Temple Sinai in rarefied air with green certification

Temple Sinai in Oakland has been certified as a California Green Business after a nearly three-year process led by the congregation’s Green Committee. Sinai received its certification six weeks ago.

Richard Hart

Sinai becomes only the second synagogue in the state to become certified, following Temple Isaiah in Lafayette in 2008. The synagogue is also just the second green certified religious entity in Alameda County, joining Centerpointe Church in Pleasanton.

The California Green Business Program began in 1996 and currently consists of 19 participating counties, including all nine in the greater Bay Area. It includes more than 2,200 businesses, government agencies, nonprofit groups and religious institutions.

Richard Hart, Sinai’s Green Committee founder and a member of the 976-family synagogue, said going green was an important step for the temple.

“We wanted to show our members that [going green] could be done,” he said, “and that potentially we could be a groundbreaker for our own members who wanted to go green in their own homes.”

To be certified green, Sinai had to demonstrate it can conserve resources and prevent pollution inside its facility and in its daily operations, such as what it purchases.

Logo for Temple Sinai’s Green Committee, with the synagogue in silhouette

Temple Sinai buys environmentally friendly office paper that’s at least 30 percent recyclable and has automated lighting systems in the building that go off when people leave a room. The synagogue also has its custodial staff use Green Seal products such as cleaning supplies and paint.

Hart said three separate bins are used for compost, recycling and garbage with signs explaining where items belong.

The temple’s building is Silver LEED certified, as well. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

“It’s important to make the point that being green doesn’t necessarily mean spending more money,” Hart said. “Our utility bills are much lower than if we hadn’t done anything.”

The temple’s weekly e-newsletter includes a “Green Tip” for congregants. Past tips from the Green Committee have included donating old towels and rugs to animal shelters instead of tossing them in the dump, and using soy, vegetable or beeswax Shabbat candles instead of paraffin ones, which release toxic chemicals in the air when lit.

“We started this effort because we felt it was really important for the temple to practice what we preach,” Hart said. “We wanted to be consistent with our values so that we could show that we actually achieved what had set out to achieve.”