ENERGY STAR Success Story: Detroit 2030 District
Detroit 2030 District Completes Successful House of Worship Treasure Hunt Series to Increase Sustainability
The Detroit 2030 District, launched in 2017, is a nonprofit with a mission to help building owners and managers reduce energy and water consumption as well as transportation emissions to and from their buildings. Detroit 2030 is 1 of 23 districts across North America working on the same mission to create healthy buildings and neighborhoods by reducing carbon emissions from the built environment and building operating expenses, which in turn will promote economic and environmental justice. Detroit 2030, with 35 million square feet in their program, focuses on buildings in Detroit that do not have dedicated staff or resources to address energy and water management. For that reason, they decided to partner with the faith community.
In July 2020, Detroit 2030 first began working with the EPA’s ENERGY STAR for Congregations program – beginning with a webinar presentation by ENERGY STAR on tools and resources for reducing energy and water consumption in worship facilities. What started as a one-time presentation grew into the basis for a much larger initiative once Detroit 2030 District Executive Director, Connie Lilley, learned about the ENERGY STAR Treasure Hunt strategy. ENERGY STAR Treasure Hunts are collaborative quests where teams of volunteers or employees uncover opportunities to save energy and water in a facility. A key resource of Treasure Hunts are Treasure Maps – step-by-step checklists used to identify building efficiency opportunities including lighting, heating and cooling, and water.
Lilley realized the Treasure Hunt materials would be an excellent resource for Detroit-area houses of worship and reached out to the national and regional ENERGY STAR representatives for support. Also, using her broad stakeholder network, Lilley brought together over 15 organizations, including Michigan Interfaith Power and Light as well as Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, to organize a Treasure Hunt competition pilot for congregations. Six houses of worship volunteered to participate and attended monthly meetings and presentations from subject-matter experts on various sustainability topics including energy and water reduction, recycling, waste management and more.
Each participating house of worship was assigned a dedicated technical support team of industry professionals to help them through the entire process which lasted about 8 months. In between meetings, the teams conducted facility walk-throughs and searched for ways to reduce energy and water consumption. Each team reported their findings, progress, and challenges monthly, and Detroit 2030 tracked implemented projects.
Four of the six participating houses of worship successfully completed the program and gave final presentations at a recognition event in October 2021 – these were Church of the Messiah, Community of Christ, Bethany Lutheran, and Saint Suzanne Our Lady Gate of Heaven Parish. Over 40 volunteers supported these teams in reaching this goal. Lilley noted the pilot highlight was watching participants turn the corner on understanding how they could make a difference by improving their building’s sustainable operations. One of the key lessons learned is not setting deadlines and encouraging participants to work at their own pace. Lilley said, “this was a fun and rewarding process that allowed participants to stay connected even in a virtual environment.”
From the EPA’s side, the project was an excellent opportunity to leverage ENERGY STAR Congregation materials and create a replicable model for others. It also opened the door for EPA to work with a dedicated and motivated partner in one of Region 5’s focus communities (Detroit) and in support of their environmental justice and climate change priorities. Lilley is looking forward to next year’s Treasure Hunt competition with more houses of worship participants and applying the lessons learned to make next year’s program even more successful.