Green Team Report: GreenFaith Certification Program Update at September 2014

GreenFaithjpgThe summer months have been a busy time for the Green Team. We are moving forward with many action items on our path to GreenFaith Certification. Most of our next steps involve Vestry approval. The following lists the work we have done and the work we would like to do next, together as a faith community, to reduce our environmental impacts and to help preserve, protect, and restore the Creation:

• We’ve completed inventories of cleaning products and products used in connection with our landscaping and identified non-toxic alternative products to use. We will ask the Vestry to approve a purchasing/products use policy so that we eliminate any cleaning or agricultural product with toxics from use at St. Michael’s.

• We’ve identified a source of 100% recycled-content paper for use in printing our Sunday bulletins that maintains our standards for quality. As you know, we already recycle bulletins. This action further reduces our environmental impacts.

• We’ve completed a full analysis of our energy use and are taking numerous simple, free steps to further reduce our energy consumption. With the phase-out of incandescent lighting, one change we will all experience, at home and at St. Michael’s, is a transition to other forms of lighting. At St. Michael’s, we will likely use LEDs to replace any remaining incandescent lighting (much of our lighting is already fluorescent or compact fluorescent) including dimmable LEDs in the sanctuary.

• We are putting together a kitchen-use policy to greatly reduce the creation of paper and other waste in connection with events involving food service. This will include training and instruction on the proper use of our dishwasher so that we use our dishware and service ware instead of paper, plastic, or other alternatives.

• We continue to work for fossil-fuel divestment and socially responsible investing through participation in study groups in the Diocese of Oregon and the ECUSA.

• We continue to advocate for reduction in fossil fuel use in numerous ways, including opposing the coal export facilities proposed for the Northwest, the Keystone XL Pipeline proposed for transport of Alberta tar sands oil through America’s heartland to Texas for refining and shipment into the world market, and questioning the increasing number and size of potentially dangerous oil trains moving through the Columbia Gorge and the metro area on the way to a refinery in Washington State.

• This fall, we will be holding a faith-formation program for children using Faith and Nature: The Divine Adventure of Life on Earth as our curriculum.

• We will ask the Vestry to create an urban food garden on the Broadway side of the sanctuary in the area that is currently landscaped with grass and shrubs. We would grow organic, quality produce and provide it for free to anyone in need. The produce would also be available for use in our own Saturday meals programs. We may pursue a partnership with Hollywood East in this effort.

As always, the Green Team welcomes your input and participation in our work. If you’d like to help, if you have a question or suggestion, or if you want more information, please call or email Peter Sergienko.

Eco-Theological Reflections

As part of the GreenFaith Certification program that St. Michael’s has undertaken, the Green Team is in the process of publishing eight reflections. These reflections may involve hours of work by their authors and go into greater depth or require more investment from the reader than a typical Messenger piece. Thus, you are encouraged to find a quiet place, begin with prayer, and expect to take ten to 15 minutes to engage fully with these reflections. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Click here for the August Eco-Theological Reflection, by Ann Hargraves.

Click here for the June Eco-Theological Reflection, by Elizabeth Voss.

Click here for the May Eco-Theological Reflection, by Paul LaCroix.

Click here for the April Eco-Theological Reflection, by Dan Bagwell.

Click here for the March Eco-Theological Reflection, by Peter Sergienko.

Green Ways Tips

As part of our GreenFaith certification program, you will begin to see ideas and tips we’re calling Green Ways in your communications from St. Michael’s. Some of these may be familiar, common-sense suggestions, while others may be new to you, or a new way of approaching an issue. All of them are designed to help you become more aware of the ways you can continue — or begin — to minimize your impact on our natural resources. We will also often include links to help you learn more about a topic. As we travel through Easter Season, celebrate Earth Day, and enjoy the beautiful spring growth in our parks, trees and mountains, this may be the perfect time to look anew at ways to nurture and protect our planet.

July/August Green Way: Help the Environment by Mixing up your Monday Menu!

The process of raising animals for meat, including land used for animals and their feed, contributes significantly to climate change; nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions worldwide come from the meat industry, according to the UN Food & Agriculture Organization. In Europe the cost may be greater, since much of the grain for farm animals must be imported from Brazil, where rainforest land is being cleared to grow feed crops. Livestock also use a tremendous amount of water compared to plant crops.

