Green Pastures: Every little bit helps

How we can each do our part to reduce global warming.

Eco world (illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Eco world (illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
By now we know that greenhouse emissions, the gases leaking into the atmosphere, erode the ozone layer that envelops Earth and protects it from sun damage.
These powerful emissions are from industrial processes, refrigeration, transportation, agricultural systems and even household waste.
The results of stronger ultraviolet rays striking Earth can be felt as we wilt on the sidewalks, scurrying from one air-conditioned space to the next.
TV ads and posters in health clinics urge us to apply sunscreen and inspect ourselves for suspicious dark spots on our bodies. Indeed, skin cancer is on the rise.
There seem to be more mosquitoes around, and more insects and fungi in our gardens. We’re enduring more and longer heat waves and eccentric weather, with scant winter rainfall and out-of-season sprinkles that do crops no good. Food prices are going up as crops yield less.
Scientists say these trends are harbingers of dark times ahead for our comfort and safety. Global warming is a reality.
Israel has ambitious plans for reducing greenhouse gases and pollution. The Plastic Bag Law, which went into effect on January 1, reduced by 80% the number of plastic bags that shoppers take home from supermarkets.
This is a significant step toward cleaner land, air and water.
Israelis are learning to sort their garbage for recycling.
Any day of the week, you can see people poking plastic bottles into sidewalk mesh bins and dropping newspapers into blue recycling bins. Do you recycle empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls? You can.
More recently, we’ve also been getting used to recycling assorted packaging materials and plastics. Most neighborhoods sport a purple glass-recycling bin. As a result, gas-emitting, ground-crowding landfills are slower to grow.
Israelis are used to saving water, turning off the tap between soaping and rinsing, whether it’s dishes in the sink or ourselves in the shower. And we reuse 85% of our water. Compared to the global average, we emit far less greenhouse gases from heating water because almost all of our buildings have solar panels that heat it for us.
Nahariya beach and 342 other sites in the Galilee are now free of asbestos waste pollution created by the now-closed Eitanit asbestos cement plant. The plant funded 50% of the cleanup project. At Ariel Sharon Park, once a huge open landfill, we’re not only saving energy, we’re making it out of methane and other gases harvested on site.
The new light rail systems are also a blessing, as more of us leave our cars at home and use public transportation instead, significantly reducing the quantities of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.
Emission-heavy coal and oil still generate most of our electricity, but the discovery of gas fields off our coast holds great promise for a less polluting way to light our homes and charge our computers.
Green buildings are also mushrooming. A plan from the Begin administration for renewing old neighborhoods in periphery towns, with updated improvements in waste reduction and sustainability, is already under way.
Industries and agriculture are now required to green their operations.
So how does our carbon footprint size up in global terms? Given that Israel’s population is growing vigorously and that our resources are limited – not too shabbily. We contribute 0.2% of global greenhouse emissions. In 2005, our carbon dioxide emissions amounted to 10.4 tons per person – a figure Israel aims to reduce by 26% to 7.7 tons by 2030.
But it’s not all blue skies and cherry tomatoes. Our fragile planet will need everyone’s support for a long time yet. The point of reducing greenhouse emissions is to lower Earth’s rising temperatures.
The Paris Agreement on climate change from November 2016 calls for limiting the increase in global temperature to no more than 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. It’s like restraining a galloping horse, but it can be done.
NASA urges only a 1.5° increase, predicting that the impact of a 2° rise would bring longer heat waves, with drought in some regions and torrential rainfall in others. The sea level would also rise and would probably continue to do so after a stable air temperature is achieved. This would erode much of the coasts, and coastal cities would suffer repeated, destructive flooding.
Food security would become precarious as a result of basic crop failures. Mediterranean freshwater resources would fall by half.
There are many ways we can do our part to help lower Earth’s temperature.
Buy locally-made products and foods rather than imported ones. Transportation accounts for a large percentage of the world’s gas emissions.
Save and reuse plastic bags. Pick up plastic bags and bottles lying on the ground and properly dispose of them. Go ahead, look weird; it’ll become mainstream soon enough.
Keep your air conditioner at a comfortable 25° and use its runoff to water your plants and steam iron your clothes.
Reserve red meat for Shabbat and holidays. Chicken and turkey are the most ecological options for carnivores because there’s no need to import poultry – we raise plenty. Go for Meatless Mondays and explore the rich vegetarian offerings of Israel’s multiple ethnic streams. True, almost all our cereals and grains are imported, but cereals and grains don’t emit methane gas while they grow, as do cows. Don’t waste food, which will wind up in landfills. Cook all you buy, and eat all you cook. Your wallet will be the fatter for it, too.
Plant a tree or donate to Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael- Jewish National Fund. Trees and plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Even if all you have is one window ledge, put a pot of mint, sage, basil or other herb on it. If you let it flower, it will attract insect pollinators that help fertilize our native crops.
Buy less stuff. Walk away from impulse purchases; wait 10 minutes and see if you still feel like you can’t do without them. Usually, the flush of temptation wears off by then. Manufacturing things uses resources, as does disposing of them. Give away old clothes and objects rather than dumping them.
Drive less. Take a bus or train, or ride your bike. Combine your chores into one outing, and plan a direct route. Do you really need to drive to the mini-market if walking there takes only five or 10 minutes? Use a shopping cart to schlep your purchases.
Be stingy with electricity. Fill your washing machine before starting a load, and wash with warm, not hot, water. Today’s laundry detergents are powerful enough to get a load clean on lower temperatures than in the past. Hang clothes to dry outside. Turn your computer off in between sessions. Switch lights off in empty rooms.
It comes down to this: To save the planet, be willing to live with less convenience. Every little bit helps.