Help your community and parish transition! Form a Green Power Team and find support here…

August 10, 2016

Green Power Teams (GPTs) are self­-organized, grassroots groups of enthusiastic individuals who identify and implement strategies to make their house of worship and wider community more environmentally sustainable. Their first purpose is to facilitate shifts in church/temple infrastructure—such as increased energy efficiency and installation of rooftop solar. Additionally, GPTs may choose to advocate for environmental policy and programs in their city, county, or state. The motivation and enthusiasm of the team members are more important than expertise in sustainability, which can always be learned.

Now is the time

What Is Sustainability?  Sustainability means “to cause to continue; to keep up, especially without interruption, diminution, or flagging.” In this context it is the quality of supporting long­term ecological health and balance. Sustainability includes fostering a thriving environment, but it is also about promoting an engaged society and healthy economy, e.g. buying local. Sustainability requires balancing opportunities and constraints, and taking a long­term view so that we are able to reach our maximum potential while enabling future generations to do the same.

What Do GPTs Actually Do?

GPTs arrange regular team action meetings to:

  • Identify the sustainability goals of their houses of worship & wider communities.
  • Design and implement a plan to meet these goals, including communicating and coordinating among group members, faith community leaders, and other stakeholders. Examples of tactics we recommend are producing educational events, launching petition drives, and initiating energy efficiency programs in the faith community.
  • Track and report results.

What Are GPT Leaders?

Each team needs at least one energetic and committed point person to:

  • Coordinate with those at Green Power to solicit support (advising, organizing training, technical support, policy expertise, info about financing structures for rooftop solar, etc).
  • Request the blessing of your faith leader(s) for the work of the GPT. Ask to be a recognized faith community project and refer to credible documents such as Pope Francis’s Laudato Sí.
  • Organize and lead regular meetings where goals are formed and implemented for lowering the carbon footprint of your faith community.
  • Keep a disciplined eye on the objectives and outcomes of meetings and spark engagement.
  • Be thinking always about how to grow the measurable impact of your team’s work on greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Consider doing an educational series about climate issues, e.g. the impact of global warming on the poor and the need to reduce carbon emissions to soften the coming “cascading effect” (droughts, hurricanes, floods, fires, etc.).
  • Coordinate with press on educational events and big announcements, and form affiliations with other green organizations, including other faith-­based Green Power Teams.
  • Act as liaison among house of worship staff, the broader community, and Green Power (the Romero Institute).  Each one of us working in our towns, states, and nations will create a hopeful future for our children!
  • Track and record overall progress of the GPT program.

How To Set Up A GPT?

Getting the balances right at the beginning of any project is key! We recommend you:

  • Begin by contacting the Green Power staff at the Romero Institute to announce your interest and request support.
  • Speak to the spiritual leader of your faith group and any other administrative staff who help manage your faith group committees, such as parish/finance councils.
  • You may create a GPT with or without a digital presence. But, we encourage you to utilize sites such as ‘Facebook’ and ‘Meetup’. Please get in touch with the technical support team at Green Power for help with this.
  • Arrange an initial GPT meeting and set a regular time for future meetings. Gathering too often (e.g. weekly) doesn’t allow members to complete assigned tasks. Meeting too infrequently (e.g. every six months) can slow progress, enthusiasm, and momentum. Here you can use the aid of shared online calendars like ‘Google Cal’, and platforms like ‘Doodle’ or ‘When is Good?’ are helpful for deciding when everyone is available.
  • Announce the formation of your GPT to your community, family & friends. Introduce yourself via phone, text or email and make in­person statements at community meetings.

What To Do At The GPT Meetings?

Getting work done is not the only goal—we also want to have fun during meetings. Here are some suggestions:

  • Meetings should be inspirational, creative, and participatory. Joan Blades at livingroomconversations.org offers an effective format to assist group communication and problem solving.
  • An initial step of the GPTs is to gather data about sustainability practices currently in place at a house of worship and in the wider community.
  • Take detailed meeting minutes—record all ideas and group decisions.
  • Define a clear vision. Create agreed­upon goals and make them achievable within 3, 6 or 12 months. This may begin with creating a GPT mission statement. Keep it simple—1 or 2 main initiatives each quarter.
  • Choose achievable goals: early success raises enthusiasm.
  • Arrange through Green Power to have an energy audit done of the parish/church/temple or community buildings. Ask auditors how efficiency can be increased and emissions lowered.
  • Identify the possible barriers to your success. For example, have initiatives been tried in the past that did/did not work? Can they be revisited?
  • Discover other groups/organizations/government initiatives that you can team up with to achieve sustainability goals.
  • Illuminate “the attraction factor” for each of your goals – financial, political, social, environmental. Remember, as organizers you have to market your ideas! ‘Instagram’ is an excellent photo networking tool that can link directly with Facebook to share inspirational ideas and actions.
  • Identify what resources (e.g. personnel and financing) are available for the program.
  • Recognize different personality types and help best fit them to tasks/goals. Assign specific roles and delegate responsibility for tasks to group members. Create timelines.
  • Discuss with Green Power (Romero Institute) how you are able to establish baseline metrics (energy consumption/efficiency, waste diversion, water consumption, purchasing practices, recycling, transportation, etc).

Keeping The Momentum Going!

It’s an ongoing effort to keep people engaged and to inspire widespread behavior change in the interest of a thriving environment. Keep your community updated and excited about the accomplishments of your GPT by:

  • Keeping target goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely.
  • Announcing and celebrating GPT milestones.
  • Posting frequent program updates or general environmental tips on newsletters, bulletin boards, email, Facebook, Instagram, etc.—leverage your faith community’s digital and paper infrastructure to get the word out!
  • Calculating the environmental impact of the GPT’s activities in metrics people can understand (# of homes powered, # of cars off the road, # of trees planted, etc). Green Power and our partner, Mynt Systems, can help with these calculations.
  • Creating and posting prompts, such as reminding people to turn off computers at night, take a bike to work, shower instead of bathing, unplug phone chargers when charging complete, use LED light bulbs, turn off lights when leaving a room, bring your own bags to the grocery store, use less plastic (made from fossil fuels), carpool, plan to get a hybrid car, recycle, etc.
  • Offering incentives, prizes, and rewards for the best community achievements.
  • Remaining flexible. As with any new program, some initiatives will be successful and others will fail. But, it is difficult to predict these outcomes prior to implementation. Keep the faith! If a program doesn’t work, identify what made it fail and try to improve upon it for the future.
  • Hosting casual social mixers (pot luck) events where the community can learn more about your GPT and the team can meet in a more relaxed setting.

Good luck and thank you for being leaders in caring for our Sacred Earth!

The Green Power Team at the Romero Institute

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