Perhaps, you are well aware that Greening Sacred Spaces Ottawa has been one of the oldest chapters of the FCG sustainability network operating in Ottawa for over 15 years. What you may not know is that a few new faces have joined this chapter in the hopes of contributing to the meaningful work of the group and building its story further. We would like to introduce ourselves, and in so doing, also discuss some of the ways in which we the Energy Benchmarking Program (EBP) that we are both involved in will be moving, going forward this year.
My name is Ruth Bankey, I am the new Program Manager for the Energy Benchmarking Program and Greening Sacred Spaces. I would also like to introduce the new Program Coordinator for the Energy Benchmarking Program - Emine Turgut. Together we bring many collective years of experience within the academic and NGO sectors and in work related to environmental and community sustainability. We also have a diverse range of experiences, personal and professional, with faith communities, many of whom have historically been underrepresented within the ENGO sector. We will also have two new interns, who under our supervision, will be co-developing material and research of relevance to the EBP and the data findings from the benchmarking process.
The Energy Benchmarking Program (EBP) has been underway in the Ottawa area since 2019. The program supports regional faith communities in their efforts to reduce their energy and carbon footprint using the Energy Star Portfolio Manager. This analytic tool displays one’s energy performance (Gas and Hydro usage and costs/expenses) and compares (benchmarks) that performance against other faith-building data to encourage sound decision-making practices and concrete action plans to reduce one’s energy/carbon footprint.
The EBP program in Ottawa has focused on the importance of energy stewardship for environmental sustainability and resiliency. What recent events with the COVID-19 outbreak have equally shown us is the importance of energy stewardship for the sustainability of our faith communities themselves and the impact that the disappearance of faith buildings has on wider local communities who use and rely on those spaces as places of gathering, business and for community good. Pragmatically, improving energy efficiency means improving your faith communities’ cost-effectiveness, saving money which can be used for other needed services or programs. Ultimately, the resiliency of your faith community hinges on its financial viability, maximizing energy efficiency also means financial stewardship alongside environmental stewardship, both of which the Energy Benchmarking Program aims to facilitate.
Our goal with the EBP is to find 50 interested faith communities to participate in this cost-free program before the end of 2021. Here are some of the new things we will be doing to mobilize faith communities in their efforts towards energy/environmental stewardship within the energy benchmarking program moving forward:
- A regular “Tips and tricks” series of emails that provide those who are interested with information about improving energy efficiency; mitigating the environmental footprint of your faith-building; linking faith communities to resources; and sharing or reflecting on the issues, questions and concerns raised by participants within the program already as a way of engendering shared conversation about relevant aspects of energy stewardship that are participants are concerned about.
- More informational and educational tools/materials on energy stewardship. These will be made available online and in paper format. We intend for these tools to also be available in multiple languages, representative of the different faith communities we serve within the greater Ottawa area.
- Data Storytelling and Story Maps – a significant focus of the work of the EBP will be on communicating the importance and impacts of building energy efficiency through a range of different types of data visualizations. We are looking forward to the use of mapping techniques to highlight program findings as a way of connecting the questions of “what”, “how” and “why” to “where”.
- Creating new and building upon existing networks of interested faith communities through group events and workshops.
- And so much more...
We would love to include as many faith communities in this program as possible. Not only because this program would be of direct benefit to your community, but because this program offers the possibility of building and strengthening a wider network of faith communities interested in energy management and environmental protection within the Ottawa area. The lessons we could learn from each other through our diverse experiences of care and stewardship of the places in which we live and congregate are invaluable in building a strong, resilient Ottawa for all of us.
We look forward to working with you soon!