Reduce Your House of Worship’s Carbon Footprint

Greenhouses pic

Climate change is real, yet the problem can seem overwhelming.  A “carbon footprint” is the measure of the total amount of carbon dioxide that enters the atmosphere as a result of your congregation’s activities. Reducing carbon dioxide, the crucial greenhouse gas, is a crucial step to countering global warming. Quantifying the impact can make climate change real. It also provides a baseline for measuring future progress.

Here’s one way to look at it:

The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that if every house of worship nationwide (300,000 total) cut back energy use by 10%.

  • $200 million could be saved (and used for the community good)
  • 5.4 billion kilowatt hours of electricity could be used elsewhere without additional pollution
  • 200 million tons of greenhouse gases would not be emitted (the equivalent to keeping 400,000 cars off the road or planting half a million trees.

How to get started?

1. Calculate Your Carbon Footprint

To do a brief calculation, collect this data:

  • Kilowatt hours of electricity per year
  • Type of fuel used to heat your building and gallons or cubic feet of fuel (propane, natural gas, oil)
  • Number and length of airline flights taken by staff for church-related travel
  • Number of nights spent in hotels for church-related travel
  • Number of commuting employees and length of commute
  • Amount of church waste generated and whether it’s taken to a landfill or incinerator

For a brief calculation, go to and click “Business” tab.

2.  Set a goal of reducing your energy use by 10-15% in the first year.

3.  Make changes in lighting by not overlighting rooms, setting outside lights on a timer, and replacing all incandescent lights with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) which use 75% less energy.

4.  Evaluate the overall energy impact by getting an energy audit of your facility (ask your local utility about this).

5.  Reduce the impact of heating and cooling by having your HVAC system evaluated. If it’s more than ten years old, replace it with a model certified by Energy Star, the EPA’s energy efficiency program.

6.  Educate members about their individual impact by instituting a Low-Carbon Sunday (perhaps once a month) and encouraging members to reduce their travel carbon footprint by carpooling, walking, riding bikes or taking public transportation.

Source: Rebekah Simon-Peter, 7 Simple Steps to Green Your Church, Abingdon, 2010.

Photo: Sandy Richard, Greenhouses.  Taken 3.2.2010.  Flickr Creative Commons.


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