Care for Creation, Reduce Energy Use, Lower Costs
One of the most urgent environmental problems we face is global climate change. Everyone is agreed that climate change has already had significant impacts upon Earth and its atmosphere, its ecosystems, and life on this planet. Whatever you think of the causes of climate change, human factors clearly play some role. Each individual and institution needs to address the issues related to use of fossil fuels for energy.
Green Teams. Many social ministry organizations and corporations now have green teams for the overall operation and for units within the operation to plan and foster greening of the institution. This is an excellent way to get the most promising ideas and to encourage cooperation in plans to make your organization as Earth-friendly as possible.
Off the Grid. Many will be in a position to turn to alternative energy sources. If you are building new construction, it is surely incumbent upon you to look into geo thermal energy. In the life time of the building, this will easily pay for itself and reap great savings. If you have a facility with significant use of water for personal use or cafeteria, it is wise for you to look into solar energy. Other options may make sense in light of recommendations from your local energy company.
Comprehensive Energy Audit. The main thing, of course, is to get a comprehensive energy audit. The energy audit should cover not only lighting but also all the means to save on heating and air conditioning. The experts say that the best bang for the buck these days is energy efficiency. Hence, a comprehensive audit to see what products you can purchase that will give the greatest efficiency and the quickest payback. Many of these changes can be done by people in the congregations, such as lighting changes, insulation, sealing, or motion sensitive light switches.
Learn about Incentives and Payback Time. Often the local energy company or a commercial energy company in your area will do a free audit. Sometimes a company will fold the cost of the audit into products and services you purchase. The key is to get an audit in which the auditor will also tell you what financial incentives are available from the energy provider or government agencies. Sometimes these incentives make it easy to decide what things you can do. Also, you need an audit that will estimate payback time in reduced energy use and when you can expect to reap savings from your choices. Finally, you may be able to get financing or a loan, even from an energy provider, which will soften the upfront costs of major changes.
Conservation. One of the key things not often covered in an audit is the best practices in conservation. Introduce clients to green practices. Develop a plan to foster cooperation among employees to turn out lights, limit water usage, recycle, and use less paper. It is important to train office personnel to use best practices (see “greening your office” on this site). Also, maintenance staff can be trained in energy conservation, use of green cleaning products, and general sensitivity to Earth friendly products and practices. Often staff members have the best ideas when it comes to conservation. Find out from the electricity provider when your peak times are and correlate meetings and energy-high practices (dish washer use) to correlate with times of greatest savings.
Financial Support. When you have a large project, you may want to approach a local foundation that supports efforts to lower the carbon footprint or clean the air or remove waste from the watershed. Be inventive about seeking support for specific projects. Develop your own rotating loan fund among several organizations. For ideas about such a loan fund, see the website for the Metro-Chicago Synod of the ELCA.
Energy Stewards Initiative. In response to a mandate from the ELCA 2009 churchwide assembly and the synod resolutions that have followed, Lutherans Restoring Creation is launching a two-year pilot project designed to assist congregations in lowering their energy use, lessening their energy costs, and reducing their carbon footprint. The program offers a step-by-step process with other congregations, a training program with regular conference calls and webinars, an online platform to track history and changes in energy use, automatic linkage to ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, and an action table to follow, all for a modest fee. The goals are: to care for creation by reducing our carbon footprint; to involve members in a meaningful congregational program at church and home; and to have encouragement and accountability for our stewardship of creation; to save money that can be freed for ministry.
For further information on the LRC Energy Stewards Initiative for Congregations, click on the following longer description: Energy Stewards Initiative.
Energy Stewards program for SMOs. Social ministry organizations can also get in on this program. The program is being done in cooperation with Rapid-Improvements of Madison, Wisconsin. They provide an online program for corporations, companies, schools, hospitals, and other social ministry types of organizations. If you want to learn more about their services and how to contact them, click on download below to see a profile of their overall program.