One option to reduce this impact is to become vegetarian or vegan, avoiding meat and all animal products in your diet. A much smaller change, however, can make a big difference in your individual carbon footprint. Going meatless only one day a week can reduce your carbon footprint by up to eight pounds a day (UCSB). If a four-person family skips meat and cheese once a week, over a year it’s like taking a car off the road for five weeks (Environmental Working Group). The rest of the week, you can be more aware of where your meat comes from. Grass-fed, organic and local meats are better for the environment, creating smaller impacts on soil, water, and erosion. Organic feed and grazing also are healthier for the environment.

Organizations all over the US and the world are signing on to Meatless Mondays to encourage awareness of consuming less meat. School districts, colleges, employers, and even entire cities are providing support and healthy options on Meatless Mondays. Learn more at MeatlessMonday.com.

May’s Green Way: Transportation

Ten seconds of idling your car uses more fuel than turning the engine on and off (NJDEP). Turn your engine off when you are sitting for more than 10 seconds, especially near children and in urban areas where pollution levels are already high. In addition to the carbon dioxide emitted into the environment by idling cars, vehicle exhaust contributes to respiratory illnesses in children and adults. The Oregon Environmental Council has a toolkit to help schools create “Idle-Free Zones.” http://www.oeconline.org/our-work/healthier-lives/schools/its-not-cool-to-idle-at-school.

April’s Green Way: Energy

The United Nations estimates that by 2050, there will be more refugees from climate change than from war. To fight climate change and reduce your carbon footprint (and your energy bills), complete a home-energy audit: http://hes.lbl.gov/. Your utility company will also have information about your specific energy use and ways you can optimize it, often right on your bill or at their website. There are several tools to estimate your carbon footprint, which includes information about your lifestyle and transportation choices, as well as your home energy use. Two examples are www.myfootprint.org and http://www.nature.org/greenliving/carboncalculator/. Often the first step in making a change is to see what you’re doing now and identify strengths and areas for change; an audit is a good way to get started.

Divestment Update: Diocese of Oregon to Consider Divestment from Fossil Fuel Companies

With the leadership of Green- Faith, 350.org, and other non- profit organizations, a movement to divest from the 200 largest fos- sil fuel companies is taking hold nationally. Divestment involves the selling of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds or other pooled investments if the stocks, bonds or investment vehicles include the largest fossil fuel companies in the world. Approximately 56 institutions have decided to divest so far, including religious institutions, cities, colleges and universities, and foundations.

Divestment is a last resort. Unfortunately, shareholder resolutions and other actions taken to encourage fossil fuel companies to expand and transition their businesses into renewable sources of energy have failed. Additionally, fossil fuel companies have engaged in disinformation to create doubt about climate-change science and the efficacy of climate solutions. Fossil fuel companies have tremendous political power, which they have used to maintain their privileged economic status under existing laws. Finally, the known reserves of the leading fossil fuel companies are three to five times larger than the amount that can be burned without risking extremely dangerous climate change. If we burn all known fossil fuel reserves, our most accomplished climate scientists are virtually certain it would lead to catastrophic climate change.

Divestment is a moral action intended to align investments with values. Among our relevant values are our baptismal covenants: to seek and serve Christ in all persons; to strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being. Climate change affects everyone. It is here now and getting worse, but its most immediate and devastating impacts will be to persons in the developing world, the poor, women, and children. Additionally, good steward- ship requires respect for The Creation: “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good,” Gen. 1:31. Finally, the ECUSA called all Episcopalians to work for the just transformation of the world’s energy supplies away from fossil fuels toward safe, renewable, community con- trolled energy, and to protect fossil fuel workers during the transition to a post-carbon society. Divestment is one strategy to answer this call.

At the Diocesan Convention, the delegates passed a resolution to study divestment from fossil fuel companies with the intention of moving toward divestment and to adopt socially responsible investment opportunities for the Diocese over the next three to five years. The Environmental Commission and Investment Committee will be working together to implement the resolution.

