Archive for February, 2009

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

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?

Definitely. Completely.

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.

I think part of the problem is politics. The wider issues of security, tragically, really just get in the way, as we saw in the elections, where the green agenda was sadly wiped off the slate. Daniel Pederson summarized the environmental agendas of the different parties on Green Prophet. It was shocking to see main parties with no policy on energy and sustainability. And it looks like it’s going to be a Likud government and they don’t have an energy policy.

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 gaia-climate-changeEcology, 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.

Did you enjoy this post? We welcome you to visit our interviews page, for more great conversations with leaders and do-good-ers in the Jewish/Ecology world.

Read Full Post »

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Two things were clear from attending the International Renewable Energy Conference that took place in Eilat this week.

The first is that Israel is now a world leader in clean energy.

The second is that there is a small but growing group of players in the field who see this not just as a huge business opportunity, (though it certainly is that), but also as an ethical, or spiritual mission.

Israeli leadership in the field was manifested by a list of “firsts”, “biggest evers,” and breakthrough technologies that were heralded immediately before and during the conference. Brightsource-Luz2 announced that it had signed a contract with Southern California Edison to build the largest ever solar thermal generating field, which will produce 1.3 gigawatts in California. (more…)

Read Full Post »

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Tu B’shevat has become the de facto ” Hag Ha’ Environment,” the day on which Jews celebrate nature and showcase whatever in our traditions can be shown to celebrate the Earth and teach us how to learn in wise interconnectedness with our planet.

The connection has always seemed to me a little arbitrary. Forty years ago Jews wanted to find hooks for environmental concerns in the tradition. Enter Tu B’Shevat, an obscure, neglected semi-holiday that marked the date on which we count the ages of trees for the purposes of agricultural laws in Israel. (more…)

Read Full Post »

With Tu B’Shevat coming up (tonight and tomorrow!), we wanted to point you to our friends at Canfei Nesharim, who are offering excellent resources to help us all experience a more meaningful “New Year of the Trees.” The following is a brief description, as well as a link to the material. Enjoy! (more…)

Read Full Post »

Jewish Climate Initiative/Climate of Change‘s Rabbi Julian Sinclair’s speaking tour in the States continues for one more weekend: (more…)

Read Full Post »

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair

David and Joyce Dinkins Gardens

David and Joyce Dinkins Gardens

I met Chansee in the heart of Harlem entering the apartment building that she was just about to move into.

19-ish, just out of foster care, slight and with wide vulnerable eyes, she obviously hadn’t had an easy life. (She almost laughed in my face when I asked her if she was getting any support from her family.) But she said she was going to take the opportunity she was being offered and use it to succeed in her life, knowing that her new home was no ordinary apartment building.

When I asked her what was special about it, she replied, “I’ve never lived anywhere that had a garden. It’s so peaceful, like it’ll be a good place to get away from some of the stress in my life.” I got the impression that Chansee had had quite a lot of stress in her life.

Chansee was moving into the revolutionary David and Joyce Dinkins Gardens development in Cental Harlem. It’s a joint project of Harlem

David and Joyce Dinkins

David and Joyce Dinkins

Congregations for Community Improvement (HCCI) a consortium of ninety local churches and mosques that works for affordable housing, together with Jonathan Rose Companies, one of America’s leading green developers. Dinkins gardens is one of the first developments in the country, combining low-income housing with state-of the-art ecological design.

The building has solar panels on the roof, used green building materials including recycled glass, and individual unit ventilation systems, which means that air goes in and out of each apartment without circulating bad air and smells from all the other units, a major cause of asthma and sickness in poor housing.

There’s a roof garden on the third story. The thickness of soil helps insulate the building and improve energy efficiency. The garden at the back of the building has smooth rocks that you can relax on and plots where the residents can grow greens and squash. There are classrooms in the basement where a local college teaches construction trades training courses. In summer they move the classes to the garden.

Indeed, multiple-use spaces is a hallmark of the development company’s approach. Jonathan Rose, the founder explains to me that that enables you

Jonathan Rose

Jonathan Rose

to build high-density, reducing sprawl, but that it also creates multiple, criss-crossing relationships that build community. Contrast that with suburban development, where residential, office and retail functions are segregated and no one knows their neighbors.

Rose gives me a ten minute hurricane of a PowerPoint presentation beginning with a photo of ragged climate refugees in Africa that he took (“When I don’t turn out my lights, I’m hurting them”) and moving to pie charts showing how suburban sprawl is one of the leading contributors to climate change in America. (“When you factor in transport and houshold use, average suburban housing use four times more energy than urban multifamily green developments.”)

With US population predicted to rise by 94 million over the next few decades, Rose believes that cities are the only place to build housing for those people if we are not to irretrievably wreck the climate. Yet this housing must also foster the innate human needs to live in community and in connection with nature. “A green urbanism is emerging that addresses these needs”, Rose explains, “creating buildings that are filled with light and fresh air and gardens that are tended by the hands of their residents.”

Jonathan Rose identifies as a “Jubu” and counts the Dalai Lama among his friends. He established the Garrison Institute, a Buddhist retreat center on the Hudson. He avers that Buddhism permeates his urban design work, particularly the principles of the interdependence of all things, human interconnectedness with nature and of doing no harm. Rose draws inspiration from Tibetan city designs that embody these principles. He believes that insights gleaned from ancient wisdom must help shape the future of our cities.

The future of inner cities may well look like the Dinkins Development. Chansee is excited. We should be too.

Read Full Post »