This article is not about the church’s curb appeal, landscaping or lawn care. It is about steps ministries can take to become environmentally friendly. Generally, when the church talks about good stewardship, it is referring to tithes and offerings. But what about being good stewards of the earth? Most of us do care about the environment, but we have to do more than care. We need to take steps to become a part of the solution.
In this article I will list a few ways your ministry can start to go green. Most of these are very simple steps that are easy to incorporate into your ministry. At the end of the article I will share some of my personal efforts to go green. There is also a guide and manual near the end of the article with comprehensive information for churches who want to go green.
- Recycling Services. Start with your waste management service to determine what recycling services they offer. If you are unsure about recycling services in your area, go to www.local.com and type in “recycling services” in the first search box and type in your city in the second search box. It will bring up recycling services in your area.
- Recycle Plastic Water Bottles. If your church is like mine, it probably uses lots of bottled water. Water for visitors during business hours, water for the choir and praise team, parking ministry workers, prayer walks . . .
- Personal Water Bottles. Encourage staff members and ministry workers to bring their own water bottles to work/church. Also encourage people who participate in your prayer walks to bring their own water bottles.
- Ceramic Coffee Cups: Supply or encourage office staff to use ceramic coffee cups instead of Styrofoam or paper cups.
- Recycle Plastic Communion Cups or Use Glass Communion Cups. For the sake of convenience, a lot of churches use disposable plastic communion cups. If your church must use the plastic cups, make an effort to recycle them along with your plastic water bottles and other recyclable plastics.
- Recycle Office Paper. Keep a recycling bin next to your printer, copier and fax machine. Toss the unused sheets from e-mails, faxed documents and your misfeeds into the recycle bin. That paper can either be added to your recycled papers or if your church has a day care, learning center, toddler zone or primary Sunday School class, it can be used for scrap paper or art projects.
- Classroom Recycle Bins. Encourage children to put their scraps in the classroom recycle bins. Children are your best ambassadors for change. Explain why it is important to recycle and change will occur faster.
- Use Recycled Paper. Recycled paper can be purchased at any office supply store.
- Use Recycled Toner. Most office supply stores offer recycled toner for copiers and printers.
- Return Empty Toner Cartridges. Office Depot, Office Max and Staples all offer an incentive for customers who return empty toner cartridges. Some offer a free ream of recycled paper and some offer a small discount off of your purchase.
- Teleconference Instead of Traveling. All meetings don’t have to be face to face. Teleconferencing saves time, energy and money.
- Programmable Thermostats. If you don’t have them, install and use programmable thermostats. Program them to save energy when the building is not being used.
- Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs. These light bulbs cost a little more than incandescent light bulbs but they last a lot longer and are more energy efficient.
- Use Power Strips. Even though electronic equipment may be turned off, some of them still use energy. Plug your computers, printers and fax machines into power strips and power down the strip. Everything is off, you save a little energy and money.
- Use refillable pens and pencils, reuse file folders and paper clips. Reuse these supplies instead of throwing them away.
- Packing materials – Reuse packing materials or offer them to members of your church. Someone out there has an online store or sells on e-bay.
- Reduce Junk Mail at Work. Opt out of junk mail – use the following link to for more information: http://clarkhoward.com/liveweb/shownotes/2008/05/21/13576/
- Earth Day is April 22, 2009. Plan some Earth Day activities at your church – involve your children, teens, adults and the community.
These are just a few things to get you started. There are many additional ways that your church can go green. If your ministry is seriously interested in becoming an environmentally friendly church, you might want to download “Environmental Guide for Congregations, Their Buildings and Grounds” edited by David Glover and David Rhoads. In addition to the guide, Mr. Rhoads offers instructions on how to get started in the “Training Manual for The Green Congregation Program.”
My family’s green efforts: For the past 20 years we have recycled paper, cardboard, cans and plastic. Until we moved to Georgia, we also recycled glass. When it was time to purchase new appliances, we purchased energy efficient washer, dryer and refrigerator and we use a programmable thermostat. We also return toner cartridges to the office supply store, use eco-friendly dish washing detergent, compact fluorescent light bulbs and natural unbleached coffee filters. We combine errands to minimize automobile trips and use canvas grocery bags. I have an on-line store and sell quite a bit on e-bay so I have an arrangement with the facility manager at our church to reuse the Styrofoam packing peanuts they receive in shipments.
The things that we do at home are just a start. That’s all I’m asking of the church. Make a start, add a few more things over time and eventually your green efforts will become a part of your daily routine.