Blog: Things to think about

In this new section to the JECO website we reproduce articles that JECO has put out in various media to promote environmental sustainability. Unless otherwise specified, these articles were written on behalf of JECO by Sharon Flitman.

This first article was printed in the Pesach supplement to the Australian Jewish News of Friday 4th April 2019. 

Have a happy & sustainable Pesach

This Pesach, make choices that will ensure your celebrations are not causing unnecessary harm to the planet and its natural resources.

Tikkun olam. Healing the world.

The concept is not an unfamiliar one to the average Jewish person.

We make concerted efforts to plant trees in Israel and pick up trash on Clean Up Australia Day. Yet paradoxically, there seems to be an odd absence of environmental awareness when it comes to how we practise the very Jewish customs that preach tikkun olam in the first place.

With Pesach pending – a time when we reflect on our people’s past – it seems somehow fitting to consider a couple of our current approaches and how they may impact our people’s future.

A LOAD OF CROCK(ERY)
Pesach Seders can be enormous affairs. It’s not unusual for 20-30 family and friends to gather together to share the paschal meal.

We spend hours and hours meticulously planning and prepping. But when it comes to the post-Seder clean-up, many of us prefer processes that expedite. Once the eating is complete, remaining table contents are simply scooped into a large garbage bag and unceremoniously trashed.

Disposable plates. Disposable cups. Disposable cutlery. Disposable napkins.

It’s remarkable how much landfill-bound waste 20-30 people can produce over the course of a single meal. And all in the name of convenience.

What you can do instead
Choose re-usable! Skip the single-use serviettes and go for washable linen napkins instead. Pass on plastics and crack out some metal cutlery and ceramic crockery. If you’re worried about keeping kosher-le-Pesach, consider a once-off investment in a Pesach-specific set that can be brought out and used again each year.

If you can’t bear the thought of washing all that up, consider more enviro-friendly disposable options. Bamboo plates (58c each), classy paper plates (25c) sugarcane plates (7c) and wooden cutlery (4 or 5c each) break down naturally in landfill, in contrast to their plastic counterparts (7.6c) that take hundreds of years to do the same. In the context of our current recycling crisis, such choices are more important now than ever!

Check out https://hazon.org/10-ways-to-make-your-passover-more-sustainable/ for more ideas.

(NOT) PLEASED TO MEAT YOU
Hundreds of years ago, meat was a rare and expensive treat, served only on special occasions. Flash forward to modern day. Somehow, there has been a propagation and proliferation of the misguided mindset that a meal is not a real meal unless it involves a giant hunk of flesh.

As such, and particularly when it comes to festive feasts, there’s pressure to make it meaty.

The problem is that frequent meat eating is unsustainable. Studies have suggested that the animal agriculture industry contributes more greenhouse gas to the atmosphere than any other industry.

Add to this the enormous resources required to raise a bit of beef. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers estimate that 15,415 litres of water are required to raise 1kg of beef; a hefty load compared to the water needed to grow 1kg of potatoes (287 litres), tomatoes (214 litres), bananas (790 litres) or even rice (2,497 litres).

What you can do instead
Consider a flesh-free Seder.

Our ancient ancestors had to slaughter a lamb so they could plaster their door posts with its blood. But we don’t have to do the same.

Ditching meat for a meal not only takes some of the pressure off the planet, but frees up a lot of delightful milchig kosher-lePesach options; ice cream, cheese platters, cheesy zucchini slice etc.

With vegetarian and vegan diets rocketing ever upwards in popularity, there’s a huge range of tasty, meat-less meal ideas waiting to be discovered. Check out the attached recipe for one such delish kosher-lePesach veggo dish.

As we set up our Pesach Seders this year, let’s not pass over thoughts about how our choices may affect our planet.

Warming ourselves without warming the globe

  • Printed in The Jewish Report, August 2019

Winter is coming… and not just to Game of Thrones. And heat-seeking has returned to the forefront of many minds.

Unfortunately, many means of self-warming are also means of changing the climate.

While fossil fuels remain our primary power source, turning on heaters whenever it gets a bit nippy is simply not sustainable. Remember that we are here to take care of G-d’s creation, not to exploit and destroy it. As Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah puts it, ‘When G-d created Adam … G-d told him: … Do not corrupt the world, for if you do, there will be no-one to set it right after you’.

Fortunately, producing lots of emissions through heating is not the only way to keep warm. Here are a few hot tips to help save the world and save money.

Hot tip #1: Layer up

Do you turn up the heating when you could just put on an extra jumper? This makes neither sense nor cents. Power costs increase 5-10% for every 1C increase on the thermostat.

Layer up with a woolly jumper, warm pants, snug slippers and even a beanie to stay cozy while cutting your power costs.

Hot tip #2: Keep it contained

If winter woollies are not enough, ask yourself how much of your house actually needs to be heated. Instead of roasting every room, can you switch it on only in the room/s you’re using? Even a house-wide ducted system has vents that can be closed off.  Closing internal doors can keep the heat from leaching out into vacant areas.

