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Your Fridge Might be Keeping the Milk Cold and the Planet Hot

Old fridges and freezers are energy guzzlers.

We all love to gather after worship and share food and drink together. It’s at these times that we grow as a community. For this reason alone, a major hub of activity in faith communities (post COVID) is the kitchen. So it is worth taking the time to look at the major energy consumers within this space in order to save some energy and money.

Fridges and freezers are present in every congregation’s kitchen. Typically, the efficiency of these kinds of appliances increases dramatically every few years with newer models. That means that the energy consumption of a new fridge compared to one made approximately five years ago can be half the energy! That’s a lot of energy savings to be had. 

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The History of FCG’s Green Audit

David (blue shirt) at Unitarian Congregation of Mississauga, 2018David (blue shirt) at Unitarian Congregation of Mississauga, 2018

In the beginning……

FCG received program funding to deliver Energy Audits to 100 faith communities in Ontario through the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) in 2007 and 2008. These went very well, but what Stephen found, as the local Peterborough FCG area rep at the time, was that people wanted to know about composting, air quality, blue boxes and more. This was because everyone has their own passion within their faith community, beyond energy efficiency, and they wanted to make a difference as well. Out of this realization was born the Green Audit that looks at energy, air quality, food, water, waste, maintenance, heritage, religious architecture, rental agreements and more. 

As a result, Stephen, along with David, bounced around the format, process and report ideas to turn it into a reality. To help kick-start our efforts, John Patterson, who started a local environmental non-profit in Haliburton County called Abbey Gardens, wanted Green Audits to help local congregations. Their organization helped pay for the first Green Audits.  Eight in total, across 4 different Christian denominations, were delivered in January of 2009. 

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Retrofitting our Sacred Space with Faithful Footprints Funding

Blog post by Nanci Lee, Executive Director, Tatamagouche Centre

Sanctuary, after renovations                                                             Sanctuary space after retrofits.

Our buildings, our spaces matter. There are, of course, the practicalities of making drafty rooms comfortable and bringing energy and climate costs down. But more than these issues, our spaces house and embody our values. They hold our gatherings, celebrations, prayers and sacred ceremonies and should reflect who we are and what matters to us.
So, when we decided to green retrofit our main building, Stewart Hall, we realized that this would be more than a bricks and mortar project. We began Phase I with two practical and strategic projects. The first was to replace our main roof and insulate it to R40 from R3, essentially putting a hat on. The second project was to renovate our sanctuary space, one of the most meaningful spaces in all of our buildings that would set the tone for what was to come.

With 18-foot ceilings, a wall of windows and lovely boat-shaped curves, the sanctuary space had been awe-inspiring in its day and still holds such meaning. I recently met a woman who married her husband in this chapel. It has remained an intimate place of coming together in song and learning, in prayer and smudging, grief and joy. While the magic of the space has been held by the people and talented facilitators, the room itself was beginning to feel tattered. Built in the fifties, it also had the unfortunate condition of being too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.

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20 Years of Extraordinary People and Programs & 2021 AGM

On October 14, FCG celebrated 20 Years of Extraordinary People and Programs, followed by our 2021 Annual General Meeting (AGM). 

It was a packed agenda that began with an invitation to participants to describe FCG in one word (on mentimeter.com). The graphic above demonstrates words that many of you associate with our network including Inspiring, Purposeful, Inclusive and more. Thanks to all who contributed!

We opened with a deeply moving prayer from Grandmother Renee of Grandmothers Voice (9:00), and a special message from our founders, The Very Rev. Bill Phipps, and Rev. Ted Reeve (19:17). Next, FCG’s Executive Director (ED), Michelle Singh introduced Charles Pascal, the ED at Atkinson Foundation in 2000, the funders who helped launch FCG (33:50). Kristina Inrig, who was instrumental in establishing the backbone of our Greening Sacred Spaces (GSS) model and the infrastructure to grow the organization, spoke next (41:13).

Erik Mathiesen, Chief Financial Officer at UCC, spoke about their decision to choose FCG as their delivery partner for the Faithful Footprints program (46:00). Lucy Cummings, former FCG ED (54:15) and our current Chair, Tom Urbaniak (1:01:40) both shared brief reflections. 

Michelle reviewed FCG’s strategic goals and vision, and how we are going to get there (1:08:00). Muneeb Nasir, Chair of the Olive Tree Foundation spoke about why they have been funding FCG projects since 2014 (1:15:20).

Our partner, Lisa Kohler, ED at Halton Environmental Network, spoke briefly about the OakvilleREADY program, an initiative that prepares neighbourhoods to withstand the impacts of extreme weather events (1:20: 40). Michelle shared a map of our nationwide network chapters and some more project examples (1:27:10).

