projects about infrastructure and transportation. We helped a project in Memphis raise $80,000 to create a protected bike lane. A bunch of members of the community decided to take the revitalization of the downtown area into their own hands. They took paintbrushes and solicited local artists and painted their own bike lane on Broad avenue in Memphis. It became incredibly popular and the city took notice and raised another million dollars to make it official. We worked with Livable Memphis to make it happen.

You mentioned there’s a volunteer component to ioby’s crowd sourcing?
On every project page, there’s a button that says, “inquire about volunteering.” When a project leader posts their project, they can request volunteers. So donors can give money, but they can also sign up to help make a project happen – volunteering on a work day, or in some other capacity. We’ve heard a lot of great success stories about that.

Who can start an ioby project?
Anyone can start a project on ioby. You can either submit a really short form letting us know what you’re thinking about, and we’ll help you take it to the next stage of development. We invite people to join a 30 minute introductory webinar on grass roots organizing, and things like how to set goals. If you’re further along in the process, you can post a full project that includes an itemized budget, what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what steps you envision taking. ioby is already popular in cities, but more and more people in suburbs and rural areas are also reaching out about revitalizing their own downtowns and making a difference.

Got a project in mind or want to learn more about ioby? Check out the video below and visit their website for more info.