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Reclaimed Wood Lets Media Congregation Build Eco-Friendly Gaga Court

by: draab

Mon Dec 16, 2013 at 12:03:47 PM EST


Hebrew School teacher Alex Dresner and students enjoy Congregation Beth Israel's new, eco-friendly gaga court. Photo: Mark Cary.
When Media, PA-based Congregation Beth Israel asked for an eco-friendly alternative to pressure treated lumber, the answer was waiting in the wood yard at Manayunk Timber.  

Beth Israel was ready to build a wood-sided court for gaga, a dodgeball-like game imported from Israel.  But pressure treated lumber can leach harmful chemicals into the soil, while untreated lumber would soon need to be replaced.  Years of planning and fund-raising were at stake.

Connections from his family woodworking business led Beth Israel member Andy Bennett to Manayunk Timber, which sells wood salvaged from 19th century Philadelphia buildings and from trees recently downed by storms or during construction.   The yard at 5100 Umbria Street in Philadelphia held a stock of black locust, a native hardwood so naturally durable it is traditionally used for fence posts and railings.  Manayunk Timber prepared more than a half-ton of wood for Beth Israel, providing a chemical-free, locally-sourced solution that will withstand years of fierce gaga competition.

"The options at the time were white oak or black locust," said Bennett.  "I chose the black locust because of the available log thickness and the attractive grain of the wood.  When you buy pressure treated wood from the lumber yard the cost savings is about 1/3 but the return on investment is priceless when going green.  Other options of environmentally friendly wood would have cost about 25% more.  Not only do you get a more environmentally friendly option but the wood is much harder, the grain is prettier, and you get a full thickness of 1 1/2".  The 1 1/2" lumber at the local lumber yard is really only 1 1/4" thick."

"Steve [Ebner, the owner] at Manayunk Timber was great at helping to plan the quantity of wood needed and the sizes the trees would yield," said Bennett.  "This helped us plan the actual size of the court.  They cut the wood to size, to the thickness needed, and planed the faces to a usable tolerance."  

Manayunk Timber converts high quality, old growth timber into custom lumber for restoration, renovation, wood working, and new construction.   The company also produces timber frame buildings and custom furniture.  Offerings include pieces made from historic beer tanks of old growth tidewater red cypress, white cedar, and redwood salvaged in 1985 from Ortlieb's and Schmidt's breweries.  

Because it harvests local wood, Manayunk Timber uses very little energy in transporting the raw material to its yard and turning it into unique, beautiful lumber with minimal waste.   The company has operated since 1984 and is Philadelphia's only saw mill offering exclusively sustainable lumber.

"We were delighted to find a chemical-free wood that met our needs and was beautiful as well," said Helene Cohen, the principal of the Hebrew School.  "Using reclaimed lumber from a local mill ensured the project had the minimum environmental impact, making the gaga court an object lesson in how quality and sustainability can go hand-in-hand."

The gaga court is part of Beth Israel's continuing commitment to environmental responsibility.  Other projects have included a major renovation of the synagogue's heating system, more efficient lighting systems, expanded recycling, participation in the interfaith teen program Walking the Walk, and incorporation of environmental themes in community action, education and religious programs.  Beth Israel has recently joined GreenFaith, an interfaith program for environmental leadership that will touch all aspects of the congregation and its membership.

Congregation Beth Israel is the second oldest congregation in Delaware County and the oldest Reconstructionist congregation in the Philadelphia metropolitan area.  It moved to its present location at 542 South New Middletown Road in 1997.  For more information, visit www.bethisraelmedia.org.

For more information about Manayunk Timber, visit www.manayunktimber.com, email phillypine@aol.com, or call (215) 834-4299.