Dr. Brian Carwana, ED of Encounter World Religions presented Water: Nourisher, Mother, Teacher. His keynote speech explored how some of the world's great spiritual traditions have engaged with this element, so central to our existence and at the very heart of nature (1:29:20).

Before concluding the celebration and turning it over to the business portion of the evening, Rev. Fletcher Harper of GreenFaith spoke about Faiths4Climate multifaith days of action that took place on October 17 and 18th (1:47:10). As the Canadian partners for this global initiative, we strongly encouraged our followers to join efforts in demanding bold climate action of our leaders, ahead of the upcoming #COP26 conference in November.

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FCG: Back at the Parliament of the World’s Religion

Faith & the Common Good was back at the Parliament of the World’s Religion (POWR)!  I was honoured to moderate two incredible learning conversations at the 2021 Parliament, a virtual event that featured 500 learning sessions over October 16-18th. 

Decolonizing Eco-Investing

In a special "repeat performance" of their Laudato Si Movement Canada's Catholic Eco Investment Accelerator presentation, Stephen Nairne of Raven Indigenous Capital Partners and Mark Sevestre of the National Aboriginal Trust Officers Association guided POWR attendees in a discussion of how faith-based investors, utilizing the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, can ensure that their investments are contributing to vibrant Indigenous economies. 

"The economic empowerment of Indigenous communities is vital to the restoration and guardianship of our living world,” Nairne highlighted. 

A small sample of the growing number of Indigenous resources to guide responsible investors.


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Why a Heat Pump For Your Place of Worship?


Dundas Cardigan, PEI

For faith communities, replacing a heating system is one of the single largest capital cost expenses (the other one is replacing the roof). Most congregational spaces have either boilers with radiators, or furnaces with ductwork that consume oil, gas or propane. While the typical lifespan may be 25 years for these appliances, I have seen many span decades of service.

Sure, they keep going, so why change them? Well, just like you and I, we get less efficient with age. For instance, a furnace from the 1990s may have started out at, say, 84% efficient (meaning, for simplicity’s sake that 84% of the fuel is turned into heat, and 16% of the energy is wasted), but after 25+ years may be operating in the low 70% range. Older furnaces and boilers could be much, much lower efficiency. Now take your gas/oil/propane bill for the year and find what that 30% costs you per year. It is a lot! Your payback to switching becomes much clearer.

Instead of swapping out old units for new ones and carrying on, many congregations are switching to air source heat pumps.

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GSS London Chapter Launch: Spiritual Walk For The Earth

M. Tracey Whiteye and companion. Photo credit: Matt Martin

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It Takes a Village: Planning, Planting, Blessings and Blooms at Metropolitan United Church’s Entry Gardens.

Guest post by Dorcas Beaton, Chair of the Outreach Pillar at Metropolitan United Church.

Blooming bellflowers.

During the fall of 2021, in the midst of the fourth wave of the COVID pandemic, tiny bellflowers in our newly planted entry beds bloomed. The product of planning, planting and blessings, this was the first sign of our garden settling into its new home.  

Planning the Garden 

The planning for the garden began back in 2019 with a nudge from our arts leader, Lisa Hems and Rev. Karen Bowles, to reach out to the Garden Club of Toronto and see if they could help us on a project to renew and refresh our garden beds. The Garden Club agreed. They set up a project group led by Sayeh Beheshti and her talented team, to liaise with us. Many months of planning followed. We helped the Garden Club understand what we are as a church, and our hope to see these gardens as a statement of our values.  They would be welcoming to all, affirming, and embrace living with respect for creation. The result? The Garden Club presented a plan to have a pollinator garden, all native species (pre-settler plants needed by our local pollinators and suited to living in this place), and features that supported the pollinators themselves – seats that served as bee houses for gentle solitary native bees, and water reservoirs (bee baths). 

The PRIDE garden, a banner across the front of the west garden, would bloom in the colour of the rainbow during the PRIDE month of June and would sing out a statement of our commitment to be an affirming church.  The Garden Club jumped into action with regular posts to our church newsletter and website, and the running of a seed planting workshop. 

The other part of the planning was funding.  We were successful, thanks to a grant from TD Friends of the Environment via Faith & the Common Good, and rich organic soil donated by Scott’s Canada. The Rotary Club Toronto and Pollinate TO also provided grants, which helped us purchase  native pollinator plants. Planning involved improving the earth as well and Met members and Rainscape TO tended to the soil in 2020, weeding and enriching it with organic worm castings and letting it rest under inches of cedar mulch and leaves from our own park canopy.   

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