If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology. We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it.
--Lyndon B. Johnson

First Baptist Church of Dallas Wins EPA Energy Star Award for Energy Savings

Energy Star(via ENERGY STAR Congregations Network E-Update)

This year, four congregations deserve congratulations and the spotlight for earning a 2009 ENERGY STAR Congregations Award in the annual nationwide competition. Winners are recognized for doing their part to save energy and fight climate change through effective energy management practices and innovative efficiency solutions.

Together, these award winning organizations reduced annual greenhouse gas emissions equal to those from the average electricity use of nearly 1000 homes for one year and saved more than $700,000 in annual energy costs.

This year's winners shared some common activities such as their use of EPA's free energy tracking tool, Portfolio Manager to track their energy use and the associated greenhouse gas emissions, set targets for investment priorities, and verify efficiency improvements. Congregations now can use Portfolio Manager to receive an energy performance rating, and the most energy efficient among them can earn the ENERGY STAR label.

Winners also relied on the ENERGY STAR Congregations Guide "Putting Energy Into Stewardship." The guide can help launch a congregation on the road to energy savings with Sure Savers and other features.

Read on for brief profiles of this year's winners. Complete profiles can be viewed on the ENERGY STAR congregations web page.


2009 Winners List

Austin Resident and Deep Conversion Founder Wins Care for Creation Sermon Award

Austin resident and Deep Conversion Communications founder, Elizabeth Freese, won the Franciscan Philanthropist Award in Earth Ministry’s national Care for Creation Sermon Contest, held at University Lutheran Church in Seattle on September 27, 2009. Freese's sermon, "The Irresistable Sustainable Future," generated the greatest donations at the fundraising event. The full press release is available on the Deep Conversation Communications website.


"If there is to be any life going forward, its “chief cornerstone” will necessarily be the principles of mutual, caring community that Jesus and his followers stood up for and celebrated, even as the cross loomed. In our confrontation with ecosystem limits, these are the only principles which enable sustainable life, and so it is no accident that the essence of the current global movement for eco/social justice is hauntingly similar to that of the kindom inaugurated by Jesus long ago." 
- Elizabeth Freese, "The Irresistable Sustainable Future"


Congratulations, Ms. Freese!

Take the St. Francis Pledge through the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change

St. Francis PledgeFeast of St. Francis Is Opportunity to Promote Action on Climate Change

The Franciscan Action Network (FAN) and the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change are encouraging Catholics to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis this October 4th by taking the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor.

Click here for resources, including a bulletin insert, poster, prayers, homily suggestions, quotes from the Pope and the Church on climate change, and clip art.

Click here to sign up for a free webinar to learn more about a Catholic approach to climate change.  The webinar, called “Care for Creation National Web Summit,” will be offered by FAN on October 15 (8-10 p.m. eastern time) as a free live webcast of streaming video.

Click here to take the St. Francis Pledge and to get more information about how you can get involved.

Great News! EPA Unveils ENERGY STAR for Congregations!

Texas Impact is thrilled to announce that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has introduced the new ENERGY STAR for Congregations! This is a transformational step in improving collaboration between the EPA and houses of worship to help Congregations save up to 30% on their energy bills and protect the Creation.
If America's more than 370,000 houses of worship cut energy use by 10% (a tithe!) ...

  • Nearly $200 million would be saved for congregations' missions and ministry.
  • More than 5.4 billion kWh of electricity would be available without additional cost and pollution.
  • More than 2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions would be prevented, equivalent to the emissions of about 400,000 cars, or to planting over a half million acres of trees.

ENERGY STAR will help Congregations invest strategically in efficient equipment, facility upgrades and maintenance. With free, unbiased information and technical support from ENERGY STAR, a Congregation can more easily improve stewardship of its budget's energy dollars, and of the earth by reducing energy waste and energy costs, while protecting the environment.
And the best news? EPA now has a Portfolio Manager for Congregations! This well-tested tool helps track, understand and improve the energy performance of your house of worship.
EPA is hosting 3 FREE Webinars in September: 9/17, 9/24 and 9/29, at 11:30 am ET/ 10:30 am CST
Who Should Attend a Webinar:
Those responsible for energy decisions in houses of worship. The purpose of this training is to provide users with a step-by-step understanding of Portfolio Manager. This tool will

  • Help benchmark current energy use
  • Track savings

With such knowledge congregations will be able to both identify beneficial energy improvements and save money and the Creation. Go to the Webinar Registration website to sign up today!

