A Pause to Evaluate the Co-Benefits of Sustainability

February 6, 2014
BY Aleeza Oshry

2013ftv_oshry_aleezaWe find ourselves in the middle of a leap year in the Jewish calendar, injecting another month of Adar before the regular one and thereby pushing the rest of our holidays to a time of year where we recognize them best. That means no more Thanksgivukkahs!

I call this extra month the “winter pause.” Before leaping into spring, it is a great opportunity to evaluate our energy efficiency and the options available for making improvements. The more informed we are, the more benefits we can gain.

It used to be assumed that peak energy demand days were all in the summer, but this winter might actually change those statistics. With the polar temperatures we’ve been experiencing this winter, I think many of us would agree that warmer weather would be very much welcomed. But until that happens, the next best thing is to be comfortable while we wait for the seasons to progress.

Outside, we have little control against the elements except to bundle up. Inside, being comfortable means having a good heating system and a well-sealed and ventilated house to keep the heat in and the air fresh. But even during record-breaking cold temperatures, being comfortable shouldn’t mean breaking the bank.

Drafty buildings equal high energy bills. And it’s not just our bank accounts that loose when we have high energy bills. Most of the sources for our energy consumption still come from dirty fossil fuels that are directly linked to air and water contamination, causing health and environmental problems.

Energy improvements are not just about changing light bulbs to CFLs and LEDs. Holistic building improvements yield not only significant utility savings, but also many other valuable benefits that can drastically improve quality of life. Consider this list: increased comfort and occupant satisfaction; improved equipment life; employee morale improvement and retention; fewer sick days; reduced asthma occurrence; higher academic achievement; improved customer and public relations; and increased property values.

And all of these benefits can be multiplied even further with the adoption of best practices that include behavior changes such as turning off lights and electronics when not in use. In fact, multiple studies show that the co-benefits of sustainability and environmental best practices average about 2.5 times the projected measurable savings of the energy improvements alone.

It is not a stretch to say that making more sustainable choices will improve the vitality of our whole community. State, local and utility funding continue to be available to help evaluate options. Local nonprofits also offer grant and loan programs for a range of projects, which have been successful in encouraging and supporting impactful, sustainable change.

Together, we are maximizing our impact in our community by stretching everyone’s dollar, comfort and choices further. What changes can you make to reduce energy costs, increase your comfort level and quality of living and keep more money in your pocket?

Aleeza Oshry is manager of the Sustainability Initiative at The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. For more information, contact aoshry@associated.org.

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