The Katy Gerke Memorial Program
The KGMP at Work
The Federated Church of East Arlington, Vermont
We recently asked Alyson Ruby Grzyb, a member of the Federated Church of East Arlington about their efforts to save energy and to reduce the carbon emissions of their church building. The following are her answers to our questions:
How did you decide to proceed with your energy efficiency project? - There was a grant available through Efficiency Vermont that would allow us to do a deep energy retrofit . We thought it was the right time to do the project, knowing that a big portion of it would be covered and that it would reduce our energy costs for the coming years. To further save on out of pocket costs we utilized the VT Interfaith Power and Light grant to mostly cover the costs of new LED light bulbs for the sanctuary and gathering hall of the church building.
What obstacles did you have to overcome, and how did you overcome them? - The grant was spread out over a couple years so there was a fairly significant upfront cost that then got mostly paid back over the course of the next two years. We had some savings that we were able to use for those upfront costs and felt that the long-term effect of energy savings would be worth it.
Can you share information about changes in your energy use following the project? - Although our energy savings were not as significant as we had hoped for (we were hoping for a 50% or more decrease in energy costs) we did still have savings (more like 30-40% decrease in energy costs) that have continued over the years.
Have you undertaken any additional energy efficiency projects? If yes, can you share what you've done? - We have not undertaken any additional energy efficiency projects since that time.
The rest of their story:
In 2016 the church replaced two (2) old propane boilers and an electric hot water heater with one (1) high-efficiency propane boiler and a heat pump water heater. These new appliances were great, but the building was still poorly insulated, so this new equipment couldn’t live up to its potential in terms of energy savings.
In the spring of 2017 the church applied for and was accepted to be part of a Deep Energy Retrofit Pilot program through Efficiency Vermont. Through this pilot program the attic and basement areas of the church were weather-sealed and the level of insulation was significantly increased.
At the same time as this pilot program, the church applied for a matching grant from Vermont Interfaith Power and Light through the Katy Gerke Memorial Program. We were approved for the grant which was used to upgrade all of the lighting in the sanctuary and parish hall with energy efficient LED lighting.
By performing these energy efficiency improvements the church has been able to reduce its energy useage, and thus energy costs by approximately 40%. These improvements have also reduced our carbon emissions and to manifest our caring for Creation.
United Church of Dorset & East Rupert
One example of a Vermont faith community that has used the Katy Gerke Memorial Program to take actions to address the climate crisis and the threat it presents to Creation is the United Church of Dorset & East Rupert.
The Green Team at the United Church of Dorset & East Rupert
Founded in 1784 the Dorset Church, now the United Church of Dorset & East Rupert, has a history of almost 250 years of spiritual commitment to its community and to Creation. Now, with its active Green Team it’s preparing for its members and their grandchildren through its commitment to reducing its carbon emissions.
Originally heated with locally cut wood, the church at some point switched to heating with fuel oil. Recognizing their commitment to Creation and the negative effects of burning fossil fuel, the Green Team’s purpose is to reduce their church’s carbon emissions while also saving money. To pursue this the Green Team has lead the congregation in making the following changes:
- Replacing the oil-fired water heater with an energy efficient heat pump water heater.
- Installing cold-climate heat pumps to heat their administrative rooms
- Installing a cold climate heat pump to heat/cool the sanctuary
- Installing programmable thermostats when the heat pumps were installed.
A portion of the cost for these changes was provided by a grant from Vermont Interfaith Power and Light, www.VTIPL.org.
These changes have enabled them to reduce their heating fuel use by approximately 50%. And, although their electricity use has almost tripled, all of their electricity is clean, renewable solar generated. They’ve met their immediate goal of reducing their carbon emissions while saving money.
These are not the first things the Green Team has undertaken to reduce their energy use and carbon emissions. In 2013 they had an energy audit done with help from a Vermont Interfaith Power and Light grant and had weatherization and air sealing done. The also switched their incandescent lights to LEDs and in 2016 replaced fluorescent fixtures with LEDs.
Until COVID took over, they were running a van- pool once a month to take parishioners and neighbors to Aldi’s in Bennington for grocery shopping. It was a boon to some who were not confident about driving and certainly a gas saver. Each chipped in $2 for gas and had a good time to boot. They look forward to resuming and perhaps expanding this service.
But, the Green Team is not done. Future plans call for further reducing their heating oil use for the Sunday School rooms, the Pastor’s study and the Vestry. They’re also looking at the manse, which is heated by oil, and they’re discussing carbon-free transportation, composting and “natural burials.
The Green Team at the United Church of Dorset & East Rupert has made a meaningful commitment to Creation and is continuing to look for ways to further that commitment.