By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published October 19, 2017
ATLANTA—An energy audit of a dozen area parishes and schools has resulted in a map that could help parishes redirect money from energy bills to mission projects.
The audits identified some $600,000 in total costs in implementing the recommendations, with forecast savings of $900,000 over a decade.
The pilot project between the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the nonprofit Georgia Interfaith Power & Light looked at the electricity and water use at a small number of parishes and schools. The parishes have the audit results and are considering how to implement the ideas in the future. A look at water usage at the institutions is ongoing.
The project grew out the of the archdiocesan implementation of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.” The document linked environmental degradation and global warming with the moral imperative to care for creation that is a tenet of Catholic social teaching
The archdiocesan action plan developed from the encyclical has set the course for Catholics, parishes, schools and the archdiocese on taking steps to be better stewards of the environment.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory spoke at the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper Climate Change Conference Sept. 27. He participated in a panel discussion along with scientists and other faith leaders examining the “moral imperative to act” in response to climate change.
The archbishop told the crowd of more than 200 people at the Georgia Tech Global Learning Center how some 80 percent of the parishes and the missions have adopted the action plan to implement. Action can be as small as a fostering a community garden to conducting energy audits, he said.
He noted that the Atlanta Archdiocese is a leader in implementing the environmental message of Pope Francis and is sharing its work with other communities around the country and the world.
Started in the spring, the energy audits identified changes to help schools and parishes save on energy costs to be able to redirect dollars to mission work.
The estimated $600,000 recommended during the audits is expected to cover costs of upgrading insulation, new controls for heating and air conditioning, and lighting, in addition to other measures.
The parishes and schools share some common areas for potential savings. Lighting, insulation and HVAC demand a lot of energy and could be places for savings, if the systems are brought up to date with current energy-saving technology, said Brian Savoie, who managed the project. Grants and rebates would lower expected out-of-pocket expenses to parishes and schools, he said.
Three areas in need of attention are: replacing fluorescent lamps in administrative offices and classroom with LED lights, installing Wi-Fi thermostats to give parish staff better control of heating and air conditioning system, and reviewing insulation for both older and new parish buildings.
The parishes participating in the audit included St. Paul the Apostle Church, Cleveland; St. Mary Church, Rome; St. George Church, Newnan; St. Matthew Church, Tyrone; St. Pius X Church, Conyers; Christ Our Hope Church, Lithonia; Mary Our Queen Church, Peachtree Corners; and St. Catherine of Siena Church, Kennesaw. Schools undergoing the audits were Our Lady of Victory School, Tyrone; St. Peter Claver Regional School, Decatur; St Mary School, Rome; and St. Catherine of Siena School in Kennesaw.