Religion & Beliefs

How Many Jews Does It Take to Change A Lightbulb?

If you’re not already very familiar with the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, please check out their amazing website now. It’s chock full of fantastic resources for making your synagogue and Jewish community more aware of environmental consequences, … Read More

By / May 28, 2007

If you’re not already very familiar with the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, please check out their amazing website now. It’s chock full of fantastic resources for making your synagogue and Jewish community more aware of environmental consequences, and ways to decrease your community’s environmental footprint. But the big news over at COEJL is that they’ve started a new program called "Conservation Conversations: Invite Your Elected Official to Synagogue" to engage your elected officials in a dialogue about climate change policy and conservation. The program is being launched in partnership with the Relgious Action Center, and the RAC’s website is hosting a bunch of the materials that are relevant. They’ve got resources to help you find the best advocacy opportunities in your area, as well as tools to help you prepare for a political visitor. They even help you figure out how to use momentum from such an event to get things going further at your synagogue, minyan, or kehillah. This is what I love about the RAC. They see an issue and they just attack it full on, disseminating information, helping with programming, morale, funding and other resources. Regardless of your level of observancy, you should check out the RAC’s homepage every once and a while just to see what kind of work they’re doing. Trust me when I say you’ll always be impressed. Anyway, I hope you’ll check out the COEJL programming and take some time to get your representative or Senator to stop by your place of worship. And while those details are being worked out, go get yourself an energy efficient lightbulb to reduce greenhouse emissions. It’s easy, saves you money, and helps save the world. I’m pretty sure God would approve. For more info on COEJL’s How Many Jews Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb campaign, click here.

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How Many Jews Does It Take To Change a Lightbulb?

My roommate is my newest blogging muse. She delights in feeding me information that I can turn into blog posts. And I, in turn, take great joy in accepting her great ideas and passing them off as my own. So, … Read More

By / May 8, 2007

My roommate is my newest blogging muse. She delights in feeding me information that I can turn into blog posts. And I, in turn, take great joy in accepting her great ideas and passing them off as my own.

So, a few nights ago she came downstairs with her Smithsonian magazine in hand to show me an article on Thomas Edison and the evolution of the lightbulb. Apparently, incandescent bulbs are for bad people who don't care about the earth. But compact flourescent light (CFL) bulbs (they're the ones that look like squigly, corkskrew things) are, at least for now, the bulb-of-choice for those who are "environmentally conscious."

For those of you who are concerned: No, I do not often commune with others to discuss the technological advancement of light-emitting sources, though my friend and I have been known to argue about the syntactical nuances of a two-syllable word for an ungodly amount of time. On a good night, though, we realize how nerdy we are and quickly shift to a discussion of whether skinny jeans and high-waisted pants are really a good look for anyone.

She thought I would find the article amusing, though, because it highlighted a nationwide campaign launched by the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life called "How Many Jews Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb?" The campaign is geared toward getting Jewish communities to be more environmentally aware.

It's an attempt at proselytization, so to speak — urging incandescent-bulb-using Jews (and others) to convert to the CFL bulb belief system. It's a cool idea, and very tikkun olam, which I am ALL about.

All good stuff. The problem? I am not "environmentally conscious," it seems. You either are, or you aren't. Yes, I should be. But I'm not.

My roommate, however, is the recycler extraordinairre, queen of the environmentally aware. I, on the other hand, drink a bottle of water every day, and when I am done I throw it in the trash.

I am environmentally challenged. I gripe when my roommate's gigantic box of "stuff to be recycled" takes up too much space in our office. I snarl when she goes through the house trading out my incandescent bulbs for her CFL bulbs. I recoil at countless empty catfood tins in the sink, awaiting their journey into her recycling bag.

And yet, I feel guilty . . .

But she drives an SUV, and I do not. It's a trade-off. And I do charity work when I can, so it must even out, right?

And here's my loophole: apparently (according to the Smithsonian piece), these CFL bulbs have mercury issues, which means you don't want them anywhere near the kitchen where food is being prepared — if the light were to somehow get bumped, you would end up with a dusting of mercury all over your kitchen counter. That's great — save the environment, kill the individual, slowly, over time. Death by mercury poisoning, but I've saved the planet.

But then I read this:

Our message is as easy as changing a light bulb: If you could conserve energy and help stop global warming in one simple step, wouldn't you? CFLs use up to 75% less energy than incandescent light bulbs, while lasting approximately eight times longer. This means less production of greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and toxic waste. The average CFL will save its owner at least $55 in energy costs over the lifetime of the bulb! Your CFL will pay for itself in energy savings within two to three months (based on a 5-hour/day use and average electricity costs.) If every U.S. household replaced one bulb with a CFL, it would have the same impact as removing 1.3 million cars from the road.

So the ethical dilemma is not a new one: Do I do what will benefit me and my family, or do I take the high road and change out my bulbs in order to remove 1.3 million cars from the road?

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