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

A Successful First TXIPL Local Leaders' Summit

On Thursday, February 21st, leaders from Texas Interfaith Power & Light’s local affiliates met in Austin for the first TXIPL Local Leaders’ Summit, co-hosted by TXIPL and its Austin affiliate, the Interfaith Environmental Network (IEN). This one-day retreat brought leaders together from Christian, Jewish, Unitarian, Baha'i, and Hare Krishna traditions; and from Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin (with Fort Worth leaders unable to attend at the last minute). The goal of this one-day summit was simple: to support local leaders and the work they are doing.

Over the last year, TXIPL has worked with leaders in these cities to encourage and support the development of local chapters, modeled after the successful Austin chapter, IEN. Now in varying stages of organizational development, many of these local groups are holding regular, monthly meetings and are working to make a real difference in their communities.

In addition to regular monthly programs held at local congregations, the Fort Worth IPL group sponsored a successful event at Brite Divinity School in October, 2012 entitled, “Water Matters: An Interfaith Conversation about the Environment in North Texas.” That event caught the eye of a local reporter, who wrote a feature story in the Fort Worth Weekly a month later about the group and its involvement in local environmental issues—including the fact that Fort Worth IPL leaders testified at an August EPA hearing in Arlington and issued a strong statement about cement kiln pollution.  

The Dallas IPL group has a website and meets once a month for shared learning and community building. They are co-sponsoring, along with the Sierra Club, an event on Sunday, March 3rd, to help people learn how to use Texas’ Power to Choose website. For their March 18th meeting, they are partnering with the Keep Texas Parks Open initiative to raise awareness about the value of Texas state parks and the potential budget cuts that threaten their future.

The San Antonio and Houston IPL groups will also co-sponsor programs about the Texas state parks—in Houston on April 18th and in San Antonio, on April 29th. The San Antonio group is one of the newest local chapters of TXIPL, and while Houston is in the beginning stages of organizing, it has held several successful events over the last few years.

Austin’s Interfaith Environmental Network continues to be a leader. Its monthly symposia regularly draw between 30-50 people; its Energy Action Team working group is actively engaged in lowering carbon emissions among participating houses of worship and is finalizing a manual to help other local congregations do the same; and IEN leaders continue to advocate for sound environmental policies at the local level, ranging from Austin’s plastic bag ban to the restructuring of Austin Energy’s rates and their effect on low-income communities and houses of worship. IEN’s co-chairs, Rabbi Steve Folberg and Rev. Tom VandeStadt, helped lead the TXIPL Summit.

The feedback from participants of the TXIPL Local Leaders’ Summit has been overwhelmingly positive. Toward the end of the one-day retreat, one of the participants said, “I see now that the local chapters are an important piece of a much bigger picture.” After a session focusing on the role that religious practice can play in sustaining environmental justice work, one participant expressed new learning, saying, “It’s not one or the other—it’s about your whole life being a spiritual practice.”

The last few years have taught us that where climate change and other environmental issues are concerned, grassroots initiative and engagement is key. It is our hope that by investing in local chapters and encouraging their leaders, we will increase our effectiveness all across the state and help build momentum for real change. As we do so, we are mindful that the way we seek change is as important as—and even helps to create—the change we seek. By fostering a supportive, connected community of religious leaders committed to caring for creation, sustained and guided by teachings and practices of our religious traditions, we seek to create, together, a better, sustainable Texas for all God’s people.

Helping People, Helping the Planet: A Cool Congregations Success Story

Congratulations to University United Methodist Church (UUMC) in Austin, winner of the Grounds and Water Conservation category in the 2012 Cool Congregations Challenge. The competition, sponsored by Interfaith Power & Light, offers religious congregations an opportunity to show leadership in responding to climate change--and UUMC stood out for a creative program that incorporates environmental stewardship into a ministry for the homeless.

By adding a composting service to their Open Door Ministry, which provides breakfast and lunch once a week to people experiencing homelessness, UUMC has composted more than 27,000 gallons of waste. Read on for UUMC's Cool Congregations Success Story, in the church's own words:

UUMC's Open Door Ministry began in 1991 as Saturday Outreach, a six-week Lenten service project undertaken by a UUMC Sunday School class, in which sandwiches were served to homeless people in the church's immediate urban community. In response to the need in the community - as well as the transformation occurred in the hearts of those serving - the program was continued beyond Lent, and a ministry was born. A few years later the Fig Leaf Store was added to provide free clothing.

