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October 1, 2014 | 7th Tishrei 5775

Being Green

Galilee Diary #491, May 18, 2010
Marc Rosenstein

When in your war against a city you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees, wielding the ax against them. You may eat of them, but you must not cut them down.
            -Deuteronomy 20:19

Living out here among the green valleys of the Galilee, it is interesting to consider our footprint:

  • Our county considers itself pretty advanced regarding recycling. Here on Shorashim (population - 80 households) there are separate bins in our parking lot for plastic bottles and bags, newspaper, white paper, cardboard, glass and garden waste. While we pay deposits on wine bottles and beverage cans, the stores have made it so inconvenient to actually return the containers and retrieve the deposit that almost no one does, at best separating the materials in the recycling bins and forfeiting the deposit. Food cans go into the regular landfill garbage. The county offers plastic backyard composters at a subsidized cost, and they are quite popular here.

  • In addition, everyone has a solar hot water heater, and three neighbors have installed solar panel arrays, selling power back to the electric company. I know of a handful of others who, like me, have set up modest gray water systems (from the shower to the trees). A neighbor who wanted to put in a rain water cistern was deterred when he learned that the area of the cistern would be counted in the area of his home for calculating the monthly property tax.

  • I've noticed a couple of hybrids, a few green diesels (that get better mileage than hybrids), and about half a dozen SUVs.

  • I know of several homes heated by wood burning stoves, several more that use oil, but I think most people rely on heat pumps (i.e., room or central air conditioners that can be reversed). In mountain-top communities, wood or oil-fired furnaces are popular, but at our moderate altitude, it never gets very cold, so heat pumps are adequate and efficient.

  • While some families consulted with "green" architects, I don't think in the end that anyone has built a non-standard home (no mud plaster, no hay bales).

  • There are probably a dozen people who work at home or have offices here in the community, and an equal number who are picked up for work by their employer's van service. Everybody else drives to work, anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours. It appears to me that most people drive alone.

  • I encounter various neighbors on the moshav paths, jogging or biking or exercise-walking (them, not me); I suspect that a larger number drive to the gym for their exercise.

  • There is no store here, and while there are quite a few fruit trees, vegetable gardens are few and small. I know of one family who keep chickens. The only significant local product is olive oil (and cured olives). We do have a clothing exchange twice a year, which is always a great success (bring in your castoffs, go home with a new-to-you wardrobe - sometimes garments you've been coveting for years as you pass them on the path).

  • One of our founders, a landscape architect devoted to local, low-water gardening, designed our public gardens brilliantly. The place is lush, but largely with native, low-maintenance plantings. Not a lot of grass.

As a typical, educated, middle class community, we do our best to be environmentally correct, within, of course, a basic context that is anything but. Seeking out a synthesis between Zionist idealism (rooting Jews in the land) and "quality of life," we have created an automobile-dependent exurban sprawl that we try to green with composters and recycling campaigns. Of course I am not considering moving to a yurt and eating foraged groceries, but I think it important to recognize that one of the enemies we shall have to overcome in order to survive here is our own consumption, especially as it expresses itself in the sprawling attack on our scarce open space.

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