What would it take for your church to reduce its energy usage by 15-30 percent? According to the Green Interfaith Network Inc., a local nonprofit based in Johnson City, it may not be as complicated or expensive as you think, and the financial savings could be impressive. In fact, GINI is helping area churches tackle this challenge head on, starting with Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City this October, and invites congregations to join the “cool congregation” challenge.
GINI was founded by an interfaith collection of community members to become a spiritual voice for environmental sustainability in Northeast Tennessee. Meeting eight times a year since 2009, the group has grown to involve 18 churches and celebrates the successes of green congregations in their annual awards program.
GINI will kick off its “Cool Congregations in Washington County” initiative this October. Trained volunteers are ready to give five Washington County faith groups an assessment of their energy use and an incentive of $500 to implement their energy efficiency efforts. In exchange, “cool” congregations agree to participate in the assessment process and initiate steps to reduce energy consumption within one year’s time. Thanks to a grant from the Harris Fund of Washington County, GINI can work with five churches at a time over the next two years.
GINI’s “Cool Congregations” project was modeled after one that began in Ohio in 2007. Carol Landis, lead assessment volunteer with GINI, volunteered with the Ohio Interfaith Power & Light from 2006-2009. This successful program resulted in 300 churches that made energy conservation changes. Says Landis, “Simple and informed changes reallocated thousands of dollars toward more important ministries.”
According to Landis, most churches returned their $500 incentive from their savings within an average of six months’ time after making changes. After they returned the incentive, the money was given to another church to continue the cycle.
According to current President Emily Bidgood, the GINI audit differs from the services provided by the TVA through the Johnson City Power Board.
“We walk through the facilities with church leadership focusing on energy, water and waste,” Bidgood said. “Then after they independently decide where to invest and save, we stick with them throughout the process. We also require that at least 10 member households in the church pledge to make changes at home, too.”
Those interested in how their church can participate are invited to Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City on Sunday, Oct. 20. Munsey will share the results of their GINI energy assessment conducted earlier in the month. They will be joined by Craig Foster, the Technical Consultant for the “Energy Stewards” program offered by OH-IPL. Foster is a Registered Professional Engineer in Ohio and an Episcopal deacon who is coordinating energy assessments for churches for OH-IPL. Responding to Munsey’s assessment results, he will share insights gained from his work with Ohio churches.
As the kick-off events continue, on Monday, Oct. 21, Foster will offer a presentation at 7 p.m. in Brown Hall at East Tennessee State University, highlighting the important reasons for energy efficiency efforts and showcasing the successes of Ohio churches.
For more information, please see www.greeninterfaith.org.