When Dan Nemes and Tom Williamson, two Christians, formed the Rochester Faith and Solar Coalition, they had grandiose plans — maybe a little too grandiose.
The group initially investigated bringing area faith organizations together to build a solar farm. Logistics for such a large undertaking forced the organization to put the idea on hold for now in favor of more practical initiatives.
The group kicked off a plan to distribute LED light bulbs via religious groups.
"This isn’t a big thing, but it’s a start," said Williamson. "There’s certainly an energy savings with every one of these and it will grow the more we distribute."
Regina Mustafa joined Nemes and Williamson in distributing hundreds of LED bulbs to worshipers at Rochester’s Masjed Abubakar Siddiq Mosque following Friday services there. They also handed out Somali-language explanation sheets about the bulbs’ energy and cost savings.
The efforts to help people replace incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs not only helps cut down energy consumption, but also helps people save on their energy bills.
"The people who would benefit the most are low-income people who might not be able to budget for these," Mustafa said. "This is a way for the mosque to step up and act on social justice issues."
"We want to do this at the places where there are people who generally need them most," Williamson added.
Each incandescent replaced by an LED will save approximately $6 per year, if it’s used an average of three hours per day, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
The giveaway was also a chance to demonstrate the potential of collaboration between religious groups toward common goals.
"We need organizations talking together and working together," Williamson said.
Helping poor people is universal among religious groups, so should be combating climate change, Nemes said.
"All faiths talk about taking care of creation," Nemes said.
Nemes has distributed LED light bulbs at St. John the Evangelist Church’s door ministry. The ministry, held on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, helps people with needs including food, shelter, clothing or other needs.
The LED bulbs were provided by various donations including from Nemes, Williamson and Mustafa themselves, along with support from the Sierra Club and the Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light.
The Rochester Faith and Solar Coalition plans to work with both organizations to get support for broader initiatives. For now, the group is starting small to make a bigger difference.
"This is a low-cost way to get everyone involved," Nemes said.