Green Audits for Faith Communities
Faith community representatives are addressing the climate change crisis by implementing green energy audits across the nation. They have recognized that the human contribution to global economic and environmental decline is the result of a spiritual deficit. Mardi Tindal, United Church of Canada Moderator, spoke at an Interfaith Forum on faith and climate change last October.
"I believe the ecological crisis is one of the most urgent moral challenges in human history.
Just as racial segregation and discrimination, and before that slavery, were in their times, responding to this moral challenge lies with us, and the time is now," Tindal said. Tindal explained that science has been an integral part in showing the causes of climate change, and how we can now track its progression in the atmosphere and ocean. She implied that since climate change developed as a result of our overconsumption, we are ethically obliged to take responsibility.
Faith & the Common Good (FCG) and its Greening Sacred Spaces (GSS) program has conducted green audits across Canada. This program has been assisted by the United Church's commitment to fighting climate change, which helps congregations with lowering their energy expenditures, creating a healthier, more ecologically sustainable building.
Churches, gurdwaras, mosques, synagogues, temples, and many other faith buildings have been audited to address the ecological crisis. Faith & the Common Good is one of the 26 communities and faith-based organizations that are signatories to an important document calling for leadership and action on climate change. The green energy audit pilot program is a crucial step toward reaching these important goals.
Professional energy auditors normally start by conducting a detailed walk-through of the facility, bringing specialized equipment and techniques, such as the "blower door" test for air leakage. After a professionally detailed audit, a report will be completed to make the appropriate recommendations for retrofits and a cost-benefit analysis on each retrofit. Heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, cooking, insulation, hot water, and the use of cleaning products and appliances are all analyzed in this report. Along with the energy audit report, other reference materials that committee members can use for an action plan will be distributed.
Modern high-efficiency furnaces use significantly less fuel. This fleet of furnaces at Bell's Corners United Church is new and well maintained. The church could also seal air leaks and add insulation as the Green Auditor suggested.
Photo: David Patterson.
Faith & the Common Good Energy Coordinator David Patterson is looking forward to the expansion of energy audits across the country.
"There are over 30,000 faith communities in the country, with over 7,000 in Ontario, and 1,100 in the City of Toronto," Patterson said. "Over 20% of the population attends a place of worship regularly, representing over 2.5 million people in Ontario."
It is a question of whether we can look beyond ourselves that will determine whether our efforts to combat climate change will mark significant achievement. The consumer has a great amount of power in what they demand. Being able to realize this means that we have the chance to demand more sustainable products and services at a better price.
The major plan for Greening Sacred Spaces in 2012 is to implement an energy auditing tracking system that can mark the progress of climate change initiatives happening across the nation.
"At present, there is no tool available to measure energy efficiency or the reduction of greenhouse gases within faith communities, and furthermore, faith communities are not measured as are other sectors," Patterson said. "We believe that a measurement tool would be readily adopted by faith communities; they would engage from both a spiritual and practical point of view. Faith communities consider themselves unique and environmentally astute. They will respond to a measurement tool that helps them monitor their energy savings and compare themselves to other faith community buildings."
Click here to view a video on the Green Audit Process
Faith communities are showing the world that a sustainable economy can be achieved through values of restraint, cooperation and reciprocity. Many have witnessed disconnect between what we profess to believe, and the consumer choices we make. How we eat, travel, shop, and the entertainment we consume are an integral part of our current state of ecological decline. But there is an opportunity for collective awareness and transformation. It is the ability to find a relation between our beliefs and our actions that will determine our relationship to the Earth itself.
Many countries are far more affected by climate change than others. World consumption has grown at an unprecedented rate over the past 100 years. We spend more on luxury products than what it would cost to reach the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Twenty percent of the developed world represents 86 percent of total global consumer spending. Canada and the United States alone are responsible for 31 percent of global consumption.
There is an opportunity to take responsibility for our rampant appetites. Unlike the undeveloped world, we have the resources to respond to the crisis of climate change. The Canadian Interfaith Call for Leadership and Action on Climate Change believes all nations need to use energy policies that create actual emission reductions to a fair and safe global level.
Ryan Moore is studying Professional Writing at Algonquin College.