Monday, December 29, 2008

JNF helps combat desertification - JPost Article

Many countries view Israel as a professional authority on central ecological issues, of which the primary ones are combating desertification and forest development. One only has to listen to the experts who gathered in Israel for an international seminar on combating desertification and Afforestation in arid zones to comprehend the degree of success Israel has had in this field and the true needs of the numerous countries that are struggling with desertification. [read more]

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Israel presents eucalyptus researchers with tree-saving solution

Israel presents eucalyptus researchers with tree-saving solution

Love them or hate them, since they were brought to the West in 1770, eucalyptus trees have played an important part in modern forestation. On the plus side, they grow quickly, give plenty of shade and dry the swamps; on the minus side, they're water-suckers that uproot paths and sidewalks. Nonetheless, the hardy camaldulensis "Red Gum" strain of eucalyptus is a staple component not just in landscaping and forestry but also industry, where it is a reliable, inexpensive source of wood, cellulose for paper, and oils used to produce cleaning and deodorizing products, food supplements; (such as cough drops), even mosquito repellant.

This resource has been threatened in recent years by a tiny 1mm long parasite, the gall wasp or cynipidae, whose reproductive process invades plants, causing them to form a variety of strangely shaped, colored "galls" that make the leaves drop off and leave trees ravaged and bare.

China, India, Thailand, Brazil, Central and South Africa, and the Mediterranean basin including Israel have all been infested by gall wasps. And the plague is spreading: just last month, at a course on how Israel is fighting the pest - and winning - word came in that cynipidae were identified in Florida and are likely to reach California shortly.

The course, jointly organized by the KKL-JNF Forestry and Development Department and the Department of Entomology of the Agricultural Research Organization (ARO, also known as the Volcani Institute), was held in response to requests from several countries for information to save their commercial eucalyptus groves.

Finding a natural enemy

Eucalyptus researchers and commercial growers from around the world attended a training course on eucalyptus forestry and agro-forestry with an emphasis on two invasive gall wasps and their natural enemies.

"There are 15,000 hectares of eucalyptus in Israel," says conference co-organizer David Brand, head of the JNF Department of Forestry and Development. "For the sake of comparison, in China there are hundreds of millions of hectares which are used to supply the paper industry. Thailand plants 100 million saplings every year, China plants half a billion every year, in Africa eucalyptus is used by local farmers for fuel. And we weren't aware of it but in India, eucalyptus is a source of income for hundreds of thousands of private farmers whose livelihood is the paper industry. Yet despite our small size, they told us, 'You in Israel are rescuing us.'"

Israel entered the gall wasp fray seven years ago after massive damage was caused to Israel's eucalyptus trees. "JNF and ARO identified the problem early and initiated an international project to find a natural enemy of these wasps," Brand tells ISRAEL21c.

After an exhaustive two-year search, a team of JNF-funded scientists finally found a biological adversary in Northern Australia, another 1mm long wasp called closterocerus. "We brought them to Israel, quarantined them, and after making sure this natural enemy only harmed cynipidae, we let them loose," says Brand.

The Israeli solution has a powerful booster in research partner Dr. John La Salle: head of the Australian National Insect Collection at CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. When the gall wasp reached Florida, he was contacted by the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service, and he advised them to turn to Israel for help.

November's training course familiarized participants with management strategies concerning eucalyptus cultivation and presented the most up-to-date uses of eucalyptus trees: propagation and use of eucalyptus in nurseries for arid land afforestation and management; disposal of wastewater through irrigation of eucalyptus plantations; and eucalyptus biotechnology.

The group was also given a presentation by CBD Technologies, part of Futuragene, an Israel-US bio-engineering firm that has developed high-performing transgenic eucalyptus for the plantation forest industry that is resistant to cynipidae.

Giving the predators free of charge

"They were stunned by our activity here in Israel. We took them to the north and the south, to see our fight against desertification, commercial forestation, water recycling for irrigation and eucalyptus to provide an ongoing supply of nectar and pollen for bees grazing in seasons where there is no fruit tree flowering," says Brand.

There are 700 types of eucalyptus in Israel, he adds, and JNF distributes 200,000 saplings a year free of charge for forestation and bee grazing.

Israel is reproducing parasites to eradicate gall wasp at ARO, offering these to other countries free-of-charge, as well as research support. At the end of the course, scientists from China, India and Italy were entrusted with sealed packages containing eucalyptus branches infested with both cynipidae and eggs of two varieties of closterocerus. More requests for such packages will come, believes Brand.

"There were participants from China, India, Kenya, Uganda, Italy, Brazil, Turkey, Australia and South Africa, where the pests haven't invaded yet, but authorities are convinced they're not long in coming. The same it true for Kenya; they want to be prepared in advance."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Check Out Our Sponsors Of The Month!

Each month, we'll be brining you information about environmentally friendly businesses that can be found in our Eco-Directory. Please use this as a resouce for finding out about company's that are doing their part to help the planet.


Katan Adventures provides the very best in eco-minded, outdoor adventure travel for Jews and Friends of the Jew in their 20s and 30s to the most exciting destinations worldwide. All Katan Adventures reflect the fundamental value of tikkun olam. As a result, Katan Adventures has committed itself to sustainable travel practices; what it likes to call, "EcoloJEWcal" travel. Furthermore, Katan Adventures is one of the only adventure travel providers to automatically offset all carbon omissions from its participants' ground and air transportation through its partnership with TerraPass. For more information on Katan Adventures' surfing, rafting, hiking, mountain biking and skiing trips around the world as well as its EcoloJEWcal way of traveling, please visit their website.


Tikkun Olam, LAC, is dedicated to creating specialty gift bags that are environmentally responsible. Our company, meaning Repair the World in Hebrew, uses the utmost care when researching, choosing, and creating products to include in our products. Tikkun Olam's goal is to provide our customers with a product that is not only unique and daz zling, but also boasts tree-free, organic, and renewable materials. We collaborate with Fair Trade companies for a number of our custom-made products, thus helping to provide steady wages to skilled workers around the world. Informational inserts, unique to the theme of each gift bag, provide fresh and inventive perspectives on how we can consciously construct more environmentally responsible lives. In addition, a percentage of all sales profits are regularly donated to several charities with whom we are affiliated.

It is the responsibility of us all to protect and preserve our world, a sentiment exemplified by Baal Tashchit from the Book of Deuteronomy. One of Tikkun Olam's ongoing goals is to further reduce our company's carbon footprint. The use of tree-free and recycled products, the installation of solar panels on two of our office locations, and simply giving more than we take, are some of the "steps" we are making to do so. Also the use of recycled products, buying food from local organic farmers and composting our waste. Driving a hybrid car and encouraging my daughter's school to become more "green"

Tikkun Olam offers outstanding and uncommon products that bring joy to recipients while spreading the message of love, awareness, and charity.

Monday, November 10, 2008

National Clean Up Day Bill Approved - Clean Up Israel 2008

Click here to see where some of the money collected from GoNeutral is going.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Israel Builds It's First Eco-Friendly Town

Israel builds its first 'eco-friendly' town

It's one thing to adopt environmentally conscious behavior, such as recycling, taking public transportation, and saving water or electricity. But that's not enough for the future residents of the now developing community of Nurit. They plan to live green.