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Congregation Beth Israel Joins GreenFaith Environmental Program

by: draab

Wed Oct 16, 2013 at 13:55:21 PM EDT


Temple Shalom of Aberdeen, N.J., another participant of the program, working with young members of the congregation to plant seeds in the community garden.
Congregation Beth Israel, a Reconstructionist Jewish community based in Media, Pennsylvania, has announced its participation in the GreenFaith interfaith program for environmental leadership. Beth Israel is the first Reconstructionist congregation to join the GreenFaith certification program, joining more than 65 other houses of worship.

The GreenFaith program follows a two-year certification process that includes programs for spiritual practices, physical stewardship, and environmental justice. Beth Israel has already completed several audits of its energy usage, waste handling, and grounds maintenance.  

The synagogue recently completed an overhaul of its heating systems which included conversion of the heating plant from oil to gas, replacement of old inefficient equipment and upgrade of the building's controls and zoning capabilities. The results:

  • a better heat delivery;
  • a projected 30% reduction in fuel usage and related emissions; and
  • an expected reduction of more than three-quarters in heating costs.
All of this will save more than $10,000 per year.

More after the jump.

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Jewish Groups Praise New Environmental Protection Agency Rules

by: Contributing Writer

Tue Sep 24, 2013 at 07:24:28 AM EDT


The new rule sets separate standards for emissions from coal plants and natural gas plants. Coal plant in Rochester, Minn.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) applauded yesterday the Environmental Protection Agency's release on Friday, of a revised standard limiting carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants.

"Carbon dioxide emissions are the leading cause of climate change, which is one of the great moral challenges of our time," said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. "This proposal takes an important step towards addressing the effects that our electricity generation can have on the Earth and human health."

COEJL and the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism collected hundreds of signatures from the Jewish community in favor of the original rule proposed last year. The new rule responds to concerns raised in public comments to the prior proposal, by setting separate standards for emissions from coal plants and natural gas plants, and providing flexibility for industry while achieving similar outcomes.  

More after the jump.

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Off Green: Papering Over Our Environmental Problems

by: Publisher

Wed Jul 17, 2013 at 23:27:35 PM EDT

How has the surface temperature of Earth been changing?
This video dramatizes 130 years of planet-wide temperature changes relative to the local average temperatures. Red means warmer and blue means colder. Global climate change is of more than passing interest — it is linked to global weather severity and coastal sea water levels. (Astronomy Picture of the Day.)


DILBERT ©2013 Scott Adams. Used by permission of Universal Uclick. All rights reserved.

This is the second installment of a series of articles giving examples of "green" initiatives that do little other than distract, along with ideas about what we should be doing instead.

Trees are the lungs of our planet. Carbon dioxide levels rise and fall in an annual cycle, as plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. As forested land is depleted, our planet loses its natural ability to mitigate the damage that we are doing to the atmosphere.

Accordingly, we should avoid cutting down trees whenever possible, but it should be done in a way that makes sense.

Our School Will No Longer Be Printing Out Forms To Send Home

Each summer I have to fill out numerous forms with the same information for my children's camps, schools and afterschool programs, the PTO, etc. However, one of the schools has announced that it was "going green," and would no longer be printing out the required forms. Instead, parents would have to go online to find them.

I was delighted to hear this, and imagined that I would go online and see an online form which would be pre-populated with my data from last year which I could review, correct and then approve by clicking on a button. However, that is not exactly what the school had in mind. The forms were not to be submitted online, but instead needed to be printed out by the parents, completed by hand and mailed in.

Somehow, parents print out their own forms does not strike me as any "greener" than the old system, where the school would print it out for us. The only difference is who pays for the copies.

The story of "Offgreen" banking, and ideas on how to do better follow the jump.

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Off Green: Distractions on the Road to Saving the Environment

by: Publisher

Wed Jul 17, 2013 at 15:58:16 PM EDT

Fighting the climate change is probably the most important issue facing our generation. Many people of good will would like to do their part to address this problem, but don't really know where to start from.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of disinformation out there, which leads people to take steps that might make them feel "green," but don't really help much, if at all.

