On Monday, May 9th at 7:00pm, the Central PA Chapter of PA IPL met to learn about PA IPL’s Creation Care program. This meeting is led by PA IPL Coordinator of Habitat Restoration Greg Williams and PA IPL Board member and planter George Dempsie, with those trail volunteers and home planters from our 3-county area as well as recipients in nearly a dozen different counties in Pennsylvania as far away as Luzerne or Delaware county for a PA IPL tree planters roundtable discussion about this program. Newcomers interested in becoming part of the program are also welcome. The meeting begins with information of how to give them your requests for plants by the end of this May and, with luck, receive them early this October. We share best practices, answer questions, and plan for the future of this great program.
Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light is so pleased that our Creation Care program has received free native trees, tubes, and stakes from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation since 2018 and then became a partner with the CBF in Fall of 2019. During that time, we received hundreds of healthy, wonderful native trees and shrubs that our hundreds of volunteers planted in a 3-county area in Central Pennsylvania. In 2020, because of the pandemic, we had too many trees and not enough planters to volunteer to plant on public land, so we offered these resources to individual landowners. We got a huge response so, since then, we’ve also become a distributor of free trees and stakes and 95 different individuals have received these plants. This Spring, we received, then planted or distributed 4700 native trees and shrubs that will, over time protect our waterways, beautify our landscape, feed our native insects who are so important to the food chain, slow the increasing flooding, make our environment more biodiverse, and sequester a significant amount of the excess carbon dioxide that drives climate change. This project also gives all of us visible and measurable progress in our efforts to reverse climate change and plants seeds of hope as well as trees and shrubs. YOU CAN BE PART OF THESE EFFORTS!
Sign up here if you would like to join the Central PA IPL Chapter!
It is important to preach about our moral and ethical responsibility to live actively as stewards of creation and then seek ways to tend to the garden of creation. This can be from the pulpit, a green team, youth and adult education, or by becoming engaged in organizations such as your state’s IPL. In this way the impact of sermons, film screenings, education, and actively living as stewards shine as exemplars for others. The impact flows out through the congregation so that the individuals can adopt the same practices and they act as agents of change in the world. One congregation building becomes a community of care, and the impact is multiplied.
Assist frontline and low-income communities to adopt practices that offset the same carbon footprints/ emissions/ impacts. Not all communities have the same resources. Working with, and I very deliberately mean with, other congregations can further directly spread the impact of your congregation’s efforts.
Plant trees on your congregation’s property or anywhere you can. PA IPL and the Chesapeake Bay Fund, as well as many other sources, will provide low or no cost trees for you to plant. Not only do these plantings mitigate flooding and support native biodiversity but they also serve as a natural form of carbon capture. Paralleling the plantings, the removal of invasive species and the planting native gardens further support biodiversity and carbon capture with minimal if any addition to your carbon footprint.
Community and Vegetable Gardens
Not only do such projects serve as a unifying, education, and fun activity for the community which encourages mental health and a connection to our natural environment and food source it also can help reduce meat consumption as well food transportation. Much of our food is transported long distances and stored in large stores both of which produce significant carbon footprints while the growing of industrial scale crops can also produce significant emissions through the use of fertilizers and industrial equipment. This is putting aside the carbon and environmental impact of the meat industry. Gardens can serve as a further method of natural carbon capture just like tree planting.
Investments and Divest
If the congregation or its members have investments in fossil fuel industry it is important to divest and then re-invest in green sustainable renewable alternatives such as solar, wind, geothermal, etc. as well as companies which truly support these industries. The future of our economy is underway, and investments can help accelerate the transition so that we can mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. The industry and economy will follow the money.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
It may be cliché, but it is absolutely important that the congregation and its members take this adage to heart. When planning and holding events or regular activities it is important to consider the ways in which we can reduce our consumption, purchase things we can reuse, or at least things we can recycle. The impact of the congregation can be multiplied by the adoption of such practices by the members. This will again assist in the transition to a new economy.
Purchase low carbon goods
Paralleling the three R’s the purchase of locally grown and made goods as well as those which utilize the fewest chemicals, and the least harmful practices here and abroad is an important larger step. Even if we use less, or can reuse, or recycle an item the whole life of the products is important.
