Committing to a green future

Green futureClean energy has come under the media spotlight in recent weeks with Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment. The Pope’s urgent call to action was a timely reminder that Christians have a moral obligation to nurture God’s creation for future generations.

When the synod pledged to reduce its energy use by 20 per cent by 2020, many congregations set about lowering their greenhouse gas emissions. One of the ways in which congregations are becoming more energy efficient is by partnering with the National Energy Efficiency Network (NEEN).

NEEN is a national initiative that empowers faith-based and not-for-profit community organisations to reduce their energy use. They offer access to free specialist advice and an online calculator that identifies relevant energy efficiency opportunities.

One of the NEEN pilot sites was at Uniting Church Camping in Halls Gap. After the initial audit, the camp site made dramatic progress in reducing their energy use, with up to 95 per cent of their lighting upgraded to an energy efficient option. This will save the camp site approximately $13,000 every year and reduce their overall energy footprint by 23 per cent.

Michael Hwang, departing regional leader of the NEEN in Victoria and Tasmania, praised Uniting Church congregations and agencies for their commitment to be responsible stewards of the environment.

“For those amongst the NEEN community, you are part of 1,200 strong not-for-profit organisations across Australia working towards reducing their respective energy footprints by 10% plus, saving financially and providing a positive impact by caring for creation,” Mr Hwang said.

The following is a snapshot of some of the energy reduction initiatives implemented by environmentally-conscious congregations and agencies:

• Bentleigh Uniting Church reduced their energy footprint by over 80%, saving in excess of $20,000.
•St John’s Uniting Church (Cowes) collaborated with other Baptist and Anglican churches to share their energy-saving tips.
• UnitingCare Tasmania implemented sustainability initiatives in their sites throughout Tasmania.

Simple measures such as switching to energy efficient globes and keeping heating to a maximum of 18 to 20 degrees can lead to a significant reduction in energy bills. The money saved from these energy reduction activities can be invested into future sustainability initiatives.

Congregations interested in reducing their carbon footprint can contact the Uniting to Green team at UnitingtoGREEN@victas.uca.org.au or on (03) 9251 5916.

The Uniting to Green program aims to reduce energy use at congregations through audits, tariff advice and sourcing energy efficient appliances. Their website has tips for how your congregation can implement energy reduction practices, from investing in solar lighting to assigning a ‘green team’.

Are you working towards sustainability in your congregation? Share with us how your congregation is reducing its energy use in the comments below.

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