Churches work to reduce carbon footprint

KOKOMO, Ind. — Local churches are cutting down their carbon footprint as part of a statewide initiative to promote “a faith response to climate change.”

Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light, an organization committed to promoting environmentally friendly practices and sustainability in religious organizations, announced last week it received a $150,000 grant from the Indiana Office of Energy Development. The only faith-based organization to apply for the grant, H-IPL, plans to use the grant to install solar panels and cut energy uses in six central Indiana churches by 25 percent to 40 percent. Though none of the congregations are in Kokomo, the Howard County Ministerial Association has joined the H-IPL in promoting environmental friendliness and eventually hold a workshop for area churches.

“(Churches) use a lot of energy and it turns out it’s really easy to cut the energy they use. Just turning the thermostat way down in the winter when nobody’s in the building can save a huge amount,” said Madeline Hirschland, board vice chair of H-IPL. “Congregations are saving 35 (percent) to 40 percent just by doing these kinds of thing. The savings are enormous.”

Lenore Kane, a member of the “care for creation” team at Christ Lutheran Church in Kokomo, said the church has taken particular care to save energy and recycle in the two years they’ve had the team. She hopes other congregations will follow suit.

“We would like to get churches together in the Kokomo area to work together for caring for God’s creation,” she said. “It’s been fun.”

Christ Lutheran has had an energy audit and the team has been working to get the facility fitted with energy-efficient lightbulbs, programmable thermostats and timed lights in washrooms.

“Our homes aren’t all that energy efficient, and neither are our churches,” Kane said. “It’s small steps, but those are things that eventually make a difference.”

Mark Sloss, president of the Howard County Ministerial Association, said H-IPL contacted him about setting up a workshop in Kokomo in the next year as an effort to reach 225 congregation leaders through the state. He said the movement toward eco-friendly churches saves money and the environment.

“Anything we can do to help people be more aware of the environment and even to save money,” he said. “It’s becoming more and more popular, with everyone aware that we only have one planet and we had better take care of it.”

Hirschland hopes congregations all over Indiana realize it’s as easy as flipping a switch to cut down on energy usage and cost.

“This is really easy to do,” she said. “To see that we can take this all over the state is very exciting.”

Megan Graham is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter.