15 OPRF Congregations Join in Collaborative Sustainability Initiative

By Lisa Files

Area congregations have demonstrated that they can make significant contributions to community sustainability through their facilities and operations including installation of geothermal and solar systems, energy efficiency retrofits, native and edible gardens, and zero waste programs, as well as advocacy for sustainable policies.

The Interfaith Green Network, with the support of a grant from the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation, is initiating a collaborative process to support and accelerate the impact of congregations in achieving the sustainability goals established by the community.

“These funds will support facilitated conversation and implementation of PlanItGreen, the sustainability plan for Oak Park and River Forest,” said Dick Alton, of Interfaith Green Network.  “A core group of congregational leaders will build a common vision, strategic directions, and an implementation plan with measurable outcomes.”

Recently, Jim and Dick wrote a document titled Building a Faith Based Sustainability Movement, in which they say: “There is no doubt that the faith communities have developed renewed awareness and sense of urgency about caring for God’s creation. As evidenced by the publication of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Our Common Home, and other denomination faith statements, saving our endangered earth is emerging as the moral issue of our time.”

The Interfaith Green Network started six years ago when a group of congregations met to talk about how they could respond to climate change. They formed the Interfaith Green Network with Jim Babcock of First United and Dick Alton of Euclid Ave. United Methodist as co-coordinators.

So far, 22 congregations have participated in activities organized by the Interfaith Green Network, including informational meetings, workshops, and tours of existing green facilities. “Sharing Approaches That Work,” was one of their most successful evening events, in which representatives from various congregations highlighted their green initiatives in order to inspire others.

Collaboration with Gary Cuneen, Executive Director of Seven Generations Ahead, and lead consultant for the implementation of PlanItGreen, has been fruitful. Gary has explained the PlanItGreen initiative to congregations and hosted a lunch for congregation building engineers. The PlanItGreen check lists for individuals and congregations suggest practical ways people can help build a more sustainable planet.

Sixty percent of the population of Oak Park and River Forest is associated with one of the area’s faith communities. The Interfaith Green Network with the support of the OPRF Community Foundation, hopes to leverage the collective impact of this sector of the community, by supporting collaborative action.

If you would like more information about the Interfaith Green Network, contact Dick Alton at richard.alton@gmail.com.