Today’s guest post is by Jennie van den Boogaard about ECO, a Hillel initiative to make the campus greener.

I grew up in a small town in Florida with a population of about 6,000. Half of those were conservative evangelical Christians, and the rest were agnostics, mostly surfer-stoners. There was little diversity, and I was the token Jew my entire life. I could have assimilated easily into my Christian surroundings. After all, it is the dominant culture of America. But for some reason, I latched on to what made me different and loved it. So when I came to Northwestern, I jumped at the chance to become involved with the Jewish community here, especially at Hillel, which I have found to be the most open and welcoming place on campus.

Hillel in general is like a second home for me on campus, but where I really found my place was in one of its student groups: ECO. ECO (Environmental Campus Outreach) is one of three main undergraduate ‘green’ groups on campus. ECO effortlessly combines the two things I love most: Judaism and environmentalism. Judaism is much more than a religion; it is a way of life. And I have been taught my entire life that if I am going to a responsible Jewish adult, then I need to take care of the world around me, not just people, but what I eat, what I do, and what I use. I plan to honor my ancestors, my culture, and my religion by always looking out for nature and my people, which doesn’t include just my fellow Jews, but all human beings.

ECO meets every Sunday at 1 PM at Hillel. We welcome people of all faiths or no faith, and half of our members are not Jewish. About a third of our efforts are aimed at making Hillel more sustainable physically and spiritually. Another third is to reach out to the whole student body and inspire Northwesterners to live a more sustainable life. And the last third is dedicated to our projects and initiatives, such as our campaign to reduce plastic bag consumption on campus, provide recycling for ink cartridges, batteries, CFLs, and plastic bags, and help to make the organic garden at Norris flourish.

If you’re interested in learning more you can go to www.ecohillel.com or email me at jennievdb@u.northwestern.edu.

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