Green agenda

A clean technology advisory firm in Hod Hasharon is presenting itself as Israel’s first enterprise of its kind.

Matrix Greentech College grads 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Matrix Greentech College grads 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Although there has been interest in making Israel more environmentally friendly or “green,” there hasn’t been a lot of organized effort to do this within the country’s business and industrial sector.
This is now changing, however, due to the work of a clean technology advisory company, Green Agenda, which presents itself as being Israel’s first company of its kind to offer professional instruction and advice to companies and public bodies who are interested in becoming more environmentally sustainable as well as saving energy costs.
Based in Hod Hasharon, Green Agenda, founded by CEO Karni Govreen-Segal, works with business entities, manufacturers and government bodies such as municipalities to help them be less polluting, conserve water resources and energy costs as well as reduce their “carbon footprint” on the environment.
In a recent interview with Metro, during a green business conference held at Netanya’s new Island Hotel Convention Center, Govreen-Segal said that environmental thinking and planning here still falls behind that in Western European countries.
“We are just in the early stages of implementing environmental thinking and sustainability practices. Most European cities are more advanced than us. Global and international corporations with environmental policies such as Intel, Cisco Systems and MSD [Merck Sharp & Dohme] implement their [environmental] policies in their local offices as well.” When asked how Netanya – a co-sponsor of the conference – and other municipalities became involved in Green Agenda’s green projects, Govreen-Segal said it was quite natural that they would.
“We originally started with businesses, and then, as the municipalities became involved in green projects, the need for professional services grew in this sector, and has been developing quite well,” she said.
GREEN AGENDA’S professional staff includes Marketing Director Ronit Laroslavitz (formerly with JCSID, a leading TV and video production house in Israel) and Dr. Asher Vitori, GA’s project and development manager and a technology analyst and investigator for the Interdisciplinary Center at Tel Aviv University. GA works together with the Environmental Protection Ministry, whose head Gilad Erdan was a guest speaker at the Netanya conference.
“The ministry is encouraging municipalities to enter into waste separation projects. These require a great deal of work – planning, financial calculations, training, advertising and consulting. Municipalities are also concerned about their carbon footprints, especially those that signed the Forum 15 treaty requiring them to reduce GHG by 20 percent by 2020. Another field of concern is environmental education and green building which interests all municipalities, including Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Netanya and Hod Hasharon,” Govreen-Segal said.
Environmental Minister Erdan told Metro and the conference attendees that local municipalities are doing most of the work in “greening” their locales. Comparing environmental efforts in Israel to other countries, especially in Europe and North America, Erdan said that recycling and waste removal methods are big issues all over Israel.
“We have to make a bigger effort in dealing with solid waste removal, especially recycling,” Erdan said.
Indeed, since Israel’s landfills and garbage “mountains,” including the Hiriya garbage mound just outside Tel Aviv, have received thousands of tons of organic and solid waste products. Hiriya is now in the process of being made into a national park, complete with a large amphitheater and a lake.
In its heyday, the Hiriya landfill took in some 12,000 tons of domestic waste and 5,000 tons of building waste per day – about a quarter of the country’s entire amount of waste materials disposed of daily.
It is issues like these that resulted in the opening of the Matrix Greentech College (MGTC) in May 2010. In a different format from other private colleges in Israel, the MGTC is tailored specifically for those wishing to have careers in clean technology and environmental or “green” professions. These include waste management, renewable energy (solar, wind, wave, etc) and water and energy conservation.
The college is in partnership with Green Agenda Sustainability Solutions and Matrix, the owners and operators of the largest training companies in Israel such as John Bryce, Mediatech, Hi-Tech College and New Horizons, the leading global on-line training corporation.
Courses offered include those in energy efficiency training for businesses and organizations, energy efficiency consultation, urban clean technology (including waste management and pollution solutions), and marketing and business development in the clean tech industry.
“It’s very important that our graduates be able to find jobs in the green-tech fields. There is now a big demand for qualified people in these fields,” said Ronit Laroslavitz, marketing director for both Green Agenda and Matrix Greentech College. She told Metro that the courses are conducted in various parts of the country to enable more people to have access to them. Due to most of the students having full time jobs, courses are offered mostly in the evening hours, once or twice a week.
“The marketing and business development courses are very good for people who already have experience in these fields and want to pursue marketing careers in the “green tech” fields, Laroslavitz added.
Business entities working together with Green Agenda include SolarPower Ltd solar energy technology, the Zvi Cohen Waste Management Company, and E. Schnapp & Co. Works Ltd., Israel’s largest manufacturer of wet cell batteries for the automotive market.
SolarPower Ltd was established in 2003, and is headquartered in a new technological park in Pardesiya, near Netanya. Solar Power produces grid connected photo voltaic (PV) systems, solar powered telecommunication systems, and individual “stand-alone” systems for providing rural electricity in remote areas.
“We are involved in projects in both Israel and abroad, including African countries. Our solar projects involve ones like small solar panel arrays for providing power to farms, communication networks, and the like in rural areas,” said Project Manager Baruch Bronstein who, along with Co-CEO Alon Tamari, was promoting his company during a Netanya green business conference.
Besides offering small solar installations to provide both electricity and communications network hookups rural communities, the company also offers business investment opportunities in solar panel grid installations in which the investors can profit on solar created electricity that is sold to a local, regional or national power grid.
“In this type of situation, the investors simply ‘lease’ space on a large rooftop, such as a commercial building, or on a vacant lot, where the solar plant is then erected.