An energy audit, especially for older structures can be an important step, and PA IPL has someone who does an initial assessment for free and has expertise in congregational structures. There are however also simple ways we can weatherize today. It is important to check and maintain your HVAC systems regularly so that it is functioning efficiently to reduce cost and waste. Additionally, congregations can install programable thermostats which control use throughout the day and according to temperature changes. The efficiency of HVAC systems and thermostats are increased by the proper door, wall, and window insulation all of which aid in the efficiency of the system.
Other efficiency are the purchase of LED light bulbs, smart switch, and high efficiency appliances while also removing ghost loads, which draw energy even when not in use.
Purchase Sustainable Green Renewable Energy
Many competitive energy options exist through state energy exchanges which allow you to purchase part or all of your energy use from sustainable green renewable energy sources.
Installation of Sustainable Green Renewable Energy
Not all congregations are in the position to purchase their own installation, but solar arrays, windmills, and geothermal systems are all viable options which offer financial benefits and serve as an example for the broader public but also are obviously large commitments to stewardship. PA IPL and others are able to assist congregations in navigating the financing options and the process. In September PA IPL is having an event with experts to specifically discuss how to purchase a solar array.
While not all congregations or individuals are interested in getting involved in advocacy, it is important to remember that advocating on behalf of climate justice and sustainable green renewable energy with elected officials and policy makers is a vital part of our impact. Too often congregations are too worried to speak up for their moral and ethical commitments. If we do not speak up someone else will speak for us. If we do not act we are not protecting ourselves, others, and our environment as God expects of us. Without changes in the ways governments (local, state, and federal) and industries operate there is only so much an individual can do. People, government, and industry are the three legs of the solution.
PA IPL also has a congregation tool kit which allows congregations to explore how to do this for themselves. Look for updates on our website.
In addition to the IPL Cool Congregation there are many examples of what has been done across PA and the USA. Christ Covenant Church in Harleysville for example, installed a large ground based solar array which covers on average 90% of their energy use for multiple buildings, new, old, and modified. Solar arrays at congregations such as Christ Covenant serve as an educational tool for the congregation, especially the youth education programs, and will in the course of its 30 year lifespan of the array produce more than double the value of the upfront investment of the congregation. Moreover, if Pennsylvania had a better community solar or SRAC (solar renewable energy credit) policy the energy production in the summer which is 2 to 3 times the usage would have made the solar array even more profitable. On August 27th, 2021 PA IPL held a solar tour at Christ Covenant with elected officials and others. There is a video on PA IPL’s website which is a combination of video from this tour and a second tour in Allegany County. PA IPL hopes to invite other congregations in the future to join us at Christ Covenant and elsewhere to tour these installations and see the greening congregations are doing to reduce consumption, adopt alternative energy sources, and live actively as stewards of creation.
After planting 1,000 trees last year in Central PA, due to the hard work of PA IPL Board member Greg Williams, and many dedicated stewards of creation across the state, this year PA IPL will receive and plant or distribute 10,000 native trees from the Chesapeake Bay Fund!
This year our Creation Care program will expand the scope of our work in Northeast PA and North Central PA. In addition to our original site in Williamsburg, we will have new distribution centers in Scranton and Lewisburg.
We are actively looking for volunteers to participate in planting events and the removal of invasive species across the state. If you are interested in volunteering or can help in identifying additional sites, please sign up here. Trees will be delivered to the three centers in April and the planting season will go through June but other work is always available year round.
If you are also interested in accepting trees yourself, we will have a limited number of unreserved trees available. All trees are distributed on a first-come-first-serve basis and we cannot guarantee specific species. please register here.
This expansion will also result in greater expenses for PA IPL, any donations to support this important work would be appreciated.
Our traditions refer to trees as rooted-and-reaching symbols, as wise teachers, or as important and respected resources. We have so much to learn from them. In this post you will find several tree resources. We’d like to do an additional post around our secular arbor day, so please share your favorite tree poems or stories (even if you’re sure we must have them!)
We begin with a poem we shared as the meditation at the end or our Sustained Advocacy call near Tu B’Shvat 2019, and continue with hands-on work PA IPL groups are leading, and two learning and worship resources.
I go among trees and sit still. All my stirring becomes quiet around me like circles on water. My tasks lie in their places where I left them, asleep like cattle. Then what is afraid of me comes and lives a while in my sight. What it fears in me leaves me, and the fear of me leaves it. It sings, and I hear its song. Then what I am afraid of comes. I live for a while in its sight. What I fear in it leaves it, and the fear of it leaves me. It sings, and I hear its song. After days of labor, mute in my consternations, I hear my song at last, and I sing it. As we sing, the day turns, the trees move. —Wendell Berry
Tu B’Shvat is a minor Jewish holy day that, in Rabbi Arthur Waskow’s words, “celebrates the bare beginnings pf the reawakening of trees in mid-winter, and was seen by the 16th-century Kabbalists as the rebirth of that Tree of Life that has its roots in Heaven and its fruit in the existence and creativity of us — the whole of life.”