Keystone XL pipeline

Two additional members of the St. Michael’s Advocacy Action committee have taken the pledge and the training in non-violent resistance to the Keystone XL pipeline. We have also participated in a meeting of the 350.pdx organization to coordinate activities and share experience. In the event that the State Department issues a favorable “national impact statement,” President Obama will have approximately two weeks in which to decide whether or not he will approve entry of the pipeline into the U.S. During that period, those who have taken the training will be able to demonstrate opposition by blocking entry to at least four critical sites in the Portland area. This action would most likely result in the arrest of willing participants, although there are activities that do not involve a risk of arrest and participants are welcome to choose those activities. While additional trainings have not been scheduled for Portland, there will be several local events at which any interested person can take part. This is a chance to speak out and take action to protect God’s creation. Please check www.350.org for more information.

Northwest Coal-Export Projects

The coal deposits in the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming are among the largest in the world. Business interests are planning to mine and transport this coal by rail and barge through the Columbia Gorge and the Portland Metro Area to five coal export facilities at different Northwest ports. The coal will then be shipped to Asia, primarily China, to be burned to generate electricity. These coal exports are one of fourteen fossil-fuel projects around the world that will make catastrophic global warming difficult or impossible to avoid because of the large quantities of greenhouse gases they will emit if built. http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/Global/canada/report/2013/01/Point-of-no-return.pdf
Two of the five possible projects are actively seeking permits now. The first is a large coal export facility at Cherry Point, Washington (near Bellingham). The second is a transfer facility at the Port of Morrow, Oregon. Coal will be off-loaded to a storage facility at Morrow from trains, loaded onto barges, shipped by barge to the Port of St. Helens, and then transferred to ocean-going vessels bound for Asia.

Members of the St. Michael’s Green Team and Advocacy Action group are actively tracking these projects and have commented on the environmental impacts and other aspects of them. Unfortunately, these processes are frustrating and unlikely to lead to good decisions.

First, the immediate environmental impacts from the projects, including damage from the coal mining itself, damage from fugitive coal-dust emissions as the coal is transported, stored, and shipped, and damage from train and barge emissions, are largely considered piecemeal and readily addressed by project proponents under existing law. For example, coal-dust emissions along the railroad tracks and at the port facilities will inevitably occur, notwithstanding technical requirements to minimize such emissions. These impacts are considered acceptable. However, they are not without cost, and they largely affect communities close to the railroad tracks. Since many of these communities are low-income or comprised of minority populations, this creates an environmental-justice issue.

Second, adverse impacts to our children and future generations are largely ignored in deference to short-term benefits to the current generation. The project’s proponents emphasize the construction and permanent jobs that will be created if the projects are built. We agree that job creation is a high priority. However, we believe that our political leaders must lead by adopting policies that will create green jobs. We need our under- and unemployed workers to build the renewable-energy infrastructure of the 21st century rather than fossil-fuel projects.

Finally, the most significant environmental impact—the combined greenhouse gas emissions from all the projects together, including the emissions from burning the coal—may not be considered at all. Our House of Bishops has declared climate change to be a “planetary crisis:” http://episcopalmn.org/news/episcopal-church-house-of-bishops-issues-a-pastoral-teaching/. Further, our top climate scientists have concluded that carbon-dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels should peak as soon as possible and then begin to shrink dramatically—5% per year for 40 years—to preserve a reasonable chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/01/16/1454181/2013-the-year-of-climate-decision/.

For all these reasons, as stewards of the Creation, many individual members of the Green Team and Advocacy Action Group have felt called to oppose these projects. These persons do not believe that we can, in good conscience, continue with business as usual, supporting infrastructure intended to extend the fossil-fuel age for another thirty to fifty years when the transition to renewable sources of energy is urgently needed right now. We cannot continue to disregard the harm to ourselves, our children, all future generations, and, indeed, all life on Earth brought on by climate chaos while considering only our current profits and material ease.

Most of us will find it difficult to comprehend the reality of living at a time of planetary crisis. We may notice small changes over our lifetimes, such as earlier springs, warmer summer temperatures, heavier downpours, or higher food prices, but it hardly seems like an emergency. A helpful, if scary, way to understand the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions, is to consider the energy imbalance in the atmosphere caused by burning fossil fuels. As of 2011, cumulative human greenhouse gas emissions created the energy equivalent of exploding 1 million Hiroshima atomic bombs per day every day.  http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2011/06/30/257790/radiative-forcing-co2-1-million-hiroshima-bombs-a-day/.

May we find the strength, courage, humility and grace to understand our impacts on the Creation and to restore right relationships among all people and with all life on Earth.