By Yannai Kranzler
If you’re like me, you’re lifestyle has yet to be “Carbon Audited.” You might even be a bit put off by anything calling itself “An Audit.” But James Murray-White, a journalist and carbon or “green” auditor from Jerusalem is anything but imposing, and with a kind heart, concerned eyes and super-good humor, James is just the type of guy you’d want to come examine your lifestyle and suggest how to green it up.
Green Auditor, James Murray-White
Murray-White describes himself as an “Optimistic Hippie” who “Believes in the potential of people.” He was kind enough to answer some of our questions at Climate of Change.
Yannai K: Can you explain a little bit about what a Green Audit is?
James M.W.: A Green Audit is an interactive assessment of how to live one’s life more greenly – in consideration for the environment.
When an individual makes the link between human lifestyle and the shift in the planetary-environmental conditions, that’s where the carbon auditor comes in: to help individuals and families and business’s have a look at their lifestyles and how we’re all responsible for our energy use.
YK: How did you personally get into Green Auditing?
JMW: It’s relatively common in the UK. I was living in Bristol- a dynamic, green city. It’s like the bicycle capital of the UK. And I saw much of the affluent crowd opting not to own cars.
Getting inspired and coming here, I started thinking: Well, how can I make a contribution to Israeli society? I thought, I haven’t met anyone yet who gets brought in as a consultant to do carbon auditing, so I thought, I’ll do it- and I started on our house.
I officially got started with Mercaz Magshimim, part of the Hadassah Organization, which pioneered a scheme to support green activists. I began by auditing the lifestyles of the organizers of the program, Devorah Liss and Shoshana Finkelman.
YK: How does an audit work- What’s the process?
JMW: I use two existing models- a British and an American one, and am adapting them for Israel.
I go to the client’s home and use a series of questions:
How’s your yearly electricity usage? How do you shower? Do you use a dud shemesh (Solar water heater)? How much rubbish do you have per week- how many bags? Do you recycle? What do you recycle? Do you use energy bulbs? Energy bulbs around the house take out 200 kilos of carbon.
Then we move on to food- Does the individual have a meat-based diet? How much imported food do they eat?
Central heating is a big one. Is it gas or electricity? Is there insulation? What’s the condition of the boiler? A boiler 15 years old, for example, could be costing you 15% more in carbon.
Next comes transportation: Do you drive? How much do you walk? Do you own a car? How often do you fly? Many of the people I audit fly- so we then get into discussions about carbon offsetting. I recommend a few offsetters. I fly every couple of months and believe in paying for offsetting my flights- it’s the least I can do.
Eventually, I use a series of figures to translate the answers into tons of emitted carbon and water used.
Further questions involve shopping habits, cleaning products and so forth. I draw up a report of the audit, and email it back to the family, together with recommendations how they can improve energy efficiency. I bring a little cloth goodie bag with some light bulbs and little gadgets to save energy and water.
I’ve done about 12 family audits and one business audit, of an environmental organization- I won’t say which one. I had a fascinating time- The organization is a carbon disaster!
YK: Can you give us some tips?
At home, we use a “water butt,” and we got the plumber to put an outpipe from the washing machine and the dishwasher, to gather water into the water butt and we water our garden.
JMW: Assuming that not everyone’s ready to redo the plumbing, what else do you recommend?
Look at your job. Is there any way you can work at home for a day? Can you get to work a different way? Bus? CarShare? Train?
One of the most basic things, but we all do it, is leaving the heat on with the window open. It’s basic things like that.
YK: Do your audit recommendations end up saving people money?
YK: Is there a relationship between James the journalist, and James the Green Auditor?
JMW: As a journalist, I’m not interested in reporting on the war in Gaza, or politics. I’ve got no dreams of being a BBC war correspondent. I’m fascinated with currents of change in society, in the process of change- and that gets me to carbon auditing.
I also get to ask questions of professionals in the field. This is wonderful! I just met with Professor Pinhas Alpert, in the Geophysics Department at Tel Aviv University and the head of NASA in Israel. I got to spend a day hearing hard science, from a guy who is immersed in studying clouds, and seeing on the ground what they’re doing.
YK: From a journalist and green auditor’s perspective, what’s your prognosis of Israel from a green point of view?
JMW: There’s definitely a strong consciousness here, but I see it in pockets. I meet people on a daily basis, doing interesting green things. Massive cleantech innovations. Water research.
In England, it would be unthinkable for a party to run in a general election without it being in their written manifesto, how they will deal with climate change, and emissions. A lot of people care and migrate between parties on environmental issues. The previous Mayor of London, Ken Livingston, offered a complimentary green audit for every house in London, within his campaign for reelection last year.
But then again, that redoubles our efforts. We can cut down carbon use, and we can think about carbon reduction. And we can save water. Because we have to. We clearly have to.
James Murray-White is a freelance journalist from Cambridge, UK (“Scottish roots,” he adds), with a background as an actor, director and playwright- he’s currently engaged in a long-term documentary film project with the Bedouin of the Negev Desert. A Masters’ graduate in Human Ecology, James sees himself as an anthropologist, as well. He is a proud contributing editor and reviews editor for www.greenprophet.com, Israel’s premier English-language green website.
To contact James and to find out more about ordering a green audit for your home, business and lifestyle, contact James Murray-White at James@Sky-Larking.com.
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