Accordingly, this is the first of a series of articles giving examples of "green" initiatives that do little other than distract, along with ideas about what we should be doing instead.

This installment is all about drinking water. Future articles will delve into paperwork and electricity. Please send me feedback on these articles along with your ideas.

First part of series follows the jump.

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Occasional PJVoice Contributor Arrested At White House Protest

by: Publisher

Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 09:02:36 AM EDT


— by Rabbi Arthur Waskov

Along with 14 other religious folks, clergy and committed "laity," I was arrested for standing at the White House with signs and songs, reciting the names of more than one hundred people who had been killed by one result of the climate crisis — Superstorm Sandy.

Among those arrested alongside me were Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, who teaches on social justice at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and is a member of The Shalom Center's Board; Lynne Iser, a member of the Board of Isabella Freedman retreat center; and Freyda Black, a cantor, farmer, and member of P'nai Or Fellowship in Philadelphia.

More after the jump.

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Hazon Receives Grant

by: RonitTreatman

Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 19:47:02 PM EST

Will Oversee First Formal Research on Integration of Jewish Learning with Food

— by the Hazon Staff

Recognizing the growing interest among individuals and families in experiences that integrate Jewish learning with learning about food, the environment, and the outdoors, a group of national and local funders have awarded a grant to Hazon to oversee new research in this area. Funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation, Leichtag Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, UJA-Federation of New York, and Rose Community Foundation, the research will explore how participation in immersive Jewish food, environmental, and outdoor education programs influences individuals' Jewish growth and leads to increased Jewish involvement.

More after the jump.

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The 2012-2013 Pennsylvania Budget: Areas to Improve

by: Publisher

Fri Jun 29, 2012 at 20:02:10 PM EDT

Daylin Leach— by Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach

Since the state's fiscal year ends at midnight on June 30th of each year, May and June are always a busy time when everyone in Harrisburg is scrambling to put together next year's budget. We've had tough budgets for the past four years because during a recession, demand for government services goes up while revenues coming into the state coffers go down. Unlike the federal government, we are constitutionally required to balance our budget each year, so every dollar we spend must come from a revenue source.

There are really only two ways to eliminate a budget deficit: you can either cut expenditures or raise revenues. Actually, the smartest approach is to use a balanced approach that does both prudently. Unfortunately, for the past several years — due to the political realities of Harrisburg and the fact that Governor Corbett has pledged to Grover Norquist, a lobbyist who lives in Washington, DC, that he won't increase revenues in any way — the budget has been balanced exclusively through cuts.

It is important to remember that there are many areas of the state budget that can't be cut, either due to federal or state law or contractual obligations. In some cases, if we tried to cut money from a given program, we could be sued and required by a court to spend the money with interest. In other cases, our laws force additional spending. For example, Pennsylvania's criminal code creates about 2,000 new net prisoners per year (the second highest number in the nation). This requires us to build a new prison, which costs about $300 million to build and $50 million per year to operate, every single year.

All of the cuts we can make must come from a relatively small sliver of the budget that is discretionary. This includes money for first responders, education, libraries, human services, health care for our citizens, transportation improvements and our safety net for the very poor. We have continued to go back to these same areas of funding when making deeper and deeper cuts each year.

As a result, we have now reached the point at which we are in real danger of abandoning basic government services and the citizens who rely on them. You may have read about how some of our poorer schools literally would have had to close their doors if the federal courts had not intervened and ordered us to provide additional funds. Tens of thousands of people have lost their access to healthcare, childcare facilities have had to close, and libraries are either closing or drastically cutting back their hours and programs. Schools are eliminating art and music programs, guidance counselors and tutoring; and we are opening 30,000 new natural gas rigs across the state while drastically reducing the funding for environmental inspectors charged with making sure the drilling is done safely. In short, the picture is very bleak.

