About Rachel Ellis

Sustainable, Sacred Hanukkah

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Hanukkah: a time of remembrance, and gathering with community around the light. In all that you celebrate, GIPL encourages us all to practice the  Four R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Return to the central meaning of the holiday for a more sustainable witness.

As you join with family and friends to celebrate, here are a few ways you can honor Creation:

From 8 Easy Tips for an Environmentally Friendly Hanukkah at haaretz.com:

• Burn olive oil, not petroleum. The commonly found rainbow Hanukkah candles are made from paraffin (petroleum). Keep the petroleum out of your menorah by burning beeswax or vegetable candles. Alternatively, be just like the Maccabees and burn pure olive oil.

• Go small, go local. Every food choice we make is an opportunity to fulfill our obligations to protect Creation. Industrial agriculture’s approach to growing food is oppressive and is treated like warfare: us versus them. The use of heavy pesticides and fertilizers destroys critical nutrients in soil, and pollutes the air and water. Dead soil is gone forever; it cannot be replenished. By buying produce from small, local farmers, you opt to protect and preserve local food systems and support foods grown without harmful chemicals that poison our air, water and health. Continue reading

Sightings From the Treehouse: The Eleventh Commandment: Thou Shall Not Destroy Creation

Sightings from the Treehouse is an investigative blog series on climate change and the environment, from GIPL’s Power Wise Director, Bob Donaghue. You can read all the posts from the blog series here

The destruction of Creation, as we know it, is the moral issue of all time. This growing
ecological and human catastrophe exists for power and greed by the few who continue to foster
a consumption-based economy dependent on fossil fuels. They knew about this evolving
disaster almost 50 years ago, but chose deception instead of truth. They sustain their control
with political contributions, obstruction and misinformation campaigns. The public does not get
off the hook either, since they have a huge responsibility to be informed voters and consumers
driving government and business to innovate. Not to let them drive decision-making and
reinforce unsustainable habits. We all share some blame.
Continue reading

Sightings From the Treehouse: Soft Landing or Runaway Train?

Sightings from the Treehouse is an investigative blog series on climate change and the environment, from GIPL’s Power Wise Director, Bob Donaghue. You can read all the posts from the blog series here

It is amazing the wide array of technologies available today to cut our fossil fuel emissions. Solar panels are getting competitive and battery technology is improving to store energy obtained through renewable sources. Wind power is abundant in the heartland. Electric cars are getting cheaper with greater ranges, and Volvo has indicated they will stop making gas-powered cars by 2019. Cities are moving forward on sustainability and millions of people are marching in the streets around the world to fight efforts to weaken support for clean air, water and a healthy planet.

Quite appropriately, as the current administration withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord, industry, cities and ordinary citizens are banding together to live up to the goals of the climate accord. Many city mayors (including Atlanta), governors and corporations are seeking a UN agreement vowing to meet the Paris Climate goals for 2025. Other companies indicated they are progressing on developing renewable energy and building sustainability into their operations. Fortunately, most of the technologies, behaviors, and actions needed to effectively fight climate change are in existence now. They just need to be implemented and scaled up globally. Continue reading

Sightings from the Treehouse: Preparing and Adapting to Climate Change in Georgia

Sightings from the Treehouse is an investigative blog series on climate change and the environment, from GIPL’s Power Wise Director, Bob Donaghue. You can read all the posts from the blog series here

Georgia is feeling the pinch of climate change.  Tides are rising along the Georgia coast, temperatures are on an uptrend, plant and wildlife species and their habitats are threatened with a resultant loss of ecosystem services. There are a wide range of activities by a wide range of non-profits, business and governments to mitigate or adapt to climate change.  An important player in implementing actions to reduce their carbon footprints is the faith community.  There are 15,000 houses of worship in Georgia, a few hundred are making strides in reducing their energy use, others are actively divesting from fossil fuels companies in their financial portfolios, and a few have full blown Creation care programs. Continue reading

A Modest Proposal: Three New Year’s Resolutions for Our Organizations

An invitation to pursue our green ends through slightly greener means.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye
and pay no attention to the plank in your own?” Luke 6:41

I am standing in line outside the EPA on a weekday morning, waiting with dozens of environmental advocates to go in and testify on behalf of the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution. All down the long line, in almost every hand, is a single-use disposable coffee cup. Inside the hearing room, four earnest EPA employees receive our testimony, from behind a row of plastic water bottles and disposable cups. At a press conference organized that afternoon by a major environmental organization, volunteers pick up box lunches provided by the organization, many with ham and beef sandwiches.

A group of national environmental groups trying to stop the Keystone XL pipeline gathers for a meeting at a table (strewn, again, with disposable cups), and plan a “fly-in” of people from across the country to testify against the pipeline.

There is a row of disposable cups, too, at the opening panel at a state governor’s climate conference, in front of a panel including a climate activist, a scientist, and the governor himself. For lunch, attendees are treated to a lunch including bacon-wrapped meatloaf.

