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Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions 14% by 2014

By signing the Jewish Environmental Energy Imperative Declaration you have made a commitment to join in a community-wide effort to take concrete action to significantly lower the American Jewish community’s emissions of greenhouse gases and help the nation work toward energy security. Your effort to reduce your own organization’s emissions is a critical aspect of this commitment.

What are greenhouse gases? Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are called greenhouse gases (GHG’s). Some GHG’s, such as carbon dioxide, occur naturally and are emitted through natural processes and human activities. Others are created solely by humans, such as fluorinated gases used in industrial processes. The principal greenhouse gases that enter the atmosphere because of human activities are carbon dioxide (produced by burning fossil fuels including coal, oil, and gas), methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases.

What organizational activities cause greenhouse gas emissions? Since most energy is produced by burning fossil fuels, every activity that uses energy results in greenhouse gas emissions. This includes heating your building, operating office equipment such as computers and copiers, travel, and using products that were produced using energy. In other words, the bad news is that practically everything you do causes emissions. The good news is that you have many opportunities to reduce emissions.

How do I know how much greenhouse gas emissions my organization is responsible for? Since using energy produced from fossil fuels is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions for most organizations, the declaration commits you to use your energy bills as the initial measure of your greenhouse gas emissions. This means that you can begin your effort simply by focusing on reducing your use of electricity, oil, and gas by 14%.

We recommend that your first step is to implement an energy audit, often available from your local utility for free, which will determine what steps you should take to reduce your electricity use – and your electricity bill. Later on you will measure the greenhouse gas emissions from other activities such as travel and purchasing of products such as paper.

If you lease office space, or do not pay a separate electricity bill for some other reason, your energy use can be estimated based on occupied square footage.

Although you may begin by measuring and reducing the greenhouse emissions caused by your headquarters activities, we hope that you will also create a plan to engage your member organizations and their individual members in reducing energy use.

How will we reduce our emissions? The audit will help you to identify what steps you can take to reduce energy use. The first steps are usually shutting down equipment when not in use and installing more efficient lighting. You will be surprised by how much energy you can save with these simple steps. Encouraging car pooling and purchasing products manufactured using less energy are steps you can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from travel and use of manufactured products.

You can also reduce your emissions due to use of energy by purchasing electricity produced from renewable sources such as solar and wind, and by purchasing “carbon offsets.” We will discuss these options at the briefing for sustainability liaisons.

How do I know if it is feasible to reduce our emissions by 14% by 2014? The goal of reducing energy use by 14% was selected because it can be achieved by every Jewish organization. Here are some examples:

The US government has set a goal for all federal agencies to reduce their emissions 28% by 2020, and for the United States to reduce our total emissions by 83% from 2005 levels by the year 2050. Many states, cities, universities, and corporations have set similar goals. (See references below.)

We selected the year 2014 as our initial focus primarily because we believe that it is meaningful for Jews to focus on taking action to protect the earth’s capacity for renewal in time for the next sabbatical year (Shmittah year) which takes place in 5775 (2014-2015).

How will COEJL help us achieve this goal? We recommend that when you sign the declaration you immediately designate a sustainability liaison who will lead your organization’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At COEJL’s first sustainability briefing, we will provide detailed information about how to measure your organization’s emissions, obtain an energy audit, and create a sustainability plan. COEJL will offer briefings on other subjects in the months ahead. Your sustainability liaison will also benefit from sharing information and resources with other organizations participating in the Jewish Energy Covenant Campaign.

For more information about goals for GHG emissions reductions:

For more information on Shmittah, visit Hazon’s Shmita Project website.

Sign the Covenant.

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