Environmental Stewardship

The Environmental Stewardship Work Area helps us become responsible stewards of God's creation, and care for humankind. We

  • Provide environmental education
  • Encourage individual and corporate green living habits
  • Help the church take steps to make our facilities more energy efficient and earth friendly
  • Provide avenues for environmental social action

United Methodist Church Earth Day Video

In recognition of Earth Day, the United Methodist Church has produced a video featuring stunning images of Nature along with the beautiful words of a prayer written by United Methodist Bishop Ken Carter when he was a pastor in North Carolina in 2005.

You are encouraged to use this video for personal reflection. To view, visit The United Methodist Church website

Composting? Really?

Q: Why would I want to Compose?

A: There are many good reasons to start composting. It is very beneficial from an agricultural and environmental standpoint. Most significant benefits are:

  1. Improves soil structure, benefits root growth and water retention.
  2. Provides a source of slow-release organic fertilizer for your plants, helps fight diseases.
  3. Reduces 20-40% of the waste that ends up in the landfill. This ALONE is a fantastic reason for composting - why would you throw this organic material in a landfill?
  4. It’s fun and satisfying to know you’re doing your part to conserve earth’s resources

Q: I want to compost, but is it hard and how would I get started?

A: It’s really quite easy and it won’t take you a lot of time to get started. You’ll need a compost bin or an area in your yard for a compost heap, ideally in a sunny or partly sunny spot. You want it easily accessible all year long.

Q: OK, so what do I put in the compost bin?

A: The two main categories of ingredients are “greens and browns.” You will need both of these materials plus water to make compost.

  • Green - Vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds/filters, tea leaves/bags, garden waste, fresh weeds without seeds, fresh grass clippings.
  • Brown - Dry leaves, dry straw and hay, sawdust, woodchips from untreated wood, twigs, dried grass clippings, shredded paper, napkins, newspaper (no petroleum ink, Soy ink is OK)
  • Other - Eggshells (crushed), plain rice, bread, hair, wool, cotton, lint
  • Do not compost - Meats, fish, eggs, dairy products, grease, bones, pet and human waste, glass, plastic/petroleum products, metals, synthetic materials, large branches and wood chunks, wood ashes, lime

Q: Is that all I need to know to get started?

A: A few other things you need to know about the food you feed your compost:

  • Start your pile with a generous layer of browns on the bottom.
  • Alternate the layers of greens and browns: 2 parts green and 1 part brown material.
  • The smaller the material the faster it will break down.
  • If you don’t have leaves you can use sawdust, straw or even shredded newspaper for browns.
  • Add water and turn the materials periodically. Moisture and oxygen are required components in composting. You can use a pitch fork or place your materials into a tumbler to artificially aid the aeration of your pile. You want to do this about every 3-5 days.
  • You can also add a shovel-full of soil at any stage. This will introduce soil organisms into your pile or bin and will act as an accelerator.

Q: Is it Finished Yet?

A: The composting process can take anywhere from 3 – 8 months depending on the mix of materials, moisture and air. Generally, it is ready to use when it is dark brown, smells like earth and crumbles in your hand.

Q: Where can I find more information?

A: Types of bins: http://greenactioncentre.ca/content/compost-bin-options/

How to Compost Video: http://greenactioncentre.ca/content/how-to-compost-video/

Composting basics: http://www.compostguy.com/composting-basics/#getting-started

Composting basics: http://www.howtocompost.org/info/info_composting.asp

Celebrate Earth Day - Oak Trees Available

Sunday Morning, April 26
Parking Lot

In honor of Earth Day (April 22) and Arbor Day (April 24), the Environmental Stewardship Work Area is giving away oak trees after each service. The trees will be given out by the entrance adjacent to the parking lot.

SEEDLING PLANTING INSTRUCTIONS
1. Soak the tree in water ONE day before planting. 
2. Make sure the area is clear from power lines, other trees, buildings and anything else within 30 feet. 
3. Dig a hole, at least 2 times the width of the root system and turn the soil up to 3 feet in diameter around the tree hole.
4. Place the tree in the hole, with the top of the roots just under the soil line.
5. Partially fill the hole with dirt, firm the soil around the lower roots making sure not to break them.
6. Use water to help reduce air pockets.  Then fill the rest of the hole up.
7. Water the tree and entire planting area with plenty of water. 
8. Place mulch around the tree within 1” of touching the tree.
9. Water your newly planted tree every 7-10 days during the first year.
10. Enjoy your new Oak tree!

The Tiny Home Movement

The Tiny Home Movement – Is Your McMansion Worth it?
While I think it’s unlikely that many of our members are in the market for a Tiny Home – generally agreed to be a residence of 400 ft2 or less – I do think that many of us are considering whether we could at least downsize, simplify and lead lives more aligned with a reduced carbon footprint and respect for the finite nature of water, building materials, energy as well as the impact of our consumption on so many species on our planet. In fact, our buildings in the US contribute nearly 40% of our carbon dioxide output.

