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The latest group to rally for green living may be surprising to you but makes perfect sense when you look at the big picture.

Catholic churches throughout Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties are now rallying against climate change, and have joined hands with an environmental nonprofit to reduce their parishes’ carbon footprints.

This past June, Bishop Richard J. Garcia wrote a letter to priests and deacons within the Diocese of Monterey, calling on the 34 churches within the diocese to live the words set down by Pope Francis, whose 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si, urges humankind to act now to save the earth.

Pope Francis’s revolutionary encyclical acknowledged that global warming and climate change are real, and that humans are the cause. He also asserted that the poor are already suffering the most from the impacts of climate change, making this not just an environmental issue, but “an issue of justice,” writes Garcia.

The diocese launched its church-based environmental program two weeks ago with a gathering of church leaders, who were introduced to the Romero Institute, a faith-based nonprofit law and policy center that is the diocese’s partner in this venture. The Santa Cruz-based Romero Institute is on the steering committee of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, the group that was instrumental in getting 1.8 million signatures, including the pope’s, to the Paris climate change talks last year.

Green Power, a subsidiary of the Romero Institute, is working with local Catholic churches to train and advise parish Green Teams on steps they can take to reduce their parish’s carbon footprint.

Deacon Warren Hoy, director of family life and social justice ministries for the Monterey Diocese, says the recent gathering gave church leaders the tools they need to fight climate change.

“We’re very excited about partnering with the Romero Institute’s Green Power team to help ‘green’ our church,” said Hoy. “The July 17 gathering at Resurrection Church in Aptos is a direct response to Pope Francis’ call to love and care for our planetary home.”

Parishioners and the parishes alike will be aided in lowering their electricity consumption, living more simply and sustainably, and moving toward the use of renewable energy, Garcia writes: “Lowering carbon levels is now imperative to protect the earth.”

After a parish has reduced its power usage, Green Power will help guide the parish toward use of renewable energy sources like solar power. Parishioners will be able to learn about Community Choice Energy, a locally controlled alternative to the monopoly utility model for counties and cities to provide electricity to their citizens.

Monterey Bay Community Power is the consortium of county and city officials spearheading the creation of a Monterey region community choice program, which could begin serving up to 21 municipalities by summer 2017. An outreach partner of MBCP, Green Power is working with the diocese to educate Catholics about Community Choice.

Given that nearly 32 percent of citizens living in the tri-county region are Catholic, Daniel Sheehan, president of Green Power and the Romero Institute, is hopeful that the collaboration with the diocese will substantially lower greenhouse gas emissions.

“The Diocese of Monterey is taking a major step forward by engaging both the lifestyle and policy fronts of the climate problem,” says Sheehan. “Parishes going green and educating Catholics about Community Choice Energy is a sophisticated, bold way to mitigate global warming.”

Do you have questions or tips about sustainable living around the Central Coast? Send them to Kathryn McKenzie at Follow Living Green on Twitter for tips,

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