Does any of this matter?

Of course, we know disposable cutlery and bottled water produce garbage and disinvest the public from public water sources. We know eating lower on the food chain reduces our carbon footprint, and that air travel and other fossil-fueled transit is warming the climate.

But our organizations have so much work to do and so few people to do it in such a short time. We just try to get our work done as cheaply and conveniently as possible, and tell ourselves that our organizations’ direct day-to-day contribution to environmental problems is small. Continue reading

Good Things Come in Trees

January is a time of new life and renewal, and we’re excited to greet this first month of a new year with our hands in the soil!

We have three tree-planting opportunities coming up in the next two weeks. Please join us for one (or all!):

January 18MLK Day Interfaith Tree Planting at historic Southview Cemetery

January 24Tu B’shvat Tree Planting in Kirkwood

January 24Orchard Planting in partnership with Fruit Forward Orchards at Marcus Jewish Community Center honoring GIPL’s founding board members

Winter is the best time for planting trees—and planting promise. Trees give us beauty while restoring balance to the earth for generations to come.

In the same way, December’s gathering in Paris of 190 world leaders to address climate change plants hope for generations to come. As GIPL’s Environmental Justice Coordinator Demarius Walker recenly shared in his reflection on COP 21: “It is the hope of many religions that the world should find peace through restoration of harmony.” Read more from his blog here.

More work is to be done with regards to the outcomes of the Paris climate agreement, no doubt. But planting trees and planting policies that support a sustainable future for our common home, that is what GIPL sets about as our work in 2016. We hope we can count on your support!

Make a New Year’s Resolution to Watch Your Waste

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The end-of-year holiday season is a time of great generosity, but it’s also a time of great excess.

According to the EPA, the volume of household waste in the United States increases 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That’s 1 million extra tons of trash in our landfills.  

We can do better! And we are. You can join us in our efforts to rein in our refuse by taking part in our free Waste Wise program. Through Waste Wise, your congregation will receive a waste audit to see what’s going in your dumpster, tips on how to better recycle, reuse, and repurpose your resources, and greater insight on the connection between our trash and our faith. Continue reading

Words of Reflection for the Winter Solstice

After the one extravagant gesture (of the beginning),
the universe has continued
to deal exclusively in extravagances,
flinging intricacies and colossi
down eons of emptiness,
heaping profusions on profligacies
with ever-fresh vigor.
The whole show has been on fire
from the word go.

I come down to the water to cool my eyes.
But everywhere I look I see fire;
that which isn’t flint is tinder,
and the whole world sparks and flames.

-Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek

Solar Surges in Georgia as COP21 Makes Climate History

Photo credit: Benoit Tessier / Reuters

GIPL joins with faith groups everywhere in hopeful celebration of the historic climate agreement made this weekend in Paris at COP 21. Representatives from 195 nations signed a pact that holds them to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. Though much more needs to be done, it is a huge step toward bringing the globe together in the name of climate change reduction.

IPL President Rev. Sally Bingham says:

“This is a historic moment. For the first time in human history, 196 nations have agreed that we are in a climate crisis and we can no longer delay action. The strong presence of civil society and the moral voice of faith traditions have been essential in pushing the negotiationsn forward … The Paris COP is a moral call for a safe climate for our children and grandchildren adn a critical step forward. There is much work to do to reach this goal, and U.S. faith communities will continue to advocate for stronger action from our government and financing for the most vulnerable.”

We cannot rest on our laurels. Everyone has a role to play. Not sure what to do? Click here to learn “Six Steps Every Person Must Take” in the wake of COP 21.

Here in Georgia, our efforts toward a clean energy future are picking up momentum! GIPL is part of a coalition that is bringing affordable solar power to Athens, Georgia. 

This Thursday, Solarize Athens kicks off at an official launch party at UGA’s Presbyterian Campus Center at 7:00 p.m.

Solarize will help make solar affordable for Athens-Clarke and Oconee County businesses, organizations, places of worship, and residences alike. Come out to meet the solar installer Alternative Energy Southeast, and be among the first to sign up for the program.

For more info about the event, click here.

And remember—projects like these are possible because of your generous support. Consider a donation to GIPL today. Your gift is matched through the end of the year! Donate here.


Alternative Energy Southeast Chosen for Solarize Athens

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Saturday, December 5, 9:00 AM

Colleen McLoughlin, colleen@environmentgeorgia.org, (o) 404-370-1764, (c) 908-675-3154

Alternative Energy Southeast chosen for Solarize Athens

On Friday, December 4, Alternative Energy Southeast (AES) was chosen as the contractor for Solarize Athens. Solarize Athens aids residents and businesses in going solar at a reduced cost; by buying from the same installer in the same time period, participants see savings of up to 30 percent.

“I’m absolutely thrilled for my company to be selected as the Solarize Athens installer,” said Montana Busch, founder and president of AES. “I lived there for five years and it’s still one of my favorite places to visit. The members of my crew who live in Athens currently are equally enthused.” Continue reading