Following the jump below, I am going to try to give you a fuller picture of the cuts we are facing and provide you with the alternatives for which I am fighting. In my view, we could easily raise sufficient revenue to avoid most of the worst cuts without burdening a single Pennsylvania family. We could accomplish this by, among other things, enacting a reasonable tax on the Marcellus Shale extraction that is giving energy companies billions of dollars and closing the "Delaware Loophole," which allows 70% of Pennsylvania companies to avoid paying their fare share to help our state prosper.

These and other ideas will enable us to continue providing basic services to our citizens and will ensure that Pennsylvania is a state with the educational, economic and environmental quality of life that will attract businesses and families for decades to come. I hope you find this information helpful.

A list of programs funding to be restored and funding mechanisms follow the jump.

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Ten Things Every American Jew Should Know About Mitt Romney

by: Publisher

Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 18:36:59 PM EST


Pro-life mailer sent by Romney campaign to Iowa voters


Ron Paul (R-TX) & Mitt Romney (R-MA) laugh during break at debate Jan. 23. Photo: Chris O'Meara (AP)

(NJDC) Below are ten documented things every American Jew should know about former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney; follow the links to view supporting materials.
  1. Romney emphasized recently that he would defund Planned Parenthood, and that his would "be a pro-life presidency."
  2. Questions linger surrounding the Iran-tainted assets of Romney's charity, even as President Obama places unprecedented pressure on Iran.
  3. With each passing month, Romney has disagreed more and more with the scientific consensus regarding global climate change.
  4. Romney vehemently opposed the President's contraception compromise, which will ensure that women's preventive services are widely available while addressing religious liberty concerns. This compromise was praised by groups ranging from the Catholic Health Association to the Orthodox Union.
  5. During nationally-televised debates, Romney has engaged in outright lies surrounding the President's record on Israel, and he uses Israel as a partisan wedge issue whenever possible.
  6. While 76% of Jews support gay marriage and even more support gay rights, Romney doesn't just oppose gay marriage — he has chosen to engage in gay-baiting rhetoric in front of conservative crowds.
  7. Romney told CNN, "yes, I would vote for" the anti-Israel Ron Paul for president if Paul were to become the GOP nominee.
  8. Romney's flip-flops are legendary; for example, he supported key elements of the Affordable Care Act — including the individual mandate — but he now promises to dismantle it.
  9. Romney is no moderate, at least not now. By his own description, he's "severely conservative."
  10. As the front page of The Washington Post has recently noted, Romney has formed a "strategic partnership" with the anti-Israel Ron Paul.
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Broad Jewish Leadership Signs Eco-Covenant

by: Publisher

Thu Feb 09, 2012 at 07:26:52 AM EST

— by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Yesterday, The Shalom Center and I joined with the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) in a formal signing of the "Jewish Environmental and Energy Imperative" declaration, part of its Jewish Energy Covenant Campaign. Leaders from a broad spectrum of the Jewish community set the community-wide goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 14% by 2014.

More after the jump.

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Jewish Leaders Commit To Reduce Energy Use

by: Publisher

Wed Feb 08, 2012 at 21:03:53 PM EST


Leaders across the political and religious spectrum celebrate Tu B'shvat by setting goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 14% by 2014.

— by Vicki Stearn

The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) today announced that a diverse group of community leaders has joined its Jewish Energy Covenant Campaign by signing the "Jewish Environment and Energy Imperative" declaration. Rabbis from the Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Reform and Renewal movements and other communal leaders set the goal of significantly lowering greenhouse-gas emissions, advocating for energy independence and security, and reducing the Jewish community's energy consumption 14% by 2014.  The official signing ceremony at Manhattan's 14th Street Y preceded Tu B'Shvat, the Jewish new year for trees.

The declaration states:

The need to transform the world's energy economy while addressing global climate change is not only a religious and moral imperative, it is a strategy for security and survival.

