Reducing household carbon footprint

Over one third of Congregation Beth Shalom’s households have reduced their energy use by 14% thanks to educational events and activities.

Tending the Garden of Eden or Curbing Climate Change; “And the Lord God placed man in the Garden of Eden to till and to tend it.” Genesis 2:15

Over one third of Congregation Beth Shalom’s households have reduced their energy use by at least one seventh and/or reduced their carbon footprint to significantly less than half the average for an American household of their size.

For example, our board president, treasurer, and secretary cut their natural gas usage by over 50%, 40%, and 18%, respectively. These reductions fulfill Beth Shalom’s Till & Tend Home Energy Reduction Pledge, signed by 39% of our households and ten of our twelve board members.

In September 2010, Beth Shalom kicked off a Task of the Month Program. We’ve promoted energy reduction through an inspiring kick-off holiday program with a film, small-group discussions and a children’s program that included leaders from other congregations as observers. Beth Shalom has also included scriptural teachings and fun announcements like adapted hymns during services, building an interactive bulletin board with posters and info sheets on each month’s energy-reducing task; newspaper articles on our work; pledge forms; descriptions of what households have done; offer discount supplies from pipe insulation to CFLs; a holiday fair display where members could purchase supplies and get information; a show-and-tell event showcasing how households reduced; and a joyful year-end potluck celebration that included visioning next steps.

With an MLK Day kick-off, teams have been providing weatherizing assistance to any household that requests it. As role models, board members spent an afternoon at each other’s homes sealing cracks and insulating. Children and teens from Christian, Muslim, and our own congregations weatherized the homes of older members, and a contractor worked with Beth Shalom and Islamic Center teens to insulate an attic.

By reducing our congregational building’s energy usage by one seventh and equipping and inspiring over a third of our members to do the same, Beth Shalom has become Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light’s (Hoosier IPL’s) first Seventh Day Congregation. Our goal is to help create a tipping point, inspiring more of our own members and other congregations in our city and state to follow suit. We have secured media coverage for many of our events and, through Hoosier IPL, will share our experience achieving Seventh Day status with congregations statewide.

This Cool Congregations story was submitted by Congregation Beth Shalom, Bloomington, Indiana

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