By Laura Turner Seydel

I believe that no matter what your faith, we all have a moral obligation to leave this planet a better place for our kids and future generations by acting as good stewards of the Earth’s resources.

Thankfully, there’s a growing movement among religious organizations who are putting scriptures into action when it comes to more sustainable practices and guiding principles.

San Francisco based Interfaith Power and Light is affecting tangible change in 39 states and more than 14,000 congregations by offering ways to save energy and money, tackle climate change, and teach the importance of caring for the natural systems that support us like water, air and food.

My home state’s affiliate, Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, (GIPL) is marking its 10th anniversary this year and is involved with approximately 800 of Georgia’s 15,000 religious congregations. Executive Director Alexis Chase says the key to getting more involvement is showing how even small acts and habit changes can bring big benefits.

It’s not surprising that such a successful organization is led by a woman who has lived close to nature her entire life. “I grew up in a small town in Kentucky, with horses and cows around us and a huge garden,” said Chase. “We went to church, and for us it was just a part of who we were as people. God has asked us to love everything that was created.”

GIPL has five guides to help congregations put their faith into sustainable action:

1. Power Wise: Helps congregations conduct low-cost energy audits, analyze energy data, and create a customized energy efficiency plan.

2. Dirt Wise: Offers steps on how to start a garden while educating about the wonders and health benefits of organic food.

3. Buy Wise: Supports sustainable purchasing and helps congregations identify and avoid products, services, and investments that generate waste or introduce toxic chemicals into both the congregation and the environment.

4. Water Wise: Helps congregations conserve water.

5. Waste Wise: Offers tips on reducing, reusing, and recycling in congregations.
GIPL also offers a variety of classes and programs ranging from “Becoming Creation Wise” which examines the call to care for God’s great gift of creation to the practical “Green Team Training”. It also has a Solar Loan Fund, which offers interest-free loans to churches installing photovoltaic systems for electricity and solar water heating systems.

Peachtree Road United Methodist Church got involved in 2009. Associate Minister Leslie Watkins says they started by implementing a few very simple suggestions and in the first year saved more than $40,000 on their utility bills. That was enough to get the congregation of nearly 6,000 on board and now the Green Team is one of the churches most popular ministries. Watkins, a GIPL Board Member says, “When we are caring for creation, because it belongs to God, we appreciate what we’ve been given. It’s a way to love others.”

For more information, visit gipl.org.

Laura Turner Seydel is internationally known for her green and sustainability efforts. For more, visit LauraSeydel.com. A version of this article originally appeared in Southern Seasons magazine.

 

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.