South St. Paul

Let there be (energy efficient) light! South St. Paul church celebrates sustainability

November 2023

A beloved South St. Paul community church celebrates a sustainable path forward. Inspired by their savings after installing new thermostats and LED light bulbs, Clark-Grace United Church of Christ (UCC) applied for a CERTs Seed Grant to spread the energy efficiency gospel! The church organized South St. Paul’s first Earth Day Environmental Expo, which brought together church leaders, residents, and clean energy experts to celebrate and support clean energy in their community. 

The road to energy efficiency

People talking at a tableJoined together in 2013, Clark-Grace UCC is a combination of the traditionally European-American Clark Memorial UCC and traditionally African-American Grace Community UCC. It’s a church community that prides itself on its progressive, affirming ideals and a diverse congregation.

In 2021, Clark-Grace UCC faced a problem when one of their older furnaces failed with winter right around the corner. Understanding that their guests didn’t want to be shivering through Sunday service, the church assessed their options.

While working to solve the issue, the church received an energy audit, which uncovered more unpleasant news. They realized there were other inefficiencies which existed in the church, such as thermostats incorrectly set, inefficient lighting, and outdated HVAC systems.

Clark-Grace UCC wanted to share this learning experience with their community, so they came up with the idea of holding an outreach event centered around energy efficiency and conservation.

Clark-Grace United Church of Christ believes it is important to care for creation and to act as good stewards and preserve life for future generations. Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing humanity today and the church is  ‘walking the talk’ by reducing their carbon footprint, thus helping to reduce carbon emissions. Members are encouraged to model the same energy saving behavior at home that they see at their congregation.

Clark-Grace UCC Energy Efficiency Case Study

Spreading the good word

The CERTs Seed Grant kickstarted the Clark-Grace church to host the first Earth Day Environmental Expo in South St. Paul, allowing them to directly educate their community on energy efficiency and conservation. Reaching the South St. Paul community is particularly important because the area has been disproportionately harmed by poor environmental quality.

And for their first expo, it was an extravagant success! With lots of volunteer support to pull it off, nearly 40 community members came out to learn about saving energy. Home Energy Squad, a team of energy auditing experts who visit homes to identify and install energy-saving measures, were also on hand as an additional resource and to sign people up for home visits. They handed out LED lights to community members, and the church offered a discount for any families who signed up for a Home Energy Squad visit. 

Home Energy Squad sign

As Clark-Grace UCC went on their energy efficiency journey, they wanted to share their experience widely, hoping that would spur action from their congregants and the broader community. They created a case study report [PDF] detailing the problems they encountered, upgrades they made, and the connection between energy efficiency and climate change. 

Greenhouse gas emissions from the church, as well as the rest of the worlds’ fossil fuel use, is changing the climate. Thermostats are not just pieces of technology: how these devices are operated in buildings, including churches, impacts the environment.

Clark-Grace UCC Energy Efficiency Case Study

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The Earth Day Environmental Expo and Clark-Grace UCC’s report created lots of energy excitement. The report was shared directly with over 100 houses of worship in the area, and a blog containing the study was posted on the Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light website. It was also shared with broader UCC congregations. And locally, the event inspired the City of South St. Paul to take on future Earth Day Expo planning… What an impact! 


Clean Energy Focus: Home energy efficiency education and outreach with home energy assessment sign-ups

Metro CERT Seed Grant: $4,050

Other Funds Leveraged: utility supply of LED bulbs, bake sale proceeds, donations of seed packets and honey

Energy Saved Each Year: 26,400 kWh and 2,165 therms

Money Saved Each Year: $5,536

People Involved and Reached: 188



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