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Jerusalem's Self-Sustaining Light

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While I was not around to remember the boom and bust of the alternative energy sector in the 1970's and 80's, I think even a superficial understanding of that era explains why that isn't what we're facing today. Joshua Green of The Atlantic illustrates some of these differences in his article, "The Elusive Green Economy." He quotes Raj Vaswani of Silver Spring Networks saying, "The problem 30 years ago was that doing something environmentally sound required asceticism and sacrifice." This is no longer the case. We can focus solely on increasing efficiency alone and save up to 20% of the world energy demand by 2020. With lighting alone replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) can reduce energy use by 75 percent. Installing a programmable thermostat can save homeowners around $180 per year. It is small and unobtrusive changes like these that can add up to large savings in energy and money. It is clear that advancements in technology and the easy dissemination of information have brought about a new era; one in which each person has an extraordinary ability to enact change.

2009-06-25-led_wall_sm.jpgIt's been about a week and a half since I have started my PresenTense fellowship. I had a chance to look at the first Jerusalem Festival of Lights, a huge arts event using lights. The first exhibit was set up by GreenTops, an Israeli green technology company. Huge LED arrays shined in a rainbow of color, but when reading the exhibit description one realized that these lights were not on the grid. The exhibits electrical needs were self contained and sustainable. They used solar panels to charge batteries during the day that powered the exhibit at night. It was an amazing sight, the solar panels and LED lights with a backdrop of the millennia old remains of Jerusalem.

While I have spent some time out in the dry heat of Jerusalem's day and cool nights, I have been spending most of my days in the well air-conditioned PresenTense Hub. The first two days were tough. We were in orientation classes all day that Monday and Tuesday. PresenTense CEO Ariel Beery and Co-Director Aharon Horwitz were teaching us how to use a lot of the technological tools of the trade. There was a large focus on using web tools like Weebly, Twitter and wikis. After that, I dove right into working on my project GreenMeUp. In addition to general progression each week we are given a specific aspect to work on. The first week was focused on the visioning of our projects. This helped us focus on what our goals for our projects and where we would like to see them go. Over the next few days I had a chance to start getting to know the other fellows as we all went along tackling our projects. The projects range from integrating technology and Jewish education to Israeli/Palestinian reconciliation.

While I have a lot of ideas for what I want GreenMeUp to look like I started off lacking the business skills required to execute my project. I have had chances to meet with Ariel Beery and my mentor, Tova Serkin who are helping me to refine the abstract idea that is GreenMeUp into a more concrete notion. My idea started as a broad prospect to help people increase efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint but is now starting to zero in on a practical way to begin that. GreenMeUp will tackle this by creating competitions and rewarding energy savings. I need to decide if GreenMeUp is to be a platform for environmental competitions or its own website with competitions but a general focus on Greening Up.