Can remodeling an office truly assist in alleviating the United States' reliance upon foreign oil? According to the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the nation's largest Jewish advocacy group, it can.
Built more than 50 years ago, the organization's Manhattan headquarters has traditionally been less than environmentally-friendly. Like other aging buildings, there were a variety of older technologies responsible for running the air conditioning, the elevator and other much-needed operational items.
But, recently things changed when the AJC received a "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design" award for its advances in making its 10-story building more "green." While some would give the group a small pat on the back and carry onward, the organization's leaders are immensely impressed with their own environmentally-friendly advances. According to the Jewish Daily Forward, AJC Executive Director David Harris explains:
"That was, for me [receiving the award], one of the most significant moments of my professional life. This was an expression of living our values, not just talking about them. This is keeping with Jewish tradition — as my father planted for me, so will I plant for my children."
Certainly, the environmental benefits (not to mention cost-savings that the changes will provide in the long-term) are worth celebrating, but there was an entirely different, more policy-driven reason for Harris and his organization to make these changes (extra-absorbant carpet, wood paneling from a sustainable forest, etc.).
The AJC, among other Jewish groups, believes that "going green" isn't just a fad or a religious requirement; they contend that it's a way to combat America's ongoing dependence on foreign oil. The Forward continues:
The AJC and other Jewish groups see going green as a way to combat U.S. dependence on foreign oil, a dependence, say AJC officials, that keeps the country beholden to Arab oil states whose policies imperil the United States, Israel, and Europe. To decrease that dependence, the AJC supports measures lauded by environmentalists, such as increasing car fuel efficiency. But it also promotes off-shore domestic drilling and new, purportedly cleaner coal technologies.
This latter part -- the reliance on domestic drilling -- isn't going over well with environmentalists who claim that any reliance on oil (or coal, for that matter) is damaging to the environment. Still, Richard Foltin, the AJC’s director of national and legislative affairs, best explained the group's goals:
"It’s not all or nothing, and we don’t have to buy into the entire [environmental] agenda. With oil development, it is not ‘drill, baby, drill.’ There is a smart way to do it, to develop energy sources that are clean and safe."
...we want to be less reliant on foreign oil in the event someone seeks to use oil against us as a strategic weapon."
In the end, this remodel suits numerous goals -- cheaper bills for the organization, better treatment of the environment and the potential to better influence international policy, among them. But, perhaps most important to the AJC, is the notion that the group's environmental office changes can serve as an example and a beacon to others so that dependence upon foreign sources can eventually be alleviated.