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Posts Tagged ‘pollution’

Going green should not be scary. I feel like so many people are intimidated by the vastness of the ecological movement, of sustainability, of the color green. In his TED conference talk, “The paradox of choice,” Barry Schwartz explains how too many choices can paralyze us from making a decision. I learned the same theory from my marketing professor in college, who explained why psychoeconomics is so important to businesses. Given similar conditions between two grocery stores, for example, the store with 15 varieties of chips will ultimately attract more business than a store with 75 varieties. Interesting.

These days, it’s overwhelming how many articles and people and blog posts and news stories are giving us ways to go green. Perhaps it is this inundation with information that is holding so many of us back from actually making the choices. Where do we begin? In What About Bob, one of my favorite early 90s comedies, Bill Murray, the main character, uses the mantra “baby steps” to help sort out his life. It worked for him, and it can work for us. Do some research, but not too much at first, and pick one or two changes that you can stick with. This is much more manageable than trying to green the world all at once. Below are my four suggestions, all of which not only reduce the oft-cited carbon footprint but are also economically justifiable (they will save you money!):

1. Stop buying bottled water.

A chilled plastic bottle of water in the convenience-store cooler is the perfect symbol of this moment in American commerce and culture. It acknowledges our demand for instant gratification, our vanity, our token concern for health. Its packaging and transport depend entirely on cheap fossil fuel. Yes, it’s just a bottle of water–modest compared with the indulgence of driving a Hummer. But when a whole industry grows up around supplying us with something we don’t need–when a whole industry is built on the packaging and the presentation–it’s worth asking how that happened, and what the impact is. And if you do ask, if you trace both the water and the business back to where they came from, you find a story more complicated, more bemusing, and ultimately more sobering than the bottles we tote everywhere suggest.

I understand that bottled water is convenient, but seriously folks, it’s a scam. You are paying for something that you have access to already (at least in a handful of the developed countries). If you want to read more about the industry and its negative effects on the environment, check out “Message in a Bottle. If you are looking for a stylish, eco-friendly water bottle to get started, check out www.mysigg.com.

2. Change all your light bulbs in your home/office to CFL.

Sitting humbly on shelves in stores everywhere is a product, priced at less than $3, that will change the world. Soon. It is a fairly ordinary item that nonetheless cuts to the heart of a half-dozen of the most profound, most urgent problems we face. Energy consumption. Rising gasoline costs and electric bills. Greenhouse-gas emissions. Dependence on coal and foreign oil. Global warming.

The product is the compact fluorescent lightbulb, a quirky-looking twist of frosted glass. In the energy business, it is called a “CFL,” or an “energy saver.” One scientist calls it an “ice-cream-cone spiral,” because in its most-advanced, most-appealing version, it looks like nothing so much as a cone of swirled soft-serve ice cream.

CFL – meaning compact fluorescent lamp – lightbulbs are the way to go. They emit the same amount of light as regular bulbs but use 75-80% less energy. To learn more, check out “How Many Lightbulbs Does it Take to Change the World. One. And You’re Looking at it.”

3. Spend less time in the car.

If you have not heard already, China, in preparation for the August Olympic Games, recently put into effect an even-odd license plate law that will help lessen the effects of traffic congestion on the environment. While we probably couldn’t get away with something like this in America, damn it’s a good idea. Sure, I’m a bit upset that gas prices are so high, but hopefully this will force us all to change our habits. Carpool. Bike. Take the bus! I highly recommend WalkScore.com, an interactive map that grades your location based on how many common services – grocery stores, libraries, schools, etc. – are within walking distance. When I lived in St. Louis, I used the site to find nearby bars and even came across a used bookstore that I never knew existed.

4. Start an indoor/outdoor garden.

You don’t have to become a locavore, but cultivating a few plants is a good idea. Indoor plants absorb toxins and can create healthier living spaces, while outdoor plants can yield fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables that can spice up your cooking. Check out The GRS Garden Project to see how growing your own food requires little labor but can help offset the rising cost of food.

I challenge you to discuss these suggestions with your local Jewish community. Urge your synagogues to use CFL lightbulbs and sponsor a community gardening project. It’s a lot easier than you think. The evidence is overwhelming. In the face of too many choices, sometimes we need a little guidance to take action.

Please send any success stories to pitaronpark [at] gmail.com!

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I mean, I know China’s a big country, but really?

According to an article written by Daniel J. Elazar, there are four distinctly traceable groups of Jews in China, the largest of which are the Kaifeng:

The city of Kaifeng, located approximately 300 miles from Beijing, contains the remnants of a Jewish community which flourished in the city from about the ninth to the seventeenth centuries, and which continued to be identifiably Jewish until the 1840s. The origins of the community are unclear, although they appear to be derived from an invitation extended by a Sung Dynasty emperor to a group of Jews to settle and manufacture cotton fabrics in Kaifeng, which at that time was the imperial capital. Approximately 1000 Jews responded as a group and formed a community, which reached its peak in the Middle Ages, when Jews from Western and Southern Asia (principally Iran, Afghanistan and India of today) were actively involved in the China trade. They settled in at least six other cities throughout China, including Beijing in the seventeenth century.

While merchant and refugee communities flourished from the turn of the century up until World War II, China lost a significant number of Jews during the Communist takeover of 1949. At one point, the peak population reached over 30,000!

You might be wondering, what does this have to do with sustainability? Well, just last week scientists determined that China surpassed the United States in CO2 emissions – a whopping 14 years ahead of the predicted schedule. Yikes. If by some miracle any Chinese Jews come across this post, I implore you, try not to pollute so much, k? We at Pitaron Park would greatly appreciate it.

For a more expansive history on Jewish populations in China, check these sites out:

(image borrowed from Oy Bay!)

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