A Jewish environmental movement’s Blue Green Initiative, thanks to the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation, is bringing compostable cutlery to faith-based organizations in Sarasota.  Repair the Sea, a global nonprofit organization “where science and spirituality intersect from a Jewish perspective,” has a mission to protect and support the marine environment. Founded by CEO Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, the campus rabbi for Eckerd College, Repair the Sea envisions a world where the ocean is clean, where marine life is abundant and safe and where the sanctity of the sea is appreciated and protected. It is offering Sarasota faith-based organizations the opportunity to reconsider their approach to food and fellowship. 

As he was teaching his students about Tashlich, a ceremony performed on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah where Jews symbolically cast off the sins of the previous year by tossing pebbles or bread crumbs into flowing water, one of his students suggested that they do a reverse Tashlich, where they actually remove human sin from the water rather than throwing it in. Nearly 40 billion single-use plastic forks, knives and spoons are sold annually in the United States with plastic cutlery being used in restaurants, schools, offices, hospitals and places of worship. Unfortunately, the cutlery ends up in landfills or the ocean where it releases toxic chemicals into the soil and water where it is consumed by marine life and sea birds.

“Current scientific data says that by 2048 if we don't change our practices of overfishing and pollution there will be more plastic in the ocean by volume than fish,” says Rosenthal. “In Sarasota, we want to get every church, every synagogue, every mosque off single-use plastics because it’s used once and then thrown away. People don't even think about it and it is one of the worst contributors to the degradation of the marine environment.” The Blue Green Initiative replaces single-use cutlery with fully-compostable cutlery made by VerTerra. The product is made of fallen palm leaves and scrap wood without bonding agents, lacquers, or chemicals. It decomposes in the backyard and, through the initiative, comes at no cost to faith-based organizations in Sarasota. 

The Salvation Army of Sarasota County is the most recent partner. Each year, the Salvation Army serves 120,000 meals across the community. Until now, the organization served meals using plastic cutlery. Rosenthal worked with the group and arranged the delivery of 120,000 pieces of compostable products to their downtown Sarasota location in March. “Repair the Sea is not specifically a faith-based organization, but rather an educational opportunity. We're based in the Jewish tradition, but we're reaching out to Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists . . . basically, everybody in order to educate them,” says Rosenthal.