Mt. Auburn Presbyterian has reduced their carbon emissions by 75 tons through energy saving measures and the installation of solar panels, but that isn’t all. They have continued to make changes – new windows, new HVAC system and an upgrade to LED lighting and the estimated carbon reductions come to 80%. The results of the latest major measures have not yet come in, but check back here in January and you’ll see how close they are to their objective of being a zero-carbon congregation!
By the sounds of it, their whole congregation has jumped in to help! And one member wrote a great short treatise on why the improvements cost nothing, and he’s right! Read it here.
In their own words…
“A group of motivated environmentally conscious people in our congregation recognized that climate change is very real and unless we changed our approach to energy utilization,there would not be a future for our grandchildren. We recognized the inefficiency of our boilers, windows, and air conditioning and tried to find ways to reduce our high energy bills.
We also felt that as Christians, we had a moral obligation to our faith to protect and improve our gift from God, our earth. Our worship and discipleship will celebrate God’s grace and glory in creation and declare that God calls us to cherish, protect and restore this earth.
Our energy saving project was to reach a zero-carbon footprint for our aging church building, offices and educational wing. In addition, we wished to add earth care to our church services, educate our parishioners about how they could live greener lives and find ways to encourage public policy and community involvement that protects and restores the vulnerable and degraded earth.
The challenges we faced were to conduct an energy audit of our church, determine what measures we needed to complete to reach our goal of zero carbon footprint, convince our congregation of this mission and secure funds to do so.
Our building is over a hundred years old and we needed to devise ways to install new windows, roof, and solar panels, LED lights and yet preserve the historical beauty of the church inside and out.
A new roof and the 63 KW solar panels were installed in November of 2019 and the new windows, HVAC, and LED lighting in 2021. The total cost for all these improvements was $450,000, which is 10 years of utility bills before the upgrades were made. The cost was paid for by a $150,000 loan from PCUSA (which was later paid off by a gift), a capital campaign, and savings of $40,000 in utility bills the first year of the solar installation. With these savings the cost of the improvements will be recouped in under 10 years.
Our Earth Care Team met with all other committees to educate the members of our urgent need to reduce our carbon footprint. The team set up four church services a year dedicated to celebrating God’s call to us to cherish, protect and restore this earth. This included biblical reading, music and sermons. An Earth Care weekend retreat was held which included many talks about nature but also hikes. A 9-month course was developed by John Hancock to teach our members how we could reduce our carbon footprints at home. 17 families made the commitment to this course.
The Buildings and Grounds Committee completed an energy audit, evaluated several solar energy companies, arranged for new roof and installation of solar panels, new windows and new HVAC system, and replaced all light bulbs to LED bulbs.
The Session unanimously committed to financially support that needed changes to the church buildings to decrease our energy consumption and reduce our bills and carbon footprint. Session agreed to make sustainability a part of our spiritual journey. It was agreed to celebrate God’s grace and glory in creation by providing moments for mission, introducing green liturgy and scheduling guest preachers focusing on environmental and faith issues.
The Progressive Education committee scheduled sessions on global warming, climate change, nature and recycling. Posters and other educational materials were posted in our social hall concerning reduction of carbon footprint.
The final result of our project is markedly decreased utility bills, huge carbon footprint reduction and setting the standard for all other faith-based facilities in Cincinnati and beyond.
We have joined a climate advocacy group called Green Umbrella and are active in a subcommittee called Faith Communities Go Green. This committee helps other faith-based communities in their journey to reduce their carbon footprint.
Other faith-based communities can find inspiring that in only a couple years we have reduced our carbon footprint by 80 plus percent, have inspired our congregants with faith-based liturgy and education and have made much of this project very enjoyable.”
Story drawn from the application written by Kathleen Downey