Most of us spend 1/3 to ½ of our total income on our homes, with 76% of us living paycheck to paycheck…mostly to meet that burden. Consider that for a moment. It’s a good exercise to look at your monthly expenses and make the connection between them and the roof over our head. Our mortgage is just the beginning. Consider taxes, energy, maintenance, major appliances, insurance, and on and on. It’s estimated that the cost of a $290,000 home over the life of a 30-year mortgage is over $1M! It’s the biggest drain on our pocketbooks of all of life’s expenses short of, perhaps, a catastrophic health challenge, and it doesn’t just impact our financial well-being. Who hasn’t lost sleep considering the burden of a 30-year mortgage? With the recession of 2008 and the major disruption in the residential housing market, many homeowners are continuing to climb out of the devaluation of our primary residences (and only for most of us). And an equal number are considering whether our overly-large homes by most standards are worth that financial – and mental/emotional – burden.

Tiny Homes – by the numbers!
• Only 29% of traditional homeowners are mortgage free vs. 68% of tiny homeowners
• Avg. cost to build a tiny home is $23k vs. hundreds of thousands for a traditional home
• 65% of tiny homeowners have NO credit card debt
• Avg. monthly utilities cost for an avg. home is over $160 vs. $10-40 for a tiny homeowner
• Financial stress is a major contributor to many chronic health conditions – our home is our largest financial burden

Consider Some Practical Downsizing

As I noted, most of us aren’t likely to downsize to a Tiny Home anytime soon, or ever, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider downsizing at all. If you’re considering a change in space, consider making a conscious choice to downsize as dramatically as you are able – the planet will thank you…and you may just sleep better.

Environmental Stewardship Sunday - What Are We Doing And Why Is It Important

Join us this Sunday as the Environmental Stewardship Work Area (ESWA) hosts Environmental Stewardship Sunday. During all three services, work area members will be delivering the message of “Christian Earthkeepers.” 

The ESWA will also host displays in the parlor before and after the 9:30 & 11:00 services including: 

  • organic cleaning products, including whether they work and whether they come with a really high price tag;
  • saving energy and reducing maintenance by changing to LED lighting;
  • the value and payback of energy assessments;
  • composting; recycling batteries, noting that alkaline batteries are more difficult to recycle that in past; recycling and reusing; water conservation and use and what can be done at your home;
  • retail cost and availability of LED light bulbs for home use;
  • fand other topics from the Environmental Stewardship Work Area members.

Community Supported Agriculture – A local produce adventure in every box

It's late-January, and a handful of purple and gold potatoes still remains from my great produce adventure of 2014. Last year for the first time my husband David and I signed up for a Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, subscription. Over the past seven months, we’ve cooked and eaten better—and more deliciously—than ever before!

CSA’s allow people to receive a regular supply of produce from a farm near where they live. It’s a direct line to locally grown food. For the duration of the growing and harvest season, you receive a weekly or biweekly box of whatever veggies happen to be ready for picking. You pay for the full season’s produce up-front, essentially becoming an investor in the success of that particular farm. In exchange, you get to know exactly where your food is coming from, and since it was usually picked the day before, you can be sure you’re getting the freshest vegetables available.

Last year, having just moved to Downers Grove from Chicago the year before, we discovered that a farming operation outside Rockford, Angelic Organics, had just started making deliveries to our area. Angelic Organics is a biodynamic farm that has been supplying organic, sustainably grown vegetables to the Chicago area since 1991. Dave and I already visited local farmers’ markets, grew some of our own veggies in the backyard, and tried to cook with the produce that was in season during the warm months. We decided to take the plunge and signed up to receive a biweekly box starting in June and going through the fall.

An area family had volunteered their house to be the delivery site for Downers Grove. After we picked up our first box—marking our name off the honor-system list on their porch—opening it up was a bit like Christmas morning. The box was packed to the brim with two heads of lettuce, broccoli, a bunch of radishes, beets, scallions, parsley, and a summer squash. It was also stuffed with three types of greens we’d never tried before: Chinese cabbage, mizuna, and red choi. I was making spaghetti that night and immediately sliced up and cooked the summer squash with some olive oil and spices, then made a green salad with the lettuce and radishes. Our first CSA meal was a success!

Next came planning how to use the rest of the veggies, including those colorful mystery greens. Fortunately, we had help from a free online recipe service called Local Thyme that was available through Angelic Organics. Each week, Local Thyme put out a meal plan with recipes that would use all the items in our box, including main dishes, side dishes, and sometimes drinks and desserts! Meatless and/or gluten-free versions of each recipe were provided, so Dave and I (who are vegetarian) had it easy.

