Israeli energy initiative makes climate change a social cause

Environmental entrepreneur, Eyal Biger, the founder of Israel’s Good Energy Initiative.For every car that drives, every plane that flies and every appliance that gets plugged into the wall, a price is paid by the environment. The burning of fossil fuels …

Environmental entrepreneur, Eyal Biger, the founder of Israel’s Good Energy Initiative.For every car that drives, every plane that flies and every appliance that gets plugged into the wall, a price is paid by the environment. The burning of fossil fuels for use in transport, industry and our day-to-day lives, emits carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Al Gore has exposed the effects of global warming at great lengths. And some activists around the world – like those from Israel’s Good Energy Initiative – think that there is still time to turn around, or at least stop, the acceleration of climate change.

The Good Energy Initiative, a non-profit organization, is the first and only voluntary carbon offset provider in Israel. Through donations, it lets people and organizations neutralize their “carbon footprint” by funnelling cash investments into local grassroots educational and social projects. Carbon offset money also goes toward developing new alternative energy projects.

This term carbon neutral is used when the amount of greenhouse gases one emits (a carbon footprint), is balanced either through the purchase of offsets, or by greenhouse gas reduction practices.

The Israeli project is unique because its offset projects are all based locally, and have a strong social element. Not only does the organization plan to reduce greenhouses gases emitted locally, it educates schoolchildren about global warming, alleviates pressures on marginalized communities, and creates new alternative energy projects.

By working locally, the initiative may also have profound implications for peace building, too. What normally happens in carbon offsetting initiatives is that projects are carried out elsewhere, often in developing nations.

But for $6 a pound, one can neutralize your carbon footprint through Good Energy and know that the projects are being monitored closely. The group currently appeals for donations from conference organizers, the media, and even those flying to the Holy Land on mission trips.

Since it was founded a year ago by environmental entrepreneur Eyal Biger, who specializes in biological fuel alternatives, the initiative has helped a number of local businesses go carbon neutral. The list includes The Marker, a Hebrew language business daily; and the organization is currently advising coffee chain Aroma Israel, how to become carbon neutral.

The offset money goes to a number of local projects, and includes an effort to reduce emissions by replacing boilers with solar heating systems in apartment buildings. The group has supplied solar energy systems for cancer-stricken children in Bedouin settlements. In lieu of diesel generators, their parents now use a non-polluting means to keep medicine cool.

Good Energy is also running an organic waste composting program for communities and public entities; and has developed a regional incandescent-to-CFL bulb campaign.

“Ours is a social venture. Our only profit is the social profit,” Tom Brecher, environmental advisor at Good Energy tells ISRAEL21c.

The Good Energy Initiative owes its start in life to the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership, Israel’s premiere environment education center. Heschel will support Good Energy until next year.

This particular project is “super innovative” says Heschel’s resource developer David Pearlman Paran. “It is breaking new ground in Israel. Its focus on social initiatives is fairly uncommon,” he says, and it adds value by “improving energy efficiency and society.”

How does Good Energy compare to other offset organizations in the rest of the world? “It is up to speed, and in some ways it is far ahead,” replies Paran.