Deep Green Champion: First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael

Deep Green Champion: First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael

The Deep Green Champion blog series celebrates businesses, nonprofits, and public agencies in our service area who have made a public commitment to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions with 100% renewable energy.

This January we are proud to highlight one of our Deep Green Champions, the First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael (FPCSR). We spoke with Ralph Purdy, FPCSR’s Green Team Chair and member of the Mission and Social Justice Committee, to learn more about the church’s environmental initiatives and why the congregation has made climate action a priority. 

Can you tell us about your congregation?

First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael is in the heart of San Rafael, and being a member has been a wonderful experience. One of the most important aspects of the church is the many opportunities it offers in mission outreach and social justice. For example, homelessness is a long-standing challenge in Marin County and we have joined with other congregations to provide overnight shelter and food, especially during the winter months. Another justice initiative is our Green Team, which addresses environmental issues. 

How has your faith influenced your connection to the environment?

Here are a few words by John Muir about the Sierra Nevada that capture my feelings: “Mountains holy as Sinai. No mountains I know of are so alluring. None so hospitable, kindly, tenderly inspiring. It seems strange that everybody does not come at their call. They are given, like the Gospel, without money and without price. ‘Tis heaven alone that is given away.”

I have a deep love of nature. It is painful for me to see the destruction of rainforests in Brazil and elsewhere and to see state-sized floating islands of plastic in the oceans. We are witnessing severe impacts of climate change right now in the form of sea level rise, hurricanes, and wildfires, and it deeply affects the poorest in the world. These feelings are shared by many others at FPCSR, particularly fellow members of our Green Team, and they drive us to act.

How does your congregation promote climate action?

We have devoted worship services to earth care and have presented announcements on positive environmental actions that congregation members can take. Outreach activities beyond our church include regular nature walks and carpooling. We have also joined and collaborated with local environmental organizations such as California Interfaith Power and Light, 350 Marin, Resilient Neighborhoods, and Marin Interfaith Climate Action. In 2018 our Green Team was formed to help keep us focused on caring for the environment on an ongoing basis.

What are the Green Team’s projects?

With the help of waste management in San Rafael, we set up bins for compost and recycling in the kitchen and elsewhere in our church, with detailed instructions displayed on signs. We no longer use disposable communion cups. Instead, we give wine-dipped bread to communicants.

We also contacted MCE to better understand our current electricity use and carbon footprint. We were so excited to see that MCE’s Deep Green service would save 14 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. The church has since moved to Deep Green energy. The Green Team also initiated switching our lighting throughout the church facility to LED bulbs. LED lighting is much more efficient, leading to a reduction in electricity use that will yield an annual savings of $8,000. We have also taken other steps to decrease our carbon footprint, such as programmable HVAC systems, motion sensors on lights, and faucets with aerators.

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