That's because the Mt. Gilboa town of Nurit is set to be the first planned, eco-friendly community in Israel, with infrastructure and services designed not just to encourage, but to actually enforce environmentally responsible behavior. If you're planning on living in Nurit, says Danny Atar, chairman of the Gilboa Regional Council, you're by definition willing to go out of your way to save water, avoid excess waste, and in general reduce your carbon footprint. "Otherwise, Nurit is not for you," he says.

The idea for Nurit stemmed from discussions conducted by Gilboa Regional Council officials nearly a decade ago, as they were seeking to build tourism in the area, as well as comply with new government requirements to introduce environmentally responsible educational programs and activities.

"We are also considering putting up a new town to attract more residents here from the center of the country, and the whole project just sort of made sense," Atar tells ISRAEL21c. "Thus was Nurit born."

First homes ready in a year

And, after intense study and consultations with environmental experts around the world, the town is ready for prime time; work has begun on infrastructure, and the first 100 homes will be ready next year. By 2012, there will be 400 families living in Nurit, Atar says.

Located on Mt. Gilboa itself, Nurit will take advantage of the mountain's wind and sun to generate power, and will install dozens of wind turbines and photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, enough to provide electricity for all the public buildings in Nurit - and then some.

"We recently got approved for a program by the Israel Electric Company, where residents and public buildings will be able to mount solar PV units on their roofs and sell the electricity to the IEC," says Atar.

"Together with turbines to generate electricity from wind, we expect that the electricity we generate will be enough to light most of the schools, offices, streetlights, and park lights in Nurit - as well as save homeowners money on their energy bill, since they can get credits for the power their roof PV systems generate that they don't use, selling it back to the IEC." Atar says.

The regional council has a program that provides loans for residents to buy and install the PV panel setup, or residents can design the systems into their construction plans, he adds.

Trees as cooling canopy
Residents will also be asked to grow tall, leafy trees around their homes, creating a natural "cooling canopy" that will help cut down on the need for artificial cooling and heating systems, "saving electricity and reducing pollutants in the atmosphere," Atar says. And, residents will be asked to build their homes using effective insulation systems, to further reduce the need for air conditioners or heaters. "We hope to be able to limit the use of artificial heating and cooling solutions to the hottest or coldest days of the year," Atar says.

Nurit residents will be required to save water - naturally. "In theory, Israel gets more than enough rainfall, but much of the rain is lost to evaporation or runs off to the sea," Atar says. "We are requiring all residents to build rain collection systems and mini-reservoirs to store rainwater. The water will then be funneled into the town reservoir, allowing us to cut down significantly on our use of water from Mekorot, which is drawn from either the Kinneret or Israel's underground aquifers."

With the Kinneret [the Sea of Galilee] at an all time low, and Israel scrambling to build desalination plants to make up for projected water shortages, Nurit's efforts could serve as a model for other, non eco-friendly communities as well.

Saving rainwater is important, but saving "gray water" is even more important, say many environmentalists - and Nurit is requiring all homeowners to install a gray water collection system, which will store waster water from dishwashing, bathing, and other non-sewage ("black water") sources.

The storage of gray water entails building a separate drainage system, which funnels the water into a tank - and is then used for a variety of purposes, such as watering gardens, decorative fountains, etc. "No one in Nurit will be permitted to use fresh water to water his or her lawn," Atar says. "Residents will use gray water to water their lawns and run watering systems for plants or orchards."

Unfortunately, Nurit won't be able to encourage its residents to trade in their cars for commuting by train, because there is no Israel Railways line in the area, at least for now. But the town will have a complete complement of local and inter-city bus service for those who need to travel. Actually, it is expected that most of Nurit's residents will work in the area, either at home businesses, in tourist-oriented services such as bed and breakfasts or restaurants, or at one of the industrial zones in the area.

"Many of the homes have been zoned for use as businesses as well, so a resident can operate a small business in their backyard," Atar says. "There is an industrial zone three minutes out of town, mostly with light manufacturing or agriculture industry allied services. And tourism in this region is expected to skyrocket when regular horse racing begins at the Afula Hippodrome, only a few minutes from here," he adds.

Nurit is open to anyone willing to live by the town's eco-friendly ethos - and many Israelis are willing, apparently, because there is already a long waiting list for lots.

"We've already got about 700 families who have made a deposit to get into the lottery for a chance to buy a plot, with more signing up all the time," Atar says. "The lots, which will have extensive infrastructure to support the gray water drainage and reservoirs system, cost $120,000 to $150,000 - not particularly high for people coming from the center of the country, where many of the Nurit hopefuls come from, and certainly not expensive, when you consider the cost of the infrastructure."

Most applicants are from big cities - Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and its suburbs. A few people from the kibbutzim in the area have signed up as well, but the majority are new to the lower Galilee. Which already makes Nurit a success, as far as Atar is concerned. "This is a beautiful part of the country to live in, and thanks to Nurit, hundreds of families are going to get the opportunity to find out just how beautiful it really is," Atar says.

Down on the eco-farm: Organic produce is the star of young adult dinner in Petaluma

Down on the eco-farm: Organic produce is the star of young adult dinner in Petaluma

As David Retsky guided more than 100 people along the perimeter of County Line Harvest, his 28-acre farm in Petaluma, he offered up some simple instructions: Touch and taste anything.

And, of course, they did.

Participants at the Eco-Farm Dinner on Sept. 21 munched on sprigs of cilantro and devoured all kinds of lettuce for some light appetizers before sitting down to a family-style, seven-course vegetarian dinner made from the organic produce they sampled.

"I really wanted everyone to come out and walk the land," Retsky said. "I wanted them to touch and taste, and breathe the air. There is so much more to learn out here than I could ever teach."

The Jewish National Fund, Bay Area Tribe and Birthright Israel sponsored the event to help young adults make the connection between how crops are harvested and how they make their way to the farmers market, the local supermarket and the dinner table.

Sherri Morr, regional director of JNF, thought of the idea for the Eco-Farm Dinner nearly three years ago, about the same time Retsky, her nephew, started farming in Petaluma. She deemed the event a success.

"It was great to spend time on a farm and get out of the city," she said. "This was an opportunity to educate about Israel and create social connections."

While walking around the farm, people shouted out questions, dug their hands into the soil and sloshed in hidden, muddy puddles.

The tour ended with an uphill trek back to dry land where round tables decorated with votive candles and seasonal squash welcomed the group for dinner.

Heaping portions of polenta with Red Russian kale and smoked tomato sauce, roasted Chioggia beets with baby Walla Walla onions and goat cheese, and Panzanella grilled bread salad with baby fennel were served alongside other unique salads. Fresh coffee and grilled pound cake topped with balsamic strawberries and crème fraiche rounded out the menu.

"It's exciting to be a part of the emerging Jewish food movement," said Roni Ben-David, 28, of San Francisco. "It starts with realizing that food tastes better when it's local and seasonal. As Jews, we take pleasure in our food and eat mindfully."

In addition to the farm tour and dinner, two students -- an Israeli woman and a Jordanian man -- from the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Israel discussed with the crowd how the school also promotes dialogue and coexistence.

