Central Baptist Church is a Cool Congregation certified at the 40% level, saving 6 tons of carbon emissions a year with the permanent changes they have made to their facilities. In addition they have had a big impact on their members and community with their varied outreach and education about saving energy.
“Our energy-saving work at Central Baptist Church is done by a small team and is reflective of the values we hold as a community of faith: The commitment to account for our own contributions to climate change and destruction of God’s creation, and to make restitution where we can.” Rev. Laurie Sweigard
Central Baptist Church has a main building with a sanctuary, offices, classrooms, and a large event hall and they operate a nursery school five days a week in a separate building.
“We don’t treat energy as a project with a start and stop date,” says Chuck Marshall a member of the congregation, “We do many things on a continual basis.”
An energy audit was conducted in 2003, and a goal for energy reduction was set. Gradually over time a theology of care for creation developed in the congregation which led to changes to the congregational facilities. In 2000 they created 7 heating zones with programmable thermostats and gradually changed over the lighting to LEDs. The church installed 48 solar panels in 2008 that provide about 25% of their electricity use. In 2014 they also installed a 93% efficient gas boiler that replaced a 65% efficient gas/oil boiler. Together these actions are saving the church about $5000 a year in energy costs. They purchase green electricity for their remaining electricity needs from wind power and encourage congregation members to buy wind energy or solar for their homes through their utilities.
The Board of Properties and Building Manager are conservation-minded, and the 30 year old “Ecology Faith In Action Team” at the church also initiates conservation and carbon dioxide emissions reduction efforts.
The church has been creative in finding ways to help their members and others in the community to reduce their carbon footprint as well.
Home Energy Audit Party
We had an energy party at one family’s house who volunteered to receive the home energy audit offered by their local utility, had a tour of the findings, and signed people up to do home energy audits.
Light bulb giveaway
The church gives about 500-700 LED light bulbs per year to two local community centers to distribute to area households, Bernadine Center of Chester and Phoenixville Area Community Service. The bulbs to give away are purchased in bulk at Home Depot and at a local hardware store. A study conducted by the church showed these LEDs that were given away averaged 4-6 hours per day burning and with the use of the Bright Idea calculator they estimate 74,000 pounds of carbon emissions are saved when the bulbs are installed. The church hopes to increase their outreach to more food pantries in the future.
For about 6 years the church has funded tree planting at a rate of $250 each year through an organization called Trees Water People to help sequester carbon in a project in El Salvador.
The church is also looking at the impact of vehicle emissions for church activities, estimating that these emissions are 50% more than the emissions from their buildings. They are encouraging staff and members to lower their direct emissions from driving by taking fewer trips, driving more efficient vehicles, and carpooling. They also encourage congregants to offset their remaining emissions by donating to the LED light bulb giveaway, to the Trees Water People project, and purchasing wind energy.
Central Baptist has many long-term members who keep encouraging ideas whom other members trust to do the right thing, and for the past 30 years the church has annually recognized Earth Day with a worship service focused on ecology and the environment.