Archive for the ‘Michigan’ Category

Michigan Interfaith Power & Light

June 2nd, 2007 by Bill

We scheduled many events for this project months in advance. At the same time we were scheduling events, we were also trying to figure out our bicycle route. As we rode towards Michigan, we realized that we didn’t have time to do the talk in Monroe and still get to Chicago on time for events there. So we utilized multi-modal transportation. This is a great term that means using more than one mode of transportation to reach your destination. A few cities offer good multi-modal transportation where you can, for example, ride your bike to the bus and put the bike on a rack and then bus across town before hopping on your bike again to reach your destination. Many cities need further work to make this a realistic form of transportation for people.

Father Charles' Hybrid Honda Civic

We looked into a train but soon found that this Amtrak line does not allow bicycles. Then Father Charles came to the rescue. Father Charles is a friend who helped to set-up our talk in Monroe. He was already heading to Grand Rapids for a conference and offered to give us a ride in his Honda Civic Hybrid. We caught a ride to E. Lansing which took 120 miles off of our route (no, we don’t count these miles in our total) and allowed us to reach Chicago in time for the group ride. We also had the opportunity to interview Father Charles and hear why he is so concerned about global warming and what he is doing about it.

Father Charles was ordained a Catholic Priest in 1983. In the 90’s he went back to school and got a masters degree in urban planning with a focus on environmental justice. His interest in global warming peaked due to three main things:

1. A woman in his parish challenged him to rekindle his interest in environmental concerns (again showing the impact one person can have);
2. Dr. James Hansen of Nasa gave testimony in 1988 about the emerging threat of global warming;
3. He read Dream of the Earth by Thomas Berry.

Father Charles went on to start Michigan Interfaith Power and Light (and this how I met him – when I worked for the national organization). Michigan Interfaith Power and Light works with member congregations to educate people of global warming and find practical solutions. They help congregations save money with energy efficient products, work with congregations to find developers and contractors who can build with energy conservation and efficiency in mind and educate others about these solutions.

Interfaith Power and Light

In his own Church, they invested $160K in things such as a much more efficient boiler, new lighting, energy efficient windows, and Energy Star appliances. The results were a 60% reduction of energy use and a savings of over $20,000 each year in energy costs. Results like these are possible for many homes and buildings by conducting an energy audit and implementing the findings.

Visiting the Sisters of Monroe, Michigan

June 1st, 2007 by Bill
Barn, Bill
A wind turbine, a compact florescent, and a programmable thermostat!  All in downtown Monroe!  (At the store Independent Energy)

We rode along farm roads into Monroe, Michigan and arrived on a warm afternoon at the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Motherhouse. This is a 280 acre community of over 500 vowed sisters. Their website describes an important part of their mission:

“In today’s world, people are often alienated from one another and from the Earth. There is unequal access to the resources of the planet; oppression of persons and cultures for the material benefit of a few; consumerism promoted as the preferred way of life; and devastating pollution to our land, air and water. There is a longing for spiritual expression and a balanced way of life.

Our IHM community considers sustainability a moral mandate for the 21st century. We are re-visioning our community and our entire Monroe campus in ways that respond to the wider needs of the world, focusing on the interdependency and interrelation of economic, environmental and social equity.”

Sue gives us a tour of the IHM Sister's Motherhouse - what an amazing place!

Sister Sue gave us a tour of the main building — an impressive art-deco structure that was built in the 1930’s and recently renovated. Many elements of sustainable design went into the renovation, but a few energy-related highlights include:

A geothermal heating and cooling system that utilizes the Earth’s constant 55 degree temperature. Water is circulated underground through 54 miles of pipe and used to help with both heating and cooling of the 376,000 sq. foot Motherhouse.
Energy consumption was reduced by maximum use of daylighting, programmed lighting, and energy efficient lighting (including many 1930’s fixtures which were restored and updated for use with energy efficient light bulbs).
Resused & salvaged materials including doors and windows and marble.
A graywater system which saves 6,200 gallons of water a day from heading directly to an energy intensive water treatment plant. It captures water from sinks and showers and filters it through a constructed wetland before returning it to the Motherhouse for use in flushing toilets.

A talk at the IMH Motherhouse in Monroe
Lunch at the IHM Sister's house

The average age of the 220 resident sisters is 86. These women have taken on a huge committment to offer a model for others. David and I had a fantastic time hearing about the work they have done and hopefully gained some wisdom from their learning. We gave a presentation to the sisters and to people from the local community and appeared in the local newspaper.