Of the 12 EarthCare teams developed and sponsored by the Maine Council of Churches, the three congregations of the TREE team have proved the most successful: saving a combined weight of 888,771 pounds of the greenhouse gas from being released into the atmosphere: the equivalent of taking 96 cars or 55 trucks off of the roadways for an entire year. The ratio of emissions to cars serves not just as an illustration of the seriousness of the problem, but also highlights the effectiveness of the methods employed by the three member churches to cut the rate of pollution, which ranged from using different light bulbs to purchasing efficient appliances or hybrid cars.
But the churches and the congregants in their own homes added to the savings mostly through small changes in their day-to-day lives: choosing energy-efficient lighting, replacing leaky windows, installing low-flow shower heads, and other energy-saving devices. With each conservation effort made in the church or home of a church member, the TREE team tallied the carbon dioxide saved by tying a paper leaf (500 pounds saved), apple (1,000 pounds), or flower (1,500 pounds) to a tree displayed in their sanctuaries. In this way, congregants could visualize the impact of their actions each Sunday, and imagine the possible reduction of emissions with every new person who joined the effort.
Each of the congregations promoted their efforts in their own ways as well. The Unitarian Universalist Church hosted a winter energy efficiency fair offering information and displays on recycling, composting and the ways to save energy with appliances. The First Parish Congregational Church organized a spring transportation fair to educate the public on alternative and low-energy forms of transportation, as well as challenging its own membership to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1,500 pounds per person in an effort to individually meet the goal of the Kyoto treaty rejected by the U.S. government. And the Good Shepherd Sisters hosted a series of workshops on Climate Change featuring speakers from environmental advocacy groups and state government. In a joint effort, the three TREE congregations organized an Arbor Day celebration attended by two local mayors, at which they announced their carbon dioxide savings and planted a sugar maple tree dedicated as a “carbon sink” for its cleansing of the local air.
The work of the TREE team, both at home and in public education campaigns, has earned it substantial press coverage and publicity for its home energy audit campaigns, advocacy work, and central message that, as Sister Joanne Roy of the Good Shepherd convent articulated: “It’s thinking about others and thinking about the future. We are so much a part of this creation. We are not separate.”
Contact Information:Tri-City Religion & Environment Education (TREE) Interfaith EarthCare Team
c/o Maine Interfaith Power & Light, Inc.
P.O. Box 146
Brunswick, ME 04011
Phone: (207) 721-0444
Fax: (207) 721-0384