"When I came to the institute to study the environment, I really wasn't ready to deal with coexistence," said Hadas Kammon, who studied at the Arava Institute as an undergraduate in Israel.

"But we can't ignore this issue. It was a challenging experience, but I learned that I have to recognize another person's story."

After the speakers, guests had the rest of the evening to mingle, taste wine from Israel and drink He'Brew beer before buses brought them back to San Francisco.

"I'd like to see other people come out and support the farm family," Retsky said.

"Come cook meals here and enjoy the land. It's another way of getting involved."

Monday, October 20, 2008

JNF, El Salvador Style

JNF, El Salvador style
Central American country decides to adopt Israeli model for redemption of land, environment protection
Itamar Eichner YNET

The El Salvador authorities have decided to adopt the Israeli model of the Jewish National Fund for the redemption of land and protecting the environment.

In meeting held several months ago between Israeli Ambassador to San Salvador Mati Cohen and El Salvador's foreign and environment ministers, Cohen learned of their desire to invest resources in the promotion environmental education in cooperation with the El Salvadorian immigrants' community living in the United States.

The Israeli envoy told the officials about the JNF organization and the affinity it creates between the Diaspora Jews and the State of Israel, as well as its relation to the redemption of land and environment protection for more than 100 years.

Cohen suggested that the two ministers try and duplicate the JNF model and implement it in El Salvador, and recruited JNF representative in Argentina, Michael Adari, to help with the mission.

A first-of-its-kind seminar was held by El Salvador's Foreign Ministry several days ago, attended by senior officials from the Foreign, Agriculture, Education and Environment Protection ministries, who learned about the JNF principles and ways to implement them in the central American country.

Rabbi Yerahmiel Barylka, director of the KKL-JNF's Latin-American Desk, traveled to El Salvador to take part in the seminar.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pint-Size Eco-Police, Making Parents Proud and Sometimes Crazy ...

Pint-Size Eco-Police, Making Parents Proud and Sometimes Crazy
New York Times

Sometimes, Jennifer Ross feels she cannot make a move at home without inviting the scorn of her daughters, 10-year-old Grace and 7-year-old Eliza. The Acura MDX she drives? A flagrant polluter. The bath at night to help her relax? A wasteful indulgence. The reusable shopping bags she forgot, again? Tsk, tsk.

"I have very, very environmentally conscious children -- more so than me, I'm embarrassed to say," said Ms. Ross, a social worker in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. "They're on my case about getting a hybrid car. They want me to replace all the light bulbs in the house with energy-saving bulbs."

Ms. Ross's children are part of what experts say is a growing army of "eco-kids" -- steeped in environmentalism at school, in houses of worship, through scouting and even via popular culture -- who try to hold their parents accountable at home. Amid their pride in their children's zeal for all things green, the grown-ups sometimes end up feeling like scofflaws under the watchful eye of the pint-size eco-police, whose demands grow ever greater, and more expensive.

They pore over garbage bins in search of errant recyclables. They lobby for solar panels. And, in a generational about-face, they turn off the lights after their parents leave empty rooms.

"Kids have really turned into the little conscience sitting in the back seat," said Julia Bovey, a spokeswoman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a leading environmental group that recently worked with Nickelodeon on a series of public service announcements and other programming called "Big Green Help."

"One of the fascinating things about children is that they don't separate what you are doing from what you should be doing," Ms. Bovey said. "Here's this information about how we can help the environment, and kids are not able to rationalize it away the way that adults do."

In Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, Jan Schmidt, a stay-at-home mother, and Mark Goetz, a professor of furniture design, have watched, amazed, as their 4-year-old son chastises them for letting the water run while they brush their teeth. "He'll come over and turn it off and say, 'Every day is Earth Day,' " Ms. Schmidt said. "He learned it at school."

Their older child, 12-year-old Elly, extols the clothesline in her bedroom the way other girls her age might show off a new beanbag chair. An aspiring marine biologist, Elly raised $250 last year to protect coral reefs by selling handmade earrings at school. And she was a big factor in the family's decision to hang on to their current car instead of buying a bigger one.

"With Elly, there's sort of an unspoken thing about not buying an S.U.V.," Ms. Schmidt said.

Elly elaborated: "I wouldn't be happy if they bought an S.U.V. because they're not fuel efficient, and they pollute more than other cars."

They learn this stuff everywhere. In the summer, the Pixar film "Wall-E" served up an ecological parable of a planet so punished that it had to be abandoned. The Girl Scouts recently added patches including "Environmental Health," "Get With the Land," "Earth Pact" and "Water Drop." Scholastic, the global children's publishing, education and media company, has teamed up with the American Museum of Natural History to create Web sites and magazines about climate change and other environmental issues.

A Scholastic message board where children share eco-friendly tips, called Save the Planet, has had three million page views in the past year.

And school districts across the country are adding lessons on the environment to their curriculums in many subject areas, as well as enforcing idle-free zones in school driveways, switching to plant-based cleaners, doing away with pesticides and, in some places, installing solar panels.

In the Byram Hills School District in Armonk, N.Y., middle-school teachers plan to roll out new material related to the environment starting in January.

"We're trying to integrate it into anything where it naturally fits," said Jackie Taylor, the district's superintendent. "It might be in a math lesson. How much water are you really using? How can you tell? Teachers look for avenues in almost everything they teach."

Katie Ginsberg, co-founder and executive director of the Children's Environmental Literacy Foundation, a nonprofit group in Chappaqua, N.Y., has trained hundreds of teachers from Massachusetts to New Jersey in issues of sustainability and environmental science. More than 1,500 students attended the group's annual expo, Students for a Sustainable Future, at Pace University this spring.

"In 2002, the environmental education children were getting was very isolated," Ms. Ginsberg said. "It was emphasized mainly on Earth Day and an occasional field trip to a nature center. We started looking for different paradigms of environmental education around the world."

But the green initiatives in schools have not been universally embraced. Some critics say such lessons are a distraction as districts struggle to meet minimum standards on math and reading tests. Others say turning children into stewards of the environment is an inappropriate use of taxpayer money.

And even parents who are impressed by their children's commitment to remake the world can also sometimes feel, well, badgered. Paul Wyckoff, a writer in Hunterdon County, N.J., said his 15-year-old son, Will, yells at him for "leaving the car idling for a few seconds in the driveway." He has even taken to turning off nightlights to save energy.

"My philosophy is get the big stuff," Mr. Wyckoff said. "I think he takes it too far. But I'm proud of him. I think he'll moderate with age."

Given that children often lack a sense of social boundaries, things can get sticky when their haranguing extends beyond the home. Liz DiVittorio, of Raleigh, N.C., a mother of three, recalled walking with her 10-year-old son, Michael, this summer after a rainstorm and seeing a neighbor running his sprinkler.

"My son looked at him and said, 'Why are you watering your lawn? It just rained,' " said Ms. DiVittorio, who works for a software company. "I sat there and cringed."

For middle schoolers, money is fairly abstract -- and therefore no object. Sarah Hodder and Dr. Peter Allen of Chappaqua have three boys, the oldest of whom, Charles, 10, is itching to go solar.

