Greening a sleep-away camp

Greening a sleep-away camp

Bergenfield’s Adi Segal is just one year out of high school, but he’s already leading a revolution.

As the coordinator of the newly launched Green Camp Initiative, Segal is implementing a program of environmental awareness and ecological responsibility to Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, a Conservative sleep-away camp with many campers from North Jersey.

"Last year, I was the outdoor specialist [at Ramah], and I realized there was a need for being more ‘green’ at camp," said Segal. "I wrote up an action plan and talked to the director about it. He and the facilities manager were on board with this idea and supported it completely."

Adi Segal, left, is coordinating a program of environmental awareness at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires.

This summer, campers will discover that Ramah has in place a recycling program — using bins with logos designed by Segal — and has switched to "green" cleaning products, compact fluorescent light bulbs, post-consumer recycled paper, and paper cone cups at the water coolers instead of bulkier, less environmentally sound plastic cups. "We’re also hoping to cut down on waste by having campers bring their own reusable water bottles," Segal said.

In addition, each age group will have programming geared to framing environmentalism in a Jewish context. Torah study, hands-on activities, "trash audits," and sustainable farming will be among the topics covered for all 600 campers and ’00 staff members.

"The educational component is really big," said Segal. "Ultimately, the environmental impact of a two-month summer program is not that large, but when campers take it home to their communities, they can spread the message in much wider circles."

Going green required finding a source of greenbacks, Segal quickly learned. Buying compact fluorescent bulbs, for example, pays off in saved energy costs in the long run but requires an outlay of cash at the start, as does substituting paper for Styrofoam and arranging for recyclables to be picked up separately from trash.

The Columbia University-Jewish Theological Seminary sophomore was not daunted by that hurdle, however. When he was a student at Solomon Schechter High School in West Orange, he got involved in GreenFaith: Interfaith Partners in Action for the Earth, eventually helping Schechter earn the reputation as a model school in the organization’s Green Flag program for faith-based schools.

In discussing the Ramah proposal with his former GreenFaith adviser at Schechter, Segal found out that he could apply for a grant from Conscious Lifestyle Ventures, which supports "social innovators" on high school and college campuses.

"Adi’s proposal was incredible," said Michael Del Ponte, the ‘6-year-old Yale Divinity School student behind Conscious Lifestyle Ventures. "The idea of greening a sleep-away camp, using his passion for his faith and for the environment, really resonated with me. Adi understands that the Green Camp Initiative is a replicable model, with the ability to ‘green’ the other six sleep-away camps associated with the Conservative movement. We like projects that can be replicable."

Conscious Lifestyle is providing not only $1,000 in seed money, but also the promise of perpetual support and guidance in the form of a professional mentor, regular networking with other venturists, and skill-building workshops.

Camp Ramah in the Berkshires has become the first camp to be inducted into the Green Flag Schools program, and it is also part of the Rutgers Environmental Cooperative Purchasing Agreement, which allows it to buy eco-friendly products at a discounted price.

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