Bringing Conservation to the Congregations

by Danielle Deane
originally posted at Region Forward

For nearly five years, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies has taken the lead in identifying and advancing African American perspectives on climate change, energy conservation and environmental matters. Now, we’re taking a practical step to bring part of that message to a larger audience.

The Joint Center, an organization aimed at expanding participation in the political and public policy arenas, has formed a partnership with African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) Bishops Vashti Murphy McKenzie of Nashville and Adam Jefferson Richardson, Jr., of Washington, DC, and with the non-profit organization GREEN DMV, to help local congregations raise their environmental awareness and make their churches more energy efficient. One benefit of this program is that the churches will be able to redirect cost savings to carry out their missions in the community.

The project will take on several churches in the Washington region and in the Tennessee-Kentucky region in its first phase. GREEN DMV, which promotes the use of clean energy and the development of green jobs as a way out of poverty, will assess energy use at selected churches in the regions and implement low- and no-cost strategies for reducing energy use. We intend to track and document the results so that the team can share best practices with other congregations at one of the denomination’s largest gatherings, the 49th Quadrennial Session of the AME Church General Conference in Nashville this summer.

The project, which is funded by the Walmart Foundation, strikes a favorable balance between good stewardship and good sense; we expect it to yield both financial and community-oriented rewards.

During the launch, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has an Energy Star Congregations Network to provide information and technical support for churches that want to go green, will provide guidance.

The EPA estimates that if the nation’s 370,000 congregations reduce energy use by 10 percent, they would save nearly $315 million and provide 1.8 billion kilowatt hours of electricity without additional cost or pollution!

African American churches have always been leaders in social movements that have shaped the nation. This collaboration with the AME churches extends that tradition.

Danielle Deane is the Director of the Energy and Environment Program at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. For more information on Ms. Deane and her work, please visit the Joint Center website.

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