As a faith leader, you can help inspire your congregation to care for God's creation.

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6 Ways To Reduce The Carbon Footprint In Your Place of Worship

By Nichole Tucker
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Many of the things humans do, accumulate, or discard emit carbon. By definition, a carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouses gases, particularly carbon dioxide, that is emitted into the atmosphere. Carbon emissions come by way of transportation, manufacturing, landfills, and more – but much of our human carbon footprint can be decreased or even eliminated altogether. Here are 6 ways for your church, synagogue, mosque, or temple to offset its carbon footprint.

1 Give Your Building an Energy Upgrade

Many congregations use more energy than is needed to heat, cool, and light their place of worship. This is true for the light bulbs we use, the windows and doors we build into our structures, and the type of heating systems we install. It may or may not be economical for your building to go completely “green,” but you may be able to make the following upgrades:

  • Switch to LED light bulbs.
  • Get regular maintenance checkups on your heating system.
  • Add sufficient insulation to your doors, walls, and windows.
  • Install a programmable thermostat.
  • Purchase energy-efficient appliances.
  • Consider installing solar panels or, if available, joining your local community solar program

Doing these few things will set you on the right path to offsetting your congregation’s carbon footprint. But, remember, even after you do an energy upgrade, it’s still important to conserve energy as much as possible.

2 Conserve Energy in Your Building

Is your congregation using too much energy? It may not be easy or even possible to track what every member of your congregation is doing, what forms of energy they are using, or for how long. But as a faith leader, you can lead by example.

First, make it a habit! Every evening before closing the doors to your church, synagogue, mosque, or temple, check that everything is powered down and unplugged. Electric currents run through wires even when things are not powered off, so taking this step will save energy and lower the costs of your monthly bills.

Next, be sure that blinds and curtains are shut. Doing this every evening will help to maintain the temperature in the building. The more your building’s temperature is regulated, the less you will have to turn on the heat or air conditioner.

3 Reduce the Amount of Water Your Congregation Uses

Most buildings of worship have bathrooms, kitchens, fountains, and water dispensers. These are all needed to accommodate the people of faith who enter your doors daily to pray, worship and fellowship. But, like all resources, the use of water can be limited in a way that it still meets the needs of your congregation but doesn’t harm the environment.

Washing - Depending on the faith your congregation follows, you may have altar cloths, baptismal robes, towels, muslins, carpets and other linens needed for your holy rituals. For most religions, keeping these ritualistic aids clean is a part of your service to God. Water is necessary, but should not be overused.

Try washing some things in cold water rather than hot.  According to recent research, cold water cleans just as well as hot water. This limits the amount of energy you use when washing. Then, hang-dry these items outdoors.

Drinking - God made water to quench our thirst, and access to it is a basic human right – but it is a finite resource. So why not have your congregation retrieve their water in a way that is best for the planet?

A good way to make sure you're caring for creation is to use water fountains rather than water coolers. Water fountains typically use less energy, while water coolers are said to use over $80 per year of electricity.

Cooking - Fellowship is a vital part of our religious lives. This is why many places of worship have kitchens or dining halls. When preparing food, there are ways to limit the use of water while still being sanitary. Here are a few ways:

  • Turn off the faucet when no one is using it.
  • Boil cold water rather than running hot water.
  • Scrub fruits and vegetables in a large tub of water.

4  Teach Your Congregation To Recycle Properly

Recycling keeps natural substances from being mixed with man-made substances that are harmful to the environment. It also limits pollution to the Earth by reducing the amount of trash in our landfills and the need to manufacture as many goods. Many buildings of worship do not recycle – mainly because many do not know how. The first concept that you should remember is the three R’s.

Reduce - Limit the amount of waste your congregation produces.

Reuse - Use certain items more than once before discarding.

Recycle - Sort and discard items according to their properties (paper, glass, compost, etc.)

Finally, be sure you have waste cans that are properly labeled, and place them in as many areas of your building as possible.

5 Plant a Garden By Your Building

The more natural and clean air that we have on the Earth, the better. This is one thing that gardens do for our planet – but planting a garden beside your building of worship can serve your congregation in more ways than one. For example:

  • Having a vegetable garden can feed your congregation or surrounding community.
  • A garden can serve as a place of prayer and healing.
  • Gardens help provide homes, food, and protection for God’s creatures.

6 Reach Out to Your Surrounding Community

If your congregation has done its best to reduce its carbon footprint and help the environment, you are caring for God’s creation. But as people of faith, we must remember our duty to help others – this includes helping them to honor the planet as well.

Reach out the community that your building of worship is in. Talk to individuals and members of local government about reducing their carbon footprints as well, and instituting policies such as efficient public transit or community solar programs that make it easier for locals do their part.