Bob Karpel, greening layleader at Temple Shaaray Tefila in Westchester County, New York, lowers the temperature on the synagogue's hot water heater.
Most of the energy used in the United States comes from fossil fuels, which are huge contributors to climate change, so any improvements in energy efficiency can go a long way in reducing your carbon footprint.
The Jewish value of ‘bal taschit’ is first found in Deuteronomy 20, and is translated as "you shall not waste/destroy." Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) described bal taschit as
“the most comprehensive warning to human beings not to misuse the position which G-d has given them as masters of the world and its matter through capricious, passionate, or merely thoughtless wasteful destruction of anything on earth.”
(For a deeper understanding of bal taschit, see Rabbi Yonatan Neril’s article on the subject.)
This principle should inform our decisions when building and using our communal spaces. Turning off lights and shutting down computers each night are two very simple ways to get started.
Working on your institution's (or your home's) energy efficiency and usage is also an easy environmental practice that will actually save you money! Here’s how:
Use Less. While looking into alternatives like renewable energy and improving energy efficiency are undoubtedly important, we can't forget the importance of simply using less. This is a Jewish idea as well as an environmental one.
Use Efficiently. Energy efficiency is the practice of updating facilities and systems so that they use energy more efficiently, so that less is wasted and in turn less is used. This can be as simple as purchasing better insulation or replacing an incandescent light bulb with an LED. Much of a building's energy use comes from heat and air conditioning systems. Mindful use of heat and air conditioning is one way to minimize your energy use.
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