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

Earth Day Resources and Ideas

treeEvery day should be a day to give thanks for the blessings of creation, rejoice, and work for earth’s preservation and restoration. But in the rush of life, it is all too easy to get sidetracked by tasks, errands, and to-do’s. It helps that we can agree on at least one day each year to remember, rededicate, and renew our connection and commitment to creation.

Earth Day is April 22nd. What are you doing that day?

Worship: Bring Earth Day into congregational life and worship!

  • The National Council of Churches has many downloadable Earth Day resources that you can use in worship and learning.
  • Get this great intercultural and interfaith book of Earth prayers: Earth Prayers from around the World: 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations for Honoring the Earth, edited by Elizabeth Roberts, and use the prayers in your religious education classes, committee and small group meetings, and at fellowship events.
  • Host a candlelight vigil and invite leaders from neighboring congregations to join you in thanks, prayer, and service.

Reconnect: Remember your connection to creation.

  • Go for a prayerful walk at sunrise, sundown, or anytime.
  • Lead a class of children, youth, or adults on a walk. Being in nature is one of the ways we can connect with God and each other.
  • With a group, work in a community garden, plant a tree, or clean up a local park or waterway.

Rededicate: Renew your commitment to caring for and restoring creation.

Participate in Earth Hour 2009

On Saturday, March 28th, you and your congregation can vote in a world-wide election on global warming by turning off your lights for just one hour.  Earth Hour started in 2007 with 2.2 million people in Sydney, Australia making a statement by turning off their lights.  In 2008, Earth Hour went global with an estimated 50 million people around the world participating.


In 2009, Earth Hour is going to the next level, with the goal of 1 billion people switching off their lights as part of a global vote. Unlike any election in history, it is not about what country you’re from, but what planet you’re from.  Votes will be presented at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009, where the next steps in government policies for action against global warming will be determined.


Dallas is officially the first Texas city to participate in Earth Hour, and is listed as one of 10 key cities across America for Earth Hour 2009.  Congregations across the state are also participating—we’ll keep a running list on this page when you let us know that your congregation is participating!


For more information about Earth Hour, watch a short video online.  Then register your household, your congregation, and your workplace and get added to the list.  There are also activities for children and lesson plans for teachers (easily adaptable for religious education classes!) at the Earth Hour kids website.

The Van Jones Keynote from the Texas Energy Future Conference: Audio and Video

Van JonesTexas Impact presents the Texas Energy Future keynote by Van Jones.

Texas Impact brings you audio and video from Van Jones' keynote speech at the Texas Energy Future conference held at the Texas Capitol on February 18, 2009.

Click here for audio of the keynote.

Click here to watch video from the keynote

A high-quality version of the video is also available. (Note: You can download the audio and video files to your computer by right clicking the links above and choosing "Save Link As..." from the menu.)

At the Texas Energy Future Conference on Wednesday, February 18th, bestselling author Van Jones addressed a crowd of 500 Texans at the state capitol with a message of green opportunity—opportunity for clean energy, new jobs, and hope for those on the margins of society.

Jones began by saying that our economy had been on the wrong track for the last 30 years. According to Jones, our “old economy” has broken down because it was founded upon the idea that we could build and sustain it based on:

1. Consumption rather than production;
2. Credit and debt rather than savings and thrift; and
3. Ecological destruction rather than ecological restoration and living in harmony with God’s creation.

He also said we’ve been operating under a false distinction that we can either protect the environment or have a good economy, but not both. According to Jones, though, “Everything that is good for the environment is a job.”

Our new economy, he said, must be based upon local production, thrift, and ecological restoration. By investing in wind and solar energy production, millions of jobs can be created. And by retrofitting our homes and businesses to make them more energy-efficient, we can cut our energy bills and carbon output by 30-40%, while creating more new jobs.

The challenge in building this new economy, Jones said, is to build a green economy for all people in Texas—not just a few: “We don’t have any throwaway species, throwaway resources, throwaway children, or throwaway neighborhoods…. Let's green the ghettos first.” By investing in job training among those on the margins of society, we will give people good jobs and prevent crime, which will lower prison populations. This strategy is both morally right and economically rational, for job training costs far less than incarceration does.

So let us work toward making this new, green economy, and let us make it one that works for all Texans. As people of faith, we must speak up for and stand with people who were on the margins of the old economy—to make sure that the new economy includes all people. For more information about Van Jones, green jobs, and the new green economy, visit www.greenforall.org.

Let Your Youth Group Lead the Way in the Cool Congregations Challenge

The youth of today can feel frustrated and powerless in the face of the impending threat of global warming, and it can be easy for them to blame older generations for "messing it up" for them.  Well, here's something they can do about it: invite them to challenge their congregations to care for Creation!

