Thursday, February 14, 2008

Religious Iowans Reduce Their Carbon Footprints

The Eastern Iowa Gazette has an article about the Iowa Interfaith Power and Light's Cool Congregations program, a program that helps individuals who belong to religious congregations reduce their carbon footprint. Check out the article below:
Corridor congregations get serious about going green
By Molly Rossiter
Within most faiths is a call to members to be good stewards of the Earth. So calling on congregations to "go green" makes sense, say area coordinators of a movement encouraging faith groups to become more environmentally aware."Every faith tradition has an ethic that calls us to care for creation," said Sarah Webb, who, with two other "church moms," started two years ago Cool Congregations, a project aimed at teaching church communities how to be better caretakers of the Earth. "It's something we've neglected over the last millennium, so we're looking to our own Scripture for inspiration."Congregations across the country have noted global warming, climate change and Earth stewardship for decades, but in just the past few years have concerted efforts to make a difference started to occur. When Webb and her home congregation at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Cedar Falls started turning into a "green congregation'' less than two years ago, the church became a leader in Iowa. Now Webb, 49, and other Cool Congregations coordinators hold workshops across the state, teaching participants how to determine their carbon footprint — the total amount of greenhouse gases produced, usually measured in tons of carbon dioxide — and how to improve it. At a workshop in Iowa City last week, Webb said, 54 people representing 15 congregations planned to make a difference. "They have decided to form a network among themselves to keep it going," she said.Jamie McCoy, 47, has taken an active role in getting his congregation at Zion Lutheran Church, 310 N. Johnson St. in Iowa City, more involved. Zion sponsored the Cool Congregations workshop on Jan. 26."The only way we're going to have any action taken on climate change is from a grass-roots effort," McCoy said. "Our government just really isn't that interested."As Christians we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves," he said. "Future generations and climate-vulnerable people around the world are also our neighbors. The Earth itself is also a sacred place entrusted to us by God."Webb said many successful efforts toward social change — for example, the abolition of slavery, women's suffrage and, more recently, the saving of the Endangered Species Act — were strongly supported by faith communities. What many workshop participants find especially interesting, she said, is how little it takes to make a big difference."My friend Kate changed over 75 percent of the light bulbs in her home to compact fluorescent bulbs and was able to reduce her carbon emissions by 10 percent," Webb said. "Her initial investment was about $200 for the light bulbs, but she's saved that and more every year."Washing two loads of laundry in cold water rather than warm or hot each week can reduce carbon emissions by 500 pounds per year, Webb said, and adjusting the thermostat down 2 degrees in winter and up 2 degrees in summer can save another 500 pounds."There are a lot of inexpensive things you can do that make a big difference," she said.Mark Kresowik, 23, of Des Moines, is interim director of Iowa Interfaith Power and Light, which helps coordinate green efforts in churches across the state. He said the movement for congregations to become more ecologically minded is not new, nor is it focused in Iowa or the Midwest. There are Interfaith Power and Light groups in 25 states, he said, "and we're not the only group out there.""I think part of it is that churches truly recognize the challenge that we are facing in terms of our moral obligations to take care of God's creation, the Earth," Kresowik said. "Certainly with issues like global warming in particular, we are not doing our part." Steve Mitchell might disagree, at least from his church's perspective. Mitchell, 58, is a congregational financial officer at Community of Christ Church, 1500 Blairs Ferry Rd. in Hiawatha, and also serves as an ex officio member on the building and grounds committee. He said church leaders there started going green in 1992, when they started switching incandescent light bulbs over to compact fluorescent.In addition, windows in the church's two largest rooms, the sanctuary and family life center, have been replaced with thermal insulated windows. Because the windows face south, they have a mirror finish to reflect the sun in summer. "We also do a lot of recycling. We don't use Styrofoam, and we use supplies that are environmentally friendly," he said. The church's old lawn mower and snow blower have been replaced with energy-efficient four-cylinder models, and the grounds of the church have been landscaped to include trees and shrubs "to replace as much green as we can.""It's not a new concept, and it's nothing we've just started," he said. Contact the writer: (319) 398-8288 or
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 25 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at discounts on energy saving products at

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