The festival itself and its amazing Seder come at the full moon on the 15th day of the Jewish lunar “moonth” of Shvat, this year from Sunday evening January 20 through sundown Monday January 21. That means it falls this year on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday.
Consider registering for the Shalom Center’s Tu B’Shvat webinar (webinar on January 9, 2019; Tu B’Shvat begins the evening of January 20, and is January 21this year — there are also webinars preparing for earth-climate-justice rooted Passover celebrations as part of their Sacred Seasons for Sacred Earth series. The webinars include tools for holding your own celebration.
Martin Luther King’s birthday (and birthday-as-observed) are always close to Tu B’Shvat on the calendar, but in 2019, they fall together. While we focus on the struggle for civil rights for people of all races in our celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King and his work, in fact, the larger trajectory of his work was justice. In 2014, Rabbi Daniel Swartz, then a board member of PA IPL, wrote this piece about the connections between the two holidays.
The Rev. Dr. Leah Schade left Pennsylvania when she took a job teaching at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky, but we remember her well, and are pleased to share this 8-week devotional connecting trees and faith “Healthy Trees, Healthy People, Healthy Faith”
Each spring and fall, the Germantown Tree Tenders plant and tend urban trees in publicly-available space from sidewalks to houses of worship. They do so in community, and often include opportunities to offer blessings and dedications (and sometimes chances for shared food together)
In Central Pennsylvania, under the energetic leadership of Greg Williams, groups of community members, the 3rd Way Collective from Penn State, congregants, and Central PA IPL regulars have been joining for work parties to clear space for native trees and tender plants to thrive, adding diversity and resilience to our forest systems. Much of this work has been removing invasive plants and staking out the beginnings of the native seedlings, but the have also done successful bareroot tree plantings, live staking (along the Juniata River), (over 600 trees in 2018!), as well as native wildflower meadow plantings. Over time, inspired by a Joanna Macy practice called Honoring our Adversaries, they have challenged themselves to recognize and honor the tenacious and exuberant qualities of the very invasives they are working so hard to hold back so the diverse native plants can thrive.
We’ll close with this browsing link on tree writings over at Baha’i Teachings.
Several locations benefit from regular Habitat Restoration care by dedicated groups of willing hands — most led by PA IPL Board President Greg Williams. Look for “work party” offerings on our Events Calendar, or email to get on Greg’s lists (he turns out events faster than the deskbound can keep up during the growing season!) — or to learn from him about how to organize something like this in your community, or near your house of worship.
Recently three Episcopal Churches in Blair and Huntingdon counties joined together to create a workparty to remove invasive plants and encourage resilient natives along a nearby rail trail, — and to also shared meal, and share an evening prayer service. We got a great report from Greg, and learned that one participant referred to the event in her next-Sunday sermon. Enjoy the report, below!
To give these parishes a chance to work together and better get to know each other,
To make a public statement that the Episcopal Church cares about climate change and our churches are making a long term commitment to do something about it,
To WORK for a couple hours removing non-native invasive plants from the Mt. Etna station area on the Lower Trail with the goal of returning next Spring and planting native plants that will better support insects, the base of a healthy ecosystem. This healthier ecosystem protects the river, feeds toads (like this one who showed up to encourage us), cleans our air, and takes carbon from our atmosphere thus nudging us away from global warming,
To EAT, (as is appropriate at any church event) a delicious potluck picnic, chat, and build community,
To PRAY Evening Prayer, at dusk, as the storm clouds which had been building but not raining on our event, called an end to the event.
We had 11 joyous participants ranging from 7 to 70 who rode bikes, clipped privet from the safety of the trail, waded in behind the stinging nettle to open up new areas for planting native trees next Spring, or scooped up the clippings and laid them back in the forest to decompose and feed the soil.
There was talk that we may do it again, as early as October, perhaps with the addition of a VIP! Stay tuned for details. For more information, to sign up your faith community for a similar work party, or to get on our mailing list for future events, contact Greg Williams, organizer of the event and member of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light.