Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Office of Energy & Climate Change

Faith and Environmental Stewardship

Many faith traditions connect their spiritual faith to environmental stewardship or care of creation. When faith communities address environmental stewardship they influence the practices and values of their members. An effort that begins aiming to save money at the church facility might inspire dozens of members to be more sustainable at home or work, reinforcing shared values and delivering multiple benefits to the community.

We are delighted to collaborate with faith groups in their efforts around clean energy and climate action. Here you can find clean energy, climate action, and sustainability resources for Dane County's faith communities. Learn more:


Connecting Faith & Environmental Stewardship

Lit candle
Many faith traditions include a commitment to environmental stewardship. For example:

To learn more about the connection between faith and stewardship, visit the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology, which has a broad set of resources covering religious traditions. 

In addition, many groups, including the Ho-Chunk Nation that first occupied our region, share a commitment to sustainability, and to use resources wisely, with an eye toward the needs of future generations.

Dane County’s Climate Action Plan aims to prioritize strategies that reduce emissions while also addressing equity and justice, delivering economic benefits, and improving the health and wellness of residents. These co-benefits provide a powerful summary of important moral arguments for addressing climate change. Many of those moral arguments are likely to resonate with faith traditions.




Green Your Facility and Operations

If your faith community is committed to environmental stewardship consider evaluating environmental impact within your operations, which can inspire your members to take action in their own lives. Your focus might be energy usage at your facility, waste issues or broader emissions, including emissions associated with member commutes to and from services. 

Resources for Greening Facilities
    Resources for Greening Fleets

    Let us know if you find other useful resources we should add to this list!



Examples of Local Successes

Faith communities across Dane County have been doing great work to green their operations and to engage members. You can learn from their efforts.

Bethany photo

Bethany Free Church 

Bethany Free Church pursued energy efficiency including insulation, heating and ventilation. They found that these efforts were the most cost effective at the time (2010).  They have also upgraded lighting, with exterior lights on a smart timer to minimize time that light is on using energy and causing light pollution.  

FUS photo

First Unitarian Society

First Unitarian Society reduced their energy use by 25% via efficiency measures. They also installed a solar energy system, which reduced their their carbon footprint by another 25%. Learn more in our Success Stories

Learn more

St John's solar on roof

St. John's Lutheran Church 

St. John’s Lutheran in Oregon recently installed solar that reduced its energy use 26%.  

Aerial view of solar on Memorial UCC

Memorial UCC

Memorial United Church of Christ installed solar and inspired several members to install solar as well. 

Learn more

St Dennis Interior

St. Dennis Parish

St Dennis installed solar and then challenged members to do a household carbon footprint.   

Blessed Sacrament

Blessed Sacrament

Blessed Sacrament recently completed efficiency upgrades for its heat plant and upgraded most of its lighting to LEDs. 

Learn more

Middleton UCC solar panels

Middleton Community Church UCC

Middleton Community Church UCC installed solar in 2016. They also upgraded most lighting to LEDs. It has switched from single-use dishes to reusable ones, and invites members to keep their own mugs on shelves at church for fellowship times. In 2020 a bike rack was added at the church to encourage biking to church. Several members have been inspired to purchase hybrid or electric vehicles.     

Midvale Community Lutheran Church

Midvale Community Lutheran Church

Midvale Community Lutheran Church has an Energy Task Force. Completed energy saving projects include: replacement of 1965 vintage wood casement windows in the Education Wing, replacement of all incandescent, fluorescent, and metal halide lamps with LED lamps. To keep costs down they used volunteer labor and completed the project for under $6,000. These efforts reduced our electrical consumption by 14,000 kWh and our electrical demand by over 29 kW, resulting in an annual 14% savings in electric cost.  

Learn more

Let us know if you've got a success story from your faith community to add to this list! 



Engagement Strategies

Faith communities can take climate action in a variety of ways:

  • Put weekly ecology tips in the bulletin announcements
  • Plan an outdoor religion class or field trip
  • Encourage youth to do a creative environmental project
  • Hold adult forums featuring church and secular experts on clean energy or climate change
  • Have a work day where people care for church grounds or clean up the neighborhood to practice stewardship
  • Hold a fundraiser by selling seedlings
  • Serve as a host site for a community garden
  • Encourage faith leaders to recognize Earth Day in worship services
  • Include local lakes, parks, and animals in prayers
  • Hold a film series (The Human Element, Paris to Pittsburgh, An Inconvenient Sequel, Escarpment, Happy Feet, March of the Penguins, Princess Mononoke, This Changes Everything, Kiss the Ground) 
  • Hold a book study. Potential books to read include: 
    • Care of the Earth or Evocations of Grace, Sittler 
    • Church on Earth, Wild & Bakken 
    • Climate Church, Climate World, Antal 
    • Earth-Wise, Cal DeWitt 
    • God, Creation, and Climate Change, ed. Bloomquist 
    • Our Father's World - Mobilizing the Church to Care for Creation, Ed Brown (Madison local) 
    • Caring for Creation - The Evangelicals' Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment, Hescox and Douglas 
    • The Lorax, Seuss 
    • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Dillard
    • Moral Ground, ed. Moore and Nelson
  • Promote the use of environmentally friendly products.
  • Encourage members to assess their carbon footprint and set goals to reduce their overall emissions.

Faith communities have the ability to inspire deep change across your community. Making sustainabilty the 'new normal' means that everyone shares a commitment to environmental stewardship.

Are you ready to inspire businesses and residents to adopt sustainable practices in their own lives? Are you already thinking about how key institutions such as local houses of worship or beloved landmarks can take action that inspires others? Much research exists on what works--and doesn't work--to influence practices. Here are some important considerations as you think about inspiring change:

  • Reinforce the positiveResearch shows that shaming people is not effective. Instead, celebrate successes, which serves to inspire others to strive for recognition and prompt those you've recognized to do even more. So take time to recognize leaders in your community. Dane County's Clean Energy Map is an example of how we are recognizing leaders. Think about ways you can recognize leaders locally too.
  • Leverage social norms. Humans are social creatures--we take cues from the people around us all the time. Use this to your advantage! For example, talk about the increase in local bike commuting because when residents hear that their neighbors are biking it will inspire some of them to bike too. Be careful, though, to only reinforce norms you want to grow. For example, if you talk about an increase in littering, littering becomes more likely.
  • Focus. When presented with too many options most of us choose to do nothing. If you want action, provide two or three specific suggestions. Once adopted, you can suggest a few more actions. To do this, think thematically. For example, focus on water issues in the summer and then talk about energy actions in the fall. 
  • Make it easy to be sustainable. Remove the barriers to the practices you want people to adopt. If you want more recycling, make it easier to recycle by putting a recycling bin next to every trash bin and make clear what goes in which bin. Local governments have a lot of ability to make sustainable choices easier. Think, for example, about your permiting process for solar electric systems. Is it set up to make it easy for residents and businesses to get solar? 



Connect to Other Faith Communities on Stewardship, Clean Energy & Climate Action

Collaborating with other like-minded faith communities is powerful. You can learn from what others are doing, challenge your community to achieve similar goals, or team up with other faith communities on bigger initiatives.

The Dane County Office of Energy & Climate Change convenes a group of faith leaders interested in climate action and stewardship quarterly. The aim is to promote idea sharing and collaboration, both among the leaders and with our office. If you would like to learn more or join the discussion, let us know.

A variety of state, national and global initiatives are available for your faith community can connect to others. To learn more about specific faith-based climate initiatives check out the following coalitions and resources: