As one of the oldest religious-environmental organizations in the US, GreenFaith has a long and varied history. We started small and locally, and have since grown to national proportions with comprehensive and holistic programs.
GreenFaith was founded in 1992 under the name Partners for Environmental Quality by Jewish and Christian leaders who believed that New Jersey ’s religious community needed an organization to connect diverse religious traditions with the environment. One of our earliest accomplishments was to convene a conference at Drew University, which brought together stakeholders from the religious, academic, governmental and business sectors to explore common interests in relation to environmental protection.
For our first several years, we were an all-volunteer coalition, with lay and ordained leaders traveling to houses of worship to discuss the relationship between religion and the earth. A new awareness was just beginning to dawn within the religious community about this link, and we were among the first to explore it.
In the late 1990s, United Jewish Communities of MetroWest and the Episcopal Diocese of Newark each provided seed funding which enabled us to hire staff to promote the use of renewable energy by religious institutions and people of faith. We were the first group in New Jersey to promote “green energy” usage by the general public, and we partnered with Green Mountain Energy to publicize the fact that individuals could now purchase clean, renewable electricity.
In the early 2000s, we focused our efforts on energy conservation and the use of renewable energy in religious institutions, and then expanded our efforts to include extensive guest preaching and speaking engagements. This was followed by our first Environmental Health and Justice Tour in Newark, where we explored ways in which urban communities suffer disproportionately from environmental health threats. At this time, we decided that a new name was needed for our work: GreenFaith.
From 2003 to 2006, GreenFaith conducted a number of pilot programs in New Jersey which were very successful. In 2003, in partnership with Sun Farm Network, we launched Lighting the Way, a program to install solar panels on religious institutions around the state. Since then, we have celebrated the installation of 25 solar arrays around New Jersey.
In 2004, we launched Sustainable Sanctuaries, our pilot initiative to work in-depth with select houses of worship around NJ to integrate environmental care into their worship, education, facility management and outreach. In 2006, we launched the Green Flag, GreenFaith Schools Pilot Program with the Virginia-based organization the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, working one-on-one with 9 faith-based schools in NJ to help them 'green' their operations, build student leadership, and educate students about the religious basis for environmental stewardship. While both Sustainable Sanctuaries and the Green Flag, GreenFaith Schools Pilot Program are now finished, they were very successful and provided us a more in-depth understanding of comprehensive 'greening' within religious institutions.
Since 2004 GreenFaith has grown rapidly, developing many new resources and expanding nationally with two leadership Programs--the GreenFaith Fellowship Program, and the GreenFaith Certification Program. The Fellowship Program, a religious-environmental training and leadership program for clergy and lay leaders, is fitting an educational niche not often found in seminaries, universities or other centers of learning. The Certification Program, a religious-environmental leadership program for houses of worship, is the first program of its kind in the world. It provides diverse congregations with a roadmap for religious-environmental engagement, and the support and resources to succeed.
GreenFaith has been fortunate to receive recognition for our work:
- In 2009, GreenFaith was honored at Windsor Castle alongside a
small and select number of environmental organizations from throughout
- We've been featured in many media outlets, including a CBS special, a feature on the Sundance Channel, and the documentary film Renewal.
- Former Gov. Jon Corzine named GreenFaith’s Executive Director Fletcher Harper the Environmental Leader of the Year in New Jersey in 2006
- The US Environmental Protection Agency recognized us with their 2003 Energy Star for Congregations Special Award
- Former Gov. James McGreevey issued a proclamation in support of our work