"Any time we pass a house with solar panels, he says, 'Why can't we do that?' " said Ms. Hodder, co-chairwoman of the Roaring Brook Elementary School Environmental Committee. "I always say, 'Talk to Daddy.' A lot of these steps are cost-prohibitive, although ultimately in the long run they're good for the environment and the wallet."

Ms. Hodder said that in the short term, she and her husband are making more modest changes, with the children's support, like turning down the heat, composting, walking to school and "not buying so much stuff." But as enthusiastic as Ms. Hodder is about protecting the environment, the children seize on her lapses, as when Peapod delivers the groceries in plastic bags.

"They'll say, 'Mom, I thought we weren't supposed to use plastic bags,' " she said.

Douglas and Alison Distefano, of Rumson, N.J., who have two children, dubbed their fifth grader, Olivia, "the recycling militant general."

"For us, Earth Day is a reason to go outside," said Mr. Distefano, an executive with Soltage, a solar energy company. "But for them it's a religious holiday."

Ann Tedesco, a psychologist in Armonk, said her daughter Celeste, 9, "is always policing the regular garbage bins to make sure we're not throwing paper away in there," adding: "She particularly enjoys catching her older sister."

Dr. Tedesco's husband, Rick Alimonti, a lawyer, recalled how their son, Lucas, 7, kept reminding him to turn off the engine while waiting outside school.

"I was only idling for a minute, and I explained that it uses more gas and pollutes the atmosphere more to turn the engine off and back on again," he said. "I looked it up afterward to make sure I wasn't exaggerating."

He was in the clear: Several blogs asserted that idling for a minute or less is preferable to shutting off and restarting the engine.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Jim Joseph Foundation Awards JNF $50,000 Grant for Environmental Fellowship

September 16, 2008 -- New York, NY -- Jewish National Fund (JNF) is proud to announce that the Jim Joseph Foundation has awarded a $50,000 grant to the organization for the JNF/Bronfman Center Jewish Environmental Fellowship at NYU.

Twenty students will participate in the fellowship, which will focus on environmental sustainability issues and their connection to Jewish values and tradition. By examining Jewish content through an environmental lens and incorporating examples of Israeli environmental leadership, the program aims to engage unaffiliated Jewish students who might not otherwise be interested in existing Jewish programming. The goal is to inspire them to make changes in their personal lives as well as to take action in the Jewish community and in the broader campus community at NYU.

"The Jim Joseph Foundation is proud to be supporting the development of the Jewish Environmental Fellowship program and the unique partnership between Jewish National Fund and the NYU Bronfman Center," said Dvora Joseph, a Jim Joseph Foundation board member.

"We believe that this multi-faceted approach to Jewish learning which allows students to explore an important topic through a combination of traditional Jewish study, interaction with peers and community leaders, hands-on service to our environment, and self-exploration will be both effective and impactful for the student participants."

The Jim Joseph Foundation, established in 2006, is committed to a sustained program of grant-making in pursuit of a vision that leads to ever-increasing numbers of young Jews engaged in ongoing Jewish learning and choosing to live vibrant Jewish lives. The Foundation manages close to one billion dollars, using all of its resources to foster compelling, effective Jewish learning for young Jews in the United States.

"We are delighted to partner with the Jim Joseph Foundation and welcome them into the JNF educational family to benefit the Jewish students of NYU," said Rabbi Eric Lankin, D.Min., Chief of Institutional Advancement and Education at JNF. "This program will play an important role in our development of a strategic plan for engaging college students across the country on the critical environmental challenge facing our world and Israel's global environmental leadership through JNF."

Throughout the year, students will meet to discuss environmental issues such as energy, water, food production, waste and recycling, and building and landscaping. Each topic will be studied from an environmental perspective, by learning about the science and innovation relating to the subject; a Jewish perspective, by examining modern and ancient texts; and by looking at case studies of New York City and Israel. Sessions will be devoted to learning and meeting with environmental experts as well as work in the field, including on-site visits, volunteering, and seeing environmental activism in action. Conversations about social justice and personal and communal responsibility will be incorporated throughout.

In March, students will spend one week in Israel volunteering on an environmental kibbutz as part of JNF's Alternative Spring Break, a hands-on transformational Jewish educational program. They will study environmental issues and solutions in living laboratories and participate in community service projects. During the second semester of the fellowship, students will work on a project of their choice that incorporates what they have learned and engages the NYU community.

"We at the Bronfman Center are extremely excited to work with our partners at JNF as well as NYU students to plan and host the JNF/Bronfman Green Fellowship," said Sam Krentzman, Special Projects Coordinator. "The Bronfman Center strives institutionally to combine Jewish learning with a sophisticated approach to understanding important contemporary issues. The fellowship will enable us to share Judaism's deep teachings about environmental and communal responsibility while taking action and relating those teachings to realities faced in New York City and in Israel. We are extraordinarily grateful to the Jim Joseph Foundation and to JNF for making this groundbreaking experience possible for our students."

For more information, contact Rebecca Kahn at 212-879-9305 ext. 248 or

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Can environmental activism unite Israel, Diaspora?

Can environmental activism unite Israel, Diaspora?

Environmental activism could be the "special interest" that unites the Jewish world and reignites Jewish philanthropy, according to an unpublished report commissioned by UJA-NY and the CRB Foundation and obtained by The Jerusalem Post.

Not only could Israel and the Diaspora rally around the environment, but the issue would also help bring in younger Jews who are rapidly becoming more and more disenchanted with affiliated Judaism, according to the report.

While a senior development official at the Jewish Agency agreed on the environment's fund-raising potential, that potential has yet to be realized, the American Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel's co-chairman, Leon Sokol, told the Post on Wednesday.

The report, authored by Jewish Council for Public Affairs Senior Associate Executive Director Martin J. Raffel late last year, argued that the environment was becoming an increasingly attractive issue for a variety of reasons.

"First, the interest in environmentalism and the challenge of global warming, especially in the wake of [former US vice president] Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth, have become public affairs concerns of the first order. Reliance on oil and other fossil fuels causes not only concern about the health of our environment, but also pours huge amounts of money into the coffers of Middle Eastern countries, such as Iran, that pose threats to Israeli, US and global security interests," Raffel wrote.

Israel's environmental NGOs had also gotten stronger over the last decade and were now ready to face the country's environmental challenges, according to Raffel. Moreover, the local climate had helped give rise to a host of green technologies potentially marketable all over the world, he wrote.

To recapture the attention of younger Jews, Raffel argued, you needed to engage them.

"Taglit and other programs directed toward the younger generation have resulted in a large new audience potentially hungry for a more substantive engagement with Israel and with Jews in other parts of the world. The environment, not surprisingly because it will be their world to inherit, is one of the areas of high interest to members of this generation," he wrote.

Raffel pointed to a convergence of interest among US and Israeli philanthropists, President Shimon Peres, and Israeli and American activists surrounding the environment. According to Raffel, it is both an area where people are beginning to be willing to donate money and where activists "hunger" for contacts with their counterparts across the sea.

However, Sokol, who heads SPNI's American development arm, hasn't found it easier to raise money.

"There are many worthwhile charitable organizations competing in the US for donations. We have to make the case to the people interested in Israel and interested in the environment," he said during a visit here with the American Society for the Protection of Nature executive board. "We're hoping that as awareness of environmental issues and their global interconnection grows, that will help us," he told the Post.

