Pilgrim Lutheran’s Race to Reduce

By Carl Samuelson, Pilgrim Lutheran Church

At Pilgrim Lutheran Church, we seek to be a leader in modeling solutions to the climate crisis. One of the ways we’ve met our mission is by joining Saint Paul’s Race to Reduce program, launched by Mayor Carter last year to engage the owners of large buildings and invite them to track their energy use. The program was an easy and meaningful way for Pilgrim to live our goals.

As part of Race to Reduce, we used a practice called energy benchmarking, which tracks how much energy a building consumes and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions it releases compared to similar buildings (e.g., other houses of worship). Energy benchmarking is a powerful tool that helps congregations identify strategies that will save energy, lower utility bills, and lessen the impact on God’s creation. Pilgrim has adopted aggressive energy reduction goals and benchmarking through Race to Reduce helps us track our progress.

Before committing to this year’s Race to Reduce, Pilgrim’s Caring for Creation team participated in the MNIPL Climate Justice Congregation program, undertaking a review of our values, priorities, and goals. It was through this process, which required us to both reflect and dream, we concluded that energy benchmarking is a practical and meaningful way to reduce our impact on Mother Earth and the Race to Reduce adds some fun to the process.    

Of 150 buildings that participated in last year’s Race to Reduce, Pilgrim was the only church. Our Caring for Creation Team invites all houses of worship in Saint Paul to join us and participate in the second annual Race to Reduce energy benchmarking challenge. 

While the Race to Reduce is only in Saint Paul, many other communities are promoting benchmarking in public and private buildings.  Congregations might find that there is support for them in their community. If you are located in Minneapolis or Hennepin County, in particular, there have been some big efforts on this front.

The photo pictured above is Pilgrim Member Carl Samuelson being congratulated by Mayor Carter and Chief Resilience Officer Russ Stark at last year’s recognition Race to Reduce ceremony. 

For more information and to get your congregation involved with this year’s Race to Reduce program, contact Molly Janis Smith at Molly.Smith@ci.stpaul.mn.us or go to the Race to Reduce website at www.stpaul.gov/racetoreduce.