By Keith Mills
Our new Earth Stewardship Action Network has been given a mission of earth care and earth justice, and everyone in our Presbytery is invited to participate in this ministry in some way. Our intention is to be both faithful and practical; a specific example follows.
At a Presbytery of the Western Reserve meeting in early 2016, a vote was taken on a potential General Assembly overture that PC(USA) not divest from fossil fuel company investments, believing this move would be counter-productive and divisive. That motion carried, but with the strong recommendation that PCUSA congregations take action to reduce their carbon emissions, specifically though energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.
Therefore, all Presbytery of the Western Reserve congregations are invited to commit to decreasing annual building energy use by at least 10% over time. This is a win/win path that reduces church utility spending — which can be redirected to missions, programs and staff — and reduces our pollution emissions. One justice issue around air pollution is its link to poverty: pollution tends to most dramatically affect low income neighborhoods, as inner city rates of asthma and COPD are among the highest in North East Ohio.
Reducing energy use starts with simply turning off church lighting and equipment when not in use. Each church can restrict hours the building is open, by, for example, closing the church on one night. Upgrading at least 80% of church lighting to LEDs and using motion sensors over time is recommended, as these investments fairly quickly result in reducing lighting costs. Using setback thermostats reduces heating and cooling costs when the building is unoccupied. Finally, tracking energy use over a period of time helps to confirm that we have actually reduced energy use, and takes weather differences into account.
This path has been followed by many congregations across the country, and is both faithful and practical. A proposal to Committee on Outreach, if and when approved, will provide monetary grants for congregations who commit to moving along the energy reduction path. Any congregation can start small, installing 5-10 LED bulbs at a time. Energy efficiency project loans for larger projects are available through PCUSA.
Please contact the Earth Stewardship Action Network at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to share an earth stewardship example that you are passionate about, or if you have questions for (or would like a visit from) one of our Network members.