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EGEB: 4 ways to make places of worship more sustainable

  • The United Nations has suggestions for making religious buildings more green-energy friendly.
  • An Indiana county is launching a first-ever solar farm that requires pollinator-friendly fields.
  • Green energy projects are approved for First Nations communities in British Columbia, Canada.
  • Arcadia Power is committed to making clean energy work for the planet and your bank account — all without changing your utility company. Sign up to receive your $20 Amazon Gift Card.

Religion and sustainability

As the United Nations Environment Programme notes, “There are an estimated 37 million churches, 4 million mosques, 20,000 synagogues and hundreds of millions of temples” around the world. Further, the building sector is responsible for 40% of energy consumption and nearly 30% of all energy-related greenhouse gases globally. 

The UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Faith for Earth Initiative has just published guidelines for congregations that want to go green. The guidelines are comprehensive, with lots of good ideas to help places of worship become more sustainable. The UN noted 4 points that can be adopted as a start:

  • Incorporate green technology. Plant trees, adopt green energy like solar and wind, install water-efficient faucets, and use recycled gray water for plants.
  • Include the importance of sustainable living in regular sermons. Inspiration can be drawn from religious texts to incorporate sustainable living into teachings. For example, “EcoMENA provides some tips for a green Ramadan to Muslims, like reducing food waste, saving water while making ‘Wudu,’ rejecting disposable cutlery, and cycling to the mosque.”
  • Teach environmental education in religious-affiliated schools. “Faiths are involved in over half of the world’s schools as founders, coordinators, funders and managers.” Environmental education can take the form of storytelling, debates, games, dramas or be integrated into the core curriculum.
  • Purchase sustainably sourced goods. Forgo single-use plastics and use recycled paper, cleaning products, and organically grown food. For example, the Mylapore Kapaleeshwarar Hindu Temple in India has banned plastic bags and now offers reusable bamboo baskets.

Bee-friendly solar

Randolph County in eastern Indiana has adopted a first-ever solar energy ordinance that includes a pollinator-friendly provision ahead of the construction of Indiana’s largest solar farm, according to Solar Power World.

EDP Renewables’ Riverstart Solar Park will have an installed capacity of 200 megawatts capable of powering around 36,000 homes. The project will cost $180 million and create hundreds of full-time jobs during construction, and several permanent jobs.

Conservation groups Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever  said:

Large-scale solar projects proposed in Indiana have, so far, overlooked a critical opportunity to provide additional — and urgently needed — agricultural and ecological benefits. We see a once-in-a-generation opportunity to encourage land use and stewardship practices that provide healthy food sources for beneficial insects and improve the quality of our precious Indiana soils.

First Nations’ green energy

In Canada, the First Nations are the predominant Indigenous peoples south of the Arctic Circle. The province of British Columbia (BC) has approved seven clean energy projects in First Nations and rural communities through the Community Energy Leadership Program (CELP).

The Journal of Commerce by Construct Connect explains:

CELP was established to assist local government and First Nations investments in energy efficiency and clean energy projects, including building retrofits, heat pumps, and solar panels. Its most recent round of funding totaling [CAD]$470,000 will go toward projects that reduce pollution, lower energy bills, stimulate economic activity, and support resilient communities.

Projects include:

  • Solar on the Elders’ Building for the Ashcroft Indian Band.
  • Energy-efficiency retrofits to the Midway Community Center in the Village of Midway, which will reduce energy costs by 50%.
  • A battery-power storage bank in the remote community of the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation, which will reduce the use of diesel generators.

Scott Fraser, minister of indigenous relations and reconciliation, said:

Many Indigenous communities are leading the way when it comes to developing and implementing clean-energy alternatives.

Through partnerships like these, we’re working with Indigenous peoples on a low-carbon future to support strong, healthy, and resilient Indigenous communities in BC.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.