Local congregations go green
Local faith organizations are doing their part in helping the earth by becoming more sustainable. They are practicing conservation by becoming more energy- and water-efficient and reducing waste.
By participating in our Green Business Partnership program and educating their congregations on simple things they can do to go green, they are making a significant positive impact! We’ve shared their stories here, hoping that this will inspire others to follow in their footsteps. Additional links to resources are included at the end.
If you would like to share the story of your congregation’s efforts to increase its sustainability, please send us your story. If you are interested in participating in the Green Business Partnership or making your church or organization more sustainable, please contact us. Email: SustainableSaraota@scgov.net.
Faith Lutheran Church
Faith Lutheran Church became a Sarasota County Green Business Partner in 2015. As a green partner, Faith Lutheran Church is taking steps to have a positive impact. The first of these steps was to create an active green team that meets to discuss programs and projects throughout the church. These projects include eliminating styrofoam, Earth Day coffee hour, tree planting, creating a raised-bed kitchen garden, showing Earthbound videos and going electronic with their newsletters – that include a green tip of the week.
The church has an active recycling program that includes battery collection. The staff uses reusable kitchen wares and coffee mugs, and compostable coffee cups are provided for members and guests. Faith Lutheran Church is also involved with S.U.R.E., Sarasota United for Responsibility and Equity, a local community-wide organization of area churches dedicated to social justice, including affordable housing and other issues, working with local officials to create a better social environment for all citizens.
By using the recommendations in their energy audit, Faith Lutheran has implemented a series of energy reduction measures. The building uses T-8 electronic ballasts, lighting control sensors and was designed to use increased natural lighting during the renovation. The staff ensures that lights are turned off in unused sections of the church buildings, computer monitors are shut down when not in use and the sunshades are down in classroom areas – all leading to additional energy efficiency.
The church conserves water by installing automatic turn-off faucets with aerators and low-flow toilets. They use Florida native and low-maintenance plants that predominantly rely on rainfall. Landscaping does not require any fertilizers or pesticides, and utilizes the more sustainable melaleuca mulch (rather than cypress).
“Faith Lutheran Church wanted to practice what we preach,” says Pastor Steve Winemiller. “We feel a responsibility to be good stewards of this amazing planet that God has given to us. This has led us to look at all our practices, and what kind of footprint this organization makes as it impacts the environment of Sarasota.”
Karen Berwick of Faith Lutheran Church adds, “Since our acceptance into the green business program, we have expanded our weekly congregational email update to more members, and it always includes a weekly Green News tip.”
Temple Beth Sholom
In 2013, the Temple Beth Sholom became the first place of worship and school to join the Sarasota County Green Business Partnership, meeting and exceeding environmental program standards. As a Green Business Partner, the Temple has woven into the fabric of the faith the principle Tikun Olam, meaning “honoring God through restoring the earth.” Environmentalism, conservation and preservation of the earth fit this ancient principle.
The Temple has had an active 15-member “Go Green Team” to assist with implementation of the environmental initiatives. By recognizing the importance of health for current and future generations, the team has removed numerous common chemical products and pesticides detrimental to health from usage. The buildings and grounds are cleaned and maintained with non-toxic and pesticide-free alternatives. Soap and hand sanitizers are both environmentally friendly and safe. All water is filtered and every student is provided a reusable water bottle, eliminating single use plastic water bottle waste.
Energy consumption is reduced through a white reflective roof, low E windows, and energy efficient copiers. The Temple has an active recycling program and students have set up bins to collect additional items such as electronics in the main entrance to the synagogue. Temple Beth Sholom is certified through Green Faith and is also the 1st synagogue with an organic fruit tree garden.
Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota
As a Green Business Partner, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota is making a positive impact on our community. Their green measures include using Florida native landscaping plants that are hand-watered and maintained by volunteers, and placing recycling bins throughout the church with signs to encourage participation. They have a monthly potluck where they encourage sustainable eating (i.e., plant-based foods) to reduce their carbon footprint. This winter they will host a five-week initiative, ‘Eat for Life,” focused on sustainable eating to protect our planet, our animals and our health.
By using the results of an FPL energy audit, the church has made efforts to reduce energy consumption. This includes: disconnecting a small water heater and using it only on Sunday, reminding employees to adjust the temperature settings, solar lighting along walkways, and LED light bulbs have been installed. For the community, the church collects toiletries for the Resurrection House.
Their core values affirm and promote reason and the scientific method as the tools in learning to love each other and live in harmony with the Earth. They are a Green Congregation, promoting respect for the interdependent web of all existence. Complementing these values, their 50-member “Green Team” completed a five-week, single-use plastic awareness campaign: Refuse It, Reuse It.
Each week during February and March, members learned about the dangers of single-use plastics to our environment, our wildlife and our health and took a weekly challenge to create habits that can make a difference. UF/IFAS Extension and Sustainability staff participated in their campaign efforts by providing educational presentations to their congregation. They are continuing the awareness from the campaign with a weekly announcement about plastic usage in the church’s newsletter and updates about plastic on their Green Team web pages.
Sara Kane, Randall Penn, Lee Hayes Byron; contributors: Faith Lutheran Church, Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota
- Sarasota County Green Business Partnership
- GreenFaith Certification Program: A two-year environmental leadership program for houses of worship
- Green Congregation Program: A training and planning process, as well as a certification program
- Interfaith Power and Light: A non-profit organization promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy in congregations as a response to global warming. Includes start-up-kits to become a “Cool Congregation.”
- Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL): A program of the non-profit Jewish Council for Public Affairs, using outreach, activism and Jewish learning to promote environmental stewardship in the Jewish community.
- Evangelical Environmental Network: A Christian ministry that publishes materials to equip and inspire individuals, families, and churches and seeks to educate and mobilize Christians to make a difference in their churches and communities.
- Green Muslims: A source in the Muslim community for spiritually-inspired environmental education, reflection, and action.
- University of Florida’s graduate program in Religion and Nature