Over 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. come from the building sector. Anywhere there is a building, there is an opportunity to measure its energy use and make changes to conserve energy, save money, improve building occupant experience, and protect the environment. This is huge opportunity to make a difference—in our homes, our workplaces, our schools and our houses of worship.
For many congregations, saving energy can mean more than a lower energy bill. From Catholic to Buddhist, Muslim to Presbyterian, Southern Baptist to Bahá’í, faith traditions from all over the world have ethical and moral frameworks for stewardship of the environment. Interfaith Power and Light, an organization that engages faith communities and individuals from all backgrounds to take action on climate change, has collected statements on climate change from numerous religious communities, demonstrating an impressive unity on the need to care for Creation.
In the St. Louis region, Missouri Interfaith Power and Light and the USGBC Missouri Gateway Chapter have teamed up to support congregations as they improve their energy efficiency and reduce their environmental impacts through the 25x20 Voluntary Energy Benchmarking Campaign.
The 25x20 Campaign’s goal is to reduce building energy consumption in the St. Louis region by 25% by the year 2020, with campaign participants pledging to benchmark their building energy use. According to ENERGY STAR, buildings that benchmark their energy use for three years see an average energy savings of 7%. Tracking energy consumption is the first step to saving energy and saving money; as the saying goes, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.”
Since the campaign was launched in April 2014, building owners and operators of all types have stepped up to show their commitment to the environment and to their bottom line, including many houses of worship. And thanks to a grant from the national USGBC, USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter and Missouri Interfaith Power and Light were able to award 10 complimentary energy audits to congregations.
Energy auditors investigated opportunities for energy savings in the selected congregations’ facilities, and provided each with a report that details potential strategies for energy savings. St. John’s Episcopal Church, a century old church in South St. Louis City, shared their energy audit experience in a series of three blog posts: Does Your Congregation Need An Energy Audit?; Getting Ready for Audit Day; and What Did We Learn from Our Congregation’s Energy Audit?.
Going forward, these congregations will be reviewing their reports and considering their potential next steps. To aid them in this process, Missouri Interfaith Power & Light, the USGBC Missouri Gateway Chapter and the Jewish Environmental Initiative, a committee of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis, invited congregations to reunite in a workshop titled “Green your House of Worship: Building Success for a Better Building and a Better Planet.”
Attendees had the opportunity to learn about the results of the ten congregational energy audits, became familiar with strategies for financing energy efficiency improvements, connected with members of the USGBC Missouri Gateway Chapter, volunteers that have expertise in green building and sustainability, and began developing a low-cost, high impact action plan to green their building operations. Through a whole-building approach, all aspects of sustainable building operations were considered.
Through conserving energy, making sustainable purchasing decisions, thoughtfully caring for our landscapes, responsibly handling waste, and ensuring a safe and healthy indoor environment, people of faith have the opportunity to make a positive impact on their congregations, their communities, and on climate. So gather your friends, your neighbors or your fellow congregants, connect with your local Chapter of USGBC and of Interfaith Power & Light, and get started making a difference!