Eco-Journey is the blog of the Environmental Ministries Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It includes a wide array of environmental topics: upcoming environmental events, links to interesting articles and studies, information on environmental advocacy, eco-theology topics, and success stories from churches that are going “green.”
Author Rebecca Barnes is the Associate for Environmental Ministries at the PC(USA). She is a graduate of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary with an MDiv and Master of Arts in Religion (MAR) dual degree.
Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, KS is one of the 120 PCUSA certified Earth Care Congregations. This month they announced the recipients of Village Church's Environmental Action Committee's 2013 Earth Steward Awards.
Recipients of Earth Steward Awards
Village Church’s Environmental Action Committee is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2013 Earth Steward Awards: Michael and Diana Bay and Bob and Bonita Siemens. This award recognizes and honors Village Church members who practice, model, and teach faithful and responsible stewardship of God's Creation. These people are green saints who demonstrate exceptional earth consciousness in their thinking and living by adopting sustainable practices and technology in their daily life, by sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm to influence others, and by supporting environmental programs, legislation, and organizations. Their awards were presented during worship on November 10.
Previous recipients of the Earth Steward Award are Al and Carole Pugsley and Taylor Cantril in 2009, Sarah Are and Caroline Barnett in 2010, Wayne and Janet Bates and Chuck Gillam in 2011, and Jerry Rees in 2012.
Michael and Diana have attended Village since the 1970s. Most recently, they served as Deacons and as members of the Missions Committee and Food Pantry Board. They enjoy the Forum Sunday School Class and Village U classes which support their commitment to life-long learning.
Michael and Diana’s interest in consuming less started as a way for a young family to save money—turning off lights and water faucets, walking and riding bikes to save gas, stretching a pound of ground meat into several meals. Over the years, this simple focus on consuming less evolved into an awareness that personal choices can impact global sustainability.
This awareness motivated them to learn more. One book led to another and then another. Village offered resources such as Village U classes and the Climate Change Forum last March. Community earth fairs and publications gave practical tips for reducing carbon footprints. Visits to Greensburg, Kansas, and area homes provided inspiring examples of earth-friendly construction. Environmentally conscious friends were role models. Today, Michael and Diana recognize that everything from food, water, health, and housing to inequality and poverty are all interconnected with consumption, economics, and government policies.
Awareness and learning combined to drive action. Michael and Diana have made the following changes:
· Installed a geo-thermal system that uses the earth’s constant temperature to both heat and cool their home. It is up to four times more efficient than traditional systems and provides hot water as a by-product.
· Increased energy efficiency by insulating walls, attic, and basement. Sealed air leaks around wires, pipes, ducts, and lighting fixtures. Installed new windows, attic fan cover, and energy efficient gas fireplace insert. Had a blower door and infrared camera test to measure the results.
· Improved attic ventilation by installing a roof ridge vent and increasing soffit venting.
· Replaced plumbing fixtures and faucets with low-flow items.
· Installed LED light bulbs in 95% of household fixtures.
· Downsized lawn area by landscaping with trees, shrubs, and ground cover to reduce mowing, fertilizing, and watering.
· Purchased a 2012 Prius hybrid vehicle and drove it less than 5,000 miles in the past year.
Michael and Diana try to incorporate green practices in their lives every day. Most days, Michael rides his bicycle to the community center where he works out. He runs errands while out on his bike, including trips to the bank, post office, grocery store, and glass recycling bin. Other recyclables go into a bin at home for weekly curbside pickup. Michael and Diana combine shopping trips, patronize neighborhood stores, and shop online. They prefer to eat at home. Diana plans meals for a week at a time and seldom includes beef, one of the most resource intensive sources of protein. Two or three days a week are meatless, and others usually include only small portions of pork, poultry, or fish. Michael reduces the need to mow and water grass by fertilizing only in the fall. This cuts the amount of fertilizer used and avoids the quick water growth from spring fertilizing; and he spot kills weeds as needed instead of spraying the entire yard to reduce chemical use. They both continue to read, study, and learn, and they utilize new, green technologies whenever possible.
Michael and Diana say that this Earth Steward recognition is not about them. It is about all of us. We are all stewards of the earth. What matters is how we choose to handle that responsibility.
Bob and Bonita have been members of Village Church since 1987. Bob is a retired high school biology teacher and recently served a 3 year term as elder. He volunteers for the Front Porch Alliance and is active in the Environmental Action Committee. Bonita is a retired Human Resources Director and Office Manager who endeavors to keep up with 10 grandchildren from their blended family. At church, she volunteers as a Stephen Minister. Both share a passion for gardening and the environment.
They believe Holy Scripture calls people of faith to practice and model earth care. In their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, they have made substantial progress in many areas of their daily living, but feel they still can do more.
They have traded in their gas-guzzling minivan and bought a Prius, so now they typically average mileage in the low 50’s. They’ve changed their driving habits, such as coasting when approaching a stop sign or stoplight, then gently accelerating when taking off, and driving 70 mph or less when on the highway. They organize errands so as to try to do them in one trip. And they are no longer in such a rush.
They have a number of raised bed vegetable gardens to utilize their backyard soil and sunlight. Fertilizer comes from sheep manure trucked in from south of town. Kitchen wastes likewise are composted through the garden. Grass is mowed with a mulching blade and left on the ground. Six 55 gallon rain barrels have been installed to catch roof runoff. Only the garden and deck plants are partially watered with city water, not the lawn. All branches and twigs are piled just off their property for eventual natural recycling and use as an animal habitat. No yard waste is bagged for the trash haulers.
Several years ago, they had their house sided with an additional insulation barrier. They’ve blown in extra attic insulation along with a high tech, shiny, energy barrier; and installed three turbine attic vents.
Inside the house, weekly trash accumulation seldom amounts to more than two basketball sized wads of trash for the trash haulers. Of course, all cardboard, aluminum, metals, and glass are recycled. All paper, newspapers, and bulk mail is recycled at the church, the proceeds of which benefit the Environmental Action Committee and its projects. Light bulbs in the house are mostly CFL’s. Energy efficient garage doors and windows are now throughout the house. Left over water from drinking glasses after meals is used to water house plants or else dumped in a bucket for the bird bath. They no longer use paper napkins, but instead use cloth napkins and wash them as needed. They recently replaced an old, workable, but energy sapping basement refrigerator with a new energy efficient one.
They installed a fireplace insert in their lower family room. Bob cuts, splits, and burns only free firewood from downed trees. Evening time in winter is normally spent in the downstairs family room with upstairs thermostats turned down. Thermostats in winter are turned down as low as Bonita can stand and always 60 degrees at night. Winter dress is long sleeves and sweaters in the house. They reverse this in summertime for the A.C. temperature settings and use fans as much as possible. At Christmas time, they have reduced electrical energy use for outside Christmas lighting with only small bulb lighting around their front door and entrance.
In eating habits, they use portion control, but that’s mainly for health benefits. Oatmeal for breakfast has become a staple. Since Bob grew up a meat and potatoes man, he is less successful in eating lower on the food chain than Bonita.
Bob and Bonita believe our planet is getting more and more crowded with humans and their developments. To have enough water, food, and space for all, we must all do better to conserve God’s Creation and reduce our carbon footprints.