I remember 12 months ago when I was wondering how Climate Justice Niagara was going to fulfil the promise that we made at the Synod of the Diocese of Niagara in 2021, a promise that we could create an energy audit program for the Diocese of Niagara and help parishes reduce their carbon footprint.
Fortunately, having a great committee, and with a lot of prayer, we were able to produce a self-guided questionnaire and found some amazing parishes that were willing to participate and be the guinea pigs.
As we took the first tentative steps in the Diocese of Niagara, I met Mark Gibson from the Diocese of Montreal via the Creation Matters Working Group (CMWG). I have been a member of CMWG for about six years, but Mark was a new member, and we discovered that we were working on similar ideas. One of my major prayers had been answered—someone who could create a database.
Mark had already established contact with Concordia University, and a PhD student was starting to do thermal imaging at a church in Montreal. Working with an infrared camera is going to be a new way for building audits to be improved.
As Mark and I shared ideas on CMWG meetings, other diocesan committee members started taking an interest and wanted to know more. Net Zero Churches was created, and now five dioceses are actively using the building audit forms that we created. What started in Niagara has gone national, as our original questionnaire was further enhanced and is used by Net Zero Churches.
The dioceses of New Westminster, Nova Scotia & PEI, and Ottawa are currently signed up to the Net Zero Churches project and are beginning to engage parishes. Four other dioceses are hoping to be full partners and currently looking for local coordinators to run the program.
Humber College in Toronto, in addition to Concordia University, have been helpful in sharing their insights and working with Net Zero Churches. We have several energy and building advisors, architects, and other professionals to advise as needed. Green Churches Network, as well as Faith and the Common Good, have become willing partners and help with advice and resources. The Net Zero Churches Project is totally volunteer-led and free to congregations of any denomination or faith group. Contact has been made with Lutherans, Roman Catholics, and the United and Alliance churches, as well as with Muslim groups.
Net Zero Churches have more than 30 congregations participating in our energy or building surveys, with ten congregations expected per year from each diocese. As part of this, we are continuously improving our assessment tools and discovering new ways to present our findings.
The biggest challenge for Net Zero Churches is we have not found a financial “home.” Net Zero Churches needs a diocese or other charitable organization that will sponsor this ministry and receive donations on our behalf to cover our minimal costs for publicity and training.
In the Diocese of Niagara, an exciting new part of the project happened at Incarnation in March. Students from Humber College who are training to complete an Energy Auditors’ course came to take photos using an infrared camera. The thermal imaging will support potential building envelope recommendations to be given to Church of the Incarnation. For more information check our website: www.netzerochurches.ca