Being good stewards of the earth and of finances are intertwined. There are many ways to reduce expenditures and have a lighter environmental impact.
One of the easiest places to start is in the office. Like most churches, your printers and copiers probably get a workout. Make it a practice to print double-sided, and to have everything fit on one page whenever possible. The bulletin at Atlanta Unity Church, Ga., went from two pages to one double-sided page. Those savings add up quickly for a large congregation. Also, you will save a significant amount of money if you refill your toner cartridges rather than buy new ones.
To save on energy, make it a practice to turn off lights when not in use or install a motion sensor so they turn off automatically. Programmable thermostats also help to ensure that the heat or air conditioning are not running unchecked. According to the EPA’s Energy Star website, most congregations can cut energy costs by up to 30 percent through low-cost changes and by investing strategically in efficient equipment, facility upgrades and maintenance. Examples of energy savings at Unity spiritual communities include:
- Unity of Beaverton, Ore., refitted their church building with energy-saving light fixtures, tuned up their furnace, and replaced their lawn sprinkler with drip tubes. They’re now saving $35 to $40 a month on utilities; good for the budget, good for the earth.
- Unity Church of Portland, Ore., conducted an energy audit and participated in a Lighting Efficiency Retrofit Project. As a result, the church’s annual electric bills decreased $1,000 the first year and $1,600/year over the next two years. They realized a three-year return on their investment. And they continue to reap the savings of the retrofit project.
Disposable kitchenware may seem like the easiest solution in the short term, but the costs of all those plastic cups, plates, and utensils add up—both financially and environmentally. Ask people to donate mugs for community coffee, and consider using plates and silverware for events.
If you have a garden space, select new plantings that are native or other low-water plants, make sure sprinklers do not water non-green areas, and water early in the morning or late in the day. A fun project would be to create rain barrels and harvest rainwater from drainpipes.
These and many more examples on how to conserve, along with a Green Facility Assessment & Forms which can be used in lieu of hiring a professional environmental audit firm, can be found on Unity Worldwide Ministries EarthCare Congregation Program webpage.
In addition to saving money, implementing earth-oriented practices and spirituality into your ministry may attract new congregants. Christ Church Unity of Orlando, Fla., has grown from 60 to 800 members in the past few years. Much of this growth is attributed to their active EarthCare and other spiritual social action ministries.
While tracking resources and expenses may be tedious, it is a good practice in mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn writes, “The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.” When we are awake, we see the interconnectedness of life and we feel spiritual oneness with our earth home. We realize that our actions create ripples that impact our world in ways we can only begin to imagine.