Sokol and the board are here this week to improve coordination with SPNI. "We are learning what the priorities are for SPNI so we can coordinate our fund-raising efforts," he said.

"The most serious observation so far is the lack of rain in the Kinneret area and what that is going to mean in terms of a water shortage going into the summer," he said, "I think SPNI can play a major role in water conservation campaigns."

"We can help out by taking an inventory of water conservation programs that were successful in the States and fit Israel best, and making that information available in Israel," he added.

Jeff Kaye, director-general of the Jewish Agency's Department of Resource Development and Public Affairs, told the Post that the Agency's sole foray into fund-raising for an environment project "was a very good experience."

"We developed the solar energy park in Nitzana. There was a very enthusiastic response," he said.

Kaye also felt the potential for environmental giving was high. "Donors respond to the urgency of matters first. Emergency situations of basic safety, security, health issues are usually on top. The need to save a life comes before everything else," he said.

"Next comes those looking to see long-term impact. For the Jewish Agency, that is often about educational opportunities, closing gaps, for instance on the periphery," he continued.

Culture and the arts, and religious-giving rounded out the list, according to Kaye.

"So long as globally, the environment was a fringe issue, it was parallel to arts and science. As the planet becomes more affected by lack of attention to the environment and the environment is beginning to affect people's health and impact on people's lives," its attraction as an issue rises, Kaye noted in line with Raffel's conclusions.

Michael Jankelowitz, spokesman for the Jewish Agency, said that North American Jewish Federations provided most of the donations to Israel.

Total charitable donations to the Israeli public and private sectors from local federations and others abroad totaled almost $2 billion a year, according to Bank of Israel figures, Jankelowitz said.

Regarding the environment, he said that small organizations such as SPNI faced an uphill battle obtaining donations overseas. People give to big names and large institutions, he said. The Jewish National Fund had been very successful rebranding itself as not just about planting trees, he added.

Sokol explained how his organization raised money for SPNI's projects.

"We have about 2,500 active members, and about 6,500 donors, so we have a base of people with whom we communicate on a regular basis. We send out a newsletter four times a year, and we have a Web site. We also run ads in various magazines.

"People who visit Israel and learn about SPNI when they visit here then become members when they return," Sokol said. Membership is $54 a year for a family.

Some of the donations are earmarked for specific projects. For example, one major donation improved the Jerusalem Bird Observatory situated near the Knesset, to make it more hospitable for migrating birds. ASPNI had also raised money for the Hula Valley birding center, Sokol said.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Going to the CAJE conference this summer?

Click here for information and link to our carbon calculator.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

An Ecological Mission - Israel learns that going green isn't just for the birds

An Ecological Mission : Israel learns that going green isn't just for the birds

As the sun dips behind the Ramat Naftali Mountain range, beginning to draw with it what's left of the light in the Upper Galilee, we set off to see the cranes. Our group, mostly journalists from around the world, are being led out into the middle of the broad Hula Valley by the steady pull of a battered old tractor. We sit behind it, in what has been called a "camouflaged" vehicle. Rounded like a trailer, it's longer than it's wide, lined with wooden benches and open on one side.

The young man driving the tractor explains that the cranes won't panic when they see this vehicle, as they've grown accustomed to farm equipment. But he does ask us to turn off our cell phones and refrain from using flashes on our cameras.

When we first entered the valley, rocking gently over the rutted, close-cropped terrain, we heard the sound of the cranes, like some distant, plaintive cry. As we begin inching closer, and are, at last, swung effortlessly into place by our guide, we're not only faced with a mass of large, grayish-white birds but with their trumpeting -- persistent, near-deafening, magical.

The Golan Heights stand before us, darkening in the sunset. Every few minutes, off in the distance to our right, large swaths of birds bound up and, like black streamers, blanket the sky. These newcomers then set themselves down before us, one after another, with a grace that seems unimaginable for their size and the speed at which they've flown.

We had been informed of some of what to expect, once we'd reached this vast sea of cranes. Before we took our places in this customized conveyance, Dr. Omri Boneh, director of the northern region for Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund -- the sponsor of our ecologically focused press mission -- had briefed the group on the region and its inhabitants.
In the Arava region, exquisite flowers are grown for export.
Photo by Conrad Myrland

The Hula Valley, which includes Lake Agmon, was covered by marshland when Israel was founded 60 years ago. The idea back then, said Boneh, was to tame nature.

"Wetlands were considered a negative," he said, "nothing you would want to preserve." Reclaiming the Jewish homeland, he added, meant getting rid of these troublesome marshy spots, filled as they were with disease-carrying pests. So they were drained and cleared for farming.

"We think differently about wetland preservation today," he continued. "Ten or 15 years ago, we reflooded the area, and it's become one of the most important bird-watching regions in the world, along with Eilat in the south. The Hula Valley is part of the route of migration, part of the great rift valley from Turkey to Southern Africa, and 500 million birds pass over this area in the fall and spring. Hula is the last site before the birds begin the Sahara desert portion of their flight, a grazing area for what are called common white cranes, which come here from their home in southern Ukraine."

The Ramat Menashe Biosphere Park, located in the center of the country, is a lush preserve open to the public free of charge. It's often called one of Israel's best-kept secrets.
Photo courtesy of KKL-JNF

The Hula Valley Restoration Project does ongoing research, he went on to explain. "Many of the cranes continue on their journey. But some, over the years, have realized that they can graze here fairly easily. So they stay for the winter, and they can damage the Galilee farmers' peat fields considerably. We want to keep them moving, so we are looking into all sorts of methods to do that without harming them and keeping the farmers happy, too."

Conservation is especially important in the valley, said Boneh, since all of the sources of the Jordan River are here, and they feed into Lake Kinneret, Israel's main source of drinking water.

Some 200,000 people visited the area last year, and Boneh is working with UNESCO to have the spot designated a World Heritage Site. And that seems completely plausible to all of us surrounded by a spectacular show of white motion and sound. The cranes preen, displaying their plumbish bodies; long, tapered, flexible necks; sharp beaks; and stick-thin legs.

Our tractor driver informed us early in our ride that these birds are monogamous. Right now, they are accompanied by their offspring, about whom they are exceedingly vigilant.
Water droplets form on the tips of pine needles in the Yattir Forest.
Photo by Conrad Myrland

We watch as the elders move about with their young close at hand and how they assume threatening positions -- rearing up and flaring their impressive wing spread -- if unknown cranes venture too close. And there are curious behaviors: Some birds seem to be doing a kind of joyous dance, ending by scooping up a feather in their beaks and offering it up as a gift.

Boneh explains that these trinket-bearers are the males, who never take anything for granted and court their wives continually with little tokens of love and displays of affection.

We begin to move again, the tractor pulling us in an almost lazy figure-eight until the Ramat Naftali range, seen only in outline, appears before us again. Our guide tells us simply to sit and wait. As the last bits of color fade from the sky, leaving only thin steaks of gray behind, there comes another powerful rush of sound as the cranes take off in thick packs, moving to the wet places a short distance behind us, where, we are told, they'll bed down for the night. The crack of their wings makes the air reverberate.

