Putting Faith in Energy Efficiency

By Evonne Marzouk

“Stewardship in our Faith Traditions Panel” at the Greening America’s Congregations through Energy Efficiency event at the White House last Thursday featured, from left, Rohan Patel, associate director for outreach and public engagement at the White House Council on Environmental Quality; Arjun Bhargava, Hindu American Seva Charities; and Evonne Marzouk, Canfei Nesharim.

I came to work at EPA because of my deep commitment to sustaining our environment and natural resources for ourselves and future generations.

As an observant Jew, I’ve also expressed that commitment in another way: by creating and directing a national Jewish-environmental organization, Canfei Nesharim: Sustainable Living Inspired by Torah.

In my role as executive director of Canfei Nesharim, I was honored to participate on September 13th Greening America’s Congregations Through Energy Efficiency, hosted by the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, in partnership with ENERGY STAR for Congregations.

The event gathered more than 100 leaders of different faith-based projects to protect the environment and save energy. Speakers included representatives of Baha’i, Catholic, Presbyterian, Evangelical, Muslim, Jewish, and Hindu traditions.

I spoke on the panel, “Stewardship in Our Faith Traditions,” drawing upon materials from my organization’s “Year of Jewish Learning on the Environment.” I explored the role of humanity in creation, the Jewish mitzvah of bal tashchit (do not destroy), the wisdom in cycles of rest (such as Sabbath), and the important value that spiritual wisdom can offer us today. As I explained, while it’s critically important for us to take environmental actions like saving energy, faith traditions also have wisdom that we must provide to help our society address environmental challenges.

Other speakers focused on concrete efforts in the faith community to save energy, and shared successes via ENERGY STAR for Congregations, a program dedicated to helping houses of worship reduce their energy use. They estimate that most congregations can reduce their energy costs by up to 30 percent. Many are working with them to do just that! To support our efforts, ENERGY STAR offered a wide range of tools.

Today our faith traditions have an important and meaningful role to play in fostering a more sustainable world. In such a diverse crowd, it was inspiring to see the shared commitment to making a difference. As part of the religious environmental community, I hope we’ll continue to come together to address today’s environmental challenges!

About the author: Evonne Marzouk works in the Office of International and Tribal Affairs, and is also the executive director of Canfei Nesharim, an organization that educates and empowers Jewish individuals, organizations and communities to take an active role in protecting the environment, in order to build a more sustainable world. A version of this blog entry first appeared as an article in the Washington Jewish Week.