“Being Green is Being Smart”

If you could save 285 trees, 34 barrels of oil, 117,355 gallons of gas, and 50 cubic yards of land fill a year, would you? That’s what Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI) did over the course of a year not long ago, an effort that netted LSSI an award from one of its vendors, Cintas.
The green efforts of this social ministry organization of the ELCA have translated in recent years to an annual savings of $250,000. So how did they do it?
LSSI started broadly, instituting an agency-wide green awareness program and providing ideas to help employees become greener in their daily activities, both at work and at home. Then it looked to implementing technology that reduces the amount of car and airplane travel that previously took place. Such technology includes mobile communication, teleconferencing, video conferencing, webinars, and more.
LSSI has worked with US Energy—their energy management firm out of Minneapolis—over the past several years on the auditing of LSSI’s energy bills and for the procurement of its energy needs, both electrical and gas. That led to what now is an annual energy savings of $250,000.
“The purpose of our work is to care for God’s people,” said The Rev. Denver Bitner, President and CEO of LSSI. “Part of that is where people live, which is the environment in which we all reside. So caring for the environment is also an important part of caring for God’s people.”
One of the largest savings of both agency time and environmental resources involved the institution of laptops for its caseworks. Caseworkers are required by the state of Illinois to record their case notes within a few hours of making a client visit. A few years ago, they would have to make a visit and drive back to an office to record case notes, go back out again, and repeat that process over and over. LSSI began providing laptops so caseworkers could write up their case notes quickly in the field after each visit and move on to their next appointment. In addition to cost and energy savings, this boosted morale for employees who wanted to spend their time with people rather than endless trips back and forth to an office building.
“Being green is being smart,” says Bitner. “It is not only ethically and morally a good thing to do, it is also fiscally and socially responsible.”
Lutheran Social Services of Illinois is a social ministry organizaton of the ELCA.
Lutherans Restoring Creation (LRC) is a grassroots movement within the ELCA seeking to foster care for God's good creation in all expressions of the church's life and mission. LRC is supported by grants from ELCA World Hunger and the Lutheran Community Foundation.