What started as a simple lunch offering on the street, moved to an in-house space of respite, fellowship, and a full-fledged brunch. Today, Open Doors is a partnership between UUMC, a number of community and church organizations, and more than a dozen homeless participant volunteers. A typical Sunday morning requires about 40 volunteers - one third are church members, one third are from outside groups, and one third are homeless participant volunteers who have claimed this ministry as their own. The Open Door mission has become their mission.

One of the remarkable aspects of UUMC’s composting and recycling program is the way it empowers the homeless community in making positive environmental choices. The homeless community near the University of Texas has little control over their environment. However, when they participate in Open Door and are given an opportunity to make choices that help the environment, they overwhelmingly choose to participate in the composting and recycling aspects of our program and support environmental stewardship. They enthusiastically encourage onsite composting and recycling; in addition, they bring recycling from the neighborhood to the UUMC collection site.

Open Door produces more recycled and composted materials than any other UUMC activity or ministry. Involvement in this ministry has raised the awareness of the entire congregation about opportunities to conserve resources. Since Open Door implemented its environmentally sustainable waste management practices, congregation members have introduced composting at a number of church events, including church luncheons, evening workshops, and holiday family events. Notable efforts include a zero-waste church picnic, composting containers installed in church classrooms, and the addition of City of Austin battery recycling containers in spring 2011. Other recycling opportunities at UUMC include the collection of prescription eyeglasses for repurposing, recycling of books at used book sales, an athletic shoe drive through Nike Reuse-a-Shoe, and the upcycling of church signs and banners into re-usable shopping bags.

UUMC’s environmental mission statement acknowledges the sanctity of creation and pledges to faithfully care for God’s world through stewardship, worship, teaching, and mission. The mission statement cites the Bible verse Numbers 35:34, which cautions: “Don’t desecrate the land in which you live. I live here, too. I, God, live in the same neighborhood with the People of Israel.”  The congregation’s composting and recycling program is one way in which UUMC can practice stewardship and be good neighbors to the larger Austin community.

For the press release announcing UUMC's 2012 Cool Congregations Challenge award, go here.

For more information about the Open Door Ministry at UUMC, go here.

For more information about the benefits of composting, and using compost, go here.

November Interfaith Conference Call: Sharing Our Stories, Prayers & Poetry

Click here to listen to the archived recording of this call.

Working on environmental issues--caring for creation--can be difficult, lonely, and disheartening. As the daylight hours wane and the air carries a chill, many of our religious traditions guide us to reflect on themes of light and hope in the midst of darkness: Diwali, in the Hindu tradition; Hannukah, in the Jewish tradition; and Christmas, in the Christian tradition.

For our November conference call, we invite you to reflect on the seasonal theme of light and hope in the midst of darkness and difficulty--and to share what you find with others on the call. What gives you hope? What story helps inspire you to keep working, even when things look bleak? What poem offers you a vision of how things could or should be? What prayer offers you firm footing when all else seems uncertain? Please join us and share your stories, prayers, or a favorite poem.

As always, we will have some time for callers to ask questions, share ideas and connect.

November Interfaith Environmental Conference Call

     Wednesday, November 28, 2012, 12:00-1:00 p.m.

     Dial-in number: (712) 432-3066 

     Conference Code: 424548

To RSVP for the call, please e-mail Amanda. Feel free to invite others to participate!

In our monthly environmental calls, we seek to connect faith leaders around the state who are engaged in the work of caring for Creation; provide updates about environmental legislation and advocacy opportunities; keep you current on new programs and initiatives; and create a space for sharing hopes and frustrations, plans and ideas, stories and prayers.

San Antonio Interfaith Power & Light Is Forming: Help It Take Shape! - November 8, 2012

On Thursday, October 11th, we got the conversation started. Now, we'll meet to plan next steps for a San Antonio-area Interfaith Power & Light group.

Join other religious environmental leaders on Thursday, November 8th to help move the conversation forward! 

Thursday, November 8, 2012, 7:00 p.m.

Unity Church of San Antonio
8103 Broadway
San Antonio, TX 78209  

Phone: 210-824-7351  
Click here for a map.
 
Driving and Location Directions:
The UCSA campus is located at the intersection of Broadway and Lawndale.
From the north (Loop 410), exit Broadway. Go south (inside the loop) on Broadway to the third traffic light.
From the south on Broadway, Lawndale is the next street north of Sunset (going toward Loop 410).
 
