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Spreading the good news of Energy Star

The First Parish Church in Needham, Mass., combines old and new after renovations that this month earned it the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "Energy Star" label. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The First Parish Church in Needham, Mass., combines old and new after renovations that this month earned it the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star label. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

By Tom Fetters

Even though the EPA’s Energy Star program for houses of worship is off to a plodding start, I see a lot of upside.

According to an Associated Press article on the program, an average of just one congregation per month has received the designation since the agency began awarding the Energy Star label in October.

To qualify for an Energy Star award — an efficiency designation probably most often seen on appliance labels — houses of worship need to be more efficient than 75 percent of similar churches, synagogues, mosques, etc., according to the article.

But the program’s advantages stretch well beyond improvement projects and lower utility bills for congregations, although those certainly are among the pluses.

There are the members and visitors who learn about energy conservation and pass it on. As the AP article quoted the EPA’s Michael Zatz as saying: “The people sitting in those congregations are workers in … other places — teachers in the schools, managers of hotels — and they might learn through the congregation about what can be done in buildings in general and take it into their workplace. They also may take it back to their home.”

Another plus is the possible effect on the environment — creation — itself.

“It’s a spiritual issue,” the Rev. John Buehrens of First Parish Church in Needham, Mass., is quoted as saying. “Stewardship of the planet and a realization of the fragility of the creation and our responsibility of preserving its beauty is absolutely central to our religious values.”

Tom Fetters is a copy editor at The Daily Reporter. He edits with a higher power.

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