At this past Sunday’s Mitzvah Day event, Shomrei members took part in an educational program delivered by David Korfhage, President of Montclair Climate Action. David began the presentation by asking us, “What comes to mind when you think about climate change?” These were our responses, “Guilty” “Scared” “Confused” “Helpless”: “Paralyzed.”
“So there’s a lot of anxiety” he responded. “And the antidote to anxiety is to take action – to channel fear and anxiety into action, even if you don’t know what the results are going to be.”
David described the causes of climate change; certain gasses – carbon dioxide and methane – get trapped. It’s like putting a blanket over the earth and everyone knows what happens when you pile on the blankets; you get hotter and hotter. That is what we have been doing to the planet.
The good news is that we have not yet hit a tipping point; when a large and sudden and maybe irreversible change happens in climate – like the Gulf Stream completely stopping, or the Amazon completely drying up, or the ice sheets completely melting. The problem is that we don’t know when we’ll reach a tipping point. There is still a chance not to reach one. It’s not inevitable. We still have time to slam on the brakes and do what needs to be done as soon as we can.
So what can we do as individuals to mitigate the greenhouse gases that result in climate change? Greenhouse gases mostly come from four things – transportation, energy, trash, and buildings – so that is where we need to focus our efforts.
Transportation: Walk and ride your bikes rather than driving. Take mass transit when possible. When it’s time to replace your car, buy an electric vehicle.
Energy: For a small increase in price, you can switch your energy supplier to one that uses only renewables (call Energy Harbor LLC at 866-636-3749). This will also have a long term effect by encouraging the electric company to switch to renewable sources of electricity. Install rooftop solar panels. Switch to LED lightbulbs. Gas stoves use methane, so buy an induction coil unit when it’s time to replace your stove.
Trash: Trash contributes only 5% but there is also a social justice issue – Essex County’s trash is incinerated in Newark, which creates poorer air quality there. What we can do: Use (and throw away) less. Repair when you can. Avoid plastic as much as possible – for instance by buying eggs in cardboard cartons rather than styrofoam. Recycle metal, glass, paper, and plastic.
We can also do our own composting – call the Montclair Compost Hotline at (973) 509-5721 to purchase composting bins at just over half the retail price and receive information about best composting practices. Or use a service to pick up your compost (contact Java’s Compost).
Buildings: Increase the energy efficiency of your home by weatherstripping. Sign up for a free quick energy check from PSE&G, in which a certified professional will walk through your home to pinpoint ways you can save energy.
Farming and food consumption are another thing we can change. Cows produce methane so we can reduce our consumption of meat by eating plant-based proteins instead.
We are each only one person but the things we each do will give other people the idea to do the same thing. And we can amplify our impact by talking to people about climate change and what we are doing about it. If everyone worries about it but no one talks about it, then everyone will think that no one else cares and nothing will happen.
We need to join together to make social change. Half of Montclair residents are renters. If you rent, it is really hard to have an electric car because there’s no place to charge it. So we can advocate to have more charging stations installed.
The most important thing to do is to join a group to lobby officials and businesses to make changes. Here are a few:
- Montclair Climate Change
- Empower New Jersey (state level)
- Sunrise Movement (for young people)
- Third Act (for 60+)
- Dayeinu – A Jewish Call to Climate Action
We got into this mess together. We need to work together to get out of it.
Sarita Eisenberg & Audrey Levitin
Co-chairpersons, Shomrei Social Action Committee
Image credit: Photograph taken by Nick Levitin