What can congregations do to offset their carbon footprint, fossil fuel use / greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change impact?

Teach Others 

  • 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. 

Help Others 

  • 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. 

Creation Care 

  • 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.

Weatherization 

  • 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.  

Energy Efficiency 

  • 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.

Advocate 

  • 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. 

Other Resources

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.

IPL Cool Congregation Startup Kit

EPA Energy Star for Congregations Workbook

Clean Energy Investment Resources

Divestment Resources

Congregation Examples

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.

RECORDING AVAILABLE-Statewide Monthly Meeting-February

GET the recording of the Creation Care program.

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On February 15th, please join PA IPL for our Statewide Monthly Meeting and Program. To supplement local monthly chapter meetings, PA IPL will be holding a regular meeting & program each month on 3rd Monday evenings at 7:00 PM EST via Zoom.

This month PA IPL Board Member Greg Williams will be offering a program and resources for how to organize and participate in efforts to directly combat climate change through PA IPL Creation Care.

We will describe ways to get involved, address any obstacles, and guide you through the process to actively participate as stewards of creation.

Creation Care is a hands on opportunity to safely connect with each other and restore the environment. Through our tree planting efforts — and collaborations with the Keystone 10 Million Trees project, and scores of local groups across PA —  we have planted over 3,000 trees in the last four years and removed invasive species.

These efforts made measurable progress against climate change.

·        We increased the biodiversity of our environment

·        We cooled our rivers and streams

·        We slowed down pollution and erosion

·        We enhanced our environment’s ability to sequester CO2.

As we expand these efforts in urban communities and in PA’s northern tier with a new distribution hub in Lewisburg we will plant more than 10,000 in 2021! To sign up to participate in PA IPL’s Creation Care or obtain a tree yourself fill out this Google Form.
Register now here

January 2021 Newsletter-Creation Care

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.

LOWER TRAIL: Invasives workparties

Greg Williams is taking advantage of the mild weather to get some invasives work done in Blair and Centre Counties.  Contact Greg to let him know you’re coming, and make sure you have his cell number (215-242-0854) to make it easier to find him when you get there.

Dress to get dirty and stay dry.  Greg has tools and gloves to share, but the more the merrier at a work party!

Sunday June 13th 12:30 – 2:30
along the Lower Trail as it goes downriver – cutting back ailanthus, Norway Maple, bush honeysuckle and privet to make room for native plants.
We’ll meet at the Lower Trail parking lot at 1st and Liberty in Williamsburg and work our way downriver doing the same thing.

STATE COLLEGE: Walnut Springs workparty

Greg Williams is taking advantage of the mild weather to get some invasives work done in Blair and Centre Counties.  Contact Greg to let him know you’re coming, and make sure you have his cell number (215-242-0854) to make it easier to find him when you get there.

Dress to get dirty and stay dry.  Greg has tools and gloves to share, but the more the merrier at a work party!

Saturday June 12th noon – 2:00pm.
We’ll continue our work removing non-native invasives around the perimeter of the marsh at Walnut Springs park in State College. We’ll meet on Walnut Spring Lane at the Walnut Spring Park sign one block east of University Dr., just before the road ascends a hill. From there we’ll walk to the marsh. We’ve had a great influx of folks coming to help from the neighborhood above the marsh and are making incredible and exciting progress. I’m encouraged that we may be done in time to do a big planting of natives this coming spring.  Join the fun !

WEBINAR: ReBirthday of the Trees

Our friends at the Shalom Center are offering a webinar on Wednesday, January 9 from 7:00-8:30 PM in preparation for Tu B’Shvat, the Jewish New Year of the Trees.   This year, Tu B’Shvat falls on Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday.  Webinar registrants will receive a recording of the webinar, and tools to hold a seder ceremony on Tu B’Shvat.

Description from Rabbi Arthur Waskow:
Join us as we explore the connections between Tu B’Shvat and a commitment to the physical health of our entire planet, a commitment to act to protect trees and the Interbreathing of all life. We know now that trees  and all vegetation breathe in the CO2 that humans and all animals breathe out, and all animals breathe in the oxygen that vegetation breathes out. And that Interbreathing is now endangered by the unrestrained burning of fossil fuels.

And in line with this renewed concern with the physicality of Earth, our webinar will explore a Tu B’Shvat seder in which the four elements (Earth, Air, Water, and Fire/Energy) are celebrated and connected to  the Four Worlds of the Kabbalists, with the aid of four species of fruit and four cups of wine or grape juice.

REGISTRATION is a must and is $18 

Join the Shalom Center for the webinar.  Registrants will receive a link to the webinar, even if they are unable to attend at the scheduled time.