The Green Foundation of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg

Geothermal Comes to the Battlefield

By Delaney Schlake (M. Div Middler, Trinity Lutheran Seminary)

150 years ago, the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (LTSG) figured prominently into the story of the Civil War. Pickett’s charge was inaugurated on Seminary Ridge, and the cupola of the seminary building itself served as a lookout point for both the North and South at different junctures throughout the battle. Gettysburg has seen its fair share of historical moments, becoming woven into the fiber of American identity, culminating in the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in November 2013.

By 2013, it seems that the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg is making history again–this time, through a literally groundbreaking installation of geothermal technology on their historic campus.

When asked about the process by which the possibility of geothermal energy was approached, the Rev. John Spangler (Executive assistant to the president for communication and planning at LTSG) says that it became clear that the seminary needed to think about some sustainable solutions to the recurring maintenance problems with the 100+ year old steam heating system. Instead of continuing to fix the ancient boilers as they repeatedly broke, Rev. Spangler and a group of ecologically and economically minded dreamers came up with the idea of implementing geothermal energy at Gettysburg.

The geological landscape of Gettysburg, PA is very rich in shale, making it viable ground for geothermal wells to be dug and the seminary to begin heating some of its buildings with geothermal energy. (Learn more about how geothermal works here: http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/our-energy-choices/renewable-energy/how-geothermal-energy-works.html.)

The first two buildings to use geothermal heat pumps for the HVAC systems include the Seminary’s historic chapel as well as Schmucker Hall, which has since become a Seminary Ridge history museum, named for seminary founder and important German-American Lutheran theologian, Samuel Schmucker.

The seminary began this process of converting to geothermal with feasibility studies spanning from 2007-2008, embarking on the installation of geothermal heating in the chapel during 2011. The work in the chapel took approximately four months, followed by a year of rehabilitation and geothermal work in Schmucker.

When asked how the seminary was able to fund such an expansive overhaul of century-old technology, Spangler shared that the seminary had recently engaged in a capital campaign, raising one million dollars for the chapel renovation project. Through state and federal grants, donations, and tax credits, LTSG was able to update both the chapel and Schmucker Hall for just shy of twenty million dollars.

Spangler is optimistic about this formidable investment Gettysburg has made in geothermal energy, asserting that the money saved on energy costs will surprisingly quickly re-coup the money spent on installation. On the heels of this innovation and success, LTSG hopes to expand their use of geothermal energy across more of their 52 acre and 25 building campus.

It is clear that Gettysburg is faithfully responding to the questions around what it means to engage in a Spirit-led, Gospel-rooted love of creation through their work in geothermal energy. Spangler was sure to mention that this movement of the Holy Spirit is not only taking place at Gettysburg, but Wartburg Seminary (Dubuque, IA) as well. Wartburg has also faithfully engaged in the process of implementing geothermal energy as a sustainable, responsible method of heating their buildings.

Gettysburg is deeply entrenched in the conversation around eco-justice and eco-spirituality, as evidenced by more than just their implementation of geothermal energy. The Seminary has engaged in a number of projects based in identifying and reducing their carbon footprint, as well as the myriad methods of academic engagement offered, including courses like Ecology and Religion and EcoTheology in Northern Appalachia, both taught by the Rev. Dr. Gilson Waldkoenig.

The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg is also involved in conversations around ecology and faith through Blessed Earth Seminary Stewardship Alliance, GreenFaith: Interfaith Partners for the Environment, and Lutherans Restoring Creation.

Because of their efforts to find sustainable, innovative ways to update their campus and respond to the ecological crisis, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg is a visible manifestation of all that God is doing in reconciling the world and gathering all of creation ever closer to Godself.


Spring 2012

STUDENT INITIATIVE AND COURSE LEADS TO BENCHMARK CALCULATION OF GETTYSBURG SEMINARY’S CARBON FOOTPRINT

Thanks to a new course and student initiative, Gettysburg Seminary received the first-ever calculation of its carbon footprint. The Seminary’s score was 1036 metric tons of CO2 per year, measured before it began to take steps to reduce the size of the carbon output.

In a fall semester class called “Ecology and Stewardship” and taught by Professor Gil Waldkoenig, students collected data to generate the carbon footprint score. Patient and good-natured seminary staff members made a huge contribution by answering questions and providing information, data, billing history and more.

With the seminary’s 2011 installation of geothermal HVAC in its chapel, students expect the carbon footprint will begin to decrease immediately. The student researchers identified other ways that the seminary can readily save energy—and therefore save money. Better energy stewardship will translate into concentrated resources for education of leaders and the mission of the church.