Each of us — as Jews, people of faith and Americans — has a personal responsibility to work toward lowering greenhouse-gas emissions and decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels," said Rabbi Steve Gutow, COEJL co-chair, and president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. "This responsibility starts in our hearts and from there we must care for our homes, places of worship and institutional buildings.

More after the jump.

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How Green is Your Campus?

by: leebarzel

Tue Sep 06, 2011 at 22:06:25 PM EDT

-- by Hannah Lee

I returned home from a sojourn in California, engaged with sustainability issues, to receive the new issue of Sierra, the bimonthly publication of the Sierra Club.  The article that caught my eye was Dig In, its annual ranking of the environmental standing of  U.S. universities.  This year, they reached beyond the classrooms to assess "what lessons are learned when the classroom walls fall away."  

The top of the class this year is

  1. The University of Washington, Seattle, Washington. Its score on the Sierra survey was 81.2.
Every building [at the University of Washington] completed since 2006 has earned a Gold accreditation from the  Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building certification system.  All of its appliances are Energy-Star rated and the hydro-powered campus runs three farms, an extensive recycling program, and the "conservation-research hotbed Pack Forest."

UW's Paccar Hall (see picture) achieved LEED certification for energy use, lighting, water and material use as well as incorporating a variety of other sustainable strategies. By using less energy and water, LEED certified building save money for families, businesses and taxpayers; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community.

More after the jump.

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Giving Back, Going Green and Growing Bigger

by: Publisher

Thu Aug 25, 2011 at 16:39:48 PM EDT

-- by Alicia Zimbalist

Foundation for Jewish Camp Presents Summer 2011 Trends

As summer 2011 winds down and record numbers of kids are coming home from Jewish camp, parents all over North America are wondering: What did my child do this summer at camp?  The Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) is pleased to share that amidst the lip dubs and flash mobs, campfire sing-alongs and Maccabiah competitions, kids of all ages were participating in a variety of amazing and inspiring activities at nonprofit Jewish overnight camps this summer.

More than 70,000 children and 10,000 counselors experienced overnight Jewish summer camp this year.  Over 10,000 of these campers did so with a need-blind incentive grant from FJC's One Happy Camper program (OHC).  OHC works in partnership with over 67 organizations including Jewish federations, foundations, national camp movements, individual camps, the Jim Joseph Foundation (JWest), and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation's PJ Library program (PJ Goes to Camp) to provide $700-1500 to families for their first, and sometimes second, summer at one of over 150 nonprofit Jewish overnight camps.

More after the jump.

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Four Jewish Summer Camps Sell "Fracking Rights"

by: Publisher

Wed Aug 24, 2011 at 14:20:55 PM EDT


Camps Endanger Drinking Water, Food, Health & Climate

-- by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

The Forward reported that the following four Jewish summer camps in Pennsylvania have signed leases with gas exploration companies to allow "fracking" —  the hydro-fracturing method of pouring tons of highly chemicalized water to smash shale rocks into releasing natural gas.

  • Starlight's Perlman Camp, which is owned and operated by B'nai B'rith;
  • Camps Nesher and Shoshanim, which share a property in Lakewood and are owned and operated by the New Jersey Federation of YMHA and YWHA; and
  • Camp Morasha, an independent camp in Lakewood.
The Forward reports that
Fracking of a single well creates more than one million gallons of wastewater awash in pollutants, including some radioactive materials.  According to a February report in The New York Times, state and federal documents show that the waste water is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water.

The Shalom Center views it as a profound violation of Jewish wisdom and values for summer camps or other Jewish institutions to sell the rights to use their land in ways that will poison  God's and humanity's earth, air, food, and water.

More on actions you can take to halt this after the jump.

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A Lesson in Sustainability from the Makers of Notre Dame

by: Publisher

Tue Jul 12, 2011 at 07:01:07 AM EDT

-- Dr. Daniel E. Loeb

My writing has been scarce recently because of a family vacation to France for my niece's Bat Mitzvah. However, an important lesson occurred to me yesterday while cruising down the Seine on a charming bateau mouche.