The Office building (Unity Heights) faces Broadway, on the corner of Broadway and Lawndale. 
We will meet in the Community Room on the ground floor of the office building. Look for the Earth Balloon inside. Parking is available in the front or back but do not park at the building next door or you will be towed. There are curb markers there to prevent going over too far.

(Photo "Earth Hour 2010" by User Cornelia Kopp used under a Creative Commons-Attribution License.)

Join the National Preach-In on Global Warming: February 8-10, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

Register Today for the 2013 Preach-In on Global Warming! On the weekend before Valentine’s Day, thousands of clergy will join in our annual event to express love for Creation and address climate change as a serious moral issue.

Our focus for 2013 will be on vulnerable communities working on the front lines of climate change, both in North America and around the globe. On February 8-10, please join us in sharing messages about the need for people of faith to mobilize in a religious response to global warming. Whether you are clergy, a lay leader, or a green team member, sign up your congregation now and we’ll send you reminders as well as links to free resources to help you prepare sermons, reflections, devotionals, Bible studies, children’s activities, and more.

In addition, Interfaith Power & Light will offer low-cost resources to help you reach decision makers and mobilize your community. Click here for more details. We look forward to your involvement in the 2013 National Preach-In on Global Warming!

Fort Worth Interfaith Power and Light: Presentation on Low Cost Irrigation Technology

A safe, consistent and reliable food supply is a universal need. In many parts of the world, buying food from the neighborhood grocery store is not an option. People must grow their own food if they want to eat. Plants need water, but in many areas, rainfall is unreliable and irrigation water is limited. Drip Bucket Irrigation can be implemented on a household or home compound level to increase crop yield and reduce water usage.

Jon Fripp of Rush Creek Christian Church will speak about his work with low tech irrigation and the use of these kits at 7:00 pm on Monday, November 12th at First Congregational Church on Trail Lake Drive in Fort Worth.

Jon is a Civil Engineer who has been involved with development work in over a dozen countries both as a professional and as a volunteer. He will discuss the problem, how the drip bucket irrigation technology works, how it has been used by various groups, and how different local groups can get involved.

November 12, 2012, 7:00 pm
First Congregational Church
4201 Trail Lake Drive
Fort Worth, TX, 76109

This simple but powerful technology was originally developed by Chapin Living Waters and has been effectively used in over 150 countries. These systems involve gravity fed irrigation lines that convey water to individual food plants. There are no moving parts in this is easy to maintain and operate irrigation system. These systems can be packaged as kits and have been used by a variety of secular and religious groups as part of development and mission work. Two kits can be carried in a small field pack and can provide irrigation to feed a family for five to seven years.

Everyone is welcome to attend. Join our facebook event here and invite your friends!

Guest Blog by Dallas IPL Leader, Stephen A. Fuqua - "Wetlands Conservation and Advocacy"

This past week's terrible storm out East provides a reminder of the importance of our ecological infrastructure; in particular, wetlands. The lessons that we did not heed from Hurricane Katrina will perhaps take hold with Hurricane Sandy impacting the nation's commercial heart: in addition to supporting relief efforts now, it is important for us to consider long-term mitigation against the impact of future large storms, which are likely to be more powerful and more frequent than in centuries past. Instead of, or in addition to, relying on massive levies, seawalls, and the like, we need to support public and private endeavors to restore vital natural systems.

Reddish Egret
White-morph Reddish Egret, doing the Reddish Egret dance, in a wetland on Texas's Mustang Island

Wetlands are nature's defence against storm surges, and they are her filters for clean water. They provide crucial habitat for life from across the "kingdoms" – distinct varieties of plants, funguses, invertebrates, mollusks, birds, mammals, and so on. And this diversity is beautiful, from a purely aesthetic standpoint. Trails, boardwalks, and observation decks can easily provide human access to appreciate and meditate on the beauty of life, helping reverse the trend of nature deficit disorder.

