by Cyrus Rivetna Faith in Place
About 3,000 years before “green” became a term for sustainable living, Prophet Zarathushtra taught that man must live in harmony with Nature. In keeping with those teachings, Zoroastrians today revere all elements of nature—Fire, Sun, Earth, the Waters, Plants and Animals. Ours is not a stagnant worship of nature’s beauty, but rather a reverence for what provides the necessities for life on Earth.
From a young age, Zoroastrians are taught conservation and cleanliness, with injunctions against pollution of earth, body, mind or soul. Traditional Zoroastrian fire temples in India and Iran reflect these beliefs. These buildings defy notions of massive religious monuments; small and eco-friendly, they use passive solar techniques that keep the hot sun out while letting in natural light and wind. Their primary purpose is to house the continuously burning, consecrated fire. However, temples include all elements of nature—a garden has fruits and flowers for rituals, a well provides water for washing, animals are represented by a white bull; and respect for Man, God’s highest Creation, is reflected in the temples’ modest, human-built scale.
Together, the elements harmonize to create a peaceful, prayerful environment in front of the Fire burning in the inner sanctum of every temple. Zoroastrians have migrated to all parts of the world and are building centers that continue the tradition of eco-conscious living, including the Zoroastrian Center of Chicago in Burr Ridge. There, the architect isolated the “wet” areas (kitchen/bathrooms) and put water pipes over 3ft deep under the dry areas—thus allowing the whole building to be minimally heated when empty without freezing any pipes.
With support from Faith in Place, the Zoroastrian Center is incorporating new techniques to lighten their impact on this wonderful Earth that is our home. We replaced light bulbs and roof insulation with more efficient versions. When people were forgetting to turn the furnace off, we installed an automatic timer for the thermostat. We recycle and use biodegradable dishware whenever possible. This year a “Green Committee” was formed. They’ve built two container gardens where our youth planted vegetables. Next a composter was built, so it’s now common to see people come to the Center carrying a bag of their week’s compost!
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