First, I was reminded that the Cathedral Notre Dame took nearly 200 years to construct (1163-1345 CE). Building such an enormous edifice without modern technology is a monument to the dedication and vision of the people and the church at that time.  Bishop de Sully devoted most of his life and his wealth to a project whose fruition he would never witness. However, the logic of time inspired people to attain immortality by devoting themselves to works of timeless grandeur.

Today, consumers demand immediate satisfaction for their desires. CEOs look no further than the balance sheet on their next quarterly report. And politicians are concerned only with the upcoming election (as well as the quarter-to-quarter fundraising battle and the daily poll tracking numbers associated with it).

More after the jump.

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Red, White, Blue … and Green

by: Contributing Writer

Fri Jul 01, 2011 at 17:58:56 PM EDT

How to make your barbecue more environmentally friendly.

--by Misty Edgecomb

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 60 million Americans get together with their friends and families barbecues on the Fourth of July. Good times, for sure, but to what impact on the environment?

These millions of grills release some 225,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, burn the equivalent of 2,300 acres of forest, and consume the same amount of energy as the city of Flagstaff, Arizona, uses in a whole year.

Big consequences. So what to do?  The Nature Conservancy is offering 10 tips for eco-friendly celebrations, so you can have yourself a green barbecue this Fourth of July and all summer long!

Top 10 Ways to Green Your BBQ Party (in no particular order):

1. Use reusable or biodegradable plates and utensils. If you can't find those, at least go for products made from 100 percent recycled materials. Remember that your biodegradable plates will need to be cleaned before going in the compost bin- ketchup, hamburger grease and other-non-veggie food matter doesn't compost.
2. Fill up pitchers of water, homemade lemonade and iced tea instead of buying huge quantities of personal-sized beverage containers.
3. If you take heed of tip #2, you'll need to provide cups. If you use plastic or paper cups, provide markers at the drink counter so people can write their names on their cups- and therefore not use more than one.
4. And even if you follow tip #2, you're likely to have beer and other individual-sized beverages in a cooler. Encourage recycling by putting out easily identifiable bins- you'll find fewer bottles and cans smeared with ketchup in the garbage.
5. Grill locally grown fruits and vegetables. While local doesn't necessarily mean organic, small farms are often more likely to be more sustainable and pesticide-free.

More after the jump.

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Red, White, Blue … and Green

by: Contributing Writer

Fri Jul 01, 2011 at 17:36:42 PM EDT

How to make your barbecue more environmentally friendly.

--by Misty Edgecomb

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 60 million Americans get together with their friends and families barbecues on the Fourth of July. Good times, for sure, but to what impact on the environment?

These millions of grills release some 225,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, burn the equivalent of 2,300 acres of forest, and consume the same amount of energy as the city of Flagstaff, Arizona, uses in a whole year.

Big consequences. So what to do?  The Nature Conservancy is offering 10 tips for eco-friendly celebrations, so you can have yourself a green barbecue this Fourth of July and all summer long!

Top 10 Ways to Green Your BBQ Party (in no particular order):

1. Use reusable or biodegradable plates and utensils. If you can't find those, at least go for products made from 100 percent recycled materials. Remember that your biodegradable plates will need to be cleaned before going in the compost bin- ketchup, hamburger grease and other-non-veggie food matter doesn't compost.
2. Fill up pitchers of water, homemade lemonade and iced tea instead of buying huge quantities of personal-sized beverage containers.
3. If you take heed of tip #2, you'll need to provide cups. If you use plastic or paper cups, provide markers at the drink counter so people can write their names on their cups- and therefore not use more than one.
4. And even if you follow tip #2, you're likely to have beer and other individual-sized beverages in a cooler. Encourage recycling by putting out easily identifiable bins- you'll find fewer bottles and cans smeared with ketchup in the garbage.
5. Grill locally grown fruits and vegetables. While local doesn't necessarily mean organic, small farms are often more likely to be more sustainable and pesticide-free.

