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Fulfilling the Imperative: Getting to a 14 Percent Reduction in Energy Use by 2014

By Dr. Mirele Goldsmith

Why did the Jewish Energy Covenant Campaign set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 14 percent by 2014? The year 2014 is the next shmittah, or sabbatical year. And the 14 percent reduction goal was selected because it can be achieved by every Jewish organization. For example, in a single year, Temple Beth Rishon in Wyckoff, N.J., reduced electricity usage by 30 percent and natural gas usage by 16.8 percent without purchasing new equipment.

Since most energy is produced by burning fossil fuels, nearly every activity that uses energy results in greenhouse gas emissions. This includes traveling, heating your home or office, operating office equipment such as computers and copiers, and using products that were made using energy. In other words, the bad news is that practically everything you do causes emissions. But the good news is that there are many opportunities to reduce the amount.

Start by conducting an energy audit — often available from your local utility for free — that will determine what steps you should take to reduce your electricity usage and your electricity bill. 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.

An easy first step is to switch to energy efficient lighting and to shut down equipment when not in use. Encouraging car pooling and purchasing products manufactured using less energy are other steps you can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from travel and use of manufactured products.

You can also reduce your emissions by purchasing electricity produced from renewable sources such as solar and wind, and by purchasing carbon offsets.

The U.S. government has set a goal for all federal agencies to reduce their emissions 28 percent by 2020, and for the country to reduce emissions by 83 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2050, which according to some authorities also happens to be the next yovel, or jubilee year — the year following seven shmittah cycles. If we are going to meet government targets for emissions reductions, we have to start working toward it now. Fourteen in ’14 isn’t just a catchy slogan — it’s the beginning of a Jewish response to climate change that has the potential to change the world.

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Dr. Mirele Goldsmith is the director of the Jewish Greening Fellowship, an initiative of the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, and principal of Green Strides Consulting. Her clients have included UJA-Federation of New York, BBYO International, the Foundation for Jewish Camp and the Supportive Housing Network of New York’s Green Housing Initiative. She is a Strategic Sustainability Consulting certified Green Auditor, and she serves on the boards of Hazon and the American Friends of the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership. Goldsmith is also the lead organizer of Jews Against Hydrofracking. She completed her doctorate in environmental psychology at the City University of New York.

The Jewish Energy Guide presents a comprehensive Jewish approach to the challenges of energy security and climate change and offers a blueprint for the Jewish community to achieve a 14% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by September of 2014, which is the next Shmittah, or sabbatical, year in the Jewish calendar.

The Jewish Energy Guide is part of COEJL’s Jewish Energy Network, a collaborative effort with Jewcology’s Year of Action to engage Jews in energy action and advocacy. The guide was created in partnership with the Green Zionist Alliance.

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