Thank you for completing the Hazon Seal Energy and Water Management Assessment!
The suggestions below are based on your responses to the assessment, and are designed to get you thinking about what sort of projects your organization should consider to reduce its usage of energy and water, two of our most precious resources. You are not required to take on all or even any of the suggestions offered.
Recommendations based on assessment taken May 12, 2022
We recommend creating a formal energy conservation policy to keep climate and environmental concerns at the forefront of organizational decision making. This also demonstrates your leadership and commitment other organizations and individuals.
We recommend assigning and empowering someone to ensure the environmental policy is being implemented as intended. This adds a layer of accountability that is not present when the policy is left up to each member of the organization to interpret and carry out.
Calculating your organizational carbon footprint is a valuable first step toward substantive change. We encourage all Seal Sites to identify and utilize a carbon accounting tool that will help identify the highest impact ways carbon reduction. The type of tool you choose to use for calculating carbon for your organization depends on a variety of factors. Please contact the Hazon Seal team at Seal@Hazon.org to discuss your options.
We applaud and encourage organizations and individuals to install renewable energy generation on their property. At this time, the barriers for investing in the renewable energy marketplace are lower than ever. Some utility companies offer programs that can offset electricity use by funding renewable energy developments through a small rider on their bill. For another option, check out this toolkit for information on community solar projects.
It is incredible what changing the thermostat a few degrees can do. If possible, we always recommend making a little room for energy savings between the maximum and minimum temperatures you allow in your building.
Replacing windows is a major undertaking that will typically show commensurately large returns. No matter how well insulated and sealed a building is, outdated windows will allow air and energy flow to bypass those defenses, significantly reducing efficiency. Different climates present different challenges, so we recommend discussing your building’s needs with a local contractor, using the EPA’s Energy Star standards as guidelines to be met or exceeded.
We recommend assigning and empowering someone to ensure the water conservation policy is being implemented as intended. This adds a layer of accountability that is not present when the policy is left up to each member of the organization to interpret and carry out.
Taking the time to educate others about energy and sustainability helps build support for new initiatives and a stronger sense of care and community. For organizations operating on a tight budget, sustainability may be misinterpreted to imply more expenses. Share that energy usage represents the largest negative environmental impact and the second highest fixed cost for religious institutions. As energy costs continue to increase, energy conservation practices offer an opportunity to make wise environmental decisions that are also good for your budget.
As part of any sustainability strategy, it is a good idea to articulate an action plan in reference to any assessments and audits you have already taken. Audits provide a baseline for future improvement. Developing an action plan in direct response to audits helps your organization think through the opportunities for greening and can guide decisions in the future.
We recommend a comprehensive plan for reducing water use on your grounds that either makes use of multiple complementary methods or eliminates the need for irrigation entirely. Excessive water use for landscaping taxes the environment in a number of ways. Lakes, rivers, and reservoirs can be drained or contaminated, leading to habitat loss. Aquifers can be drained much faster than they refill, leading to sinkholes and reduced access to drinking water. A considerable amount of energy and chemicals are expended in procuring and treating drinking water. Likewise, stormwater systems and streams can suffer from excessive runoff.
Excessive and/or contaminated runoff can pose serious risks to both the natural environment and man-made systems and structures. Implementing measures to control runoff and reduce its impact range from simple redirection of downspouts to major overhauls of parking lots and roof structures. Here are a few possibilities to discuss with a contractor.
Rainwater capture and use: Directing water from gutters to rain barrels or cisterns can reduce runoff and allow you to reduce the amount of drinking water used to water lawns and gardens.
Rain Gardens: If there is a low spot on your property where runoff can be directed, it may be a suitable location for a rain garden. A well-designed rain garden sits on permeable ground that will allow ample rainwater infiltration and is densely vegetated to help filter the water as it enters the soil.
Constructed Wetland: Constructed wetlands are like rain gardens that remain saturated between rainfalls, allowing rainwater to infiltrate the soil. They can be more difficult to properly design but can host a broad diversity of plants and wildlife that typically cannot find habitat in built-up areas.
Directing flow through heavy vegetation: Known more formally as “Vegetated Filter Strips,” this method directs sheet water flow to pass through densely vegetated strips, filtering it, slowing it down, and allowing it to infiltrate the soil.
Bioswales: A swale is a broad shallow sloped channel for runoff, and a bioswale is a swale that is vegetated to filter the water, slow it down, and allow it to infiltrate the soil.
Permeable Hard Surfaces: Permeable concrete, asphalt, and pavers can all be used instead of traditional hard surfaces to allow water to infiltrate through your parking lots, sidewalks, and courtyards instead of pouring off them in concentrated runoff. Replacing existing surfaces is a major undertaking and may only be suitable if it is already necessary for other reasons.
Green Roof: A “green roof” is one that is covered partially or entirely in grass or other vegetation. On larger buildings, this typically entails special structural considerations for the soil, gravel, sand, and water on the roof. A green roof can reduce heating and cooling costs, as well as absorbing a good deal of rainfall rather than sending it to a gutter system. It can also reduce the urban heat island effect.