2012 Winner in Grounds and Water Conservation

University United Methodist Church in Austin, TX, serves brunch to 300 homeless neighbors each Saturday. Through recycling and composting, brunch guests help the program run trash free.

Homeless people aren’t simply getting a handout at the free Saturday brunch at University United Methodist Church in Austin, Texas. They also helped the congregation win the national Grounds and Water Conservation award in the 2012 Cool Congregations Challenge.

University UMC is an urban church with a number of social justice ministries, including Open Door, a Saturday brunch for about 300 people experiencing homelessness. For many years, the church relied on volunteers to carry home recyclables from Open Door. But the church has expanded its recycling contract and added commercial composting service, and Open Door now runs trash free.

In its Cool Congregations Challenge entry, University United Methodist noted that it had composted more than 27,000 gallons of waste. The church has also quadrupled its recycling program as it works to serve vulnerable neighbors in the most healthy efficient, and environmentally sound means possible.

A core group of volunteers helps new volunteers and Open Door guests learn proper separation of recyclable and compostable waste. Congregants reported in their entry, “The composting and recycling program works because the homeless community embraces it. Not only does our Open Door program help connect local citizens from various backgrounds in a way that is eco-friendly, but it also empowers those who are experiencing homelessness to learn about and contribute to a deeper and more responsible relationship with our greater world.”

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