More after the jump.

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Reform Movement Commends Senate Vote Supporting EPA

by: Publisher

Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 22:11:08 PM EDT

-- Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Wednesday's votes on Capitol Hill show us that it is possible to win the battle for clean air, but also how hard that battle will be.

We commend the Senate for voting against measures to prevent the EPA from doing its job of protecting the public from air pollution. At the same time, we are greatly disappointed by the House vote to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.

Over the 41 years since it was first enacted, the Clean Air Act has contributed to improving our air quality, saving and enhancing untold lives that would otherwise have suffered with respiratory and other pollution-related ailments such as asthma, heart and lung disease.

Despite these successes, some in Congress are determined to strip the EPA of its ability to regulate greenhouses gases under the Clean Air Act; putting polluters ahead of people. The Senate's vote should be the start of an effort to ensure stronger energy and environmental policies - not a weakening of the laws that have been a keystone of American environmental and human health.

These attempts to undermine the Clean Air Act are an affront to the values and teachings that inspire us as Jews, chief among them the knowledge that it is our responsibility to till and tend the earth and not to exploit it. Now is the time to come together and urge, in the strongest possible terms, that Congress and the President enact and enforce effective energy and environmental policies, for ourselves and our children's future.

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Tu b'shvat

by: Publisher

Thu Jan 20, 2011 at 00:00:23 AM EST


Reprinted courtesy of Yaakov (Dry Bones) Kirschen www.DryBonesBlog.blogspot.com.
-- Rabbi  Arthur Waskow

Tonight is in Jewish tradition the midwinter time called "Tu B'Shvat"  for celebrating with a sacred meal of fruit, nuts, and wine the rebirth of trees and of the sacred Tree of Life that nourishes all the abundance of our planet.

(There is every reason for people of other religious and ethnic communities to join in celebrating the Earth that nourishes us all. And for some, this coming weekend may be a better time.)

In our world today, the flow of life that makes abundance possible is threatened by many Overdoings of the human race - especially by our pouring too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, heating and scorching the earth.

In the spirit of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel's teaching that "prayer is useless unless it is subversive,"  we must infuse Tu B'Shvat with some political action that protects the physical planet in which we live.  

Ideally, perhaps, in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King and Rabbi Heschel, we would hold the Seder by nonviolent direct action in the very offices of Senators who are trying to shatter the fragile defenses against climate crisis that are already in place.

But few of us are ready for that kind of action.  We propose instead, ending the Seder with a new ritual: writing, by hand, a letter to our Senators and to our local newspapers. (And you can do this any time, even without a Seder.)

We at The Shalom Center have made available a model text that our members and readers can modify and send your Senators.  You can use this letter
and we encourage you to add your own words and thoughts.

We also urge you to draw on and modify this text for a letter-to-the-editor of your own local and communal newspapers. (See the model text following the jump below.)

For more information on the mystical, intellectual, political, and physical aspects of Tu B'Shvat, see any of the articles on our website.

Blessings of shalom, salaam, peace --  Arthur
 

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Every Economic Cloud Has a Silver Lining

by: Publisher

Tue Jan 04, 2011 at 19:04:56 PM EST


National Geographic argues the need for balance across the world population in this motion graphic video.
Or at least a green one...

-- Dan Loeb

America is slowly coming out of a recession. That is good news.

Or is it?

Officially, the U.S. economy is in a recession when our Gross Domestic Product as measured by the U.S. Department of Commerce declines for two consecutive quarters. In other words, our economy has "failed" when we stop producing quite as much stuff as we used to. Apparantly, we Americans are not living up to our patriotic duties and through our consumption encouraging manufacturers to produce quite as much stuff.

Part of the problem with this analysis is that we are not including the depletion of our natural resources in our calculations. If we produce consumer products but deplete our national treasure of irreplaceable resources, consume natural resources at an unsustainable rate and ruin the environment for generations to come, are we really better off?

