This June 29, 2016 blog post from The Pollinator, was written by Elizabeth Loser. It is republished here with permission (and an added photo!) Libby Loser and Bill Lochstet are members of the PennCentral Conference of the UCC’s Green Justice committee; Bill is also a PA IPL board member.
More than 160 new LED light bulbs were brought by visitors and delegates to the UCC’s Penn Central Conference Annual Meeting this June as part of a mission project called “Bright Idea.” These light bulbs were then donated to a food bank in each of the conference’s eight associations. The food banks distributed the bulbs to low income clients. The clients were asked to replace their most used incandescent light bulb with the LED bulb received.
The first goal of this mission project was to help families or individuals with little discretionary income to lower their electric bill and lower their carbon emissions by replacing their most used standard light bulb with an LED bulb, as well as to educate on Creation Care / environmental stewardship. By our calculations, over 17,000 pounds of CO2 emission are saved per year by the use of these 160 LED bulbs. *
The second goal was to model for Penn Central UCC churches, a simple Creation Care action which any church could replicate in their own locale. New Covenant UCC in Williamsport, PA is the first Penn Central Conference church to announce that it has already implemented “Bright Idea” in partnership with their United Churches of Lycoming County’s Shepherd of the Street. Thank you New Covenant UCC!
Partnering food banks were asked to distribute the bulbs to individuals or families in the way that worked best for their food bank with a few guidelines:
Bright Idea is most effective if
the bulbs go to people who pay an electric bill so they can track how the LED bulb helps with their electric usage and expenses.
As education on energy conservation is great, an informational sticker was placed on each box with information on the average amount clients might see their electric bill and carbon emissions decrease and how to learn more about energy efficient lighting.
If the partnering food bank’s personnel and time permit, clients could bring in an electric bill when they receive their bulb and then again in 6 months to assist client’s understanding of the energy saved, lower electric bill, and fewer carbon emissions.
The food banks were encouraged to partner with churches in their locale to continue this project. It is easy to do and truly makes a difference.
We give thanks for “Bright Idea” which comes from Central Baptist Church in Wayne, PA which shared it with Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light.
* Replacing one 60-watt incandescent light bulb with one 60-watt equivalent LED light bulb saves over 110 pounds of CO2 emissions per year from entering the atmosphere and may save $11 per year on your electricity bill (using an average of 6.9 hours of use per day and a cost of $.085 per KWH of electricity)
A BHAG is a Big, Hairy Audacious Goal (pronounced “bee-hag”) Pretty great, right? Read on for Central Baptist Church’s story of dropping BELOW zero, including member transportation to and from church. There are a few links to previous stories here, and we hope to have some more pictures and some follow up pieces as time marches on, but this story just couldn’t wait any longer.
Getting To Zero (CO2 Emissions) at Central Baptist Church
Summary: On Sunday, October 11, 2015, Central Baptist Church (CBC) in Wayne, PA, celebrated achieving “minus Zero” in its Getting to Zero campaign to reduce congregational carbon emissions. The campaign was designed and conducted by the Ecology Mission Group (EMG) at CBC.
CBC’s EMG decided to offset its CO2 emissions several years ago, and focused at first on offsetting emissions from the operation of the building; i.e., the emissions from the use of electricity and natural gas, which the EMG estimated to total 41,000 pounds per year. The EMG developed three programs, described below, to offset these emissions: solar panels, light bulbs, and wind energy.
After these programs brought building use to carbon neutral in 2014, the EMG realized that an even greater carbon footprint than building use was probably congregational travel. During 2015 the Getting to Zero campaign encouraged families to estimate and then to purchase offsets to their own CBC-related travel. With help from the congregation, EMG estimated these emissions at 66,000 pounds per year. Over the summer of 2015, more than enough offsets were purchased to declare the congregation “minus Zero”.
Details: To offset the building emissions, CBC has three programs. One is a set of 48 solar panels installed on the flat roof of a wing of the church building. The panels were started in May 2009 and, since then approximately 71,000 Kwh of electricity have been generated. This is only an offset program because it lowers the electricity that CBC purchases from PECO. CBC does not count as offsets the Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) it receives and sells, because the sale of the credits allows someone else to emit carbon dioxide.
CBC also offsets building operation CO2 emissions through a program called Bright Idea under which CBC yearly gives approximately 800 compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to social centers which then give the CFLs and LEDs to their clients to install in their homes or apartments. Based upon a survey done of the hours that the replaced bulbs operated, those emission offsets amount to 7,800 lbs. per year.
It also occurred to the EMG that a lot of people drive vehicles to church every Sunday and that there are a lot of trips to church for meetings during the week, a lot of staff trips to and from church and several members and the pastors take long distance trips to Baptist board meetings and other conferences and events. The EMG felt that these CO2 emissions be counted also as an effect of operating a church. In fact, EMG did a gross estimate of these emissions and they were at 66,000 lbs. per year while the emissions from the electricity and gas were 41,000 lbs. The EMG also decided to find an emission factor for paper as a proxy for all of the emissions from the purchasing of products that support the worship services and communicate with members, like paper. The emission rate found for paper manufacturing was 27.5 lbs. of CO2 per ream of paper for 112 reams per year.
Having determined that travel-related emissions exceeded all other emissions, CBC decided to embark on a program called Getting To Zero. Each person or family unit was asked to complete a form that would result in an emissions figure for their church-related travel. More than one-half the people did not complete their form but gave the committee permission to fill it out for them. This detailed emission inventory was very close to the gross estimate of emissions made for CBC. The range of CO2 emissions for most people/families was from about 100 lbs. per year up to 2200 lbs. per year. The staff emissions were from 800 lbs. per year up to about 3500 lbs. Next, the committee produced the table shown below as Table 2 and a set of instructions that help individuals and families chose how to offset their emissions. Not going to church was not offered or encouraged. The choices were installing LEDs or CFLs, buying wind energy from a supplier, or any other option the family/person could choose (e.g., geothermal energy).
The options have subtle differences. For example, the tree plantings must be done every year while the LED lights offsets occur for as long as the bulbs are used. The option chosen the most was tree planting. We are working with a non-profit organization called Trees, Water, People in Fort Collins, Colorado. The cost only amounts to $1 per ton of offset which we will pay for each year. The organization is not certified for their tree plantings because of the large cost it would take for a relatively small non-profit to become internationally certified. TWP plants trees in several counties, one of which is El Salvador. CBC has a sister church, Shekina, in Santa Anna, about 12 miles from one of TWP’s tree nurseries and forests.
CBC estimates that for the first year of this program, the baseline CO2 emissions of 108,000 pounds per year have been exceeded by the offsets of 123,000 pounds of carbon dioxide; getting to minus zero.
Table 1. Estimated CBC Carbon Dioxide Emissions
CO2 Emissions Rate
Emissions of CO2
Source of Data and Comments
36,000 kwh per year (PECO bills)
0.44548 Kg CO2 per kwh
16,037 kg*2.214 lbs=35,507
2012 EPA data.
6228 CCF gas consumed per year (PECO bills)
0.1848 Kg CO2/ccf
2548 lbs. + 876 for mission house= 3424
2012 data. AP-42 shows 0.12 lbs per ccf.
#reams = 135. *3 pages/copy*54 services=44 reams plus 20 newslttrs *5 sheets*50 copies = 10.0 reams plus copies of 2 reams per week * 52 weeks
12.5 Kg CO2/ream of paper = 112*12.5 kg*2.2 lbs per Kg