The planet is heading into trouble as the Western U.S. is burning and the intensity and number of storms are increasing in the South. You can definitely say carbon products are wrecking the planet’s climate system. We need to stop spewing planet-warming gases. One of the keys is the de-carbonization of the U.S. electricity grid. Solar power is being called the new king in global energy markets and the cheapest source of electricity in history.

Oak Park’s Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church took the lead in this de-carbonization in 2014 when it first installed a geothermal heating and cooling system, reducing its carbon footprint by 80%. Following geo-thermal, Euclid installed a 99-panel solar photovoltaic system on its roof, which reduced electricity usage from the grid by 27%.

Now, working with the Interfaith Green Network, Euclid has joined with other congregations to commit to Nexamp’s Community Solar program that, in principle, makes Euclid Net Zero.

Not only has Euclid de-carbonized its energy, which is saving the planet, but it is also saving its budget. In 2009 Euclid was paying $13,000 for gas and $7,000 for electricity. By 2014, gas and electricity had gone from $20,000 to $11,500. By adding new solar panels in 2014, electricity came in at $5,300 and gas $1,500. Now we are adding community solar, which will further reduce our energy bill. 

And this is just our church building. We are now asking our congregation members to take the leap into community solar, with no panels, no cost and you save up to 20% of your energy cost. Community Solar brings construction and other green energy-related jobs to low-employment regions of the state, and it supports Illinois farmers by paying them for their use of underutilized land.

Some may wonder if we can claim “Net Zero” since we are still paying $1,500/year for gas. But we are balancing this carbon emission by absorbing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere by planting two trees, having a butterfly garden, a rain garden and two electric car charging stations in our parking lot.

The Euclid Church motto is “Love God, Live Green and Liberate All.” We are definitely Living Green, plus helping to Liberate All. And I am sure caring for creation is Loving God.

P.S. Check out the new documentary movie, I am Greta, to find out why we need to panic. (Hint: Our house is on fire.)

Dick Alton is a member of Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church and the Interfaith Green Network.

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