An Interview with Gilad Ostrovsky, Director of Sustainability in Misgav Regional Council

This interview was conducted by Tamara Sharon Ross

The Heschel Fellowship has been running for the last 20 years with over 300 alumni. Gilad Ostrovsky is a Heschel Fellowship alumnus from the 4th cohort. He has held positions in the private, third, and public sectors since graduating from the fellowship and currently manages the Sustainability department at Misgav Regional Council. The regional council is home to 22,000 people, and comprises 35 small towns, mostly community settlements but also several Kibbutzim and Moshavim. He lives in Beit Keshet which is a township in the lower Galilee.

Tell me about your professional occupation. How does your professional involvement affect the implementation of the vision of sustainability in Israel?

 “I am the Director of Sustainability at the Misgav Regional Council. What makes this role unique is that it includes a wide spectrum or issues, including the handling environmental hazards including air pollution, water sources, waste and recycling. We operate and manage 12 trucks and employees. We are also in charge of the internal activity of the Council, including sanitation and pest control, the environmental aspects of industrial zones, and the licensing of factories. Licensing of businesses is part of our department, and relates to all aspects of environmental planning in general. We truly are in a position to influence planning processes for building and construction and assimilate elements of sustainability.

Other sub-departments under our supervision are veterinary medicine, community and environment, educational work, and the supervision and management of open spaces. Those responsible for protecting open spaces run activities to prevent harmful waste disposal and the fragmentation of the stream channels.


Another position we work with is the Official Forest Officer. In some communities, such as Misgav, every issue relating to trees is his responsibility. You may not move or hurt a tree without first getting permission from him.”

For a full decade, Gilad worked at the “Israel Union for Environmental Defense”, where among other positions, he was head of waste and recycling. During this time he took part in the effort to enact the Packaging Law. Also known as “the extended producer responsibility” act, the law mandates that the producer of the materials has a responsibility to collect and/or recycle the packaging materials used by their products. He then went on to conduct an academic research on the manufacturer's responsibility for a Phd. During this era they also won a source separation of organic waste.

 

“Prior to this I was a few years as an environmental consultant and a planner in a private company.”

So you actually worked in three sectors - the private sector, the third sector (non-profit), and local government. What was the most satisfying position you held?


“For everything there is a season. After working in an NGO that fights to change government policies I felt it was time to change the system from the inside.”

How was the Heschel Fellowship Program for you?

“When I worked in the business sector I went on the Heschel Fellowship. I remember this year as a fantastic year, both in terms of enrichment and content. The program gave me very important tools to continue the journey and I remain in touch with my fellow alumni and the Heschel Center today. In addition, there is a permanent connection through the Center for Local Sustainability placed in Misgav, which is a part of the network of sustainability centers across the country that the Heschel Center manages.”

How would you describe the contribution of the program to your current occupation?


“The program exposed me to important ideas and prominent thinkers from this field, and gave me the tools to develop a deeper understanding of environmental issues. It gave me a much brighter picture which has allowed me to develop a broader vision and better influence processes.”

Have you changed your personal lifestyle - at home, in the family? Between friends?


“I have always tried to live a conscious lifestyle, like conserving resources - which was an inherent part of my upbringing. 

What would you like the readers to know?  

“I see my role in this position as an opportunity to expand the areas of sustainability into all the departments, especially engineering and construction where there is physical impact. Sustainability in a municipality is not just about managing waste and recycling, but also influencing how towns are planned and the creation of green spaces and common areas which enable social interactions. We try to be an address for the community as they develop new capabilities.  The integration of sustainability ideas into all areas of the Council should be first and foremost. It's very important to assimilate the idea that people will work collaboratively.

But it’s a long process.

Misgav supports environmental policy. When I took office four years ago there was a forum of activists of several hundred people. These so-called “tree hugger” activists are already "ours"; the real goal is to go out and conduct broader outreach so that 30,000 people will know what sustainability means. It was important to think and understand the needs of different groups. We look at a new town or neighborhood, or even another branch of the council, and try to figure out how the sustainability point of view can become a part of their narrative (meaning, community oriented, environmentally conscious, that promote local economic prosperity, TSR)

Infrastructure development is dramatic in terms of environmental impact and over the course of a year we created a manual and guidelines for integrating sustainability in Misgav communities.”

What do you think will help accelerate the change?

“A combination of several things and working on several levels. There is not one action that will be sufficient. You need environmental leadership in the business sector, in the government, in the media….Everyone needs to work together.

Gilad Ostrovsky and a garden in Misgav

The Heschel Center

The Heschel Center for Sustainability works to promote a sustainable Israel: a just and cohesive society, a robust and democratic economy, and a healthy and productive environment for all its residents, now and in the future.