Nonprofits Team Up to Provide Energy Efficiency Upgrades at Houses of Worship

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Three nonprofit organizations – Massachusetts Interfaith Power & Light (MIP&L), Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET), and New Generation Energy (NGE) – have launched an initiative called CARES (Congregations Acting to Renew Earth's Sustainability) to increase energy efficiency in Massachusetts houses of worship and in the homes of their congregants.

Three nonprofit organizations – Massachusetts Interfaith Power & Light (MIP&L), Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET), and New Generation Energy (NGE) – have launched an initiative called CARES (Congregations Acting to Renew Earth's Sustainability) to increase energy efficiency in Massachusetts houses of worship and in the homes of their congregants.

CARES is a two-year initiative that provides building assessment services, hands-on training, guidance on utility-provided services, and funding in order to reduce the carbon footprint and energy bills in 35 houses of worship in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville. The initiative is funded by the Boston-based Barr Foundation.

At the core of the program are energy-upgrade work-parties. These work parties are hands-on events where volunteers learn how to reduce energy and water use in houses of worship by installing more efficient light bulbs, implementing low-flow water measures, and reducing drafts. The houses of worship not only lower their bills, but the volunteers can use the skills they learn to reduce energy and water use in their own homes.

In addition, CARES helps congregations fund energy efficiency upgrades in three ways. First, it helps congregations access utility-funded services, which can pay for as much as 70 percent of lighting upgrades and other approved measures. Second, CARES rewards congregations for efficiency and solar energy upgrades their congregants make in their own homes. For example, if Sally – a member of a congregation - installs solar panels on her home, then her congregation receives $250 toward its efficiency project. Third, CARES also provides online fundraising tools and donation matches.

Why is CARES needed?
Houses of worship often have little or no insulation and use single-pane windows and high-wattage lighting. Religious leaders and congregants increasingly view the carbon emissions that stem from these inefficiencies as antithetical to their responsibility – what many see as a sacred duty - to care for creation.

At a more practical level, almost all houses of worship provide community services, such as food pantries, day care centers, and homeless shelters. High energy bills not only hurt the congregations but they also hurt their ability to provide much needed social services during times of relentless government cutbacks. Although many congregations yearn to make their buildings more efficient, they can’t afford energy upgrades and don’t have the expertise to know what to do or how to do it.

Linking congregation members’ actions in their homes to benefits in their houses of worship creates a positive reinforcing loop that can maximize the adoption of conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy measures by the congregation and its members. The potential impact of efficiency improvements at a house of worship and its congregation's residences is immense, not only in terms of reducing carbon emissions in buildings but also in terms of changing how people think about energy use.

Audrey Schulman, President of HEET, says, “The more fossil fuels and money the congregation saves in their homes, the more money is raised to help the house of worship reduce its energy use.”

According to Vince Maraventano, Executive Director of MIP&L, “A recent survey found that 83 percent of Massachusetts residents believe that we have a moral obligation to do everything we can to stop climate change. Some MIP&L members have reduced their carbon footprints by as much as 70 percent and saved as much as $20,000 a year in energy bills. Reductions like these provide powerful leadership by example.”

More about Massachusetts Interfaith Power & Light
MIP&L has been helping congregations and their members lower their carbon footprints and energy bills for ten years. With over 200 faith community members, MIP&L provides comprehensive energy assessments of houses of worship, mobilizes communities to adopt conservation, efficiency and renewable energy technologies, and advocates for public policies that will lead to a sustainable future. To learn more about MIP&L, visit http://www.MIPandL.org.

To participate in the CARES program, contact Vince Maraventano, Executive Director of MIP&L at vince(at)MIPandL(dot)org or 617-244-0755.

More about Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET)
Based in Cambridge MA, HEET organizes free energy-upgrade work-parties to teach volunteers hands-on skills in lowering their energy bills and carbon emissions. We teach the skills while making the building we’re in more energy efficient. We have taught over 3,000 volunteers and saved over $500,000 in energy and water bills. HEET won an EPA Regional Environmental Merit Award.

For more information on HEET and the CARES program, contact Audrey Schulman, President, at HEET.Cambridge(at)gmail(dot)com or at 617-864-3266.

More about New Generation Energy
New Generation Energy (NGE) is a Boston-based 501 (c) (3) nonprofit that provides resources and tools for organizations nationwide to raise money for green energy projects.

New Generation Energy's mission is to make America's communities healthier and more sustainable through the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

For more information on NGE and the CARES program, contact Chuck Lewin, Executive Director, at lewin(at)newgenerationenergy(dot)org or at 617-624 3688.

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Bianca Strzelczyk
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