Congregations from around the country submitted the projects they worked on in 2017 to be greener and more sustainable in the places they worship and in the work they do. Every major religion has a mandate to care for Creation and to act as good stewards to preserve life for future generations. These congregations are leading the way to a more sustainable and resilient word where we can all thrive
Bethany Christian Reformed Church
The Christian Reformed Church in North America was the first denomination in North America to endorse a Statement that Climate Change is real, likely caused by human activity and poses a significant threat, especially to the most vulnerable and future generations. Bethany Christian Reformed Church took this call to action to heart and looked for a way to install 100 solar panels. recruited “Climate Witness Partners” from multiple congregations. We presented information sessions on Climate Change and explored possible strategies. They brought in presenters for a community wide workshop on the Investment Model for non-profit financing of renewable energy projects by inviting congregants and friends to invest; the idea being formation of a Limited Liability Company which would install the solar project. Unlike the non-profit, the investors could benefit from the Federal Tax Credits available for Solar Energy projects.
Enough investors were found to install the project in September. By December they began to watch their meter run backwards! They worked to engage and encourage other congregations to consider an investor model. They presented to the local Presbyterian congregation, the local Mosque, a Catholic Church, and 13 Christian Reformed congregations in the region with two congregations (in Zuni and Shiprock, NM) showing strong interest in adopting the model.
They expect the project to engender awareness among their members of the possibilities in harnessing renewable energy. Several families in their congregation are installing solar or planning installs in 2018.
In hopes of inspiring other churches to pursue the model, an article was published in the denominational magazine, The Banner, and in the local newspaper, The Gallup Independent. They joined the Climate march in DC and met with NM Legislators asking them to join the Climate Solutions Caucus.
The Episcopal Church of the Nativity and St. Stephen’s
The Episcopal Church of the Nativity and St. Stephen’s has three historic buildings. One is 130 years old and the other is 180 years old. They are a very small parish with a big goal to significantly lower their carbon footprint
An energy audit let them to switch all the indoor and outdoor bulbs to LED. All of the facilities use heating oil, with boilers and their outdated air conditioning system needed to be replaced. They put in new electric energy efficient system with programmable thermostats that can also can heat, as well as cool. This allowed them to switch from oil to using electricity from renewable energy sources. They significantly lowered the carbon footprint by using less heating oil and by switching to an all- wind electricity supplier. They also installed boiler reset controls, so that if the boilers are being used, the water is kept at lower temperatures during periods when the outside temperature is warmer.
An active and respected Environmental Stewardship Committee has solidified understanding among parishioners about the importance of lowering their carbon footprint. Keeping their congregation engaged in the process was important. Twice each month they send out tips for members to decrease their carbon footprints in their bulletins. They had people as preachers during our church services and presenters at their adult forums, who taught topics such as how to address difficult conversations, and Carbon Fee and Dividend proposals.
All of this is driven by an understanding of their responsibility to care for God’s creation. This is one of the three foci of their church through their Presiding Bishop and supported by their Diocesan Bishop. It also aligns with statements adopted at the 2015 General Convention of The Episcopal Church.
Jewish Community Center of Louisville
The Jewish Community Center of Louisville had carried a long-time desire to address sustainable issues and projects at the center. More specifically, they had deep interest food justice and food education but they did not have any programs in place to educate their community or to implement sustainability initiatives. The JCC building is over 60 years old and not energy efficient. They were looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and also wanted to convince community members, including young adults, that the JCC is an organization that shares their values.
Their three main focus areas are garden education, food justice, and community engagement/programming.The educational garden is active year round and engages over 40 volunteers from the community of various ages. 85% of the produce grown in the garden goes to the food bank or to the programs within the building such as senior adult lunch and preschool snacks. The JCC partnered with the local non-profit New Roots to host a Fresh Stop Market, which is a sliding scale produce market that uses community organizing and cooperative economics to ensure that all members of the community have access to local, fresh food. In 2017, over 900 customers bought produce from the market, of whom 54% purchased at reduce price.They also started a compost system that diverted over 4500 lbs. from landfills, launched energy awareness campaigns, and partnered with local organizations to spread information about weatherizing homes.
These programs were inspired by Jewish values such as caring for the needy, protecting the earth, and engaging with community. It is important to the JCC to demonstrate a strong organizational value system to community members and to potential members. This also leads to a desire on the part of JCC to partner with local organizations, including many that are supported and/or run by members of the Jewish community that focus on food, the outdoors, and the environment.
Second Congregational Church, UCC
Second Congregational Church had long been interested in energy efficiency and over time has made the church building as efficient as possible. In the early spring of 2015 the church installed a set of solar panels on their roof. They began to think that their next challenge was to extend ourselves beyond the limits of their church walls and engage with the larger community on environmental issues. They decided to have a celebration of their new solar system and invite the community to join in a festival. They named the festival Sun and Fun and organized it so that the emphasis was on the environmental and climate issues and on solar energy.
They decided to not use the event as a fundraiser to stress the ideas of simplicity and community rather than a feature of the consumer system. They did not charge a fee for vendor booths or admission and asked vendor to not sell products at the event. They invited community groups and solar energy oriented business to join. They planned for gourmet food and outstanding music, and a children’s component.
They had over 300 community people in attendance. They had demonstrations on electric bikes, the ELF electric car/bike, a tiny house. They also had a panel on how to get your own solar energy either at your home or from community solar, a seminar on climate change from a well known scientist, and a demonstration of bee keeping.
New Life Community Church
East Saint Louis, IL
New Life Community Church went from a 14,000sqft to a 29,000sqft building.Their mission is to reduce our energy usage by 25% by 2025. They started bench marking the bigger space by bringing t in the US Building Council to assist with utility analysis and completed our profile in the EnergyStar Portfolio. The first step to reaching their goal was to s switch to LED lighting, adding occupancy sensors, and HVAC tune-ups.
The new Green Team created a sticker campaign, making our approach more church wide. Stickers like, “Don’t Waste Water”, “Don’t Waste Paper”, and “Turn Lights Off”. When visitors and members see the action steps being taken more people have become willing to join the team. The planning process continues with new energy efficiency project and using renewable energy to offset costs, and planning a solar installation.
Renewable Role Model
Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center
First Universalist Church of Denver
Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Sisters of Charity BVM
St. Elizabeth of Hungary Ravenna
Bridgeport United Church of Christ
First Unitarian Church of Wilmington
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church