The Ingenious Way This Priest Is Fighting Climate Change

It's a three-fer: save some money, respect the planet, follow the lead. The lead, in this case, is the Vatican, which has been scaling down its carbon footprint for a few years now. Back in 2008, under the leadership of Pope Benedict XVI, Vatican City State brought a massive installation of solar panels on-line, per Reuters, designed to supply up to 20 percent of the 120-acre country's energy needs.

The Vatican's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, recognized that "The gradual exhaustion of the ozone layer and the greenhouse effect have reached critical dimensions." Inhabit reported that the project cost about $660 million and "would effectively be Europe's largest solar power plant." Some of the panels grace the top of the city's audience hall, and the bulk are located on a 740-acre site outside the city itself. The present pope, Francis, has continued the church's emphasis on environmental concern, writing a 2015 letter to the world (called an "encyclical"), titled "Laudato Si: On Care of Our Common Home." One of the main themes of that letter, according to America magazine, is the "understanding of creation as a holy and precious gift from God to be reverenced by all men and women."

A solar powered cross -- and the rest of the church, too

One of the people paying attention is Father Krzysztof Guzialek, pastor of Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish in Pleszew, Poland. It's certainly not unusual for a Catholic church to display a cross in a prominent fashion. Father Guzialek's take, however, combined iconography with practicality and environmental responsibility. As Reuters tells us, the priest's conundrum involved skyrocketing electric bills in a country heavily reliant on coal for energy production. Enter renewable energy in the form of 18 photovoltaic panels, arranged in the shape of a cross. He paid for the installation himself — nearly $8,000 — which in turn supplies the church's energy for lighting, heating, and air conditioning — "a bit of economic gain and a bit of salvation for myself," as he described it. The 40-foot cross lights up at night.

"We all need to think that we do it not only for ourselves but for the future generations," said Father Guzialek. "Let's save the Earth, let's save the world."