Busted Halo
feature: politics & culture
July 7th, 2009

Reduce Your Energy Consumption

The first of four excerpts from 50 Ways to Help Save the Earth, How You and Your Church Can Make a Difference

 
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50 Ways to Help Save the Earth: How You and Your Church Can Make a Difference

The green movement has taken root among Christians, with individuals and churches embracing eco-justice as a vital part of discipleship. In this four-part series, we will be excerpting chapters from 50 Ways to Help Save the Earth: How You and Your Church Can Make a Difference by environmental activist Rebecca Barnes-Davies, who makes a clear connection between caring for the earth and living one’s faith. Taking action is important, but it’s also about “not doing,” says Barnes-Davies. Knowing when to let go of control, doing no harm, resting, celebrating, and trusting that God is doing the work to care for creation, are all essential elements to her approach. Each chapter offers seven action items, ranging from individual efforts to activities that encourage the involvement of church and community. There are practical suggestions, relevant facts and background material, success stories, additional sources of information, and appropriate scripture references.

Want to win a copy of 50 Ways to Help Save the Earth? See contest rules just below our excerpt.

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Reduce Energy Consumption

Many of us grew up being told to turn off the lights when we leave a room or to not hold the refrigerator door open while looking for a snack. While small, these and other suggestions to conserve energy are still important. Those who have taken any of the various online “ecological footprint” quizzes have learned that it would take four to ten Earths if everyone were to consume energy the way a middle-class American does. Knowing that we only have one Earth, and that most of our energy right now comes from nonrenewable, unsustainable sources, it is essential that we learn the most important ways to reduce our personal energy consumption. Small commitments add up.

How To’s

  1. Turn off lights, electronics, small appliances, and chargers when not actively in use. Unplug those with an “always on” clock or “standby” red light. A TV set that’s on for three hours and in standby for 21 hours uses about 40 percent of its energy in standby mode.
  2. Replace incandescent lightbulbs with compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) or, where available, light-emitting diodes (LEDs). CFLs use 60 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. For church use, there are many overhead and exit lights now available in LED, a highly energy-efficient lighting technology.
  3. Update your appliances and heating/cooling systems. Buy EnergyStar electronics and appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers, and refrigerators. Recycle or dispose of old appliances in proper ways to keep heavy metals out of landfills.
  4. Insulate. Most homes and churches could be drastically improved with insulation, weather stripping, caulking, and other means of making sure that the warm air in the cooler months or the cool air in the warmer months doesn’t leak out.
  5. Recycle! It makes a difference. An aluminum can made from a recycled can, rather than from new aluminum, saves the same amount of energy needed to run a television for three hours. Recycled paper uses only 60 percent of the energy used when making paper from new resources. Steel recycling in the United States each year saves enough energy to supply Los Angeles with nearly a decade’s worth of electricity.
  6. Keep it clean! Replace filters on your furnace and on the air conditioner in your car.
  7. Adjust yourself to your environment. Program your thermostat to not stay as warm or cool when you are not around. By moving your thermostat up two degrees in summer and down two degrees in winter, it is possible to save approximately two thousand pounds of carbon dioxide from the previous year.
  8. Avoid the dryer, especially high heats. The EPA does not rate dryers as EnergyStar compliant because all of them are huge energy consumers. Use a clothesline to dry your clothes when possible.
  9. Choose food, transportation, and housing options wisely. The more local the food, the more fuel-efficient the transportation, and the smaller the house, the better for climate change.
  10. Mow your lawn with a reel or electric mower. A gas-powered lawn mower puts out nasty particulate matter that you inhale, and it pollutes in one hour what it takes your car to pollute in twenty miles of driving (at best estimate)!

Faith Matters

Make me to know your ways, O God; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.
Psalm 25:4–5

How does it change our attitude about energy conservation and energy efficiency if we approach them as ways to wait on God? As God instructed humans to keep the creation in Genesis 2:15, how might caring for creation through energy conservation be a faithful following of God’s path?

Walking the Talk

In Dacula, Georgia, Hebron Baptist Church installed new energy-efficient lighting (almost a thousand new bulbs!) and not only has reduced its carbon footprint by a million pounds but is also spending $32,000 less each year in electricity bills. Congregations of many different denominations have done similar replacements and are finding that the economic and environmental payback for their investment is well worth the effort.

From the Earth Day Sunday 2008 resource “The Poverty of Global Climate Change,” National Council of Churches’ Eco-Justice Program.

Excerpted with permission from 50 Ways to Help Save the Earth: How You and Your Church Can Make a Difference by Rebecca Barnes-Davies, published in 2009 by Westminster John Knox Press.

Enter for your chance to win a copy of 50 Ways to Help Save the Earth: How You and Your Church Can Make a Difference. Email your name and address (only once, not 50 times) to contest@bustedhalo.com with 50 Ways Contest in the subject for your chance to win! Winner will be chosen at random, good luck and remember, Busted Halo will be excerpting other sections and offering more chances to win in the near future so don’t get too down on yourself if you didn’t win, though really, you should have won, shame on you!

 
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The Author : Rebecca Barnes-Davies
Rebecca Barnes-Davies has been an environmental activist for well over a decade. She has served as director of Presbyterians Restoring Creation and as a program assistant in the Environmental Justice Office of the Presbyterian Church USA. An independent consultant for environmental and social justice ministry, she is currently studying at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Kentucky.
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  • Matt

    Megan, I think you are looking at this article as something it’s not. It’s not claiming to solve all the problems on the planet; this chapter is doing EXACTLY what it says it would do-reduce energy consumption.

    Because one person might not be able to affect the change that is needed to solve the earth’s greatest problems than they should just ignore basic tips like turning off the light when you aren’t using it? C’mon.

  • Megan

    I really do appreciate that faith communities are getting on board with environmentalism, honestly I do, but I take serious issue with the statement ” it is essential that we learn the most important ways to reduce our personal energy consumption. Small commitments add up.” Because the truth is, small commitments on a personal level DON’T add up, at least not to any quantity that is going to be effective at addressing the looming environmental crisis. Living simply is effective as a personal faith commitment; no argument there. But personal consumer choices will not make the difference that is needed. The only way for us to make the kind of difference that our planet requires, at this point in history, is to push for dramatic global changes in the way our industrial, consumer, military institutions operate. Without that kind of change, we are just going to be happily installing efficient lightbulbs while the world burns down around us. There is a timely essay on the subject today which can be read here: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/07/08. It is entitled “Forget Shorter Showers: Why Personal Change does not Equal Political Change.” I encourage all faithful people to read it, and allow themselves to be challenged to a more radical discipleship… beyond reducing their dryer usage.

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