Start With Your Imagination
Mennonite Creation Care Network’s focus for fall 2018 is an Energy Upgrade. We invite you to start with your imagination. For example, the average kilowatt-hour charge in the United States is about $0.11.* This may be the rate you and your church pay for energy consumption, but there are many externalities that this price tag does not include: toxic spills, health repercussions, climate impacts, damage to crops and farmlands, impacts on resources like fresh water and much more. The true costs of fossil fuel energy use in the United States are much higher. So imagine: What would you do if the amount you spend on fossil fuel energy just doubled?**
If we truly paid for the energy we used, we would use significantly less.
Do Some Math
- First, list the ways you use fossil fuels directly: heating and cooling, electricity, gas for transportation, flights… (Food and other products we consume also depend on fossil fuels, but that would be complicated to quantify.) Assemble either the actual costs or best estimates of what you pay for these things and add them together. You could do this by year or month; whatever’s easiest for you. Now multiply the total by 2.5. That’s an estimate of the external costs of fossil fuels that don’t show up on our bills.**
- Now think about what changes you would make if this new number showed up on your energy bills. Gather a group of people to share ideas.
- Try a carbon footprint calculator.
For congregations: See Interfaith Power & Light’s Congregational Calculator. Their Cool Congregation stewardship program helps churches estimate their current carbon footprint and identify areas to decrease energy use and become energy smart.
For households: Ecological Footprint, Center for Sustainable Economy
- Energy audits help you see where your church uses the most energy. Energy Checklists can also serve as good starting points for identifying areas for improved sustainability. Here is a great list of cheap energy upgrades from Interfaith Power & Light.
- Consider renewable energy or purchase green power from your power company.
- Holding a tour of your church grounds could help people understand the need for energy upgrades and empower them to help. Teach members about the use of the church’s automatic timers, air conditioning units, or other energy intensive settings that can be avoided.
- See our Buildings & Energy page.
- Walking, biking and carpooling: How can they play a larger role in your life?
- Support legislative efforts developing bike or carpool lanes.
- Prepare for your next car purchase–if your context requires one. Research and planning ahead financially can make the difference between buying the most efficient vehicle possible and whatever gas guzzler your car lot is selling. Used electric vehicles are surprisingly inexpensive for local driving.
- Question long distance travel. Why are you going? Is it really important to you? Will you be there long enough to justify the carbon?
- Carbon fasting: Some faith communities have called for carbon fasts on Sundays or during Lent. Incorporate carbon fasting into the rhythm of your life.
- Watch consumption: It takes energy to produce, package and ship consumer goods. Buying items that have minimal packaging, are produced locally and seasonally, or are second-hand decreases much of energy consumption around an item. Use your purchasing power and teach your kids those habits too. Or just buy less.
- Buying forest-friendly products helps efforts at CO2 sequestration and air purification. One way to do this is to look for RSPO and FSC labels. RSPO labeling shows you the product used sustainable palm oil. FSC products are made from well-managed forests.
- Call public officials and tell them that their views on fossil fuels matter to you.
- Inform your church about community events, seminars or organizations related to reducing fossil fuel conservation.
- Help someone who lacks the time, skills or money to make energy upgrades that come easily to you.
- Talk to neighbors and friends about your concerns related to fossil fuels. Tell them what your church is working on.
*Average retail price of electricity (cents per kilowatt-hour), 2018 US Energy Information Administration found here.
**Adjusted cost of electricity generated from coal, Harvard Medical School’s Center for Health and the Global Environment study, found here.