City’s ambitious vision to promote local sustainability, including reduction of municipality’s water and electricity use and building a ‘green’ neighborhood.
By Zafrir Rinat

A program to separate household waste at source will be on display for Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan when he visits Kfar Sava next week to observe the city’s efforts to turn “green.”

The waste separation project, in which 3,000 households are participating, is part of an ambitious vision to promote local sustainability, which has included reducing the municipality’s water and electricity use and building an entire “green” neighborhood. But Kfar Sava residents with expertise in planning, landscaping and environmental preservation say there are large gaps between the plan’s vision and its implementation.

In recent years, Kfar Sava has been implementing a plan to make the city more environmently friendly. “This is something much broader than more parks and gardens,” said Mayor Yehuda Ben-Hamo, though those are also part of the plan. “We wanted to develop a sustainable lifestyle.”

The city conducted an energy-efficiency survey and based on its result, installed more efficient lighting in the streets and public buildings, as well as sensors that turn off the electricity in areas not in use. This has saved the municipality 11 percent on its electric bill.

It has also cut its water usage on municipal gardening by 50 percent, and with the help of the Jewish National Fund, has built a biofilter facility that gathers rainwater and purifies it in a natural process for reuse.

The city has completed the first stage of a “green neighborhood” that was built with various technologies to save water and energy. It will have a series of open areas and a network of bicycle paths. A school to be built in the neighborhood will meet Israeli standards for green building, including energy-efficient lighting, better insulation and water-saving technology.

As for transportation, the city recently came to an agreement with Ra’anana and Herzliya on setting up a bus rapid transit system between the three cities.

It isn’t easy being green, Ben-Hamo says. The biggest problem is cost. “We are debating now whether to start waste separation throughout the city, but it’s an expensive project,” he says.

“We have already invested about NIS 20 million in the green city plans,” adds city manager Eshel Hermoni. “It’s clear that there’s a marketing element to this, but we aren’t doing it just to sell homes. There’s no point in investing so much money if we don’t eventually get to the point where we’re saving energy, and thus also money.”

Hermoni admits that when confronted with a need to choose between economic and environmental interests, the municipality doesn’t always choose green. For example, one of the considerations likely to block the construction in the city’s industrial zone of a facility to accept the separated waste and recycle it is the desire to attract more tax-paying businesses to the industrial zone.

Kfar Sava has a volunteer Sustainable Development Committee, headed by Pinhas Kahana, a city resident who head the JNF’s planning division. Other residents, like landscape architect Tamar Darel-Fossfeld, have been individually involved in the city’s environmental efforts.

“Unfortunately, this municipality isn’t prepared to hear criticism,” Kahana says.

Both Kahana and Darel-Fossfeld say the city isn’t doing enough to protect its trees from being cut down or too heavily trimmed. The municipality says that on the contrary, it has recently conducted a survey to identify trees that need special protection.

Darel-Fossfeld says that the new “green” neighborhood not only gives too much space to parking and roads, it has high walls that separate the residents from the open areas, making it even less encouraging of outdoor leisure activities than the older neighborhoods.

Yael Dori, from the planning department of The Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam, Teva V’din ) and also a city resident, said that the municipality isn’t upholding its commitment to transparency with regard to environmental conservation.

Though the municipality won praise from a Tel Aviv University study for its publicizing of environmental information, it’s still too hard, she says, for residents to get information about plans the municipality is trying to advance.