Michigan Interfaith Power & Light's Blog

A New Solar Array at Gesu Detroit: Made Possible by the Students

In 2018, Gesu Catholic School in Detroit installed a solar panel array on the roof that saves them thousands of dollars on their electric bills each year. How does an underfunded school with a 97-year old building manage to make that happen?

It started when Anita Sevier, Development Director at Gesu Catholic School in Detroit, gathered 10 elementary-school students to research solar power and enter the My Solar School Contest. Anita and the students’ story struck a chord, and by sharing their story, Gesu Detroit’s 6 acre campus is not only more sustainable to maintain cost-wise, but also for our planet.

“To get things done, talk to anyone who will listen. Tell your story.” – Anita Sevier, Development Director at Gesu Catholic School in Detroit

After raising money and awareness for solar panels, members of the Gesu Detroit Solar Club stand next to the new solar panels on the roof of the school. Courtesy of Anita Sevier/Gesu Detroit

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A New Dayenu Circle for Temple Beth Emeth is a New Chapter for Climate Action in the Community

In the spring of 2021, Cathy Marshall– former Michigan IPL Bookkeeper extraordinaire!– started a Dayenu Circle at Temple Beth Emeth (TBE) in Ann Arbor. Dayenu is a movement of American Jews confronting the climate crisis with spiritual audacity and bold political action. The newfound committee has made incredible strides educating individuals on how they can take action on climate change and we spoke with Cathy about her inspiration for starting the committee, and how the new group has been a powerhouse for change in the TBE community.

I feel fulfilled being part of this community. Our work strengthens our bond as temple members- we see each other and know each other and we feel like we're making progress on something together.” --Cathy Marshall

Pictured: Cathy Marshall and Rabbi Josh(left), and members of TBE's Dayenu Circle join Michigan IPL and the Exodus Alliance in protesting in front of Chase Bank to pressure them to divest from fossil fuels.

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Second Baptist Church of Detroit Overhauled Their Ventilation System to Protect Church-Goers During the Pandemic

After watching Michigan IPL’s webinar on building Covid-safety, Second Baptist Church of Detroit upgraded their ventilation system and safely opened their church to in-person services. We spoke with Bruce Jordan, a former trustee who served on the church’s Covid Safety committee about how his church protected church-goers and staff from the risk of catching Covid indoors, and, in doing so, provided a gift to the church community.

We are showing the congregation how much we care for their health. Basically, we are looking out for our Christian brothers and sisters.”
- Bruce Jordan, Former Trustee, Second Baptist Church of Detroit

Pictured: Rev. Lawrence W. Rodgers welcomes a new member to Second Baptist Church of Detroit.

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Working Together for a Brighter Future: Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church Brought their Community Together to Replace Inefficient Lights

Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids completed an inspiring volunteer-led project in 2020 to replace 518 fluorescent lights in their church with LEDs. We spoke with Mattew Huen, a member of the Operations Committee who helped spearhead the project about resiliency, action in the face of despair, and the power of community.

“We saw an opportunity and took advantage of it. Our church made lemons into lemonade.” - Matthew Huen. While church services were virtual during the 2020 lockdown, volunteers replaced old lights with LEDs.

Volunteers at Eastern Avenue CRC take advantage of an empty building by rewiring light fixture ballasts to prepare for new, energy-saving T-LEDs .

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Going Green Works Better in Teams

South Side Community Coalition in Lansing celebrates switching to 100% solar energy at their "Green Energy Switch-On" event on Saturday, April 23. The solar installation was made possible through fundraising by Michigan IPL's Capital Area Chapter.

By working together, we accomplished something that benefits both our community and the earth—something we couldn’t have done as individuals or single congregations.

These days we all try to do our part to help preserve and restore our environment. We recycle paper, plastics, and cans. We put up bird houses and plant native species in our yards. But there are limits to what we can do as individuals. Sometimes it takes a team. And a dream.

April 23rd’s “Green Energy Switch-On” celebration, where we switched our energy use to 100% solar energy at the South Side Community Coalition’s community center in Lansing, is a perfect example of how teamwork can accomplish environmental and social justice goals that are otherwise beyond our reach. 

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Equity and Climate Action: Ann Arbor Friends Meeting’s Carbon Tax Meets the Moment

Michigan IPL often gets questions from Houses of Worship asking what they can do to mitigate climate change- and we think the voluntary Carbon Tax is a great example because it's a simple program that can make a big impact. Think outside of the recycling box!

We've all learned that there is not going to be environmental justice without social justice. -John Williams, Ann Arbor Friends Meeting Earthcare Committee Member  

Five years ago, the Ann Arbor Friends Meeting started an initiative to reduce their individual carbon footprints. After finding ways to conserve energy and lower their carbon emissions, members imposed a voluntary “Carbon Tax” on themselves. The money collected from the tax is then split three ways by the Earthcare Committee to combat greenhouse gasses from a political advocacy perspective, at an international level, and locally to Michigan IPL’s Carbon Fund!