Naturally, profits to be made will depend on the ‘feed-in tariff’ amounts paid by the electricity power companies to small independent solar power suppliers. These feedin tariff amounts are currently dependent on assistance given by government authorities; and it now appears that those willing to invest in installing these solar plants in some African countries may reap more benefits by receiving higher feed-in tariffs,” Tamari said.
SolarPower’s local clientele includes the Defense Ministry, the Israel Electric Company, and a number of communications and infrastructure companies who supply both communications linkage and electricity to rural areas in both Israel and abroad. Aside from its expertise in manufacturing and installing solar energy systems, SolarPower also gives professional consultations for solar energy courses being taught at the Matrix Greentech College.
Netanya-based Zvi Cohen Waste Management Co. has been involved for 37 years in finding solutions to solid and organic waste products for businesses, residential neighborhoods and municipalities. Services include removing debris from construction project sites (including home renovations), garbage and “street wastes” from residential neighborhoods, and “recyclables” such as plastic bottles and other plastic debris (electronic wastes, etc.), cartons and other paper waste, as well as tree prunings and other plant waste.
Just a few of the many public and private customers of Zvi Cohen Co.’s many service customers are BIG Shopping Malls, Cellcom, Paz and Sonol oil companies, the Shufersal supermarket chain, and numerous municipalities and local authorities.
“The biggest challenge our company has had in recent years is finding ‘greener’ solutions for disposing of these waste products – especially those that are not recyclable,” Cohen told Metro. His company was involved in relocating Netanya’s waste disposal site from its former location in the southern part of the city; the remains of it are still situated between the Argaman Iris Reserve and a posh new residential housing project in the city’s South Beach quarter.
Waste management solutions and other green issues have become very important to Netanya’s Mayor Miriam Feierberg-Ikar, whose municipality was a cosponsor of last month’s Netanya Green Business Conference, along with Green Agenda. During the conference, the mayor highlighted a number of projects that her city has been involved in, including waste management, new parks and green belt areas, and clean-up projects of the city’s beachfront.
“I hope these projects will make Netanya one of Israel’s greenest cities, much more so than Tel Aviv,” she said.
“We want to preserve our city’s nature sites, especially the Winter Pond, the Ramat Poleg beachfront, and the Iris Reserve. We also want to create more paths for bike riders and find solutions for dealing with the city’s waste products, an important issue on our agenda.
“In short, I want to turn garbage into green garbage,” Feierberg-Ikar declared.
EDUCATION IN environmental aspects and projects is very important to the mayor, and these subjects are now included in the syllabus for children in area schools. This point was emphasized by children from Netanya’s Itamar Elementary School, who were promoting their environmental projects at the conference. Their principal, Dr.
Orna Chenes, was presented with an award for the work her school has been doing to promote green projects.
The school, whose environmental projects have been carried out under guidance from Green Agenda, was recently designated as the first “Green School” in the city.
Metro also contacted Uri Rosenstein, CEO of the E.
Schnapp & Co. Works Ltd., Israel’s largest producer of wet cell batteries for the automotive industry.
Schnapp manufactures what are also known as “lead acid” batteries which, despite ongoing innovations, still contain a number of potentially harmful materials, including lead and other metals, plastics, and corrosive acids. The Netanya-based company has been owned and managed by the Rosenstein family since 1951, when Uri’s father, Moshe Rosenstein, purchased the factory from its original owner, Emanuel Schnapp. The company has been operating in the Netanya Industrial Zone for the entire time.
“Our company was involved in environmental preservation practices long before people started talked about them. We know that our factory is very close to a residential area, Shikun Vatikim,” Rosenstein said. “Because of this, we have to be more careful regarding air and ground pollution. You have to be careful not to cause damage to the public, especially the air people breathe.”
The company employs a number of air-cleaning systems in the factory, including special “absolute filters” that include “after-filters,” which clean both the air coming out of the manufacturing areas and air coming into the areas from outside. The company says it is very concerned with the quality of both incoming and outgoing air.
The factory is subject to annual environmental inspections from the municipality and other government bodies.
“All our factory wastes are recycled, including metals (lead, copper, etc.), plastic material, and other materials.
There are no waste materials that are not recycled,” Rosenstein noted. The company also recycles old batteries retrieved from auto electricians and garages and then dismantled.
Schnapp was one of the original companies to abide by the first clean air laws of the early 1960s (Abatement of Nuisances Law of 1961). Later anti-pollution laws include the more recent Clean Air Law of 2008.
“Our factory is very concerned with complying with the country’s pollution laws. Our entire factory area and warehouse is located atop concrete flooring, preventing ground pollution by materials used to manufacture our products,” Rosenstein pointed out.
When asked how innovations such as electric cars will affect his company, Rosenstein said that all electric cars need a version of a standard lead acid battery to power the car’s accessories – air conditioning, lighting, radios and the like. This battery is in addition to the special lithium-ion battery pack designed to power the car’s electric engine.
“Maybe the next generation will come up with a battery system that will replace lead acid batteries. But until then, our company will continue to manufacture these batteries – and abide by present and future anti-pollution laws and regulations as well,” Rosenstein concludes.
Green Agenda’s Karni Govreen-Segal is very optimistic concerning Israel’s involvement in compliance with international environmental laws and practices.
“As for the future, Israel’s green outlook is positive. With increased regulation and awareness, as well as rising costs of energy and water, both municipalities and businesses must embrace environmental practices to succeed. The wide range of knowledge and know-how required indicate a green future for Israel,” Govreen-Segal said.
Information on both Green Agenda and Matrix Greentech College can be found on their websites: and