Going green for mitzvah project

JASON ROODMAN, CONGREGATION SHAARE EMETH

When Jason was presented with the question of what he wanted to devote his bar mitzvah project to he didn’t have to think twice — he immediately knew that he wanted to do something for the environment. As Jason puts it, “if we all don’t begin working at protecting our Earth now, there will not be an Earth as we know it for future generations.”

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His first idea was to build a 45-foot wind generator in his back yard. After considering the project with his parents, Carol and David Roodman, he realized that the logistics (and cost) simply would not work. His second idea was to purchase a plot of dilapidated property in the city, clean it up, and create a park like setting for people to enjoy. This idea, too, fell by the wayside due to its cost.

As they say, three times a charm — as Jason’s third idea was to coordinate, manage, and host a large electronic recycling drive (also known as an e-Cycle drive). This is the mitzvah project Jason settled on and brought to fruition with tremendous success.

Jason researched recycling companies in the Greater St. Louis Metropolitan Area. The first two that he identified were for-profit companies. He was determined to find a recycling company whose purpose was to give back to the community, not make a profit off of it. Fortunately, Jason found what he was looking for, a St. Louis not-for-profit 501(c)(3) entity called Web Innovations &Technology Services, also known as “WITS.” WITS describes its mission as empowering people to recycle, protect the environment, and save landfills.

A student at John Burroughs School, Jason visited WITS in order to ensure that it satisfied his goals. During the site visit Jason learned that WITS first refurbishes the electronic equipment that it receives and then puts it back to use by providing it to people in need in the community to further educational and career goals. WITS even offers free computers to the underprivileged. Anything that WITS cannot reuse is recycled. In fact, Jason was delighted to learn that WITS has a zero-percent landfill policy. WITS philosophy of teaching the value of giving and recycling fit perfectly with Jason’s mitzvah project.

In his effort to organize the event, Jason contacted a local institution that had organized an electronic recycling drive with WITS in the past. When the person who organized the previous recycle drive learned that Jason was coordinating the drive for his mitzvah project she said “this is way too large of a project for a 13-year-old.” Jason’s response best reflects his personality, which was “good thing I’m only 12.”

Jason worked with WITS to arrange for a tractor-trailer, a box truck, a forklift, and pallets, to be delivered to Shaare Emeth for the event, and paid for the costs associated with the equipment out of the gifts he received for his bar mitzvah.

He also arranged for approximately 20 friends and family members to assist with the drive. Jason sent notices of the event, soliciting electronics for recycling, to everyone who was invited to his bar mitzvah, and arranged for the e-Cycle event to be advertised in Shaare Emeth’s communications to its congregants. Finally, on the weekend of the drive, July 27, Jason placed a large 4-foot by 20-foot sign on the corner of Ballas and Ladue Road advertising the e-Cycle event.

To say that the event was a success is an understatement. Over the course of three hours, Jason’s e-Cycle drive collected an enormous amount of computers, televisions, monitors, printers, cables, keyboards, a commercial plotter, refrigerators, telephones, cell phones, clocks, stereos, large speakers, typewriters, washers, dryers, answering machines, lawn mowers, batteries, and more. In the end, Jason’s mitzvah project resulted in his completely filling one tractor-trailer and two boxcars — and requiring a second trip to pick up the remaining donations. In total, Jason collected 40,000 pounds or 20 tons of items. One of Shaare Emeth’s rabbi’s indicated that the mitzvah project was one of the largest, if not the largest, that he has ever seen.

For more information about WITS, please visit their Web site at www.witsinc.org.