Ronit Ratner, a longtime pepper farmer in the Arava region, praises the beauty of the flowers and vegetables grown in that part of the Negev. Most of these goods are exported to Europe.
Photo by Dave Sommerhalder

For a time, we can see the cranes make pinpoint landings off in the distance, barely rippling the surface of the chill-looking water. We're told they'll stand in the shallows all night, huddled around their children. They feel safer there, more able to ward off threats.

The tractor starts up again, leading us back to where we began, rocking from side to side to the continued accompaniment of the high, sharp snap of wings and the ever-fading call of the cranes.

'Creating Sustainable Development'

The next day finds our group flying up the Ramat Naftali Mountain Range in a fleet of cable cars. On this cold, crystal-clear morning in late January, the Hula Valley and the Golan Heights are off in the distance, growing smaller as we hurtle upwards, with snow-capped Mount Hermon standing watch in the far north.

The forest we see whizzing by beneath us on the mountainside was planted by new immigrants in the 1950s, we are told. It was their first work when they came to Eretz Yisrael.
The Yattir Forest is 40 years old and thrives in a semi-arid terrain.
Photo by Conrad Myrland

But at one point in our upward climb, the deep green of the forest turns jaggedly black. These are the trees scarred by Hezbollah rockets that rained down on the area during the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006.

When we reach the end of the cable-car line and disembark, we gather around Paul Ginsberg, KKL-JNF director of the forest region in the north, who speaks of the devastation wrought by the more than 30 days of war two summers ago.

"One kilometer from here -- a little more than half a mile away," Ginsberg says, turning to point off into the distance behind him, "is the border with Lebanon. Kiryat Shemonah, just below us, received thousands of rockets, and 77 percent of this forest burned.

"Even after the north was evacuated, KKL-JNF workers volunteered to come here; they did it of their own volition. They knew, if anyone did, that this forest was not a gift of God. These trees were part of our cultural heritage."

Ginsberg was the person who co-ordinated the firefighting effort. He tells us that they worked in two 12-hour shifts utilizing a dozen fire trucks; aerial firefighters also assisted in the effort.

"We would try to fight the fires, then more Katyusha rockets would fall, starting new fires. It was very stressful."

Pelicans also make stops at Lake Agmon in the Hula Valley during their migrations.
Photo courtesy of KKL-JNF

KKL-JNF has begun to rehabilitate the forest here and throughout the entire region, and we are driven to nearby Biryia Forest to see more clearly what's been done in terms of reclamation.

Standing high above a wide stretch of valley, we're told by area officials that the terrain was cleared of damaged trees soon after the war's end. Native broadleaf trees were planted rather than pines, as was first done here and at Ramat Naftali. Cedar trees were then added on the slope above the broadleaf trees. It was also decided to leave portions of the land as is, to wait for natural regeneration.

In this way, they hope to create what they call "a diverse forest," different from what was here before. The original forest, made up mostly of pine, was a simple ecological environment. But KKL-JNF has learned that simple is not necessarily good. Now they wish to create a forest with "a higher ecological integrity."

"This is the golden lining to the gray cloud of Hezbollah bombing," Paul Ginsberg tells us. "We lost forest area here, but instead of waiting for it to go fallow naturally and then take action, we've learned that we can improve and diversify the forest, and thereby strengthen the ecological infrastructure."

In these two examples -- the Hula Valley and the Biryia Forest -- we had the two major strands of KKL-JNF work displayed for us: conservation to assist nature and wildlife -- its new green approach -- and the continuing effort to plant trees as the organization has done in the past, though these days, this, too, is being executed with green awareness in mind.

This was not always the organizational mission. KKL-JNF was founded 107 years ago specifically to buy land to allow the Jewish people to settle in pre-state Palestine. And, according to Zeev Kedem, KKL-JNF director of development, "Until 1948, this is how it was done. Then there was the War of Independence. After that, the group bought land from the State of Israel. We wanted to reclaim and develop the land. That was the goal then.

"But we've moved even beyond that. We've moved from developing the land to creating sustainable development -- and all that this term means" -- that is, to nurture and maintain the environment with an eye to future generations.

This new emphasis may not have yet penetrated the American Jewish consciousness, which seems to still conceive of the Jewish National Fund (the American side of the KKL-JNF equation) as the group that plants trees to mark special occasions -- births, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, weddings. JNF undoubtedly remains Israel's national foresters, but the work is executed with an added twist.

According to Kedem, not everyone's happy about how this new emphasis is administered, especially some of Israel's other green organizations. "We're called too cautious. We aren't aggressive enough in our green projects. But we've learned from the past.

"Before, KKL-JNF would come into an area and bulldoze everything, then build a road or plant trees. These days, the organization does its research," always with an eye to sustainability.

There are numerous, very green endeavors that JNF-KKL supports throughout Israel, among them, Ramat Menashe Biosphere Park, a lush preserve in the center of Israel, open to the public at no charge; Kibbutz Lotan in the Negev, which is run on ecological and Reform Jewish principles; and the Eilat Ornithological Park, which is a major flyway for those 500 million birds each spring and fall, as well as a significant research center.

All of these are pieces in the KKL-JNF mosaic, but perhaps the most pressing national problems the organization tackles, especially in light of global warming, are lack of water and the threat of desertification -- that is, the desert's slow creep northward. True to form, KKL-JNF is resorting to an old standby to counter this effect: planting trees, since they absorb carbon emissions.

Our group hears from Dr. Uri Shani, director general of the Israel Water Commission, on the first of these crises. He says that water scarcity in Israel is an age-old dilemma, but today the situation stems from three sources: increased demand; a decrease in supply; and the contamination of surface and ground water.

But Shani says that Israel, on the state level, if not among the citizenry, has become very efficient in water use.

"We recycle all our waste water to higher levels," he says in a Jerusalem meeting. "We'd like to get it to an even higher point so that people could possibly drink it. For now, it goes to agriculture.

"But because we haven't enough natural water to keep up our standard of living, we are focusing on desalination. We desalinate 150 million cubic meters of water per year, and we're trying to get to 500 million cubic meters per year. Lake Kinneret, our main source of drinking water, is getting brackish, so we would like to have one-third of our drinking water from desalination by 2012.

"Water is the country's most basic resource. You can stop electricity for days, and I'd argue everyone would survive. Stop water and you have another story."

To witness what is being done to combat desertification, we head south, to the Yattir Forest in the Northern Negev, a 40-year-old, man-made forest planted in a semi-arid area. We're told by officials there that no one expected a single tree to survive. It's become Israel's largest forest. Drought-resistant species of trees -- Aleppo pine, Acacia, Eucalyptus, Carob -- are used here because the shallow soil common to the area is where they thrive.

As we drive through this hilly, parched-looking region -- covered with rolling outcroppings of yellowish, unappealing-looking sand -- it does seem miraculous that anything could take root, let alone sprout so greenly and head so determinedly for the light.

It's not for nothing, Kedem told us, that Israel is one of the few countries in the world that had more trees at the end of the 20th century than it had at its start.

This ideal will continue in the new millennium. This year, KKL-JNF wants to plant 7 million trees, in the cities especially, to help cool them naturally so the demand for air-conditioning might lessen.

