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A grant to help houses of worship become more energy efficient

Posted by Rona Fischman April 6, 2012 01:55 PM

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For Christians and Jewish people, this is holiday season. Many churches, temples and synagogues in the Boston area are in old buildings. Most of those old buildings are energy pigs. The decorative windows do not keep out the cold, the walls are not insulated, they use a lot of lighting, and they have high ceilings. This does not jibe well with the responsibility placed on Jews and Christians in Genesis. Religious congregations housed in old houses of worship are carrying high energy costs as well as failing to be a living example of a congregation that acts as guardians of the planet.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. Genesis 1:26 American Standard Version

Some strange bedfellows: Joe Lieberman and William Bennett put it this way:

Polluting the planet is antithetical to all major religions since they teach caring for creation. Also huge energy bills can financially cripple the congregation, radically reducing the services they can deliver through the house of worship to the community. (93% of the U.S. houses of worship provide community services, such as food pantries, and homeless shelters, which help on average four people outside of the congregation for every person helped in the congregation.

HEET and Massachusetts Interfaith Power & Light MIP&L have just received a two-year grant from the Barr Foundation to help thirty-five houses of worship in Cambridge, Boston and Somerville reduce their energy bills and planetary impact.

How it works: Members of the congregation will earn money toward the efficiency upgrades at the house of worship based on the energy upgrades done at their private homes. (If the Smiths put in solar panels at home, the church gets funds toward work at the church.) The more energy and money the congregation saves in their homes, the more money raised for the house of worship upgrade.

HEET and MIP&L will

1. Assess the house of worship using a blower door, thermal camera and other tools to identify what work will yield the best savings. This will include do-it-yourself upgrades.

2. Organize an energy-upgrade work party where volunteers will be guided through the do-it-yourself fixes.

3. Guide the congregational leadership through the rebates, financing and services available through utility companies for professional upgrades.

The hope is that this grant will provide an incentive for homeowners to improve their homeís energy efficiency at a time when doing so will also benefit their old church or synagogue. The grant begins April 22. Thatís Earth Day. Contact HEET for more information.

Happy Easter. Happy Passover.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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