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Iowa City environmentalist, interfaith workshop opens window on ways to save money & energy

Liz Martin/The Gazette

A variety of energy efficient light bulbs are displayed at a past Cool Congregations workshop at Zion Lutheran Church in Iowa City. Another workshop focusing on ways to save money and energy will be held April 14 at First Presbyterian Church in Iowa City.
Liz Martin/The Gazette A variety of energy efficient light bulbs are displayed at a past Cool Congregations workshop at Zion Lutheran Church in Iowa City. Another workshop focusing on ways to save money and energy will be held April 14 at First Presbyterian Church in Iowa City.
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IOWA CITY — Sarah Paulos is on a mission to save the earth, and she’s hoping congregations across the Iowa are ready to help. Later this month she’ll be enlisting the help of congregants and other community members in a workshop at First Presbyterian Church in Iowa City.

Paulos is program and outreach coordinator for Iowa Interfaith Power and Light, an organization formed “to inspire and equip people of faith” to become active in finding solutions to climate change. She’s also creator of the Cool Congregations workshops — workshops designed to show individuals how to take steps to save money and energy at the same time, as well as learning how to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

“It is so important for congregations to get on board with their energy use, it’s our duty as stewards of the earth,” Paulos said. “As members of a faith community, it is our duty to care for the poor and care for the earth — it’s the most vulnerable here and around the world who suffer the most from climate change.”

Paulos, of Iowa City, created Cool Congregations six years ago and has since held workshops in more than 400 congregations and 15 different states. It’s now part of the national Interfaith Power and Light programming.

First Presbyterian Church, 2701 Rochester Ave., Iowa City, will host a Cool Congregations workshop from 8:30 a.m. to noon on April 14. The free workshop is being held in partnership with First United Methodist Church, the Wesley Center, and 100 Grannies.

Although it’s part of the Cool Congregations programming, the Iowa City workshop is mostly for households, Paulos said.

“We encourage people who want to reduce the congregational building’s carbon footprint, too, but here we’re going to be encouraging people to do the small things that will make a big difference: changing their light bulbs to LED, tuning up their car, tuning up their furnace, walking or biking whenever you can, even just adjusting your thermostat by 2 degrees in the summer and winter,” she said.

But how much of a difference can little changes make?

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“Just switching over to LED light bulbs can save 190 pounds of carbon per light bulb per year,” Paulos said. “The first year we did this we had 28 families participating and they saved 67 tons of carbon dioxide from being released in the first year — and that was just reducing their usage by 10 percent.

“If every person in Iowa did that, it would be like taking a third of Iowa’s car fleet off the road for a year,” Paulos said. “These are small things, but if we all did them it would make a big difference.”

IF YOU GO

What: Cool Congregations workshop: energy efficiency tips for households

Where: First Presbyterian Church, 2701 Rochester Ave., Iowa City

When: 9 a.m. to noon April 14; doors open at 8:30 a.m.

Admission: Free; registration required by Tuesday at iowaipl.org/act/register-events/

Simple ways to save energy, money

Iowa Interfaith Power & Light offers up these tips through the Cool Congregations link on its website: iowaipl.org/act/cool-congregations-2/

While the tips are designed to help congregations reduce the carbon footprint of their facilities, many are applicable for home use, as well.

1. Contact your heat provider to get an Energy Audit. Energy audits are free to many congregations in Iowa and give you access to rebates on energy upgrades.

2. Turn off the lights when you leave the room.

3. Buy Energy Star equipment and put it in sleep mode. Also, consider your phantom load. Phantom load refers to the energy that appliances use even when they’re switched off. Plug your copier, computer, television and other electronic devices into power strips and close the power to the strips when the appliances are not in use.

4. Install occupant sensors in places where lights tend to get left on. Restrooms are an ideal place for occupant sensors, but they are not the only place. Got a basement hallway that is seldom traveled? Meeting rooms are another good application, but you have to keep moving during your meetings or the lights will go out.

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5. Turn down the lights when daylight is available. Try banking your lights on switches that allow you to turn off the ones closest to the windows and leave on the ones furthest from natural light. That way you can adjust to the real day lighting present in the room.

6. Tune up your heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system every year. Systems use less energy when they’re working correctly.

7. Change and clean filters to help your blower work more efficiently.

8. Install programmable thermostats. Think about whether one of these would work on your water heater if you really only need hot water on Sundays.

9. Install LED light bulbs in place of incandescent light bulbs and consider upgrading your remaining lighting to more efficient options.

10. Install LED exit signs. They will save you $30 per year per sign and pay for themselves very quickly.

11. Use passive solar. Reflect heat in the summer by closing the blinds, open them in the winter to take advantage of the heat gain on south-facing windows. Consider transparent window shields on the exterior to reflect more light in the summer without losing the view.

12. Use fans to supplement HVAC for greater comfort. However, don’t assume they save energy in the winter since they may just make you feel cooler.

13. Plug the holes around doors and windows with caulk and weatherstripping, and add insulation wherever you can.

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14. Generate awareness of energy issues within your congregation. Systems are only as efficient as the people operating them.

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