Congratulations to the 2021 Cool Congregations Challenge Winners and Runners Up!

Mar 22, 2021 | Blog, What's New

The Cool Congregations Challenge shows that people of faith are united by concerns about climate change and are taking action! The winners provide strong moral role models for their communities, and their activities have a ripple effect with people in their own homes.

The annual contest accepts applications from religious congregations around the United States who are doing work to address global warming by reducing their carbon footprint as they create models of sustainability within their communities. The judges remarked that there were so many excellent submissions this year that it was difficult to choose!

There are five national Interfaith Power & Light (IPL) 2021 Cool Congregations Challenge winners and thirteen Runners Up. Read their whole stories here.



The Islamic Center of East Lansing in Michigan won the Cool Congregations Community Inspiration Award for putting up their own solar array AND inspiring their neighboring congregation, University Lutheran to install solar also. University Lutheran was awarded Honorable Mention in the Challenge. 

“The solar project implemented by the Islamic Center is our attempt to care for God’s creation by generating electricity without a trace of carbon footprint,” Chaudhry said. “As a house of worship, we didn’t want to merely preach [but] put our words into action. By producing electricity from a renewable source, we are conserving the environment as required by our faith.”



Gesu Catholic Church and School in Detroit, Michigan won the Cool Congregations Renewable Role Model Award for their student-led collaborative effort to install solar on their building.



“We are thrilled that our Gesu students seized the opportunity to learn about sustainability, environmental justice, and the care of creation, while at the same time advocating for community health. Having IPL’s recognition will continue to enhance their learning and deepen Gesu’s positive impact on the environment,” said Rev. Phil Cooke, SJ.



 Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church, located near the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, won this year’s Cool Congregations Sacred Grounds Award for their collaborative effort to restore the four-acre habitat their church campus is built on.

“Our congregation is honored to be acknowledged for our environmental work,” said the Rev. Susan DeWyngaert, the senior pastor at Woods. “As a Presbyterian Church (USA) Earth Care Congregation, we have made a commitment to work toward sustainability by providing worship, education, prayer and service opportunities in our church and community. Receiving the Cool Congregations Challenge Award is thrilling for us. We hope it will model and inspire more emphasis on sustainability as a faith practice.”



The Church of Our Saviour in Arlington, Massachusetts won the Cool Congregations Challenge Energy Saver Award for replacing their old oil heater with new heat pumps. The rectory of this small church is now saving 15 tons CO2 per year with new heat pumps, with of total savings $1,710 in annual energy costs

“As part of celebrating our centennial year as a congregation, we looked back on our church history, not just to see where we had come from, and how our values were shaped, but also to consider what kind of legacy we wanted to leave future generations. A vestry discussion revealed that decreasing our carbon footprint was high on our list of priorities, as we wanted to do our part in leaving a cleaner planet and greener church for future generations,” Rev. Malia Crawford.



First Plymouth Congregational Church United Church of Christ in Englewood, Colorado won the Cool Planner Award for their teamwork to swap out their lighting for efficient LED lighting despite pandemic restrictions.

The Creation Justice Ministry team at FPCC estimates they will save about $3800 per year and reduce their emissions by about 36 tons annually at their 55,000 square foot building.



These congregations also had awesome projects!


State College Friends Meeting, State College, PA

Congregation Kol Shalom, Bainbridge Island, WA



Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Lansing, MI



Genesis of Ann Arbor: Note that Genesis of Ann Arbor is a partnership between St Clare’s Episcopal Church and Temple Beth Emeth, Ann Arbor, MI

New Garden Friends Meeting, Greensboro, NC

Second Presbyterian Church, Little Rock, AR



St. John United Methodist Church, Anchorage, AK

Winchester Unitarian Society, Winchester, MA

West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church, Rocky River, OH



Gesu Catholic Church and School, Detroit, MI

Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Wilmington, DE

West Raleigh Presbyterian Church, Raleigh, NC

Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Bayside, CA

Read more about the Runners Up here.

“The national winning congregations are casting a vision for the kind of world in which they want to live, and then carrying out that vision with practical actions that make a real difference in creating lasting solutions to climate change,” said Rev. Susan Hendershot, President of Interfaith Power & Light.

IPL encourages congregations completing projects or plans in 2022 to apply for next year’s Cool Congregations Challenge by December 15, 2021. Due to Covid the project eligibility window has been expanded to projects completed in 2019, 2020, and 2021. Learn more here.

Thanks to our expert panel of judges this year! By category they are:  Community Inspiration: Ashaki Scott, IPL National Office Manager and Program Assistant and Gregory Lopez, IPL board member. Energy Saver: Ryan Snow, Director, Market Transformation + Development at the U.S. Green Building Council and Hannah Bastian, Research Analyst from The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Renewable Role Model: Jerry Bernstein, Special Projects Coordinator and Dara Bortman, Board Chair of the American Solar Energy Socieity. Sacred Grounds: Tim Darst, retired Executive Director of Kentucky IPL and Carla Ellern, IPL DMV supporter, Registered Landscape Architect with Lila Fendrick Landscape Architects, member of American Society of Landscape Architects and a LEED AP (Accredited Professional) BD+C. Cool Planner: Mikelann Scerbo, Senior Associate, Research at the Alliance for Saving Energy.


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