L'Ovdah ul'Shomrah

to Work and Protect the Earth

L'Ovdah ul'Shomrah

I’d like to keep this column going but I need some more ideas! Please email me (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) some of the things that have worked for you, and I may include these in future columns.  We can all learn something from our friends and fellow congregants and together we can make a difference! -- Ken Cohn

Miscellaneous ways to save energy and water

on Tuesday, 16 August 2016.

Ceiling fans: In summer, they: can reduce air-conditioning costs (in other words reduce your energy use) because the gentle air movement makes you feel more comfortable. This is less effective when the fan is attached to a high ceiling. University of Florida Cooperative Extension reports a ceiling fan can reduce one room’s cooling costs by as much as 8%. In winter, in some situations (most often when the room has a very high ceiling and is heated by a wood stove) running a ceiling fan counterclockwise can warm the room by circulating warm air near the ceiling down toward the floor. If operated on low speed it will not create an uncomfortable breeze.

Reducing water usage: turn the water off while shaving or brushing your teeth; Sharon and I keep a large basin in the kitchen sink and most of our dish water goes outside to water plants.  Fix that dripping faucet. A faucet that loses one drip per second can waste more than 3000 gallons of water per year. That’s the amount of water needed to take 180 showers.

Turning off lights when you leave a room: Incandescent lights should be turned off whenever they are not needed. 90% of the energy they use is given off as heat and 10% as light. Turning lights off will also keep a room cooler.  Because LEDs are not affected by switching on and off, they can be turned off when not needed. Halogen lights (more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs but far less efficient than CFLs and LEDs) should be turned off when not needed.  CFL (compact fluorescent bulbs) are more complicated because their operating life is more affected by the number of times they are turned on and off.  If you will be out of the room for 15 minutes or less, leave them on.

LED BULBS: Energy star rated products use at least 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting.  LED lighting has the potential to have a huge impact on the use of energy in this country. By 2027 widespread use of LEDs could save the equivalent of the electrical output of 44 large electric power plants.

DISPOSAL OF BULBS: CFLs and fluorescent bulbs contain small amounts of mercury and should not be disposed of with your trash. They should be kept in a sealed container and if not broken, brought to The Home Depot or Lowes for recycling or look into the Pima Household Waste Program (http://cms3.tucsonaz.gov/es/content/household-hazardous-waste).  Incandescent and halogen bulbs contain no toxic materials and can be thrown in with the regular trash but should be wrapped first to prevent inadvertent shattering. These are not suitable for recycling. LED’s (check the packaging) can often be thrown in the recycling bin.

Solar power: Sharon and I invested in solar panels in the middle of 2012.  At that time the “best” deal was a leased system. We chose TFS (Technicians for Sustainability) with a single payment upfront. We’ve already recouped 40% of our initial cost. How many safe investments can you make that will return 40% in 4 years? Look into solar panels for your home. There are lots of affordable options available.

By 2050

on Monday, 08 August 2016.

I’d like to keep this column going but I need some more ideas! Please email me (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) some of the things that have worked for you, and I may include these in future columns.  We can all learn something from our friends and fellow congregants and together we can make a difference!

By 2050, the world’s population will reach 10 billion. (That’s 30% more than today.) The World Wildlife Fund predicts the world’s demand for food will double. Agriculture already uses 40% of the earth’s land and 70% of the fresh water we consume today. It is the leading cause of deforestation and responsible for 25% of the greenhouse gasses we emit. We need to reduce our consumption and we need to waste less. Can we do it?

Should We Recycle Paper?

on Monday, 25 July 2016.

It’s always best to simply reduce the amount of paper and other resources that you consume. Obviously Reuse them whenever possible (paper has two sides!), and always Recycle paper products! Finally, when you must buy paper look for 100% post-consumer recycled paper to support the value of recycled commodities.

Worldwide, the pulp and paper industry is the fifth largest consumer of energy, accounting for 4 percent of the world's energy use. The pulp and paper industry uses more water to produce a ton of product than any other industry.

The Magic of Compost

on Monday, 11 July 2016.

Composting doesn't require elaborate equipment or a background in science. With some basic information and waste materials, anyone can produce compost in as little as two weeks, or within a year, depending on the attention we want to give the process. Composting uses nature's own recycling system. Weeds and leaves, grass clippings, vegetable peels, and various other kitchen wastes are turned into humus. That's an essential soil conditioner which is richer than anything we can buy.

Why throw away the raw material which generates something so valuable? And, that’s only one of the benefits from composting!