We’re excited about the Carbon Tax because this program offers a simple solution to convert your carbon footprint into real, equitable action. 

Ann Arbors Friends Meeting members listen to visiting speaker. Courtesy of quakerquaker.org

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How University Lutheran Church Put Faith Into Action and Cut their Energy Use in Half

University Lutheran Church of East Lansing changed every light possible in the church to LED lights and didn’t break the bank to do it.

In 2017, they participated in the free Light the Way program and found some “low hanging fruit to fix up,” explains Dale Romsos, who serves as an Earth Keeping Team member and leads the Facilities Team. “By 2020, we were paying $6,000 less a year for energy, thanks to the changes we made in our church and a big part of that was thanks to utility rebates.”

"It all started with a small group of people dedicated to caring for God’s Creation.” - Judy Kindel, ULC Earth Keeping Team member

Dale Romsos and Judy Kindel are leaders in ULC's Earth Keeping Team, whose energy conservation efforts paved the way for the church to install solar!

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2021 Year End Reflection

As 2021 draws to a close, I'm writing this to share with you where our issues stand and what I believe our movement of people of faith and conscience for climate justice must do next.  

The possibility of a world where all beings can thrive has taken some big hits recently.

The agreement coming out of COP 26—November’s global climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland—has been called a “death sentence” for the poorest people on our planet. Our nation’s most ambitious investment in climate and communities to date, the Build Back Better Act, is now stalled in the Senate. Meanwhile, earlier this fall, a military budget that dwarfs any proposed climate spending was rubber stamped with bipartisan support and without fanfare.

Thousands of starlings move together as one before resting for the night. Scientists hypothesize that they may do this to confuse predators and minimize individual risk. 

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Energy Savings at Haven House Mean Helping More Families

At Haven House, every dollar saved on utilities can be put toward sheltering families and helping them on their paths toward stable homes. 

Founded in 1983, Haven House’s emergency shelter facility was built in the 1950s, which meant there were a lot of opportunities to improve improve comfort and efficiency and lower operating costs.  

If we can save money on our electric bill, then we can spend that money on helping our clients with moving costs.

Representatives from Michigan IPL, the Islamic Center of East Lansing, Haslett Community Church, and University Lutheran Church present Haven House with a donation of $5,500 to be used toward energy improvements. 

With a $5,500 donation from Haslett Community Church, University Lutheran Church, the Islamic Center of East Lansing, and Michigan IPL's Carbon Fund, Haven House made energy upgrades to its facility. They upgraded the lights in their emergency shelter to LEDs, installed energy efficient air conditioning, new windows, and additional insulation. 

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We Need the Strongest Possible Clean Car Standards to Meet this Moment

Today, I spoke at an EPA hearing about the draft Clean Car standards proposed earlier this month. This is my testimony:

My name is Leah Wiste, and I’m the Executive Director of Michigan Interfaith Power & Light. We work with over 300 member congregations throughout the state, which comprise thousands of people of faith and conscience committed to bold climate action and protecting our communities.  Thank you for allowing me to offer testimony today.

When President Biden announced the draft tailpipe emissions standards earlier this month, Michigan Congressman Dan Kildee offered a strange kind of praise, saying “This is sort of a Goldilocks goal… Not too much, not too little. It’s just right.” But it’s clear that the time has passed for moderate, “not too much, not too little” policy.


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Cultivating Community

At Sunnyside UMC, garden manager Rachelle Yeaman tells the story of the Growing Community Garden, a collaboration with Fresh Fire AME Church, as tour-goers gather under the welcome shade of a centrally located maple tree.

Recognizing that, in work at the intersection of racial and environmental justice, trusting and mutually beneficial relationships are key, Hope for Creation (MIIPL’s southwest Michigan affiliate) is building connections around shared interests in working the soil.

With the support of generous grants from the Congregation of St. Joseph and the Mesara Family Foundation, we are engaging master gardeners and other volunteers in our member congregations to develop partnerships in neighborhoods facing food insecurity, with the twin goals of expanding capacity to produce healthy food and safe neighborhoods and of building lasting healing relationships between people of faith from diverse communities. Our focus in 2021 is supporting collaboration in neighborhoods that are environmental hot-spots in Kalamazoo and fostering connections between established and emerging gardening efforts.

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Evict Enbridge: Events This Week!

Last fall, Gov. Whitmer ordered Enbridge to shut down Line 5-- the 68-year-old pipeline that sits on the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac-- by May 12.  

Enbridge, the company responsible for the pipeline that burst in 2010 causing nearly 1,000,000 gallons of tar sands crude to flow into the Kalamazoo River, has vowed to continue operations in defiance of Whitmer's order

If you, like us, believe that corporations have no business risking our Great Lakes and our last shot at a livable climate for the sake of making a buck, I hope you'll find a way to plug in to this week's outdoor and socially-distanced events in Detroit, Lansing and Mackinaw City!  
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