Some local congregations are going green

BBRIDGEVIEW, Ill. From the south suburbs to the north shore, "green" is the common theme in a growing number of places of worship. The faithful say they are following orders from a higher power.

At The Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, worshippers pray with expectations of answers, but also with the knowledge of their own responsibilities to care for the earth.

Connie Martin of The Mosque Foundation said, "We've always encouraged people to recycle, not to waste water, not to waste food."

So when they decided to remodel their building, it was an easy decision to also conserve energy and protect resources.

"Our prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, he said that even if a river runs outside your door, you only use as much water as you need. You don't waste it."

The south suburban mosque is believed to be the first mosque in the nation atopped with solar panels, which heat its water. The carpet is made from recycled materials. Plus, there are lots of windows and a skylight to maximize natural light.

Rev. Clare Butterfield heads an organization called Faith in Place. Her group helps congregations to put environmental issues into a religious context.

"We'll help you with changing light bulbs and taking those small steps and then build up a culture of care that can lead to larger steps like building a LEED building or putting a solar hot water system in."

In Evanston, the newly-built Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation boasts a platinum level LEED rating. LEED, short for leadership in energy and environmental design, is an offshoot of the U.S. Green Building Council. That group sets standards for environmentally sustainable construction.

"Green values, environmental values have been at the core of many spiritual traditions for thousands of years," said Rabbi Brant Rosen.

Features like reclaimed wood on the walls and floor, an ark made from recycled scraps, a solar-powered eternal light, motion-lights in every room and cabinets made from sunflower husks are just a few of the features that helped this synagogue earn the highest LEED certification. Rabbi Brant Rosen says it all follows the teachings of their faith.

"Judaism teaches from the very first chapter in the book of Genesis, that God creates a world that is a sustainable world or potentially sustainable by humanity. It is given to humanity certainly to use and to benefit from, but ultimately to sustain for future generations."

Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn recently awarded both The Mosque Foundation and the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation for their environmental efforts.

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