These natural systems are not just for the coasts; they are also vital to the interior. Yesterday morning, participating in the Trinity Bird Count, I toured the lower chain of wetlands that was constructed along the Trinity River in the past 10 years, just southeast of downtown. Staff from the Army Corps of Engineers explained to us how these wetlands, located near Interstate 45 and Loop 12, would provide additional nitrogen/phosphorus filtration for effluent from a water treatment plant (mitigating our impact on downstream residents). They will help protect the nearby, historically minority, Joppa neighborhood from flooding. Where these wetlands replace or prevent buildup of man-made structures, or improve the ability for the surrounding land to sustain plant life, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and thus provide a means for reducing the city's contribution toward global climate change. In this particular case, these 123 acres of wetlands are joined by over 1,000 acres of the "Great Trinity Forest", providing for substantial carbon sequestration.

downtown
Double-Crested Cormorants

The City of Dallas is working on a recreation plan that will provide access and trails through this greenspace, suitable for hikers, bird-watchers, and even horseback riding (evidence of which can already be found!). Local residents tell of coyote and bobcat, no doubt frequently hunting rabbits like the one I nearly stepped on. That rabbit's cousins are probably happily munching away on a neighbor's vegetable garden; surely the rabbit population is in need of natural checks and balances in the form of predation. Our two-and-a-half hour tour turned up forty-eight species of birds, including nine species of sparrows that migrate from parts north, looking for quality fields like these for over wintering. While everyday Rock Pigeons and House Sparrows are numerous around Dallas, we saw none. But we did see a tremendous flock, estimated at around 1,000 individuals, of Double Crested Cormorants who have come down for the season, feeding in these wetlands and our local lakes.

Cormorants
Downtown Dallas over Wetland Cell F

Historically, our coastal areas and rivers like the Trinity contained naturally-formed wetlands. These have been drained for agricultural, commercial, and sometimes health, reasons. But the unintended consequences come back to haunt us with increased flooding, loss of biodiversity, and further artificial separation of "man" from nature. Local organizations dedicated to sustainable living and stewardship, such as the new Dallas Interfaith Power & Light, can play a supportive role in mitigating against the unintended consequences of past policies and economic activity. Reaching out beyond our narrow self interests, we can express the group's mission of "love, justice, and care for creation" by advocating for development projects that restore natural systems and protect local neighborhoods, and in encouraging local citizens to responsibly enjoy them.

This post originally appeared on Stephen A. Fuqua's blog.

October Interfaith Conference Call: The Environment and Human Health

We are part of the fabric of the creation--connected to the elements, plants, and animals through the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that damage to our environment has real and damaging impacts on people. Join us on October 31st to learn more about environmental impacts on human health, and to explore some of those issues here in Texas.

This month, we are excited to welcome Chris Masey, Director of the Austin chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), as our guest presenter. "Guided by the values and expertise of medicine and public health, Physicians for Social Responsibility works to protect human life from the gravest threats to health and survival." The Austin chapter of PSR focuses on issues that are important to our region, such as clean air, clean water, climate change, health care policy, energy security, and local environmental policy issues.

As always, we will have some time for callers to ask questions, share ideas and connect!

October Interfaith Environmental Conference Call

     Wednesday, October 31, 2012, 12:00-1:00 p.m.

     Dial-in number: (712) 432-3066 

     Conference Code: 424548

To RSVP for the call, please e-mail Amanda. Feel free to invite others to participate!

More about our speaker: Chris Masey is the Director of the Austin Chapter of the Physicians for Social Responsibility. Chris is sixteen-year environmental professional who as gained a broad base of work experiences in both the public and privates sectors working on a variety of projects such as, endangered species conservation, environmental advocacy and enforcement, environmental and solid waste planning, land stewardship, alternative energy sources, and recycling initiatives. Chris’ dedication to environmental sustainability is grounded in his love of Central Texas, and the desire for his two children to continue to enjoy clean air, clear water, and wide-open spaces.

More about Austin Physicians for Social Responsibility:

The Austin Chapter of the Physicians for Social Responsibility (APSR) is an environmental advocacy group that consists of physicians, nurses, and concerned citizens who are committed to a safe environment and a healthier Texas.

APSR was initially formed in 2003 to support the national Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) initiatives at a grassroots level. However, APSR has added regional issues of importance such as ending the use of coal for energy generation, decreasing the negative effects of climate change, decreasing the reliance on fossil fuels in favor of sustainable energy alternatives, and providing greater access to public health care. In addition, APSR advocates for positive change on local environmental policy issues in a variety of venues.

APSR's strategy for achieving positive change is to provide a conduit for the medical community and concerned citizens to educate and inform the public and lawmakers about potential threats to the public health through research, analysis, and expert testimony on key issues.

For more information about APSR, please visit our website (www.austinpsr.org), or our Facebook page at (www.facebook.com/Austinpsr). In addition, APSR publishes a monthly electronic newsletter free to anyone interested in our activities (http://www.psr.org/chapters/austin/news/).