And officials also told us that in the fight to combat global warming, a combination of money, land and knowledge will have to be applied. Israel is the country with the know-how, especially about what trees can accomplish, and it plans to export this expertise as often as it can.

'Best Produce in the World'

But perhaps even more astonishing is what we see on the way farther south, when we stumble upon the Yair Research and Development Center, which is that day sponsoring its annual R&D event. The center is owned by the region, though 50 percent of its funding comes from KKL-JNF. Once a year, the center has this open house to show local farmers what they've discovered.

Ronit Ratner, who's lived and worked for 30 years in this, the Arava region, running a pepper farm as part of Moshav Paran, addresses the group in an open-air space on this cloudy, soggy day.

"Most of the time -- 360 days of the year -- it's sunny here, even in winter," she says. "I can't believe it's cloudy. But things have changed. Recently, we had 9 millimeters of rain in one day. On average, we have 20 millimeters a year. And we had a terrible frost that did lots of damage to our crops. But we'll start again next year.

"Generally, in the last week in July, we plant the seedlings, we irrigate, and then by November we have the best produce in the world. In fact, 60 percent of the fresh vegetables and flowers exported from Israel came from this region.

"And here, there's a lack of arable land. We have a good sandy soil, but it's limited. So we're doing research with what's called soil-less culture -- perlite -- and we use drippers to irrigate. The soil only provides the base for the roots. All else has to be provided.

"We have to use our soil very smartly since this is the emptiest place in Israel. Soil-less is very efficient. It can be irrigated frequently without causing problems. And it has brought us to market with a cleaner product."

She escorts us around the fairgrounds, which is packed with people and has a festive, carnival air. As we walk, we marvel at the size and color of the vegetables and flowers grown in row after row of long, narrow soil-less containers, all shielded from the sun by yards of white tenting stretched high above them.

We soon head south toward Eilat.

In a matter of miles, we pass row upon row of the kind of white tenting we'd seen at the fair, filled with vegetation of all sorts. The tents stand in the middle of nowhere, the only thing to be seen for miles. In such dry, open spaces, you won't survive, Ratner had said, if you're not a dreamer. It's not an easy place, she'd added with a wry smile.

Farmers are at the mercy of the elements, especially the strange quirks that global warming appears to be having on the environment. But perhaps it's here, in these inhospitable stretches -- deep in the Negev, as Israeli founding father and first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion had hoped -- that the new Zionism is being carefully tilled, and has even begun bearing some of its finest fruit.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Make Your Shabbat “Green” With JNF!

Make Your Shabbat “Green” With JNF!

April 4-6 marks the first JNF GoNeutral Shabbat and Make a Difference Day. Join synagogues, schools and communities all across the country by celebrating Shabbat in an eco-friendly way and learning about the connection between Judaism, Israel and the environment. JNF has an online guide for you to use that includes ideas for having a “green” Shabbat dinner, sermons and text for study at services, as well as ideas for projects and discussions that can be held after Shabbat. This weekend is a great way to make your commitment to “GoNeutral” in 2008. Visit to register and learn more about this new program. All registered organizations will receive a JNF GoNeutral tote bag and a certificate of participation.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A down-to-earth connection with Israel

A down-to-earth connection with Israel


I don't often go around advertising how passionate I am about preserving the environment, and thus the world, for future generations. Somehow, in the face of hunger, wars and violence, it seems trite to express passion about ecosystems.

But, I do care about ecosystems. I care about them on a selfish level because I love nature and being outdoors and I want to hand a beautiful world to my grandchildren and their grandchildren. Even more importantly, I care about ecosystems because everything in our world is linked. The examples are everywhere we look. We put fertilizer on our lawns and the excess nitrogen ends up in the dead zone of the Gulf of Mexico where algae is destroying thousands of miles of ocean. The carbon we emit by the use of fossil fuels is causing the earth to warm and the polar ice caps to melt. The list goes on and on and on. Every ecosystem is related, and in the real world you can't have paradise in a vacuum.

Probably twenty years ago, I was reading Sierra, the publication of the Sierra Club. I was reading the little ads at the back of the publication when I came across an ad for an organization that was working on environmental issues in Israel. It turned out it was Jewish National Fund (JNF). I knew how JNF had purchased land in Israel piece-by-piece in the name of the Jewish people. I had planted trees, but it wasn't until I read that ad that I began to realize what an important environmental organization JNF is. All the pieces fell together. Here was an organization that spoke both to my Jewish and environmental yearnings. The more I learn about JNF, the more impressed I am with what it is accomplishing.

We (JNF) planted forests, but now we know we need to plant forests with diversification. We are reclaiming wetlands. We are providing crucial resting sites for migrating birds. We are leaders in water conservation, cleaning up polluted rivers, and building reservoirs to recycle water for agricultural use. We are using the best methods to push back the desert and make it habitable while remaining acutely aware of the need to do so this in a sustainable manner.

Recently, JNF launched a Web site to help individuals offset their carbon footprint. You can go to the JNF GoNeutral web page and calculate your personal yearly carbon emissions. It's like getting on a scale! You don't want to tell anyone the number that shows up. The beauty is you get immediate guilt-relief by purchasing trees to offset your yearly carbon emissions. Then, of course, you can consider how you want to lower your carbon emissions number.

Martin Luther King, of blessed memory, isn't the only one who had a dream. I dream of Israel, at peace with her neighbors, exporting environmental practices that can literally save the environment of our Earth and I look at JNF with pride. As a non-governmental organization at the United Nations, JNF generously shares what it knows with the rest of the world and is also a founding member of the International Arid Land Consortium, an organization comprised of six U.S. universities, Jordan, and Egypt, dedicated to exploring the problems and solutions unique to arid and semiarid regions. It is enough to make an American environmentalist pay attention. It is enough to make a Jewish American environmentalist kvell with pride and feel hopeful for the future.

Please seriously consider supporting the work of JNF. You will truly feel you are accomplishing something good for the planet.

Fran Cantor is a member of the St. Louis JNF Board and past president of Solomon Schechter Day School of St. Louis. She and her husband, Harvey, reside in Creve Coeur where she served as chair of the Recycling, Environment and Beautification Committee.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Israeli energy initiative makes climate change a social cause

Israeli energy initiative makes climate change a social cause

By Karin Kloosterman
January 31, 2008

For every car that drives, every plane that flies and every appliance that gets plugged into the wall, a price is paid by the environment. The burning of fossil fuels for use in transport, industry and our day-to-day lives, emits carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Al Gore has exposed the effects of global warming at great lengths. And some activists around the world - like those from Israel's Good Energy Initiative - think that there is still time to turn around, or at least stop, the acceleration of climate change.

The Good Energy Initiative, a non-profit organization, is the first and only voluntary carbon offset provider in Israel. Through donations, it lets people and organizations neutralize their "carbon footprint" by funnelling cash investments into local grassroots educational and social projects. Carbon offset money also goes toward developing new alternative energy projects.

This term carbon neutral is used when the amount of greenhouse gases one emits (a carbon footprint), is balanced either through the purchase of offsets, or by greenhouse gas reduction practices.

The Israeli project is unique because its offset projects are all based locally, and have a strong social element. Not only does the organization plan to reduce greenhouses gases emitted locally, it educates schoolchildren about global warming, alleviates pressures on marginalized communities, and creates new alternative energy projects.

