PROVINCE VIII: Energy Oscars recognize environmental action of California congregations

December 10, 2008

Environmentalists from congregations around California gathered at All Souls Episcopal Church in Berkeley on December 4 for the second annual Energy Oscars presented by California Interfaith Power and Light (CIPL).

"We often get discouraged when we hear about potential climate catastrophe," said the Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham, president of the Regeneration Project, "but instead of bad news, the CIPL Energy Oscar Awards evening provides us with hope."

The idea for an awards program came from Georgia IPL, noted Susan Stephenson, executive director of CIPL. The California group added its own touches, including sealed envelopes and "the Green Carpet." Stephenson acknowledged that another goal of the awards gathering is to give congregations a chance to learn from one another.

In the Education category, Holy Nativity Episcopal Church of Los Angeles won for its work as a center of environmental concern and action in its Westchester neighborhood. The Rev. Peter H. Rood, Jr. received the award. Environmental Change-Makers, a new book from Cathedral Center Press by Joanne Poyourow and Rood details their efforts and presents their learnings to encourage others.

Congregation Beth El in Berkeley, a Reform Jewish congregation, won the Green Building award for its holistic approach to a new building, including geothermal heating, porous paving, and xeriscaping, a waste-efficient landscaping and gardening technique. Also nominated in this category were Bishop's Ranch in Healdsburg, California, for the Swing Pavillion and St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Walnut Creek, for its recent solar installation.

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation award went to the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica for the renovation of its pastor's cottage and efforts at conversation throughout their plant and among their members.

"We can begin to think good practices are enough, but it's the next award, Advocacy, which points the direction in which we must move," said Bishop Marc Andrus of the Diocese of California who emceed the event.

St. John's Episcopal Church, Oakland, was recognized for its ongoing work of advocacy on many levels. In the absence of the Rev. Scott Denman, rector, who was lobbying in Washington, D.C., Robert Davidson, co-chair, and other members of the parish's ecology group, received the plaque. Through letter writing campaigns, St. John's members have helped to influence the passage of two bills in the California legislature this session: SB275, requiring consideration of transportation's impact on greenhouse gases when making land use decisions, and AB3018, creating a task force on training for green jobs through the California community college system. On the local level, St. John's is an active member of Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums Network of Interfaith Action. Denman and members of the ecology group are also involved in advocating for a more just allocation of public transportation funds in nearby Richmond, California.

The efforts of the 540 congregations of many denominations and faiths involved in California IPL have been responsible for 13 million pounds reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

Referring to the specter of irreversible climate change, Andrus said to those gathered, "You are the people who are helping make that not our future."