Don’t buy bottled water

on Wednesday, 08 June 2016.

According to the EWG (an American environmental organization that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, agricultural subsidies, public lands, and corporate accountability) filtered tap water received a better grade than 10 of America’s top selling brands of bottled water. 80% of all water bottles become litter. Imagine a water bottle filled a quarter of the way up with oil. That’s about how much oil was needed to produce each bottle. A refillable steel bottle or BPA free bottle is the best choice but any reusable bottle is better than adding another bottle to the 29 billion water bottles Americans buy each year. 

Feeding Your Pets

on Wednesday, 08 June 2016.

I’m a veterinarian and I know how much our pets mean to us. I’ve always been particularly interested in what we feed our pets (and how much we feed our pets-which is often more than we should) so we are going to devote this week’s column to just that. What could this possibly have to do with protecting our environment?

We have all become familiar with the pet foods that advertise as “grain free”, “natural” or made with “human-grade” ingredients. For thousands of years our pets have thrived on foods made with grains and byproducts.  “Niche” diets have an increased environmental impact because we are putting more pressure on a global food system that’s already having trouble feeding today’s human population. You can pay a premium for a diet made with little FDA oversight by companies you have never heard of (i.e., you really don’t know what you are getting) or you can buy a premium brand made by a company you know. For about the same money you will be feeding the optimal balance of nutrients made with grains and highly nutritious (“human grade”) byproducts that many Americans prefer not to eat. Not only will your pet(s) thrive on these diets but they will be made from animal parts that might otherwise be dumped in landfills where they can emit tons of carbon dioxide and methane. One final note: don’t try comparing the labels on different pet foods. Dog food companies can and do use all kinds of tricks to make their ingredients look superior to a competing company.  

Recycling all we use is a huge benefit to this planet

on Monday, 23 May 2016.

Many would argue that recycling all we use is a huge benefit to this planet, but is it the solution to our sky rocketing consumption?

For many of the more adamant recyclers among us, recycling is a moral duty and the cost is not relevant. But when you look at the true cost: collecting the recyclables, transporting them to a central facility, sorting, cleaning and repackaging everything, and then shipping it off to a commodity market, you often end up with a product that not only costs more than the virgin materials but uses much more of our natural resources (from water to energy) in the tedious process.  So what is the solution?

Bring your own bags when you go shopping

on Tuesday, 17 May 2016.

Cloth Preferred

Keep a supply in the trunk so they are always available. If you forget to bring them into the store or they were left at home, load your purchases into the car and once you get home pack everything into reusable bags to more conveniently move them into the house.

Facts about plastic bags:The average American family takes home 1,500 plastic bags a year (Natural Resources Defense Council). Americans use and throw away 100 billion plastic bags every year, which requires 12 million barrels of oil per year to manufacture. They can last anywhere from 20 to 1000 years. All plastic waste breaks down into smaller fragments which readily soak up toxins. It then contaminates soil, waterways, and animals upon digestion (Earth911). 10% of the plastic produced every year worldwide winds up in the ocean. 70% of which finds its way to the ocean floor, where it will likely never degrade (United Nations). So much plastic waste is accumulating in the oceans that it is estimated that between 2040 and 2050 the weight of plastic waste in the ocean will exceed the weight of all the living creatures in the sea.

For those who try to justify their use of plastic bags by recycling: according to the Clean Air Council it costs $4000 to recycle 1 ton of plastic bags, but the recycled product can be sold for only $32.00. As a result only about 1% of our plastic bags are actually recycled.

By the way South AfricaUgandaSomaliaRwanda BotswanaKenya & Ethiopia all have total bans in place. China has banned plastic bags since June 1st 2008. India and Bangladesh introduced strict bans in 2002.

Does bottled water make any sense?

on Tuesday, 10 May 2016.

My first suggestion: My wife, Sharon, and I have traveled in many third-world countries. Had we bought or used bottled water (that was often included in a tour) the bottles would have ended up in a landfill or as litter (as do 80% of the single-use water bottles in this country). Instead we always travel with reusable water bottles and fill them from any tap. Then we add 2 drops of liquid 2% Tincture of Iodine (not betadine) to each quart of clear water (10 drops to 1 quart of cloudy water). Shake well and allow to stand for 30 minutes before drinking. To neutralize the iodine taste you can add ¼ tsp of crushed vitamin C tablets.  The Tincture of Iodine and Vitamin C are readily available at any drugstore. 

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