The Cool Congregations Challenge is a nation-wide contest that challenges congregations and their members to reduce their carbon footprints.  Two participating congregations will win $5,000.  And two Texas congregations will win $500

Here's how it works, with ideas for involving your youth group:

  • Gather information.  Download the checklist so youth leaders can collect data about your congregation.  Invite youth leaders to volunteer to gather specific pieces of information from the list.  They'll get to know adult leaders in the congregation just by gathering information! 
  • Enter the contest before March 1, 2009.  Got all the information?  Bring your laptop to the youth group meeting and enter the contest together as a group!
  • Lower your congregation's carbon footprint.  The calculator will suggest ways to get started, and we have more ideas at our website.  Youth group leaders can schedule presentations with key committees at the church throughout the year, and can host fundraisers to fund the initial cost of some projects.  Then plan an environmental workday at your congregation to make the building more energy-efficient and have some projects that families can do together! 
  • Invite congregants to take the household challenge. Together we can make even more of an impact.  Youth leaders can staff a table after services, collect names and email addresses of interested members, and email them the link to the household carbon calculator.
  • Measure your progress.  Come back to the Cool Congregations website before March 1, 2010 to see how you and your congregation have improved.  At the end of the year, celebrate your success with a carbon-neutral celebratory activity—maybe go on a group hike and collect trash as you walk!

If your youth group leads the way, let us know!  We want to share stories from congregations all around the great state of Texas.  E-mail Amanda at amanda@texasimpact.org for more information.

 

Announcing Prizes for Texas Congregations Participating in the Cool Congregations Challenge!

The challenge: congregations have a year to reduce their carbon footprints.

There are two national awards:
$5,000 for the congregation in the United States with the lowest overall emissions per congregant
$5,000 for the biggest carbon loser—the congregation in the United States that has shrunk its footprint the most (as a percentage) by the end of the year

In addition, Texas Interfaith Power & Light is offering two state-level awards:
$500 for the Texas congregation with the lowest overall emissions per congregant
$500 for the biggest carbon loser—the Texas congregation that has shrunk its footprint the most (as a percentage) by the end of the year

THE DEADLINE TO ENTER THE COOL CONGREGATIONS CHALLENGE IS MARCH 1, SO DON'T DELAY--DO IT TODAY! 

To get more information and to take the challenge, visit CoolCongregations.com.

2nd Annual Caring for Creation Conference at Mt. Sequoyah March 27-29

Christians from at least eight states will gather at the 2nd annual Caring for Creation Conference at Mount Sequoyah Conference Center March 27-29, 2009.

They are coming together to embrace "creation care" as a matter of faith. They will examine the Biblical and theological foundations for the care of God's creation. They will also attend workshops designed to inspire faith communities to initiate, develop and sustain programs that protect and celebrate God's creation. "It's incumbent upon us as faithful Christians to live a life that's just and sustainable and loving of each other and of the earth", states John Hill.

For details go to www.mountsequoyah.org and click on events; call 800-760-8126 or email programs@mountsequoyah.org.

 

How Cool is Your Congregation?

Take the Interfaith Power and Light Carbon Footprint Quiz

Enter the contest between now and March 1, 2009 for a chance to win money for your congregation:

$5,000 for the congregation with the lowest overall emissions per congregant (in pounds)
$5,000 for the biggest carbon loser - the congregation that has shrunk its footprint the most (as a percentage)

This is a nationwide contest, but we think Texas congregations are up to the challenge and that we can win this thing!

Here’s how it works:

1. Gather information.  Download our checklist so you can collect data about your congregation.

2. Enter the contest before March 1, 2009.  

3. Lower your congregation’s carbon footprint.  The calculator will suggest ways to get started, and we have more ideas at our website.

4. Invite congregants to take the household challenge. Together we can make even more of an impact. 

5. Measure your progress.  Come back to the Cool Congregations website to see how you and your congregation have improved.  (Remember, the contest ends March 1, 2010.)

The Cool Congregations Challenge will be a great way for your congregation to start the New Year.  Good luck!

 

Host a Film Screening and Discussion on a Topic That Hits Close to Home: “Fighting Goliath: Texas Coal Wars”

We worked to stop the coal rush here in Texas, and now we’re in the movies!  Sign up to host a discussion in your congregation and you’ll get the new version of this documentary that includes an interview with Bee Moorhead, Executive Director of Texas Interfaith Power and Light, and shows how Texans of faith made a difference.  You’ll also find resources like a downloadable discussion guide, fact sheets about coal and mercury, a guideline for writing letters to the editor, and much more.

About the film:
Narrated by Robert Redford and produced by The Redford Center at the Sundance Preserve and Alpheus Media, FIGHTING GOLIATH: TEXAS COAL WARS follows the story of Texans fighting a high-stakes battle for clean air. The film introduces the unlikely partners-mayors, ranchers, CEOs, community groups, legislators, lawyers, and people of faith – that have come together to oppose the construction of 19 conventional coal-fired power plants that were slated to be built in Eastern and Central Texas and that were being fast-tracked by the Governor.

