Six churches achieve big carbon footprint reductions

August 24, 2016
People from the six churches that took steps to reduce their carbon footprint were recognized at the 2016 Annual Conference.

By: Christa Meland

Reducing your carbon footprint doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars. There are lots of simple things churches can do to minimize their impact on the environment.
Members of the 2014 Minnesota Annual Conference approved a resolution to reduce the carbon footprint of Minnesota United Methodist church buildings. The legislation encouraged all congregations to estimate the carbon footprint of congregational buildings, determine how to reduce it, and implement those changes. Six churches rose to the challenge and implemented a variety of measures to reduce their impact on the environment. The six were recognized at the 2016 Annual Conference.
Here’s a quick look at what each church did, the reduction achieved, and what the church had to say about its efforts.
Wondering how to get started on reducing your congregation’s carbon footprint and/or having a conversation about creation care within your church? Hopeful Earth—a network of Minnesota United Methodist people and churches moving toward a holistic relationship with God’s creation—offers a wide variety of ideas and resources.

Minnetonka UMC

25 percent
What was done: Implementing comprehensive solid waste management system, installing LED lights, installing high-efficiency furnaces, converting 2,000 square feet of lawn to native landscaping
What congregation said: “The response to changes our Caring for Creation team has initiated has been wonderful. All ages are participating, asking questions, and coming up with suggestions. There is a heightened awareness now of the importance of caring for our earth. People are understanding how we need to all work together to make changes that affect this one earth on which we live. Our congregation strives to be caring, inclusive, and Spirit-filled in all that we do.”

Portland Avenue UMC, Bloomington

Reduction: 23 percent
What was done: Installing LED lights in fellowship hall, sanctuary, office wing, and parking lot; adding recycling to garbage-hauling contract and putting recycling containers throughout building
What congregation said: “This project was a tremendous effort for our Board of Trustees but a great way to bring together good stewardship of our resources with good stewardship of our finances. This is evident in the reduction in our electricity bill alone comparing 2014 to 2015.”

Lake Harriet UMC, Minneapolis

18 percent
What was done: Purchasing electricity from solar power company Innovative Power Systems, which is leasing space on top of the church building and installed solar panels there
What congregation said: “The Lake Harriet UMC Board of Trustees is committed to promoting good stewardship of the earth and all of God’s creation. We do not have a separate ‘green team’ at church but rather have integrated creation care values into trustee decisions. Having previously implemented church-wide composting and partnering with our neighborhood organization to create rain gardens on our property, we jumped at the chance to participate in a rebate program to install solar panels on the roof of our building. We view this as a ‘win-win’ decision: We are reducing our dependence on non-renewable resources while also reducing our financial costs for purchasing electricity. The gospel imperative to grow in love of God and neighbor implies creation care—an abundant creation supports abundant life for our neighbors.”

Faith UMC, St. Anthony

13.5 percent
What was done: Installing LED lights in sanctuary and common areas, installing motion detector lights in restrooms
What congregation said: “In God’s Renewed Creation: Call to Hope and Action, the Council of Bishops said, ‘We cannot help the world until we change our way of being in it.’ This project is one way that we have taken on the task of changing our way of being in the world. Reducing our carbon footprint benefits our neighbors around the world who are suffering because of climate change.”

Hennepin Avenue UMC, Minneapolis

5.5 percent
What was done: Installing LED lights
What congregation said: “The improvements demonstrate to the members and visitors to the church that reducing carbon emissions can result in improved quality and flexibility of church spaces. Energy-conscious measures at Hennepin helped the Administrative Council adopt a ‘Pledge for Climate Action,’ which calls on leaders of church activities—from worship to youth activities to facilities management—to consider climate impacts as they plan and execute program activities.”

Community UMC, Monticello

Reduction: Unknown
What was done: Installed LED lights, put air-conditioning system on Xcel cycling program (Xcel turns the central air-conditioning unit on and off for brief intervals during peak energy usage days and in exchange provides a discount on the church’s energy bill), installed programmable thermostats, put outside lights on astronomical timers
What congregation said: “We were trying to reduce costs and be good stewards of our facility and environment.”

Additional churches have implemented energy-saving measures since annual conference. For example, Faith UMC in Eyota recently installed LED lights in its sanctuary with the help of the Eyota Fire Department.

Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 400 Minneapolis, MN 55404

(612) 870-0058