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Greening houses of worship

WASHINGTON, D.C — Virginia United Methodist the Rev. Pat Watkins was among speakers at a conversation at the White House about boosting the energy efficiency of the nation’s houses of worship. Many leaders from the nation’s faith community participated in the conversation conducted by the White House Office for Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships.

Energy Star logo

“Our nation’s faith community has a key role to play in protecting our environment through energy efficiency,” said Jean Lupinacci, chief of the Energy Star Commercial & Industrial Program at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “It’s typical for houses of worship to cut their energy use by 30% by working with the Energy Star program.”

Watkins, executive director of Caretakers of God’s Creation in the Virginia Conference, was a panelist. He presented general Christian theology as well as specific United Methodist understandings of stewardship. He also described specific things Caretakers of God’s Creation is doing to empower United Methodist congregations to practice care of creation.

Pat Watkins

Watkins

According to the EPA, if the more than 370,000 houses of worship in the United States cut energy use by 20%, collectively they would save nearly $630 million, cut electricity use by more than 3.6 billion kilowatt hours, and prevent more than 2.6 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. This is equivalent to the emissions from about 480,000 cars.

Call to action

The White House issued a “call to action” that encourages houses of worship to measure and track their energy use with EPA’s Portfolio Manager tool. After establishing an initial baseline in the tool, houses of worship that improve their energy efficiency by 20% or more will be specially recognized by the White House.

Any house of worship that then earns a 75 or higher on EPA's 1-100 energy performance scale, indicating the building performs better than at least 75% of similar buildings nationwide, will be eligible to earn EPA’s Energy Star.

The White House issued the call to houses of worship to participate in Energy Star at the Sept. 13 “Greening America’s Congregations through Energy Efficiency Conference.”

Faith leaders were invited to share strategies during the conference for improving energy efficiency, discuss the role of environmental stewardship in their faith traditions, and learn about the free tools available through Energy Star.

Participants included representatives from the Coalition on the Environment & Jewish Life, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, United Methodist Caretakers of God’s Creation, which has begun a nationwide rollout of its program, Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, the Evangelical Environmental Network, and Presbyterian Church USA, among others.

Energy Star

ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy to help save money and protect the environment through energy-efficient products and practices.

Energy Star was introduced by EPA in 1992 as a voluntary, market-based partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency. Today, the Energy Star label can be found on more than 65 different kinds of products as well as new homes and commercial and industrial buildings that meet strict energy-efficiency specifications set by the EPA.

Over the past 20 years, U.S. families and businesses have saved a total of nearly $230 billion on utility bills and prevented more than 1.7 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions with help from Energy Star.

For more information about the Energy Star program for commercial buildings, which includes houses of worship, go to www.energystar.gov/buildings.

Editor’s note: The Rev. Pat Watkins is the first and only Church & Community Worker, a domestic missionary classification of the General Board of Global Ministries, assigned to raise awareness to the relationship between one’s faith and responsibility to care for God’s creation.

Caretakers of God’s Creation began as a ministry of the Virginia Conference to raise the awareness of United Methodists to the connection between faith and the responsibility to care for and heal God's creation. Caretakers of God’s Creation has three areas of focus: educate around the role of the church in creation care; provide a resource to annual conferences to promote their roles as caretakers and help develop curriculum; and facilitate connections between individual caretakers and conferences around the world. You can learn more at Caretakers of God’s Creation.

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