By working locally, the initiative may also have profound implications for peace building, too. What normally happens in carbon offsetting initiatives is that projects are carried out elsewhere, often in developing nations.

But for $6 a pound, one can neutralize your carbon footprint through Good Energy and know that the projects are being monitored closely. The group currently appeals for donations from conference organizers, the media, and even those flying to the Holy Land on mission trips.

Since it was founded a year ago by environmental entrepreneur Eyal Biger, who specializes in biological fuel alternatives, the initiative has helped a number of local businesses go carbon neutral. The list includes The Marker, a Hebrew language business daily; and the organization is currently advising coffee chain Aroma Israel, how to become carbon neutral.

The offset money goes to a number of local projects, and includes an effort to reduce emissions by replacing boilers with solar heating systems in apartment buildings. The group has supplied solar energy systems for cancer-stricken children in Bedouin settlements. In lieu of diesel generators, their parents now use a non-polluting means to keep medicine cool.

Good Energy is also running an organic waste composting program for communities and public entities; and has developed a regional incandescent-to-CFL bulb campaign.

"Ours is a social venture. Our only profit is the social profit," Tom Brecher, environmental advisor at Good Energy tells ISRAEL21c.

The Good Energy Initiative owes its start in life to the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership, Israel's premiere environment education center. Heschel will support Good Energy until next year.

This particular project is "super innovative" says Heschel's resource developer David Pearlman Paran. "It is breaking new ground in Israel. Its focus on social initiatives is fairly uncommon," he says, and it adds value by "improving energy efficiency and society."

How does Good Energy compare to other offset organizations in the rest of the world? "It is up to speed, and in some ways it is far ahead," replies Paran.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hillel celebrates tree festival

Our GoNeutral campaign was also featured in The Daily Collegian at Penn State. Check it out here.

"This year, between the blessings of the festival, different facts about the environment were read to put an extra emphasis on environmental consciousness. Gernett said the Jewish National Fund and Hasbara, two pro-Israel groups, used the seder to inform people about a carbon offsetting competition. Hillel is trying to raise $400 for the fundraising competition."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Newt Gingrich's Contract With The Earth

Below are some of our favorite and most informative snippets from Newt Gingrich's book Contract With The Earth. These encompass some of the ideals of JNF GoNeutral.

“Clearly, from a boomer’s perspective, the earth needs our help. We recognize a call to action that affects the future of life on this planet. We easily embrace a cause that will make life better for our children and secure our future. To protect the next generation, baby boomers are prepared to commit time, energy, and expense. Like war, however, we must demand a complete and decisive victory.”

“Americans must reach a broad-based agreement on the environment. Adversarial politics has prevented a strategic consensus from driving our nation’s environmental vision. As a result, we have become a conflicted, confused, and timid polity when it comes to environmental concerns. Historically, America has been a decisive nation. We must now take the necessary steps to return our country to a position of leadership on the environment. It is not too late to make a difference.”

“No single enterprise, event, or idea will renew the earth. Instead, I believe it will take a movement composed of dedicated citizens who can see the world in a new way and who will work together to bring about revolutionary changes in the way we conduct our lives.”

“Our environment’s current state represents both a unique challenge and a golden opportunity. If we respond with the ingenuity and diligence consistent with our national heritage and our sense of duty, we will not begin to resolve our environmental problems, but we will also launch an unprecedented epoch of economic prosperity. No person or entity, especially the business community, can afford to sit on the sidelines as our natural resources are squandered and degraded.”

“America will benefit economically and culturally from fostering partnerships that generate new environmental business opportunities. Working together, responsible environmental groups, neighborhoods, governments, small businesses, and major corporations will shape a future bound by a common cause—the environment—and against the common foes of inertia, indifference, and apathy.”

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Jewish National Fund: Reversing The Donor Aging Process

JNF GoNeutral was recently featured in TheNonProfit Times. You can access the article here.

The article notes:

The accompanying Web site is fresher and edgier than JNF's main site, and the campain is featured on social networks.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Converting to Green: How many skeptics does it take to screw in a CFL light bulb?

Converting to Green: How many skeptics does it take to screw in a CFL light bulb?

By Howard Gordon

All right, I admit it. When it came to believing that I could make a difference in the fight to stop global warming, I was a skeptic. Sure, I drove a Prius, and I dutifully deposited my Fiji bottles in the nearest blue recycling bin. But the truth is, I mostly did these things to make my wife, Cami, feel better. She's been such a true believer for such a long time that I had no real choice in the matter if I wanted to keep the peace at home.

So I humored her passionate activism, I indulged her fears in the dire predictions being offered up daily by scientists and by the media. Not that I didn't believe that our consumer society is on the fast track to destroying the planet -- I just didn't think that anything I did was going to derail the inevitable.

On more than one occasion, I slipped and admitted to my wife my true feelings on the subject. That we were hypocrites. Limousine liberals. Driving a Prius might make us feel better about ourselves, but it didn't compensate for all the carbon we were emitting by employing the small army of people who help maintain our not-so-modest home -- from gardeners to house cleaners to handymen. These are people who commute from faraway places in cars far less efficient than ours. If we really wanted to reduce our carbon footprint, we should sell our house, move into a high-rise, and take public transportation.

We had this argument at least a dozen times. And each time, my wife held her ground, insisting that doing something was better than doing nothing. She said if everyone did something, it would make a difference.

So I'd grudgingly go back to carrying my own canvas bags to the supermarket, unplugging my cellphone charger, even trading in my Fiji water for a refillable aluminum bottle. Until one day, the light bulb went off over my own head. Literally.

I was replacing an incandescent bulb with a more efficient compact fluorescent bulb, and when I turned it on to test it, I suddenly realized that the skepticism I'd been carrying with me for all this time had given way to something else. Something that felt a lot like satisfaction. The solution was never going to come all at once; it was a process. By doing these small things, however reluctantly, I'd begun to believe that I really was making a difference. And that was the whole point of doing something, of doing anything that contributed to the solution.

Having taken these few halting, reluctant steps, I found myself looking forward to taking more steps. Carrying the canvas bags to the supermarket stopped feeling like a hassle. I went out of my way to carpool with people I knew were attending school events and business meetings. I had solar panels installed at our house. I even headed up an effort to make more energy efficient the physical production of the television show I produce, "24," as part of News Corp.'s Cool Climate Change initiative. I'd finally joined Cami on what had been, until now, her solo journey.

Perhaps most significantly, I realized that our actions, small and large, were starting to change the behavior of the people around us. Because we've been making choices to reduce our carbon footprint, the people around us are starting to take their own first steps to reduce theirs. Our children are getting pretty good at turning off the lights when they're not in a room, and turning down the heat. Some of our friends have started replacing their incandescent bulbs with CFLs.

Now and again, that familiar skepticism comes back. Bringing my own mug to Starbucks still doesn't seem like much of an answer to the massively rising energy consumption happening in India and China. And I'm waiting for a DWP audit to find out how much energy those solar panels of mine are really producing. But even if it doesn't turn out to be as much as I'd like, we're still doing better than we would have been doing without them -- and not nearly as good as I hope we'll all be doing in the future.