Of the more than 3,700 Disciples congregations across the United States and Canada, many are meeting in buildings that are decades old, cavernous, and consequently, energy inefficient. Several resources are available to help. One is “Energy Star for Congregations,” an Internet data source that church leaders can turn to for information on how to use energy more efficiently and thereby reduce costs. Another resource is Church Extension’s energy audit service.
Energy Star, launched in 1992 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, establishes an international standard for energy efficiency. Energy Star for Congregation’s Web site is a do-it-yourself guide. Going to the website is like going to the library and checking out a book. Visitors to the site can find information that will assist them in preparing an energy strategy, finding expert help for remodeling, upgrading and expanding a facility, and making energy improvements in their buildings, among other resources. It can be found at www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=small_
“We see Energy Star as a good library of resources,” said Angela Herrmann, director of Web site development and coordinator for environmental education and advocacy at Disciples Home Missions. DHM, which joined the Energy Star for Congregations network this past summer, can refer to the Web site’s resources as it makes decisions on future office equipment purchases.
“DHM is doing its part to conserve energy,” said Herrmann. “For instance, virtually every staff person is equipped with an Energy Star-rated View Sonic monitor. Most administrative staff use the Dell Optiplex 755, which is Energy Star 4.0 compliant and carries the Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) ‘Gold’ rating.” (Energy Star launched new 5.0 specifications on July 1, 2009.)
Disciples churches that have joined the network are Countryside Christian Church in Mission, Kan., Delhaven Christian Church in La Puente Calif., Downey Memorial Christian Church Downey Calif., First Christian Church in Texas City, Texas, First Christian Church in Riverside Calif., First Christian Church in Des Moines, Iowa, First Christian Church in Puyallup, Wash., First Christian Church in Hampton, Va., First Christian Church in Bonner Springs, Kan., Lansing First Christian Church in Lansing Mich., Little White Chapel Christian Church in Burbank Calif., McCarty Memorial Christian Church in Los Angeles, Calif., and Parkview Christian Church in Little Rock, Ark.
When Disciples Home Missions President Ronald J. Degges was senior minister at Little White Chapel Christian Church in Burbank, that congregation participated in establishing the California Interfaith Power and Light (IPL) program, said Herrmann. Ultimately, the California IPL was recognized in 2003 with a special Energy Star award. The church saved countless energy dollars through upgrades made to its building.
While the Energy Star for Congregations Internet site can be a good starting point for congregations looking for ways to become more energy efficient, Herrmann thinks that congregations might be better served by starting with Church Extension.
John Davidson, congregational services consultant at Church Extension, said, “Energy Star can be a great resource for congregations who want to do it themselves, although it can be very bulky and takes a lot of time. If congregations really want to hit some of the bigger issues that they need to address in their facility, they are going to need a third party, whether it’s an energy auditing company or somebody like Church Extension to assist them.”
Church Extension has created an energy auditing service that a congregation can request. The first thing that Church Extension does is gather the information needed to determine the best practices and changes that a congregation would need to make their buildings more energy efficient. This is accomplished by how its facilities are designed, how it is operating its facilities, what climate zone it is in, reviewing a church’s finances, what the energy costs are and other factors.
“A large part of it has to do with how the building is being used because a lot of our churches are empty, so they spend a lot of money throughout the year,” said Davidson. “We find that most of our churches are only using their church space 20 percent of the available time during the year, yet they are paying energy bills for 100 percent of the time.”
To find out more about Church Extension’s energy auditing services and its “Green Building” program, see: http://www.churchextension.org/planning/GreenServices.cfm
By: James Patterson