Members Seek to Make Micah Green
A group of members recently met with Judith Capen and Robert Weinstein, the architects for our expansion as well as Micah congregants, and representatives from the temple's Building Committee to explore possible ways to incorporate "green" goals into our space. Some of those at the meeting are long-term environmentalists whose professions and private lives reflect a strongly held commitment to treading lightly on our planet. Others had seen "An Inconvenient Truth" and felt compelled to explore ways to reduce our consumption of resources that deplete our planet's health. All were determined to have our building reflect our values.
The conversation moved from alternative energy sources--for example, Capen and Weinstein will explore ground source heat pumps to see if we can generate energy from geothermal sources--to encouraging reduced use of cars as transportation to Micah. So, a bike rack might remind someone that she can cycle with her children to religious school. And we have a bus stop just a few steps from the front door. If we lived in Manhattan, public transportation would be an obvious form of transportation. Why not try it here?
Car pooling is not just for mid-week. Clearly, when we share a car, it reduces our fuel consumption by at least half. Shared transportation serves other goals as well. Here's the scenario: you are considering going to Shabbat services and are ready to hop in the car, maybe with a child or spouse, maybe solo. How about picking up the phone to see if your Micah neighbors are also planning to attend? Maybe they are and you can head out together, sharing the satisfaction that you have reduced our collective energy consumption by driving together. What if your neighbors were not thinking of attending services? Maybe your invitation prompts them to join you and you have engaged in a double mitzvah. And perhaps you will share a meal afterwards, taking what began as an effort to reduce energy consumption into a way to affirm and strengthen our community and enrich your Shabbat.
While our "green" meeting in July covered architectural changes that might produce energy/ earth saving benefits, we also discussed how we can control consumption by changing how we use our space. For example, we were gathered in the middle of the social hall. Yet the entire room was lit. Capen and Weinstein designed our building in usage zones, so eventually it occurred to us that we could turn off the lighting in the part of the room we were not using. Simple, but effective. Similarly, at our annual meeting, Weinstein made a point about behavior when he opened the garden doors on that glorious day. Why rely on air conditioning--the single highest energy consumer in our building--when the outside air temperature did just as good a job?
Our congregation has long been concerned with the smart and responsible use of resources. But the issue seems to have taken on greater significance with an increase in our knowledge of the long-term costs of our energy extravagance and the rising cost of energy. I encourage members to consider this issue as part of their engagement in the community. I am grateful to the members who have elevated this issue, and to our architects who aim to incorporate these critical values in our home.