Meet the Cool Congregations Challenge Winners

Apr 17, 2014 | In the News, IPL News Highlights, National Press Clips, What's New

Congregations Model Climate Solutions

April 17, 2014 – As the world prepares to celebrate Earth Day, religious institutions in the U.S. have kicked their activism into high gear, modeling climate solutions and stewardship of Creation in dozens of inspiring projects. The Cool Congregations Challenge, an annual contest by Interfaith Power & Light (IPL) to recognize and inspire congregational leadership in the energy and climate arena, has unveiled this year’s winners. The faith communities represent many different religious backgrounds, but all share a common mission – to be good stewards of Creation by responding to the threat of climate change. They do this through activities undertaken in their own facilities and on their grounds that reduce their overall carbon footprint. The Rev. Canon Sally Bingham, founder and president of Interfaith Power & Light, says, “It’s very inspiring to see so many congregations stepping up in response to climate change. They are not only serving God, but serving as examples to their communities.”

Challenge winners, runners-up, and honorable mentions have been awarded in five categories that include: Cool Planner, Sacred Grounds Steward, Energy Saver, Renewable Role Model, and Community Inspiration. Final entries were received in January, and then judged by a panel of experts from Interfaith Power & Light, EPA’s Energy Star, the National Wildlife Federation, and the U.S. Green Building Council. IPL will be creating a Cool Challenge photo album on Facebook for Earth Day to celebrate the winners, including an urban garden oasis in a neighborhood that struggles with poverty, and one of the nation’s largest solar installations on a house of worship. The winners are listed below.

The winning congregations in five categories are:

Renewable Role Model – Temple Beth El, Stamford, CT
Largest installation of its kind on a house of worship in the United States, the new, 210 kW Photovoltaic Solar Panel System, utilizes 845 (250 watt) panels on the temple’s 30,000 square foot, white “Energy Smart Solar Ready Roof” (with three inches of insulation). The estimated power production is 237,479 kWh per year, and supplies 70% of the synagogue’s annual electrical needs.

Energy Saver – Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Overland, KS
Annually, the ‘Adopt-a-Light’ program saves this congregation $3,800 and prevents 22.5 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere, yielding a 15% carbon footprint reduction.

Sacred Grounds Steward – All Peoples Church, Milwaukee, WI
The Urban Greenhouse Project at All Peoples Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, serves as a symbol of revitalization in a neighborhood that struggles with both poverty and vandalism. The beautifully designed greenhouse and outdoor space provides year-round cultivation of herbs, food products, flowers and starter plants for the outdoor gardens that helps feed members of the community.

Cool Planner – St. Andrews Episcopal School, Middletown, DE
The students and staff of St. Andrews Episcopal School in Middletown, Delaware, guided an impressive energy audit on half of its school buildings in an effort to reduce its carbon footprint by 18%. The school is presently implementing 4 of the 16 energy efficiency upgrades that were recommended, using available funds. In order to do more, the planning team has proposed setting up a “Green Revolving Loan Fund” to use electricity cost savings from implemented upgrades to fund future upgrades. They are now working on an energy audit on the remaining half of our school buildings.

Community Inspiration – Red River Unitarian Universalist Church, Denison, TX
Texoma Earth Day Festival, hosted by Red River UU, is helping to inspire the surrounding community to save energy and live more sustainably. In an area where oil drills are a much more common site than Earth Day festivals, Red River UU has grown this festival four fold in as many years. More than half of the volunteers are from the congregation, and many area businesses and organizations participate.


Energy Saver
Grace Episcopal Church, Medford, MA

Renewable Role Model
St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, Dover, MA

Sacred Grounds Steward
Montevallo Presbyterian Church, Montevallo, AL

Cool Planner
Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross, Green Bay, WI

Community Inspiration
Mayflower Community Congregational UCC Church, Minneapolis, MN

Honorable Mentions

Energy Saver
Central Union Church, Honolulu, HI
First Unitarian Church, Louisville, KY
Salvisa Christian Church, Salvisa, KY
Brackett Memorial United Methodist Church. Peaks Island, ME
Emmanuel United Methodist Church, Laurel, MD
Durham Community Church, Durham, NH
Southern Hills Christian Church, Edmond, OK
Community Unitarian Universalist Church, Plano, TX

Renewable Role Model
Grace St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Tucson, AZ
Unitarian Universalist Church, Bloomington, IN
Annapolis Friends Meeting, Annapolis, MD
Grace Episcopal Church, Medford, MA
St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Falmouth, MA
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Framingham, MA
Mayflower Church, United Church of Christ , Minneapolis, MN
Crosslake Presbyterian Church, Crosslake, MN
Christ and Trinity Lutheran Church, Sedalia, MO

Sacred Grounds Steward
Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Chandler, AZ
North Christian Church. Fort Wayne, IN
St Luke Presbyterian Church, Wayzata, MN
Saint Peter Claver Catholic Church, Saint Paul, MN
St Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran, Pen Argyl, PA
Church of the Wildwood UMC, Chittenden, VT
Salmon Creek Methodist Church, Vancouver, WA

Cool Planner
Trinity Mennonite Church, Glendale, AZ
Tehachapi Community Congregational Church, Tehachapi, CA
Camp Ramah Darom, Clayton, GA
Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Overland Park, KS
Emmanuel United Methodist Church, Laurel, MD
Sanford Unitarian Universalist Church, Sanford, ME
Albuquerque Mennonite Church, Albuquerque, NM
First Congregational Church, Austin, TX

Community Inspiration
Church of the Ascension Episcopal, Frankfort, KY
Brackett Memorial United Methodist Church, Peaks Island, ME
Emmanuel United Methodist Church, Laurel, MD
St Barnabas Episcopal Church, Falmouth, MA
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax, Oakton, VA

To schedule an interview, please contact Andree Duggan at andree at theregenerationproject dot org.

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