Encouragement for individuals and families was included in the 2008 policy “Power to Change” and remains a relevant invitation today. The policy urges “individuals and families in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to do the following:
- Pray, asking for God’s forgiveness and for the power and guidance to enjoy and care for creation in new ways.
- Study energy sources, their advantages and disadvantages, and the impacts they have on human communities, all species, and the ecological systems that support life on Earth.
- Practice energy conservation as a form of thanksgiving and sharing by adjusting thermostats, walking, biking, carpooling, using mass transit, turning off lights and appliances, recycling, minimizing the use of plastic water bottles and other wasteful packaging, etc.
- Purchase energy-efficient appliances and fuel-efficient vehicles for use at home and at work.
- Purchase sustainably grown food and other products from local producers in order to reduce the energy associated with producing, and shipping goods.
- Reduce consumption of meat because the production of grain fed to most livestock is fossil fuel-intensive and their waste emits methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas.
- Purchase Green-e certified energy and/or carbon offsets in the pursuit of a carbon-neutral lifestyle. Green-e certification ensures these payments result in additional installations of renewable energy generation capacity as well as verifiable and permanent environmental benefits.
- Invest personal funds in the renewable energy industry and also in companies that demonstrate concern for the well-being of their workers, their communities, and the environment.
- Advocate for change and leadership within the church and in all forms of government regarding energy policy and global climate change.”
PC(USA) congregations are engaged in multitude of faithful actions to care for God’s creation. In education, facilities and grounds, worship life, mission, and community outreach, churches are finding their own way to participate in environmental stewardship as part of daily Christian discipleship.
Earth care ministry in churches may include:
- energy efficiency audits and changes,
- EPA ENERGYSTAR certifications,
- donning solar panels or installing geothermal,
- doing international mission including environmental foci,
- planting community gardens,
- hosting Vacation Bible School,
- signing up for the new Presbyterian Foundation fossil-free investment vehicle,
- celebrating the new PILP loan that will encourage churches to make green changes
Collectively, church agencies have implemented General Assembly recommendations from 2008 and continue to commit to new projects and collaborative efforts. After the 2014 Assembly, all six agencies of the PC(USA) came together to share, learn, and vision this collaborative agenda and to report on past and current accomplishments, many of which are shared below.
The agencies offer program and resources which can help congregations, mid-councils and other PC(USA)-related entities become better stewards of the environment we share. They also provide models that together we can follow and implement throughout the Church. Together, we can work towards the goal of high-efficiency facilities for all of our ministries, strive for carbon neutrality, and advocate before local, state, and federal governments for public policies that encourage energy efficiency and renewable energy generation.
Presbyterian Investment & Loan Program
For a number of years the Presbyterian Investment & Loan Program (PILP) has been offering loans for churches to improve their energy efficiency. PILP is pleased to broaden this incentive in 2015, by partnering with churches across the denomination to help collectively reduce our carbon footprint through the new Restoring Creation Loan program. Loans are available to qualifying congregations engaged in projects that purposefully render our churches more energy efficient.
With lower interest rates and equity requirements, congregations will be encouraged to renovate their buildings using energy efficient products and renewable energy sources – saving on energy costs while reducing their carbon footprint. Projects could include: energy efficient lighting systems, solar panel additions, energy efficient heating and cooling systems, geothermal systems.
The Presbyterian Foundation already has a few environmentally friendly options for investment: a positive investment of a solar installation in Jericho, and New Covenant Funds with a positive screen for companies working on sustainability. More recently, the Foundation has created an optional fossil-free investment option for individuals and congregations.
- The Foundation’s investment committee has allocated an initial investment of atleast 1% of the Presbyterian Endowment Fund into investments that target climate change solutions.
- The Foundation has directed its investment managers to consider environmental factors in their security selection process. New Covenant Funds (a family of mutual funds created and sponsored by the Foundation) adopted ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) positive screening in 2014.
- The Foundation continues to work with Mission Responsibility through Investment in dialogue with energy companies to bring about change.
- The Foundation is utilizing a portion of the Church Loan Program, for which the Foundation is the fiduciary, for loans that implement renewable energy or carbon reduction solutions. This effort is in partnership with the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program which administers the loans, and the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Mission Development Resource Committee which sets terms for loans and grants.)
- The Presbyterian Foundation subsidiary, New Covenant Trust Company, provides fossil free managed portfolios to congregations, institutions, and other clients desiring a customized approach.
