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Commentary By Rev. Jered Weber-Johnson: Weatherization Means Jobs

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A couple of years ago, our parish installed solar panels on the roof of one of our buildings. Renewable energy investments, like solar or geothermal, can cost thousands -- or tens of thousands -- of dollars. As a nonprofit, our solar panels were relatively affordable. But we know that for the average homeowner this can be cost prohibitive.

We wanted to find something that our parishioners could afford to invest in too. Weatherization is more accessible. The average retrofit costs between $2,000 and $6,000, so we undertook the project with our own buildings.

The buildings on our campus were severely energy inefficient. Like much of the housing stock in Northwest D.C., our rectory was older. Built in the 1920s, the rectory had significant gaps and was leaky.

After the weatherization was completed, we had a draft-free physical plant and we freed up dollars normally spent on energy bills for our ministry to people in need.

From the beginning, we wanted to use this experience to encourage parishioners to have an impact on their homes and beyond. That's why we joined a community-led effort that was in place: WeatherizeDC.

The WeatherizeDC program has two goals. First, curb home energy use. Second, chip away at the joblessness rates in Wards 7 and 8. At St. Alban's, we believe that our faith compels us to never be complacent about the plight of what the gospels call "the least of these" – the poor, the marginalized, and the unemployed.

Weatherization work, precisely because it does not require a college degree, is a lifesaver for people who've faced limited opportunities in the past. With training and support, individuals who previously have not had the chance to grow their skills and gain experience can step into these roles and perform their jobs well.

As a pastor, I'm concerned about transforming individuals and mobilizing them to do good in the world. We opened our doors to friends of parishioners and others in the community to show people what weatherization accomplishes. And we spoke with our parishioners about creating green jobs for District residents from communities of poverty.

By investing in energy improvements that are tied to a positive social outcome, we helped to create good green jobs for people from neighborhoods that have all but been forsaken.

Unless more D.C. community members get big in their thinking about going green and make it a collective movement, we may be left feeling good about our individual efforts to turn our homes and places of worship a deeper shade of green, but miss a larger opportunity to do something truly transformative.

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