Cool Congregations Winners Announced

Dec 16, 2011 | National Press Clips

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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., December 16, 2011 – Interfaith Power & Light (IPL) is pleased to announce the four winners of this year’s Cool Congregations Challenge, which is a united effort by religious congregations across the country to address global warming by reducing their carbon footprint and by becoming inspirations to their members and communities. Winners were selected from four categories: energy efficiency, renewable energy, sustainable grounds and water conservation, and inspiring congregants to lower their energy use at home.

“Once we received all the entries for the Challenge, the real challenge began – selecting the winners,” said Susan Stephenson, executive director of IPL. The Cool Congregations Challenge received more interest and entries than ever before, from approximately 550 congregations from all major faith traditions in 44 states and Washington, D.C. “This wasn’t a contest about who spent the most money, or who built the most amazing green building, although it could have been because we were astounded by the quality of the entries, which demonstrate what’s happening at the grassroots level in addressing climate change,” commented Stephenson. “This was ultimately about choosing those entries that best exemplified a Cool Congregation. A Cool Congregation has a certain infectious can-do spirit as they work to make a concrete environmental benefit. All of these winners just exude that spirit and inspire us to believe that we will solve climate change and protect Creation, one congregation at a time.” Judging criteria included: a well-defined project with measurable objectives for climate benefit, creativity and resourcefulness in executing the project, congregant engagement in the project, and inspiration.

The Cool Congregations Challenge shows that people of faith are united by concerns about climate change. The winners provide strong moral role models for their communities, and their activities have a ripple effect with people in their own homes. The four $1,000 top prize-winners, as well as the full list of 2011 Cool Congregations as recognized by Interfaith Power & Light, are on the following pages. Several received recognition in more than one category.

Listed below are IPL’s four top-prize winners.

St. John’s Episcopal Church
523 Hartford Turnpike, Route 30
Vernon, Connecticut 06066

With the goal of reducing their carbon footprint by five tons a year, members of St. John’s (from both Environmental and Facilities committees) participated in a 6-week program through CT IPL called “This Old House of Worship.” They learned how to perform an energy audit, and how to calculate the energy and cost savings that would accrue if new lighting was installed. Their audit revealed the congregation could reduce its carbon footprint significantly by swapping out all the old lighting in the Undercroft, the parish hall, the Sunday School rooms, the hallways, the offices, and outdoors. Because they had already installed new thermostats last winter, the cost of $13,000 for new lighting was thought to be prohibitive. However, they gamely launched an “adopt a lighting fixture” for the entire congregation, and proceeded with the upgrade. Electricity usage since the upgrade has decreased by 1,328 Kwh, or 22%, over the same period in 2010. Also, because of the new thermostats, natural gas usage decreased by 15%, or about 1000 CCF over the past year. Over half of the lighting costs have now been covered by Creation-loving parishioners or parish groups, and the church is on track to decrease its CO2 emissions by five tons per year.

First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque
3701 Comanche NE
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87110

The Earth Web committee at First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque sponsors courses, sustainability fairs and forums on renewable energy to educate its church community. They explored solar, and after analyzing federal and state regulations, they developed a proposal for a straightforward lease arrangement between a vendor and the church, with the solar energy company handling all the regulatory and tax issues. The church has the option to purchase the system in seven years. The panels were installed on several campus roofs. The 48 kW system is estimated to generate almost 77,000kWh/yr, supplying about 75% of church needs. The solar company installed a ballasted system with no roof penetrations. The panels have a five-degree pitch and are not visible from the street. During the dedication ceremony with the whole congregation participating, they used water guns to do the ‘christening.’ The panels are expected to function for 25 – 30 years, and with net metering, the electricity will either be used directly by the church or will reverse the electric meter. They system will save about 42 tons of carbon dioxide per year and $70,000 in electricity costs over the 20-year term of the lease. The influence of this project has been felt in several arenas. Church members have gotten excited about the possibility of solar electricity and at least eight households have installed solar panels, producing a total of approximately 20.84 kWh/mo.

Central United Methodist Church
6030 Albemarle Road
Charlotte, North Carolina 28212

In furthering its ongoing environmental stewardship and education mission, Central United Methodist Church has created and completed several ground and water conservation initiatives in 2011. Located in an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse urban area of Charlotte, NC, Central has focused its efforts this year on creating a community garden to benefit congregants, local residents, and the church’s food pantry. This outreach provides an opportunity to grow produce on a small carbon footprint while educating the community about the many environmental benefits of “growing local.” Using volunteer labor and fundraising, Central developed 24 plots, including raised beds for handicapped access and irrigation from a natural water source. Formerly a barren area adjacent to the parking lot, the space was rife with clay, rocks and asphalt waste before volunteers “harvested” debris, tilled, amended and fenced the space. To preserve water and enrich soil, volunteers tilled in 48 cubic yards of compost made from county recycled yard waste. The majority of Central’s active membership of 125 people participated in the project. This year’s harvest was plentiful, providing locally grown produce to congregants, neighborhood gardeners, and the church’s food pantry, which serves families from Albemarle Road Elementary School, a local high-poverty, high-ESL elementary with whom Central partners. A celebration and fundraiser was held in October, where a meal including “fruits of the harvest” was shared by the congregation and neighborhood participants, along with a sustainability workshop covering composting to preserve water and complementary crop planting, combined with rotation, to preserve the land.

