How Big Is Your Footprint?

Posted on March 8, 2019 by David Cohen, Social Action Chair

I am happy to report that the Tu BiShvat Seder on January 26 was a rousing success. For the Social Action component, celebrating the New Year of the Trees, we learned interactively about how we can help the trees by reducing our personal environmental footprint. We had about 80 attendees, each of whom worked on filling out a “Personal Eco-Footprint Calculator” worksheet. Since many people attended with their families, there was a good deal of collaboration in filling out these worksheets, so we received a total of 21 completed worksheets.

The worksheets help one to understand the relative impact on the environment of what we eat, what kind of home we live in, how we get around, how we use energy, how we shop, and how other aspects of our lifestyles affect the planet. I was so pleased at how engaged everyone was – I expected people to make rough estimates of their personal habits in each area and complete the worksheet in about 10 minutes, but everyone seemed to want to really get an accurate evaluation. Many worked on their calculations for 20 to 30 minutes, and would have continued to refine them if given more time!

The good news is that, for those in attendance, the average score was 22.8, while the national average score is 25. We seem to already be doing well as a community. I invite everyone who was not there to download a copy of the worksheet from and fill one out yourself! Please also return your completed worksheet to my box in the temple office so I can tabulate how the congregation as a whole is doing. Are the Tu B’Shvat Seder attendees a special subset of the congregation, or is the whole community living an eco-conscious life?

I also hope that everyone who fills out the worksheet will take some of the lessons learned and try to do better in the coming year. After all, research shows that if all of humanity adopted the American lifestyle, we would need four planets like Earth to support everyone. We cannot rest on our laurels and be satisfied with an average footprint of 10 percent lower than the average American! I plan to offer this activity again next year, and am eager to see how our scores evolve.


David Cohen, Chair, Social Action Committee

Originally published in the March-April 2019 issue of the Shofar. For more issues of the Shofar, visit the Shofar archives.