Low-Income Energy Assistance in Texas

If you are interested in learning what utility assistance is available in your area,

contact 2-1-1 to get a list of organizations that offer utility assistance in your area.

Whether you need help yourself or are trying to help someone else, Texas has several sources of energy-related assistance. The following information highlights the largest programs. We've also included a link to the LIRAP program, which helps repair and replace vehicles that fail state-mandated emissions tests.

What kind of electric service provider do you have?

The kinds of assistance you can get from your utility company depend on whether you get your electricity from a for-profit company, a city program, or a co-op. The best way to find out your specific options is to call your service provider directly. Your provider may have assistance funds, payment plans, or deadline extensions that you qualify for and should be able to direct you to other local assistance programs.


Typical qualifiers for special assistance programs:

•    If you receive Food Stamps, Medicare, Medicaid or other HHSC benefits
•    If you are at or below 125% of federal poverty guidelines
•    If your household includes a person who is elderly, disabled, or 6 or younger

Qualifications vary by program; call even if these don’t apply to you!


Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP)

The CEAP has various components that provide different forms of assistance with your energy bills, such as retrofitting appliances, assisting the disabled and elderly, emergency short-term assistance, and goal-setting and co-payment plans. Assistance is available through local distributors in all 254 Texas counties, regardless of your energy provider. For more information, call1-877-399-8939 toll free (please use a land-based phone) or click here.


Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)

The WAP is designed to help decrease bills for low-income homes through increasing the energy efficiency of homes and providing education about energy conservation. It is available, regardless of provider, in all 254 Texas counties, but assistance is limited due to funding. For more information, contact your local WAP provider toll free at (888) 606-8889 or click here.


LITE-UP Texas Program

LITE-UP Texas is a government-funded program that provides a discount on energy bills for May through September on a yearly basis and is only available in deregulated areas.  Discounts depend upon your service provider and available funding. To enroll or see if you’re eligible, call toll free at 1-866-454-8387 or click here.


Financial Assistance for Car Replacement and Repair

Texas has a financial assistance and incentive program for qualified owners of vehicles that fail the emissions test or whose vehicles are 10 years or older. The program is called “AirCheckTexas: Drive a Clean Machine.” For more information, call (toll free) 800-913-3321 or click here.




Other Resources

  • Contact the Public Utility Commission (PUC) for more information, to file complaints, or to inquire about customer protection at 1-888-782-8477
  • Assistance for basic telephone services is through the Lifeline program
  • The Texas Electric Choice Education Program helps residents in many Texas counties choose the best electric provider for their needs.
  • For information on low-income energy assistance for victims of family violence, click here.
  • Texas ROSE is a non-profit focused on helping energy consumers. They are a good resourse for helpful tips and energy assistance information.
  • Calling your county’s state representatives or local officials about low-income assistance can prove helpful to you, while also bringing political attention to the needs within your community.
  • Many local faith and community based non-profits offer short-term energy assistance. Call your utility company for a list of local programs.

(Photo "Power Lines 124" by User Michael Kappel used under a Creative Commons-Attribution-NonCommercial License.)

Pope's Encyclical Promotes Environmental Justice and Solidarity

July 8, 2009 Update

This Tuesday, the Vatican released the Holy Father's third encyclical letter, "Caritas in Veritate" (Charity in Truth), emphasizing that "charity demands justice: recognition and respect for the legitimate rights of individuals and peoples."  Focused primarily on international economic issues, Pope Benedict calls for a "true world political authority" to promote the common good of all and for "greater social responsibility" by businesses.

In this context, Benedict XVI devotes the fourth chapter of the encyclical to  "The development of people, rights and duties, the environment."  Here, the pope says that, "The environment is God's gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole."

"In nature, the believer recognizes the wonderful result of God's creative activity, which we may use responsibly to satisfy our legitimate needs, material or otherwise, while respecting the intrinsic balance of creation."

Benedict warns against seeing nature as more important than people.  But neither should the opposite be held as true: "which aims at total technical dominion over nature, because the natural environment is more than raw material to be manipulated at our pleasure; it is a wondrous work of the Creator containing a 'grammar' which sets forth ends and criteria for its wise use, not its reckless exploitation."