Hot tip #3: Don’t dissipate… insulate!
Without adequate insulation, heaps of your heat seeps out through windows, ceilings and walls. To help keep the heat inside, consider:

  • Foam strips to seal gaps around doors and windows
  • Door snakes to prevent chill at entrance ways
  • Drawing curtains at night
  • Pelmets over windows
  • Checking your insulation
  • Installing double-glazed windows.

Hot tip #4: Pump it up
Reverse cycle air conditioners (aka heat pumps) are a smart alternative to coal, gas and oil heating. Rather than independently generating heat, they pump it in from outside – even on really chilly days. This uses only about a third of the energy required by the gas/coal/oil counterparts.

Heat pumps can also provide hot water, also using only about a third of the energy of a standard electric hot water heater.

Hot tip #5: Catch some rays

Australia has more sunshine per square metre than any other continent1, and rooftop panel prices have dropped by 58% over the past 6 years despite reduced government rebates2.

Solar panels pay for themselves within 6 years or less in Melbourne and even faster in sunny Sydney. With the average cost for a 5kW system being $5,100 – what are you waiting for?

This winter, you’ve got the power to really ramp up the Tikkun Olam. And really, it’s a win-win – saving the planet and your finances in one fell swoop.

And best of all? You’ll feel good… warm both inside and out!

References

1Geoscience Australia and ABARE (2010). “Australian Energy Resource Assessment” Canberra: Geoscience Australia

2 https://www.choice.com.au/home-improvement/energy-saving/solar/articles/solar-panel-payback-times


CANsumerism

  • Printed in the Jewish Report September 2019

Welcome to the age of CANsumerism.

We live in a world of cheap and on-sale shmonsis. ‘Specials’ encourage us to buy up big. Not because we need to, but because we can.

Blinded by bargains, we forget the cost of these cheap ‘nice-to-haves’ on our environment.

Let’s explore a few…

Hot deal on the latest iPhone? Must be time for an upgrade.

Your phone works fine, but upgrades are fun!

According to Tech Radar1, every mobile handset uses 16 of the 17 rare earth metals. These minerals are often difficult to source, finite in supply, and rapidly running out.

No viable alternatives have yet been identified.

Suggestions:

  • Keep your handset until its natural end of life. With planned obsolescence2 you’ll probably only have to wait 2-3 years.
  • Recycle your old phones – see JECO’s website3.

Aviation carbonation

Air travel is one of the biggest burners of fossil fuel.

An economy single return flight to London produces almost 9.9 tons of carbon4 (business class even more!). Our annual ‘quota’ for preventing catastrophic global warming above 2oC is 2 tons/person, so even one overseas jaunt pushes us 5 times over.

So even if you ride to work, recycle diligently and have a solar-powered home, regularly jet-setting even short distances costs the planet more than it can cope with in the long-term.

Suggestions:

  • Try travelling locally – train trips like The Ghan or The Indian Pacific, or a Spirit of Tasmania cruise to Tassie.
  • Use teleconferencing for interstate/overseas business meetings, and save an exhaust-ing plane trip.
  • Purchase carbon offset credits to help mitigate fossil-fuel flight costs. GreenFleet.org.au is easy to use and tax deductible. But remember: fewer flights is way better environmentally.

Oh, it’s on special? Buy two!

Ever popped into the supermarket for milk and emerged with a full trolley thanks to the temptation of specials?

20% of food we buy winds up in landfill.

The average Aussie household’s weekly spend on food is $280-$3305, so we’re literally throwing out about $60 every week. That’s $3100 per year!

It makes the 50c discount look trivial. Not to mention the environmental costs of growing, packaging and transporting each wasted item.

Suggestions:

  • Plan meals pre-shop, and take a list to avoid accidental over-catering.
  • Watch ‘best before’ dates, and find a way to use foods before their time runs out.
  • Made too much? Freeze the leftovers for an easy instant meal another time.
  • Advertise unwanted food items to others via the (free) Olio app.

The tenth commandment ‘Lo takhmod – Thou shalt not covet’ is the anti-consumerist, anti-advertising one.

Coveting is wanting what someone else has – a flashy new phone, shiny new car…  The advertising industry exists to make us see, want, and crave stuff enough to buy.

Being able to buy what we want when we want it gives us an enormous amount of power. But as Uncle Ben from Spiderman taught us – with great power comes great responsibility.

So yes – of course we can continue consuming at our current rate.

But should we?

References

https://www.techradar.com/news/phone-and-communications/mobile-phones/our-smartphone-addiction-is-costing-the-earth-1299378

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_obsolescence

https://www.jeco.org.au/reuse-repurpose-recycle/

4https://greenfleet.secure.force.com/offset?type=individual&_ga=2.250167494.1503158331.1555991158-995631857.1555991158

5https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/managing-your-money/budgeting/australian-spending-habits