We as a community can do an enormous part in contributing to the preservation of our planet. Our Gurus were environmentalists, and looking at the values they gave us, we can see that we should be ahead in the game.
Some of us might be doing our small part each day: Maybe you recycle your newspaper after reading it or even better, subscribe to the news online; maybe you drink free-trade coffee and tea; or maybe you eat organic cereal and drink a healthy shake of organic fruits, or maybe you turn off the tap while you brush your teeth to save some water? These are all great steps! But there are some additional steps we can take as a community.
Our Gurdwaras are not the most environmentally friendly places, but that is due to our own doings. That can change! If we start taking even one of the following steps, we can look forward to a greener Gurdwara in the future, and additionally teach the next generation about preservation and the importance of Sewa (Selfless-Service).
By providing onsite placement of recycling bins we can do our part by recycling materials such as plastic, paper products, glass and cans. Unfortunately, there are not many programs established yet to recycle Styrofoam, which happens to be the largest part of the waste in Gurdwara due to plates and glasses.
In order to involve everyone, there should be signs on the recycle bins in English and Punjabi, so everyone can do their part and understand the importance of recycling. A brochure explaining the importance of recycling would be good to display so the Sangat can feel inspired to continue this act when they are at home also.
Install energy-efficient lighting
There are many online resources that can provide information on how to efficiently install lighting so we may use less energy and also save money. Contact the local PG&E representative and have them come out to do a free assessment to improve energy efficiency and
save a lot of money on the energy bill. The insulation around the Gurdwara will also be assessed as this can sometimes decrease the effect of keeping heat inside a room, thus using more energy and consequently costing more. Once the lighting is installed, it is important to switch off lights when not in use and also to turn off electrical appliances, not in use.
Install air driers
Paper towels are constantly wasted and found on the floor around the gurdwara. Instead of one napkin, many people grab a few and end up throwing them away. By installing air driers and sinks outside where Sangat can wash their hands before and after Langar, we can decrease the use of napkins and paper towels. This is better for the environment and would cost less money.
Bring back the Thaali (plate)
Gurdwaras in India and around the rest of the globe use steel Thaalis to serve Langar. Of late, maybe out of convenience, it has become a fashion to use plastic trays or Styrofoam. This can be an initiative a Gurdwara works towards, by implementing a reasonable number of Thaalis and eventually not having plastic trays. Convenience will be lost, but long term, we would be doing something very positive for the environment.
This would also allow for some Sewa from the Sangat to be able to wash the Thaalis of the Langar. Just imagine how many Thaalis are washed daily at Harmandir Sahib! We could even incorporate some organic, chemical-free washing liquids, to make it that much greener.
Families that live close to one another could be smart by carpooling to the Gurdwara. Reduce the carbon footprint, and save from polluting the air. People can build relationships this way too and are ultimately also helping the environment.
Plant a tree
Have children from the nearby school plant a tree. By planting a tree, we combat deforestation that is occurring on a daily basis. Put something back into the earth and teach future generations about positive giving. Incorporate Earth Day into a Punjabi class and teach children that giving back is a part of Sikhi values.