Churches find 'bright idea' for eco-justice
Written by Gayle Elizabeth Starling
October 2002

"Whose bright idea was this anyway?"

That question, usually asked in a sarcastic manner, readily can be answered and explained by members of youth groups of the UCC and other denominations around the country who have taken part in an environmental and energy saving project called, naturally, "A Bright Idea."

Under the auspice of the National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Working Group, in cooperation with participating denominations, A "Bright Idea" also is sponsored by Brethern Press, the publishing house of the Church of the Brethren.

The concept behind "A Bright Idea," is to motivate consumers into swapping their incandescent light bulbs to the more environmentally correct ones known as compact flourescent light (CFL) bulbs.

This resourceful project encourages participants to start a project, follow through and complete it while raising funds to help support their youth group programs.

Replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLs reduces emissions by using 75 per cent less electricity. The CFLs, cooler than their counterparts, produce light and not heat. This way the bulbs consume only one-fourth the electricity needed for the same luminance of a regular bulb. An incandescent light bulb makes light by heating a filament to "white hot," generating 90 per cent heat and only 10 per cent light.

First Congregational UCC in Hartland, Wis., was one of the original churches that started introducing CFLs to the public. Terry Burki, a member of First Congregational, spearheads the promotion and sales of the CFLs by her church's youth group. "The kids put on a skit on Earth Day detailing all the benefits of compact flourescent light bulbs versus the incandescent ones. After the skit, 82 CFLs were sold," says Burki. "I especially liked how the youth were teaching the adults ... many [adults] had never heard of CFLs and were astounded to discover they use only a quarter of the energy of a regular bulb."

Allene Long, a member of United Church (Presbyterian/United Church of Christ) in Big Rapids, Mich., helped her church's youth group sell CFLs last year. The cost per light bulb was $7 and the bulbs were sold at cost. "One of the main goals of our venture was to show people how they could live more simply and responsibly," Long says. "By getting people to change their bulbs, we hoped to spread the word."

Compact flourescent light bulbs are available at United Church throughout the year in the church office or sometimes sold after Sunday services.

Since the CFL project was introduced last summer, youth groups in 62 congregations and 20 states have participated, says Russ Matteson of Brethren Press.

To date, 5,000 CFLs have been sold. With the use of those 5,000 comes a staggering reduction of 656 pounds of soot, 15,750 pounds of sulfur dioxide and 8,550 pounds of nitrogen oxide.

The Rev. Richard Killmer, NCC Director for Environmental Justice, notes that the CFL fund-raisers are "far more significant than selling candy bars." Killmer says, "The CFL is a product that does good ... it involves the youth in doing education about climate change. It builds on the fact that today's youth are more environmentally aware. For them, this project makes sense."

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For more information about "A Bright Idea," contact Russ Matteson at Youth CFL Project, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; e-mail  rmatteson_gb@brethren.org.

For information about conducting a CFL sale at your church, call Brethern Press at 800-441-3712 and ask for a CFL promotional packet.

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