Over the past six years, Elim has made changes to their boilers, roof and lights, but, Jim will admit, saving the planet wasn’t their primary goal. “We did it because it’s a way for us to manage the costs, and it’s good stewardship of our finances.”
The changes they implemented were so effective that Elim was one of the ELCA congregations recognized in 2012 by the Energy Star energy efficiency program for congregations.
The program, which provides resources to congregations to help manage energy more economically, recognized 28 congregations — four of which are ELCA congregations — with the Energy Star designation: First English Lutheran in Columbus, Ohio, First Lutheran Church in Bothell, Wash., and Reformation Lutheran Church in Media, Pa.
Both the 2009 and 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assemblies accepted proposals designed to encourage congregations to reduce their usage of carbon-based fuels and take better care of God’s creation.
Mary Minette, who works in the area of environmental education for the ELCA churchwide ministries, says, “The four ELCA congregations honored are just a small sample of ELCA congregations doing critical work to protect God’s earth, not only through energy conservation efforts but also by planting community gardens, taking measures to protect their local air and water, and incorporating thanks and praise for God’s creation into their worship.”
“It was exciting,” Jim says of the honor. “It was great to get this recognition,” but for him it still goes back to the numbers.
“It made sense for us,” he shares. “In the winter time we’ve reduced our heat bill. It’s half of what it was before.” In addition, he says, “Even as rates have gone up, our out-of-pocket has not increased and actually in some cases has gone down.”
After the changes were implemented, Elim was running at a 94 percent annual fuel utilization efficiency rate — a rating so high that Energy Star came to the facility to verify it was actually true.
The cost of making the changes was high, Jim says, but Elim is seeing the benefits far outweigh the price they paid for the improvements, and that’s something Mary hopes more congregations will think about.
“I encourage congregations to prioritize energy conservation because it can save them significant amounts of money that can then be used for other aspects of the congregation’s mission in their community,” she says. “Energy conservation is good stewardship of both financial resources and God’s gift of creation.”
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Tracking our carbon footprint
ELCA Lutherans proclaim their commitment to God’s creation
The Season of Creation