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Churches save money with energy-efficient measures


Deborah White

Want to save $2,000 or more annually on your church utility bill? Then listen to the Rev. Cory Sparks.

"The money you would send to the electric company you can send to the church," says Sparks, a pastor in the Louisiana Conference ot The United Methodist Church.

Sparks was the founding director of Sustainable Churches for South Louisiana, an initiative of the Louisiana Inter-Church Conference that helps hurricane-affected churches rebuild in the most energy-efficient way possible.

"We want to rebuild stronger, greener and more in harmony with creation," said Sparks.

Volunteers conducted energy reviews of nine churches in New Orleans. "We found at least $2,000 annual savings in these congregations," Sparks said.

For example, an energy review of Carrollton United Methodist Church showed a significant problem with draft. Caulking made a major impact. The church also replaced its air conditioner with a high-efficiency model and paid $2,500 for energy-efficient lights.

"This is my number-one recommendation to pastors: Bite the bullet. You will recoup your cost in less than three years."

Sparks offers these money-saving tips:

  • Shut down computers when not in use. Don't leave the screen-saver on. Set the computer to "hibernate" or "sleep" mode. Use the energy-saving setting on equipment such as copiers.
  • Turn off lights in unused parts of the building. Make sure outside lights are off during the day.
  • Check your thermostat. "We can survive without [the temperature] always being 72."
  • Discuss energy bills at the church council meeting. What percentage of the budget goes to energy?
  • Consider hiring a professional energy auditor.

"We often try to get by for the moment," Sparks said. "We should think five or 10 years ahead."

The National Council of Churches (NCC) Creation Justice Ministries offers resources to help churches become more energy efficient. Download their free "Energy Stewardship Guide for Congregations."

"If every congregation reduced energy costs by 25 percent, collectively we would save $500 million, which we could use on other priorities," said Cassandra Carmichael, director of NCC Eco-Justice Programs.

Also check out the "Energy Stewardship Action List."

— Deborah White was associate editor of Interpreter and Interpreter OnLine.