Our pace was more relaxed today, but we still covered a lot of ground! We started off with a tour of the Dizengoff Center, a huge mall in Tel Aviv with notable sustainability initiatives started within the past 10 years. The building has significant private ownership, so stakeholders have opened an enormous variety of different stores and art spaces within the center. Waste is separated for recycling, especially glass, construction materials, and electronic waste. There are gardens on the roof growing produce hydroponically and aquaponically, as well as a pollinator garden for butterflies with native flowering plants, beehives, and habitats for native pollinators. They also run a program teaching children to plant endemic species of trees on Tu B’Shevat, then donating the saplings. The current saplings will be donated to communities around the Gaza Strip affected by fires. Every Friday, the Dizengoff Center hosts Israel’s largest food market, and what is not sold is donated along with the produce from the rooftop gardens.
After our tour, we split up for free time in Tel Aviv, mostly heading to the nearby beach to relax for a while. Some of us took walks, while others tried to bury sink their legs in the sand as far as they could get. It was very restorative to have a few hours to relax in the sand and nap near the water, which was moderately warm!
We met back up in the early afternoon to walk over to City Tree, a collective that takes living sustainably to a very high level. We talked about their initiatives to spread knowledge of urban gardening techniques, permaculture, and their impressive composting program that has allowed them to put 5 tons of organic matter into the soils of a few of their gardens using only compost from the local collection system they have set up. We saw the way that the four current members of the collective live in an apartment together, combining everything from holistic and healthy diets using ingredients sourced from as local and sustainable sources as possible to reusing waste water from the sink and washing machine to flush their toilets and sometimes water their plants. The goal is to live with as little impact on the environment, and spreading awareness is crucial to their mission. Through art, tours, and workshops, they push people to consider our place at the top of the world’s chain of consumption as highly developed countries and the incredible power our actions have to affect the rest of the world. After a heartfelt and powerful discussion, their message was very clear: we have a responsibility to be conscious of our habits in terms of consumption of food and products, actively educate ourselves, push ourselves to change our habits in order to reduce the impact of our actions, and to spread knowledge so that others are motivated to do the same.