Office of the General Assembly (OGA)
General Assemblies have offered statements about wise use of natural resources, recycling, combatting climate change, curbing carbon emissions, protecting water, and more, since the 1950s and had a presence advocating for social witness policies in Washington D.C. since 1946. OGA has a commitment to negotiate sustainable conferencing spaces with facilities used for General Assemblies and Big Tent conferences, and has worked to increasingly print and use less paper and energy for its meetings.
In addition, OGA will:
- place a high priority on using a conference venue that offers recycling and other sustainability factors,
- insure some level of recycling and other eco-friendly options even if the conference venue is unable to,
- offer optional carbon offset purchase for attendees each Assembly and other church wide gatherings it coordinates, and
- promote in its materials the way attendees can engage in the available earth-friendly options.
Presbyterian Mission Agency
In the Presbyterian Mission Agency, environmental justice ministry has been in effect for decades, including work by the Presbyterian Ministry at the UN, the Office of Public Witness, Mission Responsibility through Investment, Presbyterian Hunger Program, and Environmental Ministries among others. Through these various offices, programs, and networks, PMA has been working on environmental justice, climate change, and other earth care issues since before the first Earth Day. In addition to public policy, the church has engaged corporations on climate change, attended every United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change “Conference of the Parties” (COP) meeting since their inception, published great worship and educational resources on a host of sustainability concerns, resourced numerous local congregations as well as individual Presbyterians and presbyteries on environmental ministry, worked in cooperation with ecumenical partners (such as National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Working Group, now Creation Justice Ministries), offset carbon emissions of many General Assemblies (prior to attendees purchasing their own offset), and taken environmental study-action trips with Presbyterians.
Currently, with the Presbyterian Hunger Program/Environmental Ministries, the denomination has certified and resourced over 170 Earth Care Congregations. Through work with MRTI, PC(USA) has obtained commitments from corporations to reduce emissions, advocate for effective public policies, and invest in climate-friendly initiatives. Through the Office of Public Witness, all General Assembly commitments to care for God’s creation are communicated to Congress and the White House. Meanwhile, PMA is primarily housed at the national church office building at 100 Witherspoon St, Louisville, Kentucky, which received the ENERGYSTAR designation in 2009.
In addition, PMA will:
- continue the long held witness of earth care and environmental sustainability,
- update and maintain the ENERGYSTAR designation at 100 Witherspoon,
- recycle more, reduce paper use, and green the building and grounds, and
- support a Green Team of volunteer staff to organize various educational events and worship around care for God’s creation at the Center chapel.
Board of Pensions
The Board of Pensions has worked with MRTI for more than thirty years in the areas of sustainability and climate change and remains committed to that work. Specifically, the Board of Pensions supports MRTI with elected members who serve on the committee, with staff support from its Investment area, and with direct funding of the staff and ministry of MRTI.
The Board of Pensions also votes more than six hundred proxies of publicly held companies each year, a process that is increasingly focused on environmental and social (E&S) issues. During the first half of 2014 (the last period for which data are available), Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) reports that “a record number of E&S proposals were submitted at corporations.” According to ISS, more than 460 E&S resolutions were filed in 2014, a 15 percent increase from 2013 and a 25 percent increase from the number filed in 2012. Of those filed in 2014, a record 57 were directly related to climate change. An additional 25 have already been withdrawn, which ISS notes, includes “some due to constructive engagement between the proponents and issuers.” These constructive engagements are the heart of the many successes MRTI has had in sustainability awareness and corporate care for the environment.
The Board of Pensions is a charter member of the Greater Philadelphia Green Business Program and achieved Silver Member status in 2010.
In addition to continuing these efforts, specifically including the continued funding to MRTI, the Board is committed to further shift its business away from paper-based models to electronic communication and administration. An ongoing service delivery model redesign, slated for implementation in 2016, will both improve service to members and employers and dramatically reduce the Board’s dependence on paper.
Presbyterian Publishing Corporation
PPC has moved to printing most of its title on a print-on-demand basis, only printing books as they are purchased and thereby reducing waste. Contracts are no longer printed and mailed but rather emailed, saving paper and carbon pollution from shipping. Production no longer prints out and mails manuscripts back and forth between editor, copyeditor, and author but uses electronic communication in most all instances, again saving paper and carbon pollution. Cover material for the latest Presbyterian hymnal was partly made of recycled plastic.
From this point forward, PPC will continue to:
- utilize production methods that are as environmentally friendly as possible
- investigate ways to use digital means of communication, and
- publish books and resources that help readers understand their vital place in the care of God’s gift of creation.