For years the seminary has recycled paper, bottles and cans, and encouraged students, faculty and staff to minimize waste. Assessing the carbon output of the entire institution, however, provides criteria to plan for systematic improvement in energy efficiency.

The students used the same assessment as many other colleges and universities across the country, the “campus carbon calculator” provided by www.cleanair—coolplanet.org. Schools have used this tool to achieve measurable savings for their budgets.

In the world of higher education, seminaries are small institutions compared to most universities and colleges. At present Gettysburg Seminary does not have appropriate comparative readings from other institutions, but the score calculated in the fall of 2011 will be a baseline for comparison in subsequent years.

The students identified key contributors to the carbon footprint. They discovered that one year of mowing the seminary grass was equivalent to driving from Gettysburg to Los Angeles and back—17 times! Analysis of water usage showed that the seminary will begin to save thousands of dollars by even a small investment for low-flow faucets and toilets. The students discovered a 75% reduction in electricity for lighting by using and appropriately recycling CFL bulbs. Clothes dryers and washers in the dorms, seminary vehicles, staff commuting and faculty business travel all came under examination as well.

In future years the seminary may add data about student commuting and other factors to enrich its understanding of how it uses energy and emits carbon.  The Seminary may even deserve offset credit for the many trees and green spaces it tends on its 52-acre campus. Calculation of carbon footprints will become more precise for businesses, municipalities, homes and churches in the years ahead. Thanks to some energetic and visionary students, LTSG at least has an initial report and a real sense of direction for improvement.

“The wonderful news is that Christ unites us to God’s sustaining creativity,” said Professor Waldkoenig. “To cherish and steward God’s creation at our doorsteps is to affirm that Christ never stops loving all he came to save.”

Gettysburg Seminary To Install Water-Saving Measures Across Campus

(March 7, 2012) The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg will continue its campus greening efforts by turning to water savings later this month in a focus on showers and hand sinks across its 25 buildings. If estimates hold true, the Seminary will cut its water consumption by roughly half a million gallons annually, according to calculations that resulted from carbon footprint measures done in the fall of 2011.  Tormod Svensson, a senior seminarian who has completed his Master of Divinity studies and has been called to serve as pastor of St. Johns Lutheran Church, Cumberland, MD, is a skilled plumber from his first career and will be installing water saving devices on showers and hand sinks throughout the seminary.

Seminary Expanding Composting and Community Garden Efforts

(March 8, 2012) Following a pilot project conducted in the Refectory by Biggerstaff’s Catering Company, Gettysburg Seminary will be expanding its on campus composting to include some residential areas, thanks to the Green Task Force. The task force is deploying composting with funds granted by the Stewardship of Life Institute, Gettysburg, PA. The composting project will also support soil building efforts related to the community garden.

Report from April, 2010

Submitted by    John Spangler   & Katy Giebenhain
Gettysburg Seminary report additions:

Curriculum: A number of specific courses; also content in theology courses, integrative seminars, church administration course

Worship: The seminary continues to use, quarterly, the liturgical setting “Of the Land and Seasons” composed and arranged by Stephen Folkemer (who is professor of church music at Gettysburg) with texts by Herman Stuempfle, Beth Folkemer, and others, focusing on metaphors taken from land and nature cycles.

Community: Green Task Force of faculty, students and staff. Recycling expansion, CSA support, on campus gardening, and green principles in land development in seminary campus master plan underway.

Building and Grounds: 
The seminary engaged in extensive feasibility study for geothermal conversions, with first test well (successful) drilled in 2008. Heat pumps were installed in the seminary library in 2008, employed for current cooling (anticipating later ground well hook up). The seminary also is in final stages of proposed historic walking path on campus for tourists and for the health of seminary community; Seminary linked to Gettysburg “Inner Loop” bicycle pathway plan, and providing a “stop” on a Gettysburg area mass transit system set to come on board this spring. Seminary hosts YWCA on campus and subsidizes student, faculty, and staff memberships. Students encouraged to use outdoor lines for clothes drying.  Gettysburg National Park setting is a threshold to miles and miles of healthy walking, scenic views and space for contemplation and prayer.

Advocacy: The seminary is active in land use controversy surrounding proposal of a casino for Gettysburg (successfully rebuffed in 2006, has emerged again in 2010). Hosted and participated in a community-wide observance of the DFA-sponsored 350 Climate Action event October 24th, 2009.

Last updated 4/10