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Kalamazoo Church Seeks Carbon Neutrality

Dan Nichols

A church in Kalamazoo says it hopes to be "net zero" in carbon emissions by the end of the decade.

The People’s Church held an event Sunday, July 18, promoting electric cars. People’s Church Trustee Tom Hackley says its trying to cut their emissions to "net zero" by 2030. The electric car rally was held as the church showed its recently installed electric vehicle charging stations.

“It started in my first meeting with the Green Sanctuary Committee,” Hackley says. “‘I said, 'Why don’t we pick something big like net zero by 2030?’ Thinking that everybody would say, 'No we can’t do that,' but everybody said, ‘Great run with it!’”

Hackley says the church has already installed solar panels on its roof to further reduce reliance on fossil fuels. In the future, he hopes it will improve insulation at the church to save energy. Hackley says cutting the church’s emissions to "net zero" is a huge task. But he says when companies like Consumers Energy provide grants, that makes it easier for congregations to go "green."

“Consumers Energy has a grant that covers almost the entire cost of putting it (the charging stations) in,” Hackley says. “We had talked about it and we know there are quite a few members of the church who are driving either hybrids or electric vehicles, so we thought, well, okay, that’s a value to our members.”

Hope for Creation, the Kalamazoo Climate Crisis Coalition, the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, and Kalamazoo Electric Vehicle Association co-sponsored the electric car event. Hackley says he hopes it inspires others to cut their carbon emissions.

“Many other congregations have the same kind of goals,” Hackley says. “I would love to encourage not just churches but businesses, homeowners, you know, everybody who has a building, to do something that will not only save them money but will reduce their carbon footprint.”

Western Michigan University professor Paul Pancella was a guest speaker at the event. He addressed the ways electric vehicles are superior to gasoline-powered vehicles. He says one example is lower maintenance costs.

“There’s a whole lot that’s not there,” Pancella says. “Exhaust systems just aren’t there. It can’t break because it’s not there. All the pollution controls you don’t need it, they're not there.”

But Pancella says there are some challenges in driving an all-electric vehicle. There's a lack of charging stations and limited range, typically around 300 miles. And he says the effects of cold weather can make electric vehicles more difficult to own.