2019 Earth Day Feature: Net-zero on a faith budget

Version 2

On November 14, 2018, Valley Friends (Quaker) Meeting (VFM) in Dayton, Virginia, attained its goal of a (nearly) net-zero carbon footprint. Quakers are nothing if not deliberate, and this milestone marked the culmination of a five-year, multi-phase process.


VFM’s process began in April 2014 when several members, concerned about climate change, organized a small committee to study the issue. In August 2014, the committee issued a “Minute (Statement) on Climate Change,” which was approved by the Meeting and published as a call to action in Harrisonburg’s Daily News-Record.


Recognizing the need to “practice what we preach,” VFM established a second committee to quantify the meetinghouse’s energy needs and recommend carbon-reduction options. This assessment revealed a tantalizing possibility—net-zero emissions (exclusive of transportation)—by replacing an antiquated oil furnace with a modern heat pump followed by installing a solar array on the south-facing roof sufficient for all electrical needs, including heating.


Although initial cost estimates far exceeded VFM’s modest finances, the Meeting charged the committee to seek “way forward.” Following a year of internal and external fundraising, and a competitive best-value bid, a vendor was selected to install a high-efficiency heat-pump. This phase was completed in December 2016, making the meetinghouse fully electric.


How then to finance the next phase, a solar array? The process foundered for a year until power-purchase agreements (PPA’s) became available in our locale in January 2017. A second competitive bid produced a solar installer and PPA provider.


Sometimes the right thing and the smart thing coincide. VFM is saving more than $1000 annually in utility costs. From these savings we’ve been able to pay forward some of the community support we received by contributing to a local solarization initiative: Give.Solar. Win, win, win.


With hindsight comes clarity. Perhaps our experience can benefit other faith-based organizations or non-profits in their carbon-reduction efforts. Feel free to contact Dave Pruett at c.david.pruett@gmail.com or 540-246-3087.


Dave Pruett (540-246-3087)

Valley Friends Meeting

363 High Street

Dayton, VA 22821