Small church big heart

Creation Care is encouraged at all ages at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in South Dakota.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church’s energy conservation program ranges from tiny one-volt batteries to kilowatt readings on the electrical meter. St. Paul’s is an EPA Energy Star Congregation and is following suggestions from EPA and Interfaith Power and Light for remodeling, measuring energy use, reducing our footprint, and spreading the conservation message.

St. Paul’s made improvements in energy efficiency with a major restoration of the rectory (completed in 2009) and with an energy conservation and re-lamping project in the church building (completed in January 2011). Many small energy “leaks” were corrected in the church building including: installing several new storm windows; caulking windows and foundation; insulating an office ceiling; upgrading three doorways; and the HVAC system was placed on a routine maintenance schedule.

The church was re-lamped by replacing 13 old T-12 fluorescent ceiling fixtures with T-8 fixtures with modern ballasts, bulbs, and dimmer switches that use about 40% less energy than did the old lights. Day-night timers were added where appropriate and light switches were labeled. Trees on the north side were removed or trimmed. The re-lamping resulted in better lighting, more flexibility, task areas, and a savings of $40/yr in electrical expenses for an estimated 800 hours of lighting per year. Five new LED-style exit signs improved efficiency, safety and security. St. Paul’s received an energy rebate of $11/fixture from the utility company, which receives about half of its electricity from renewable hydropower.

St. Paul’s is a small church so our carbon saving is small – the re-lamping project will save about 16 pounds of carbon emitted per year. However, the savings are multiplied when each parishioner sees the results and applies the conservation examples at home. Parishioners feel that the expenses for the conservation program an “environmental tithe.”

An alkaline battery-recycling program is the core of the energy education program while some 60 pounds of batteries are collected for recycling in 2011. When parishioners bring a small battery to church and drop it in a recycling bucket, they are reminded of bigger things they can do for energy conservation as they “reduce, reuse, and recycle.”

Led by its Natural Cathedral Committee, St. Paul’s is spreading the Creation Care message with notes in monthly parish newsletter, articles in the city paper, and presentations at the Diocesan Convention and Deanery meetings. Problems like energy issues seem so big that we think that there is nothing we can do, but there are everyday decisions an individual makes to help our society walk more gently on the Earth.

This Cool Congregations story was submitted by St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Brookings, South Dakota

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