Some politicians would like a more robust recovery. However, if we keep the GDP growing at 5% per year, year after year, then the economy is growing exponentially.  This growth can only be supported so long in a finite world. At some point, the growth can no longer be sustained, and with a global population of over seven billion people can that day of reckoning be that far away,.

All publically traded companies aspire to build value for their shareholders. They try to maximize the discounted present value of their future revenue.

For example, suppose I own a piece of wooded land, I could clear cut the land, sell the wood to a lumber mill and the land to a real estate developer for an immediate payment of one million dollars. Alternatively, I could harvest only the maximum sustainable yield annual tree growth and thus produce, in a sustainable manner, a permanent revenue of, say fifty thousand dollars per year.



Anne Leonard's Story of Stuff is a provocative tour of our consumer-driven culture - from resource extraction to iPod incineration - exposing the real cost of our use-it and lose-it approach to stuff.

Which is better?

If the million dollars in sales are invested at an interest rate of 7%, they produce permanent revenue of seventy thousand dollars per year, so a corporation mindful of their shareholders will cover the forest with asphalt as soon as they can.

If the country is in a recession and interest rates go down to 3%, the million dollars only return thirty thousand dollars per year, so a smart corporation will engage in sustainable development preserving the forest for future generations.

By this logic, people do not plan as carefully for the future if interest rates are high. However, should our stewardship of our resources and indeed this planet truly depend on interest rates? The stakes are quite high. This logic applies not only to timberland in the Northwest United States but to the Amazon rain forest as well.

Deficit hawks tells us that by running a deficit and running up a debt which future our children and grandchildren will have to pay, we are stealing from future generations. If so, then we can make an even stronger argument about our environment. Non-renewable resources such as petroleum are like bank accounts from which we are withdrawing assets but never make any deposits. The oil we withdraw from our proven reserves are gone forever and will not be available to future generations. Similarly, when we pollute, we are saddling future generations with an environmental debt, depreciating the value of our oceans and our atmosphere to our children and grandchildren.

The Gross Domestic Product should not the be-all and end-all of our society.

  • In this calculation, we fail to address the cost to the environment of removing the carbon dioxide producing forest, and burning the trees.
  • Reusing consumer goods by repairing them or reselling them on Ebay does not contribute to the GDP, but it does just as much to maintain our American standard of living without as heavy a toll on the environment.
  • If a company pollutes the environment producing a product and then spends money partially cleaning up their own mess, the GDP is increased not only by the cost of the product but also by the cost of the cleanup. Focusing on the GDP literally encourages the creation of new "Superfund" sites.

We should act as if the interest rate were truly zero. By valuing future generations - our children and our children's children - at the same level as current generations, we may slightly reduce our gross domestic product, but we ensure adequate supplies for future generations and protect the environment.

Daniel E. Loeb publishes the Philadelphia Jewish Voice. He is also a mathematician working in mathematical finance.

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On 8 Days of Hanukkah, my True Love said to me...

by: Publisher

Wed Nov 24, 2010 at 23:09:42 PM EST

... "Help Save The Earth"

-- Rabbi Arthur Waskow

This year, the first night of Hanukkah comes unusually "early" in the solar year -- Wednesday evening, December 1. As always, it comes when the moon is dark and the Earth is moving toward the winter solstice when (in the Northern Hemisphere) the night is as long as it gets, the sun is as dark as it gets.

In this time of darkness, we kindle a gathering bank of lights. If we are feeling depressed or despairing about our country, our world, our planet -- now is the time to kindle new light.

There are three levels of wisdom through which Hanukkah invites us to address the planetary dangers of the global climate crisis - what some of us call "global scorching" because "warming" seems so pleasant, so comforting.

These are the deep teachings of Hanukkah:

More after the jump.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 717 words in story)
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