May the light bring you … light.
The Medford Quaker Meeting takes advantage of daylight to power a significant portion of its 34-year-old building as it continues advocacy and action for a greener environment.
Solar panels help the meeting save on its electricity bill month by month through the use of Solar Renewable Energy Certificates from the state that supplement the cost of the panels.
“That’s a New Jersey plan where the utility companies are required to have a certain amount of electricity coming from renewable sources,” explained Alice Andrews, who coordinated the effort.
“In order to provide that incentive, there’s this market for credits and the utility companies have to buy so many credits.”
Andrews noted that the meeting receives federal tax credits for installing the panels, but the percentage of credits is changing since the federal program expired in 2019.
Panels were installed as a way for the Quaker Meeting to reduce its contributions to greenhouse gases and fossil fuels, with its electricity powered by daylight and not primarily by PSE&G.
The worship area of Meeting does not have solar panels because it is designated as a historic building and would require an extensive amount of permits and approvals. Andrews said the meeting would run into roofing issues with the panels, so instead, the property has LED lightbulbs in every light to cut costs.
As passersby gaze up at the panels, Ruth Darlington, a member of the Quaker Meeting, hopes people will ponder how they can get panels on their homes or other measures to improve the environment. In the end, Darlington hopes it will at least get people thinking about climate change and how it affects their lives.
“Maybe we’ll find someone who wants to work with us or the Sierra Club for its ‘Ready for 100’ to get municipalities to move toward 100 percent renewable energy,” Darlington quipped.
“It encourages them to talk to us and work together for a win-win situation.”
Sustainability and a green environment is one of the pillars of the Quaker religion. Monthly meetings consist of members hashing out ways to address the issue, among other topics.
Climate change, for most, is a politically-driven topic with clashing opinions. The Quaker Meeting eschewed that divisiveness.
“You have to tie it into a positive that it is possible to stop a continual rise in global warming and to take action now,” member Laird Holby stressed. “There are technological means that will result in an alternative to fossil fuels that it’s not just getting rid of things, but you’re also adding infrastructure and jobs on the other hand.
“I think that by emphasizing the positive aspects of it, it will gradually not become a political issue that divides people.”
Members pointed to the raging wildfires in Australia, the recent storms in the South that brought deadly tornadoes and the lack of a true winter in Medford as climate change issues. In their own homes, they were inspired to utilize more sustainable with products.
Holby said purchasing items not enclosed in single-use plastics or using reusable bags helps to greatly reduce waste and improve life.
Carol Suplee recommended that people shop based on their needs to eliminate extensive food waste or add vegetarian meals that can indirectly lessen greenhouse gases.
“When it all starts to happen, you begin to get disgusted with what you did,” Holby stated. “You fill up your garbage pans and you realize that you’re consuming at a high level.
“It becomes a habit to reduce that level of consumption.”