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  Sierra Magazine
  July/August 2007
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  SMART ENERGY SOLUTIONS:
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Sierra Magazine
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One Small Step: Power to the Steeple
July/August 2007


Father Charles Morris Wyandotte, Michigan
Executive director, Michigan Interfaith Power & Light, age 57

"BACK IN 1988 we had a very hot summer, over 90 degrees for several weeks in a row, and I had a personal conversion experience--I realized we needed to do something about global warming. We are a part of, not apart from, creation. The vision in the book of Genesis is that humans are put into the garden to till the garden, not to cover it with asphalt.

"I began to wonder about putting wind turbines in the rectory. We're a working-class Catholic parish, so it seemed like a fantasy. But I saw our responsibility to do something about global warming as sacramental. When we did our first energy audit, I asked about solar panels, but they seemed too expensive at the time. So we started with efficiency. We installed weather stripping, upgraded our boiler system, and changed our lights to compact fluorescents. We started saving about $8,000 a year that we could invest in bigger changes.

"Finally, we had saved enough for my dream: solar panels and a wind turbine. On the day we installed them, I felt exhilarated. I had written a blessing for solar and wind power, and I went up on the roof with my vestments and the holy water. At the exact moment the holy water hit the wind turbine, a gust of wind blew and it started turning, and the whole crowd gasped.

"When I was up on the roof, I could see all the other roofs that faced south, and it fired up my imagination to think about the sunlight that could be captured. Churches and schools can afford to take the long view; they're going to be around for a while. They can do things that might not get an immediate payback but will profit in the long run. Now we're saving $20,000 a year. There is value added for doing the righteous thing." --interview by Orli Cotel

LIGHTING THE WAY Through energy audits and discounts on energy-efficient equipment, Michigan Interfaith Power & Light estimates it has prevented 14,000 tons of CO2 emissions and saved almost $2 million. MiIPL is part of the Regeneration Project, a national effort to bolster the link between ecology and faith.

ON THE WEB The federal Energy Star program offers a how-to guide for religious groups, "Putting Energy Into Stewardship." Go to energystar.gov and search for "congregations."


Photo by Scott Stewart; used with permission.

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