Stop the Coal Rush rally

 Sign up to host a screening in your congregation! 

Environmental New Year Resolutions

It’s that time again—time to consider our habits and resolve to improve them in the New Year.  With that in mind, we have compiled a few simple ideas to help Texans help the environment and save some money in 2009. 

Remember, you can apply many of these tips to congregational life as well!

 

Use Less Electricity

  • Turn off lights and fans when you leave the room.
  • Plug your electronic equipment into a power strip** & turn off the whole strip when not in use.
  • Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs.**
  • Set thermostats** to 68 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer.  Slowly adjust by changing one degree at a time.
  • Wash clothes in cold water only.
  • Insulate your hot water heater.
  • Take advantage of energy-efficient tax credits to buy Energy Star appliances in 2009! 

   Use Less Water 

  • Scrape off those dishes instead of rinsing before running the dishwasher.
  • Only wash full loads in the dishwasher and in the washing machine.
  • Turn off the faucet while you brush your teeth.
  • Water your lawn in the morning or the evening only to reduce evaporation losses.
  • Landscape with native Texas plants, trees, and grasses that require minimal watering.
  • Don’t pour it down the drain!  Pour that half-full glass of water onto a plant instead.
  • Install low-flow shower heads** and faucet aerators,** and put “toilet tank banks”** in your older-model toilets.   

Make Less Waste

  • Recycle!  Go to earth911.com to find out where and how to recycle just about anything.
  • Bring those re-usable grocery or canvass bags to stores with you—and not just to grocery stores.  Keep a few in the car so you’ll always have them on hand.
  • Compost your fruit, vegetable, and yard waste.  It makes great mulch for your plants.
  • Drink from re-usable water containers instead of plastic water bottles.
  • Store leftovers and pack lunches with re-usable containers instead of plastic baggies.
  • Rinse and re-use the plastic baggies that you do use.
  • Become a conscious shopper: buy in bulk and avoid products with excessive packaging when possible.

 Be Less Toxic

  • Recycle used batteries and compact fluorescent bulbs to prevent mercury pollution.  Go to earth911.com to find out where to recycle in your neighborhood.
  • Make your own environmentally- and health-friendly cleaning products with common household ingredients such as vinegar and baking soda. 
  • Use laundry and dish soaps that are phosphate-free to help protect Texas waterways.
  • Never dispose of paint or clean paint brushes in the street—that’ll go untreated into local waterways.  Clean brushes with latex paint in your sink; clean oil paint in a container with solvent.  Save leftover paint for later use, donate it, or recycle it.
  • Buy locally-grown, organic foods when possible.  It’s good for the environment and your local economy.
  • Avoid using pesticides in your yard and garden, and switch to organic fertilizers.
  • Instead of using pesticides in and around your home, try prevention first: trim tree limbs so they don’t touch your roof (many insects and critters get into homes this way); seal cracks around windows and doors; and keep piles of rocks, firewood, and brush away from the perimeter of your home.

For more information on ways to go green in Texas, visit the State Energy Conservation Office’s website for residential consumers and Resources for the Public from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.  And feel free to call us here at Texas Interfaith Power and Light at 512-472-3903.

What are your environmental New Year's resolutions--for yourself and for your congregation?  Tell us here!

Church Works Together to Install Rain Water Collection System

Rainwater storage tanksOn November 8, 2008, the Rock United Methodist Church in Cedar Park, TX completed the plumbing of a rain water harvesting system that is ready to capture the rain water from the church's roof in three large storage tanks. Three inches of rainfall will yield about 15,000 gallons, enough to fill the tanks. Depending on how the rainfall is spread out over the year, the system should provide the capture and use of about 80,000 to 120,000 gallons of water per year, reducing consumption of the municipal water supply and the related energy, and providing non-chlorinated, calcium-free, neutral-pH water that is ideal for irrigation. It will also reduce storm water runoff and erosion from the church property.
 
The system will soon include a pump to supply the drip irrigation system already in use for the church landscaping. A garden is planned, just downhill from the water tanks, which will be irrigated by gravity. The addition of three more water tanks, and a permanent water feature in the landscape, are also under consideration. Working together on plumbing
 
This rain water system was funded primarily by donations from family and friends of the pastor, Tina Carter, and her husband Bill, who recently became accredited in rain water catchment systems with the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association. These donors have been kept up to date on the progress of the system and have offered continuing encouragement. The installation was accomplished almost entirely through volunteer labor by church members gathered over a dozen or more work days, with donated services of a trencher from Roadway Specialties to dig the trunk line ditch (although it took plenty of hand digging to complete and perfect the trenches). The Rock UMC is planning workshops beginning in 2009 to help other churches learn how to install similar systems. 

We thank Bill Carter for sending us this great success story.  Stay tuned for more information!

Plumbing in trench         More plumbing

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