Green Zone Model

Thinking Comprehensively: SMO Property as a Green Zone


If we are to become morally responsible, if we want to make the SMO property and practices into a “green zone,” a safe area for the environment, then we must be comprehensive in our understanding of all aspects of the buildings and grounds that have an impact on the environment. Otherwise, you may get the notion that if you have done one or two things, then you have “greened” the organization—retrofitting the lights or eliminating Styrofoam cups or recycling or doing an energy audit. By contrast, a comprehensive model will enable the congregation to see specific changes within a larger vision of what the building and grounds as a whole can become. We are not looking to “greenwash” the zone but to provide a “deep soaking” of products and practices that truly make a difference in caring for Earth.

One way to think comprehensively is to do an environmental inventory. This is similar to an energy audit, and indeed it includes an energy audit, but it covers everything of ecological concern—anything in/on the buildings and grounds, including the practices of people who gather there that make an impact on the environment. The idea is to think of the whole property as a “Green Zone,” an area that is creation-friendly. In this green zone, we seek (1) to identify everything that comes into/onto the buildings and grounds (in order to minimize harmful things from entering); (2) to assess how efficiently everything is used when in/on the building and grounds (to make sure nothing is wasted); and (3) to identify where everything goes when it leaves the zone (in order to reuse, recycle, minimize waste, and dispose of waste safely). Here is a checklist of things to consider:


● Everything that comes onto the property. Here we are aware that we can avoid bringing some things in (pesticides) and minimize other things (packaging, etc.). Here is a checklist of some examples:

Natural lawn care products rather than pesticides or herbicides

Environmentally safe cleaning products rather than toxic cleaning products

Environmentally safe dishwashing/laundry powder or soap

Limit gas for powering lawn mower, snow blower, or other machinery

Recycled/post-consumer waste paper for office paper, bulletins, newsletters

Recycled/post-consumer waste paper for towels, toilet paper, napkins

Less electricity for lighting or powering appliances

Natural sunlight rather than energy for artificial lighting

Alternative energy sources:

Wind power,

Solar power (eternal light),

Geothermal power

Solar powered lawn mower



Well water

Limit packaging and eliminate Styrofoam cups/paper cups/ paper plates/napkins


● The efficient use of resources in buildings and on grounds. Make use of the most efficient appliances and make the most thorough use of products. Consider these examples.

Use mixture of lawn grass that requires the least maintenance

Mow lawn less often

Clean less often

Use church bus to bring some to church

Carpool as a service to elderly or children

Partner in order to carpool to church

Ride bikes to church

Use all products completely before purchasing new ones.

Use both sides of paper for drafts or notes

Use electronic messaging and communications where feasible (newsletter)

Use blow dryers rather than paper towels

Use cloth napkins rather than paper napkins and tablecloths

Use mug rack rather than Styrofoam cups

Insulation of doors and windows

Insulating curtains on windows

Boiler adjustments to lower gas/oil use

Climate control at different times of day and in different parts of the building

Insulation in walls

Turn down water heater

Turn down thermostat for heat

Turn up air conditioning level

Use most energy-efficient air-conditioning units, dishwaters, refrigerators, water heaters, and so on.

Retrofit lights to lower energy use

Use upgraded fluorescent lighting to lower energy use

Disconnect lighting where more light is provided than is needed

Automatic lighting with motion sensitive switches for bathrooms and elsewhere

Encourage the practice of turning off room lights when not in use

Produce your own air purity with plants

Use rainwater for lawn, garden, and indoor plants

Efficient operation of machinery for least use of gas or oil

Use hand power for shoveling or trimming and mowing where feasible


● Everything that goes out of the buildings and grounds. Here, aim for reuse or recycling or for safe disposal. The idea is to work toward 100% recycling of disposable materials. Examine your trash to find out where you can do better. Work with local agencies to find the best places to recycle products.

Recycle office paper, bulletins, church school materials, art materials, newsprint

Recycle plastic, aluminum, glass, tin, and so on

Toxic recycling and disposal

Recycle oil from machines, recycle batteries

Use care in discarding paints

Hold a clothing drive to reuse clothing and other items


Do not be overwhelmed by this model. Do not try to do everything at once. Take one or several things at a time. Do what you can do and celebrate that! Some simple things can be done with little cost. More complex things can be done with minimal cost. Consider things with no cost or things with an initial cost that bring a payback. Do not limit yourself just to what is financially profitable. Make an assessment for each thing you consider, an assessment that includes both financial and environmental costs and savings. There are always tradeoffs; yet everything we do for the environment is an investment in our future. Consider doing some things that are prophetic. They will help to give you an identity that will lead to other things.