In our monthly environmental calls, we seek to connect faith leaders around the state who are engaged in the work of caring for Creation; provide updates about environmental legislation and advocacy opportunities; keep you current on new programs and initiatives; and create a space for sharing hopes and frustrations, plans and ideas, stories and prayers.

Fort Worth Interfaith Power & Light Launch - from Rev. Paul John Roach

This guest blog post is written by Rev. Paul John Roach. Rev. Paul John Roach is Senior Minister of Unity Church of Fort Worth, and is a founding member of Fort Worth Interfaith Power & Light.

Fort Worth Interfaith Power and Light made its official launch on October 15, 2012 by co-sponsoring a seminar entitled “Water Matters:  An Interfaith Conversation about the Environment in North Texas.” Co-sponsor Brite Divinity School provided the space and Brite professor and Fort Worth Interfaith Power and Light founding member Tim Hessel-Robinson was the evening’s host and moderator.

Both Amanda Yaira Robinson and Bee Moorhead of Texas Interfaith Power and Light and Texas Impact were present.

The three presenters, one on Skype, the other two live, gave heartfelt and inspiring talks.  Rabbi Lawrence Troster, co-founder of the GreenFaith Fellowship Program, outlined the significance of water in Jewish tradition—especially in the Hebrew Bible—and encouraged us to learn about the source of the local water that we use. Afterwards, in the small group setting, some Fort Worth Interfaith Power and Light members shared the idea that it would be fun and informative to trace the source of the Trinity River and visit the local reservoirs that provide water to Fort Worth.

The second presenter, Dr. Bill Greenway, Associate Professor of Philosophical Theology at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, talked about the importance of the commons and that water is a resource for all, to be safeguarded and not under exclusive control. He also shared the idea of being compelled by the faces of others to respond in compassionate and helpful ways. We are not alone but deeply interconnected by our shared aliveness.

Quoting from the Noah story in Genesis 9, Dr. Greenway pointed out that God’s covenant of renewal after the flood was not just with human beings but with all living creatures.  The whole of life is sacred and precious and God calls us to protect and preserve it.

The third presenter, Karishma Himatsinghani, CEO of Radio Karishma, an internet radio catering to the South Asian audience, spoke too of the interdependence of all beings and skillfully outlined the Hindu philosophy which sees unity in diversity and holds water to be a central and powerful element in Indian culture, both literally and figuratively.

An added bonus to our evening was a short video from Andrew Sansom, Executive Director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University, and one of Texas’ leading conservationists.  Andy, filmed on the beautiful banks of Aquarena Springs, talked of the crucial importance of water conservation and that one way to preserve water and the natural environment was to introduce our children to nature so as to instill a love of the environment and therefore encourage their desire to protect it.

The evening ended with attendees enjoying snacks and further discussion.

Fort Worth Interfaith Power and Light’s next meeting is at 7 pm on Monday, November 12th at First Congregational Church on Trail Lake Drive in Fort Worth. Jon Fripp of Rush Creek Christian Church will speak on low cost irrigation projects he has been involved with throughout the world. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Energy Efficiency Opportunities for Austin Houses of Worship

As part of Austin Energy's new rate plan, effective this month (October, 2012), Austin houses of worship will see some changes in their bills. On Wednesday, October 17th, Austin Energy officials held an informational meeting to inform the faith community about these changes. Learn more about the new rates here.

Along with new rates come new programs--including some energy-efficiency programs for houses of worship. New or updated programs include:

  • Load Profiler Subscription Free for One Year. This web-based, energy-monitoring program helps you better understand how and when energy is used by viewing your sanctuary's energy usage, peak demand, and power factor. This program is free for the meter attached to your sanctuary. Sign up for this program by December 31, 2012, in order to qualify for the free, one-year service.
  • Free Energy Assessment. Austin Energy staff will conduct a basic energy assessment of your facility free of charge, providing a customized report outlining energy-efficiency opportunities and any utility rebates available for energy-efficiency upgrades.
  • Small Business Lighting Program. Austin Energy now offers this program to all worship facilities. Austin Energy-registered contractors will perform a complete lighting audit of your facility and provide a comprehensive proposal outlining the cost of the retrofit project, the amount Austin Energy will rebate, and the anticipated energy savings.

Learn more about these programs here. We encourage all Austin houses of worship to take advantage of these energy-efficiency offerings from your local utility!

(Photo "Fluorescent Light Bulb" by User p.Gordon used under a Creative Commons-Attribution License.)

Pages