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.

October 2020 Newsletter: Webinar-Power from Above


Join us for this webinar on Thursday evening, October 15th 7:00-8:00 PM EST to learn how you can choose 100% renewable electricity for your household.

You’ll get slides you can use at home after the webinar, and if the internet is robust enough, we may even do a couple of live searches. 

This webinar uses Pennsylvania state resources, and is specifically designed for people living in Pennsylvania.

Registration is required.

September 2020 Newsletter: Learn and Act-Renewable Electricity Webinar

Did you know that in Pennsylvania, you can choose 100% renewable electricity — and you can do so affordably?  Fall and spring are the best times to shop.  We will help with specific recommendations about how to use PA PowerSwitch to plug your house into wind and solar without getting stuck in a “deal” you don’t want. 

Join us for a webinar on Thursday evening, October 15th.  Between 7:00 and 8:00 PM, we’ll walk you through the process using current information.  You’ll get slides you can use at home after the webinar, and if the Internet is robust enough, we may even do a couple of live searches. 

This webinar uses Pennsylvania state resources, and is specifically designed for people living in Pennsylvania.

Registration is required.  A recording and resources will be available to those who register.  There is no fee for this program; your donations help us keep doing the work. 

Denominations Call for Transition from Fossil Fuels to Renewable Energy

One of the ways that some religious communities are taking action to protect life and care for creation is to transition away from support of fossil fuels at a policy and governance level.

elcafinalIn August 2016, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted at its Churchwide Assembly to move “Toward a Responsible Energy Future.” Read the full text of the statement on page 5 here.

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In July 2015, the thirtieth General Synod of the United Church of Christ (UCC) approved a resolution calling for its pastors, conferences, and members to advocate for a swift transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy.

UCC_logo“It is our belief,” the resolution states, “that the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is among the most compelling and urgent issues of our times.” Further: “…If we do not immediately decrease our use of these fuels and completely eliminate them by the year 2014 all life on earth will likely experience previously unknown devastating results including drought, wildfires, extreme precipitation and cyclones, drinking water scarcity, diminished food production, population migrations, human mortality, violent conflicts, and species extinction, thereby upsetting the whole ecology of Earth.”

The full text of the resolution is available for download here.

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UUA logo_gradientIn June 2014, the Unitarian Universalist Association approved a resolution calling for divestment from fossil fuels at its annual General Assembly. It says, in part: “The climate crisis threatens Earth systems through warming, destabilization of the atmosphere and climate, sea level rise, and the acidification of the oceans, of which the brunt of the burden has fallen and will fall on the poorest people in the world, who are least responsible for the crisis.”

The full text of this resolution is available online here.

Book Discussion Study Group: Reinventing Fire

We’ll gather virtually on six consecutive Tuesday evenings from 7:00-9:00 for a discussion of Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era, physicist Amory Lovins’ book that looks at how the United States could move almost entirely to renewable energy.

Please RSVP for the dial-in information.  DATES: 8/11, 8/18, 8/25, 9/1, 9/8, 9/15  (join as you are able — we’ll be summarizing and discussion one section each week).

More about Reinventing Fire at the Rocky Mountain Institute

FIND THE BOOK: