Faith Presbyterian Church in Sun City, Arizona has been working tirelessly for 4 years on making their congregation greener. Ruth Mehl, chair of their Going Green Committee, submitted this story as part of the church earth care stories. Hopefully, this church will inspire others to make their congregation go green.
Great interest in the environment was raised by a showing of Al Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth” in April of 2007. At the request of our Peacemaking Committee, the Session appointed
an Environmental Task Force, which had its first meeting on May 23, 2007. It was agreed that our first objective would be to seek the elimination of the use of Styrofoam cups and dishes at church events. In June we adopted the catchier title of the Going Green Committee and I, Ruth Mehl, agreed to chair the committee. By fall, recyclable insulated paper hot cups were in use at coffee hours. Acceptable sturdy paper dinner plates had replaced Styrofoam plates and the search was on for recyclable spoons, forks and knives. And church members were being urged to bring their own table service for dinner events if at all possible.
The Going Green Committee was moving on into areas like the need for a church energy audit, energy efficient lighting, thermostats, etc. One of our committee members, Skip Young, was also on the church Property Committee. The Property Committee became actively involved and secured an energy audit. This led to a detailed inventory of all lights and thermostats in every part of the church. This was a very time consuming task. From this inventory, an RFD (Request for Proposal) was prepared and presented to a vendor to get estimates of cost and time frames. Arizona Public Service would refund part of the investment. It looked like it might be possible to save up to 30% on annual electricity costs by making changes. So two more bids were asked for.
While this major energy saving project was being developed, the Going Green Committee was busy promoting more recycling, use of CFL light bulbs in place of heat producing incandescent bulbs, designing and producing cloth shopping bags with Presbyterian logo and “Presbyterians Care” printed on them to reduce use of plastic bags. We supplied monthly articles for the church newsletter in a Going Green column. There are bins in the church parking lot for recycling paper and for aluminum cans. We led the church to participate in a grocery bag recycle project for a school group that sold them back to Wal-Mart for money to buy teaching aids. And we found DISPOZO cutlery made by Enviroware that is biodegradable and firm enough for dinner use!
By the fall of 2008 the Energy saving project was completed. All fluorescent bulbs and ballasts were replaced new energy saving bulbs. All but two thermostats were replaced by digital thermostats. All exit lights are now LED bulbs. All incandescent light bulbs will be replaced with CFL bulbs. The project came in under budget and on time. Cost was $22,495.63. The rebate check from Arizona Public Service was $8,745.50. The budget for electricity for 2009 could be reduced by $5,000!
The possibility of making use of solar power is under constant review. One barrier is the non-profit status of a church. Arizona Public Service has programs that work with for-profit businesses.
The work of the Going Green Committee is now under the umbrella of the Peacemaking/Social Concerns Committee and regular articles on global warming and the environment appear each month in the Church newsletter.