Religions Going Green

Since 2005, only 10 congregations have received the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) certification. However, there is hope! Currently, there are 54 congregational LEED® certification applications before the council.Applications have been accepted from many religions, including Roman Catholic, Judaism, Methodist, Mennonite, Presbyterian, Unitarian, Wesleyan and Lutheran. The most recent certification was for a $9 million synagogue project in Evanston, Illinois. The certification was issued in September, 2008, and the congregation opened the doors in February.Rabbi Brant Rosen explained the direction of the country’s first green synagogue; “It was about making a sacred statement. If we were going to talk the talk, we needed to walk the walk. The whole process forced us to look at our values in a deeper way.” The synagogue was planned by members who believed this was the time to reflect their belief that God calls them to be responsible stewards of the earth.In addition to a deep sense of environmental and social responsibility shared by many parish members, churches are also finding sound economic reasons to go green. Buildings of worship can reasonably expect a 30% reduction in energy costs. Currently, only 2,000 of the 310,000 houses of worship in the U.S. are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Congregations program.At the 27,000 member Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, executive pastor Mike Buster reported that implementing the Energy Star Congregations to cut the $2 million bill for gas and water in half. “We are to be good stewards of our resources, our financial resources as well as the Earth’s resources. We take the dollars we were spending with utility companies and now spend them on ministry and missions.The Reverend Elaine Strawn of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Wayne County in Wooster Ohio added, “We are caretakers. It’s about respecting other life and trying to reduce our impact so future generations have some Earth left to live on.”What these congregations are finding is that green habits developed inside the parish are re-enacted at home. Many parishioners actively embrace the green movement and pas sit on to children and friends. That is the point, isn’t it?See for more information.

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