Thanks to a generous donor, Runners Up this year received a $500 prize! The judges for the Cool Congregations Challenge were very impressed with the high quality of the applications this year! Here are their comments on their selected Runners Up for the Cool Congregations Challenge 2022.
All Saints Episcopal, Carmel, CaliforniaAll Saints’ Episcopal Church, CA: “A Holy Evolution: Peace Post Project for Creation”
All Saints’ Episcopal Church had a well-defined, inspirational, and holistic project. They demonstrated intersectional environmentalism by making connections between COVID-19, climate justice, and racial justice. . The main peace post project is an inspiration to the entire community both inside and outside of the congregation. One of the most inspiring aspects of this project is the youth engagementent that the congregation was able to build from the partnership with All Saint’s Day School.
First Universalist Church of Minneapolis, MN: “Honor the Earth and the Food We Love”
The Food Solutions team of this congregation engaged congregants in a myriad of sustainable food education tools, such as videos, lectures and presentations to help reach their goals of minimizing household food waste and reducing household consumption of animal foods. Approximately 10% of the congregation (100 individuals) was involved in this campaign. The team was also creative in directly engaging congregants through interviewing 14 congregants, holding five plant-based potlucks to convince participants that plant-based food taste good, incorporating an educational interlude to their events, and collecting pledges for congregants to partake in emissions-reducing diets. They also will engage youth with a well-rounded sustainable foods curriculum that includes a collaboration with the Midwest Food Connection.
Peninsula Sinai Congregation, CA: “PSC Relamp & HVAC” Achieved a 26% reduction in energy use, saving 7.3 tons of CO2, with $4,000 in cost savings. City Green Certification. Compostable materials, drip irrigation first. Good Energy Efficiency work: Solar installation with energy efficiency measures carried out: LED lighting, energy efficient HVAC, window film, and a MERV13 advanced air filtration system. They recycled lighting using volunteer labor. Improved comfort. Congregation involved in environmental and social justice efforts nationally. Prepped to add solar. Now sealing leaks and automating lighting.
Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church, MD: “Woods Church Renew Energy Savings Campaign”
Achieved a 52% total energy reduction with $35,000 in cost savings. Old facility that operates 24/7 – addressed HVAC & lighting with a clear 50% energy use reduction goal. They had an engineering study conducted with a statement of work and proposals offered. They were methodical in their phased approach. Addressed the building envelope with weatherization, sealing and insulation. 30 volunteers worked to make it a reality.
Renewable Role Model
Resurrection University Catholic Parish, MT: “Resurrection Solar Electricity Project” The 50 kW solar PV system is one step in a series of energy-efficiency and related environmental enhancements starting in 2016. Original efforts including lighting changes and signage. This was followed by a community recycling program, then the PV system (reducing carbon-intensive grid electricity by 50%), and most recently a community vegetable garden along with drought tolerant plants. The PV system is the maximum permitted in the state for a non-Utility. The system purchase was supported in part by grants for which the congregation applied, a loan, and capturing tax credits. Installation costs were reduced using parishioner volunteer time.
Islamic Center of Evansville, IN: “Renewable Role Model” This small congregation is primarily immigrants including people of white and African-American identities. Because of their faith, interest-bearing loans for their solar installation are not an option, so they relied on a successful congregational fundraising effort that exceeded their goal. They reduced their grid electricity use by 50%. They are an EPA Energy Star certified congregation, one of only four in Indiana.
Electric Vehicle Leader
Oak Grove Presbyterian, MN: “Electric Vehicle Expos 2018, 2019, 2021” The Oak Grove Presbyterian Church clearly exemplifies community care and climate alignment. Of the 490 members, 12 are electric vehicle owners, resulting in 2.4% ownership rate. The church offers two on-site level 2 chargers with free charging; these chargers are accessible by church members and to the surrounding public. This free infrastructure accessibility is crucial to supporting additional community members with transitioning from gas to electric vehicles. Both the Mission Committee and Green Committee advocate for climate equity advancements at their church and within their community. In addition to infrastructure accessibility and advocacy, Oak Grove elevates climate equity through various EV education and engagement efforts. Their church is aware of and actively participating in local climate and climate equity spaces
Grace Christian Reformed Church, MI: “Proposal to speed up the arrival of the electric vehicle era” Grace Christian Reformed Church outlined a clear plan to utilize funds to support congregation members with a vehicle purchase by utilizing match funding. Despite lacking on-site charging, 3.5% of members own EVs. Members have expressed curiosity about EVs and interest in making the switch. The Church has outlined education and engagement efforts to support their members and community with building confidence around EVs.
Unitarian Universalist of Wyoming Valley, PA “The Greening of our Sanctuary”:
This congregation’s project has excellent, specific plans for significant equipment upgrades, including improving the efficiency of the heating system and installing a solar array. These plans are well-aligned with their goal to “eliminate our addiction to fossil fuels”. They seem set to achieve significant carbon emissions reductions, potentially reducing their carbon footprint by 35%. This project demonstrates high engagement levels from congregants: The most impressive indicators for likely success are having raised $32,000 of their $35,000 budget goal from only 35 congregants, having a meeting for congregational input, having established a Church Building Committee and working with a Clean Energy Cooperative.
Camino de Vida Ministerio, NM: “En el jardín: Caring for our neighbors and God’s creation” Camino de Vida Ministerio Cristiano is a Spanish-speaking congregation comprised primarily of recent immigrants. A joint ministry of the PCUSA and the ELCA, it is the only all-Spanish-language mainline Protestant church in Albuquerque. The youth and adults have begun on their ambitious plan to restore the 3 acre property that was gifted to them by another congregation with a community garden that will provide fresh produce for neighbors in need, a food orchard, a space for outdoor bilingual worship, gatherings, and experiencing God in nature. The congregation is committed to making this green space a reality. They are working with many partners including New Mexico IPL, the local extension agency, ELCA and PCUSA.
First Unitarian Universalist Society of Marietta, OH: ‘Fort Street Pollinator Habitat Becomes the Community’s Garden’ A relatively small church on a small lot, chose to take on a project in an underserved yet highly trafficked part of their city along a river bank. This was impressive. The Green Sanctuary Committee engaged city officials and received private grant funding. The group salvaged native plants before thoughtfully using black plastic to suppress invasive plants. The church won support from neighbors, a landscape company (free mulch) and the city. Volunteers now lead tours and other groups are looking to replicate their success. The beautiful, native pollinator garden in such a public spot is an inspiration to others to do something similar. This project is a good example of what a small congregation can do when their own property is limited.
King of Glory Lutheran, AZ: ‘Caring for Creation in the Desert’ King of Glory Lutheran’s well-defined mission to update their grounds to a low water use and low maintenance landscape was impressive. The Landscape Revitalization Team’s process was transparent and got the full buy-in of the congregation. This large Lutheran church is also home to an Indo-Pak congregation, a Korean congregation, a pre-school and houses 40 homeless community people once every week which means their work will reach many different groups. It is impressive that they negotiated with the City of Tempe about their tree size requirements not allowing the use of native trees and the use of native groundcovers instead of turf in the bioretention basins. The scope of the improvements was extensive. Plantings included 157 trees (8 varieties), 678 shrubs (13 varieties), 315 ground covers (3 varieties). They expanded and diversified their pre-school garden including Monarch-friendly plantings. The church included the mayor and a city council member in their dedication ceremony. The results made their entire building and campus much more visible to the community and an example to others.