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 www.jnf.org/makeadifferenceday 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.