Can online information sessions change the world?

One of the stated goals of Ramah Outdoor Adventure is to be a “green camp”.  Over the years, I have blogged about some of our greening initiatives, from reducing paper use in our year-round office to serving organic milk in the dining hall.  We have recently added a section to our website that we will be populating in the coming weeks about these green initiatives and we will continue to update this page as we develop new ways to reduce our carbon footprint and create systems that reduce our impact on the natural environment.

Despite our best efforts to be a green organization, there is a weak link in how our operation effects the environment.  I am referring to our immense carbon footprint from the use of commercial airplanes to bring 60% of our campers to camp, and the extensive travel done by the year round staff to recruit campers from across the country.

On the one hand, air travel is part of living in the modern world, and United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and others would be flying their planes even if Ramah Outdoor Adventure did not exist.  On the other hand, commercial airlines respond to the demands of the market place, and while we might represent less than 0.00001% of their total customers, each organization in the world that relies on commercial aviation to conduct their business bears some responsibility for the fact that emissions from airplanes contribute mightily to global climate change.

As one of the only Kosher outdoor adventure camps in the country, we attract campers from throughout the United States (24 states at last count), Canada and Israel.  We do not intend to limit the communities from which we will accept campers.  And as a unique summer camp, we will continue to recruit in person from many of our larger cities.  Yet, we also are experimenting with ways that we can reduce the number of flights we take to recruit campers during the off‑season.  To this end, we have contracted with a web conference company to begin to host online recruitment meetings every other week.  Our first one will be Tuesday, 11/13/12.  These meetings will take place on alternate Tuesday evenings for the remainder of the calendar year.  At that point we will evaluate their effectiveness and decide how to move forward in 2013.

Will these online meetings prevent the climate from warming and the seas from rising?  No, I think that is unlikely.  But if these online meetings can replace a few in‑person recruiting sessions throughout the year, and other camp directors, who also fly an enormous amount, begin to reduce some of their travel, could we have a marginal effect on reducing our carbon footprint?  Again, it is possible, but unlikely to have any major effect.  In many ways, climate change will not be slowed by one person, one company, or even one industry.  Rather, our objective in moving some of our in‑person meetings to an online format is that we hope to continue to raise awareness about how our actions affect the broader world, and how we must adapt our lives to the reality of a changing climate.   Like we do at camp during the summer, our goal when raising awareness about environmental issues is to communicate how our actions have consequences in the broader world.  Ultimately, at Ramah Outdoor Adventure, we believe that each person must decide for him/herself how to engage in the world and what decisions to make about how to live more sustainably with the natural world around them

If you, or someone you know, is interested in joining one of our online information sessions, please email our program director, Matt Levitt, at mattl@ramahoutdoors.org for the login information.

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