We learned that mizuna is a Japanese plant with a peppery flavor similar to arugula and that it’s very tasty sautéed with garlic and served over pasta. As the weeks went by, many new surprises arrived in our boxes that allowed us to get acquainted with other produce we’d never tasted before—from kohlrabi to garlic scapes to celeriac. We learned other things we’d been missing out on for years: You can eat carrot tops! (They taste like carrots.) And we tried recipes that ranged from black bean, green pepper, and corn enchiladas in June to butternut squash and kale flatbreads in November.

All of it was delicious. In fact, the entire summer and fall became a cooking and eating extravaganza beyond our wildest dreams. Meanwhile, we got a newsletter tucked in each of our CSA boxes, updating us on what was happening at the farm and how the crops were progressing with pictures of the crew at work.

Dave and I set a goal at the start of our CSA deliveries to not buy any produce from the grocery store from mid-June through mid-November. When we rolled into the week before Thanksgiving, we had met that goal easily. Not only were we able to connect with and support an organic and sustainable local farmer, but we actually ended up saving money. Our grocery bills were significantly lower throughout those six months—even after we factored in the cost of the subscription.

Needless to say, we’ve signed up for our next CSA season in 2015, and we can’t wait to open up that first box to see what’s inside.

~Vera Miller

Energy Assessments Can Make A BIG Difference!

What are you doing and why is it important?

You can have a free energy assessment of you home! Improvements implemented as a result of a home energy assessment can make a big difference in your home energy use. Nicor and ComEd customers have opportunities to reduce the energy usage in their home through their free Home Energy Assessment Program. By contacting Nicor at 888-652-2955, you can have a free “walk through” energy assessment of your home. During your home energy assessment, you will uncover opportunities to save energy, after which you can find a contractor to implement some of the identified energy efficiency projects and improvements to your home. During your home energy assessment, where needed, you will receive free installation of CFLs, low-flow showerheads, low flow aerators in bathroom and kitchen sinks, and hot water pipe insulation and a programmable thermostat. You will also learn about rebates you can receive to help cover the cost of any energy efficiency improvements you choose to implement. These rebates may be for thermostats, high-efficiency HVAC equipment, air sealing, insulation, duct sealing and other energy reducing items. These rebates are usually funded on a first-come basis, until that year’s funds are used up, so it is wise to act soon.

In conjunction with this program, we had a home energy assessment performed on our home during December 2012. This included a detailed analysis of energy use as influenced by insulation, light bulbs, appliances, water use, and air leaks in our home. This program included free installation of CFLs, low-flow showerheads, low flow aerators in bathroom and kitchen sinks, and hot water pipe insulation. We already had programmable thermostats, or they would also have installed those. The free items performed during our energy assessment were valued at a total cost of $117.66 and with an annual savings of $114.00. This energy assessment indicated that we could reduce our energy use by at least 10% by adding some additional attic insulation and by targeted air sealing, even with the 95% high-efficiency furnace which we had installed a few years prior. However, before we could have the targeted air sealing performed, we would also need to install a fresh air ventilation system. Fresh air ventilation systems are being installed on new construction where the homes are very tightly sealed. As result of our assessment, including the free items added during the assessment, the added insulation and the targeted air sealing, we have reduced our energy use, i.e., our carbon footprint by over 15%.

Thomas R. Roose

Saving Energy and Reducing Maintenance By Changing to LED Lighting

Trustees, Environmental Stewardship Work Area and S.O.S. continue to join together to change to LED lighting in key high usage areas of our church’s building. You may have noticed that some of the rooms and hallways are a little brighter. 

Chapel Hall was the first room to have all the fluorescent tubes replaced with LED light tubes. A team of S.O.S. workers washed and retrofit all the fixtures and put in LED tubes in Chapel Hall and its kitchen this past September. Those of you who attended Sunday early services in that room, due to the elevator repair challenge, immediately saw the difference. 

Next, during the October S.O.S., a number of staff offices on the second floor, the PAD’s entrance hall by the gym and the main hallways on the west half of the second floor were changed to LED lighting. Additional LED tubes have been purchased to retrofit key difficult or dangerous fixtures in stairways throughout the church. These installations will happen during future S.O.S. work Saturdays.

LED lighting uses much less electricity to provide the same light than the traditional incandescent and fluorescent lighting. The LED tubes use about 1/3 of the electric power to generate the same amount of light as long-tube fluorescent tubes. Additionally, depending on usage, they will last from 5 to 10 years, or over four times longer than the lighting being replaced. This is a great benefit for the difficult or dangerous fixtures in stairwells or high ceiling areas. 

About a year ago, the Environmental Stewardship Work Area purchased LED bulbs for the parlor on the first floor. You may have noticed that this room is a little brighter. These LED bulbs use about 1/10 of the electric power to generate the same amount of light as incandescent light bulbs. Another great thing is that LEDs are available at local hardware and big box stores like Home Depot, Lowes and Menards.

August Provides Gusto for Local Produce

Look here to find out what local produce is in season this month!

July is the Jackpot for Local Produce

Look here to find out what local produce is in season this month!

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