Congregation Beth Shalom

3750 E. Third St.
Bloomington, Indiana 47401

As of October, over one third of Congregation Beth Shalom’s households have reduced their energy use by at least one seventh (14%) and/or their carbon footprint to significantly less than half the average for an American household of their size. These reductions fulfill Beth Shalom’s Till & Tend Home Energy Reduction Pledge, signed by 39% of the households and ten of the twelve board members. Beth Shalom promoted energy reduction through: Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light’s Task of the Month Program; scriptural teachings; participatory intergenerational holiday programs; an interactive bulletin board featuring each month’s energy-reducing task; discounted supplies; and monthly newsletter interviews on what members have done and what challenges they face. Teams have been providing weatherizing assistance to household that requests it. Tweens from Christian, Muslim, and their own congregation weatherized the homes of older members, and a contractor worked with Beth Shalom and Islamic Center teens to insulate an attic. By reducing their congregational building’s energy usage by one seventh and equipping and inspiring over a third of their members to do the same, Beth Shalom has become Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light’s (Hoosier IPL’s) first Seventh Day Congregation. Their goal is to help create a tipping point, inspiring more of their members and other congregations in the city and state to follow suit. They have secured media coverage for many of their events and, through Hoosier IPL, will share their experience achieving Seventh Day status with congregations statewide.

2011 Cool Congregations
The following are recognized 2011 Cool Congregations by Interfaith Power & Light. Several received recognition in more than one category.

Energy Efficiency Category
Flagstaff Federated Community Church Flagstaff,Arizona
St. Mary’s by the Sea Episcopal Church, Pacific Grove, California
Unitarian Universalist Community to the Mountains, Grass Valley, California
Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, Fort Collins, Colorado
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Vernon, Connecticut
Georgia Mountains Unitarian Universalist Church, Dahlonega, Georgia
Princeton United Methodist Church, Athens, Georgia
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Monroe, Georgia
First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, Minneapolis, Minnesota
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Sparks, Nevada
Jonesville United Methodist Church, Clifton Park, New York
St. Monica – St. George Parish Newman Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Kingston, Pennsylvania
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Brookings, South Dakota
Knox Presbyterian Church, Falls Church, Virginia
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula, Newport News, Virginia
First United Methodist Church, Baraboo, Wisconsin
St. John’s United Church of Christ, Random Lake, Wisconsin
Whitewater Baha’i Community, Whitewater, Wisconsin

Sustainable Grounds and Water Conservation
First Congregational Church of Palo Alto, Palo Alto, California
Metropolitan Community Church in the Valley, North Hollywood, California
St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church, San Francisco, California
St. Mary’s by the Sea Episcopal Church, Pacific Grove, California
Berea Mennonite Church, Atlanta, Georgia
Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church, Atlanta, Georgia
St. Alba’s Episcopal Church, Monroe, Georgia
The Church of the Holy Comforter, Atlanta, Georgia
Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation, Bethesda, Maryland
Union Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Elk River, Minnesota
Central Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota
St. Therese Catholic School, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Central United Methodist Church, Charlotte, North Carolina
Episcopal Church of the Holy Family, Mills River, North Carolina
St. Mary of the Hills Episcopal Church, Blowing Rock, North Carolina
Forest Lake Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Clemson, Clemson, South Carolina
Grace Episcopal Church, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Covenant Lutheran Church, Houston, Texas
St. Michael Parish, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Renewable Energy
Claremont United Methodist Church, Claremont, California
Metropolitan Community Church in the Valley, North Hollywood, California
Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church, Oak Park, Illinois
Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation, Bethesda, Maryland
Oseh Shalom Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, Laurel, Maryland
Trinity Episcopal Church, Reno, Nevada
First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Myers Park Baptist Church, Charlotte, North Carolina
Temple Emanuel, Greensboro, North Carolina
St Paul’s United Church of Christ, Colgate, Wisconsin

Inspiring Congregants to Reduce Energy Footprint at Home
Flagstaff Federated Community Church, Flagstaff, Arizona
St Patrick’s Episcopal Church, Kenwood, California
Holy Comforter Episcopal, Atlanta, Georgia
St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Sun Valley, Idaho
Congregation Beth Shalom, Bloomington, Indiana
St. John Lutheran Church, Cedar Falls, Iowa
First Universalist Church in Rockland, Rockland, Maine
Union Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Elk River, Minnesota
St Paul’s United Church of Christ, Johnstown, Pennsylvania
Highland Park Baptist Church, Austin, Texas


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