The problem of unequal distribution of non-renewable energy is a global responsibility and, "Here we are dealing with major issues; if they are to be faced adequately, then everyone must responsibly recognize the impact they will have on future generations, particularly on the many young people in the poorer nations, who ask to assume their active part in the construction of a better world.'"

The Catholic response to climate change as articulated by the Vatican and the U.S. Catholic bishops and carried out through the partners who are members of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change has always been about the care of creation and protection of those most vulnerable to climate impacts.  Pope Benedict reinforces these twin goals: "the protection of the environment, of resources and of the climate obliges all international leaders to act jointly and to show a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the law and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the planet."

The document goes on to say: "The Church has a responsibility towards creation and she must assert this responsibility in the public sphere. In so doing, she must defend not only earth, water and air as gifts of creation that belong to everyone. She must above all protect mankind from self-destruction…the ecological system is based on respect for a plan that affects both the health of society and its good relationship with nature."


Here is the full text of Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical.


Information from the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change.


Baptists Sign Letter in Support of "The American Clean Energy and Security Act"

A total of 140 moderate Baptist leaders signed a June 18 letter urging passage of a comprehensive energy bill that includes caps on emissions linked to global warming.  The letter urges strengthening and support for the "American Clean Energy and Security Act" and calls for increased support for the "marginalized and those most at risk" from climate change.  Read the full letter with signatures here.

Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, endorsed the cuirrent legislation in a May 28 editorial on the BCE website EthicsDaily.com: "Our faith calls us to care for creation and the poor in the concrete, not in the abstract," Parham wrote. "Protecting the environment protects the marginalized. One realistic step toward protecting both is supporting the House climate bill."

Many signed a similar letter last year.

To read the 2009 letter in full, click here.

Great Letter to the Editor by United Methodist Peace and Justice Educator

United Methodist Peace and Justice Educator Bren Hardt was published this morning in the Houston Chronicle.  Her letter, linking national efforts to address climate change to the weather damage seen in her garden, can be found here.

As Congress debates climate change legislation, it is critical that the faith community voice its strong support for renewable energy. You can make the difference between effective legislation and business as usual. Please consider writing a letter to the editor to your local newspaper and don't hesitate to call or email us --Texas Interfaith Power and Light is always available for resources and support!


Houston Interfaith Power and Light's Kickoff Event a Success

Mayor Bill White On Wednesday, May 27th, 2009, almost 100 people gathered in Houston for the inaugural event of Houston Interfaith Power and Light, “Faith Voices for the Earth: A Contemplative Candlelight Service.” Mayor Bill White addressed the gathering, urging people to consider the earth and ecological concerns from a place of humility and respect. Religious leaders included Zen Teacher Gaelyn Godwin, Rabbi Robert Haas, Reverend Lisa Hunt, Reverend David Keyes, Sister Ceil Roeger, and Reverend Jeremy Rutledge. Music was offered by members of the Covenant Church choir and the Houston Civic Symphony.

The service closed with lovely cello music on the outdoor labyrinth under the light of the moon. The event’s organizer and host, Reverend Jeremy Rutledge, submitted the following on the subject of the vigil and on Houston IPL’s beginnings:

"It is fitting that Houston should have the first city chapter of Interfaith Power and Light. As the nation's energy capital, and a city of extraordinary religious diversity, we hope to play a key role in linking the ways we produce and consume energy and the moral and ethical teachings of our faith traditions."  Read the full story here.

An Interfaith Vigil for Care of the Earth in Austin

Austin labyrinthOn Saturday, May 9th, 40 people from different faith traditions gathered in Cedar Park, TX around a common cause: care for our planet.  In prayer, poetry, pictures and song, religious leaders called for action to heal the earth.

The vigil was held the evening before Mother's Day, the day first envisioned in the U.S. as a "Mother's Day for Peace," a day to work for peace in the world.  In that spirit, the vigil focused on peace and justice for the Earth and all its inhabitants.
Read more here.

Speakers represented the Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Unitarian Universalist, and Neo-Pagan traditions.  It was the first time that these congregations and religious leaders had worked together and participants felt the vigil was a good beginning, laying the groundwork for future cooperation and coalition.

Cantor Marie Betcher of Congregation Shir Ami said that the service was “beautiful, thought provoking and spiritual.”  Participants lit candles and walked out to the labyrinth for the closing prayer, symbolizing the carrying of light and love out into the world.  As a community, they readied themselves for the important and sometimes difficult work that lies ahead.