Tag Archives: How to Make Your Seminary Greener

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

How Do We Truly Commit to the Earth Charter?

During the 2019 Churchwide Assembly the ELCA voted to officially sign onto the principals of the Earth CharterFor a history on that process read here (click).

Now what? How do we all make sure we live this out? 

Thanks to the focus of the Delaware-Maryland Creation Care Ministry group who is acting as shepherd for the larger ELCA Sustainability Table on this facet of our work together.

See most recent working group notes here (from May 2020) and consider how your synod (or just your congregation) may follow their lead: 

As part of the Sustainability/Environment Table workgroup to implement the Earth Charter, the Delaware-Maryland Synod Creation Care Ministry decided to focus on principles 7.a. and 7.b. under II. Ecological integrity.

7. Adopt patterns of production, consumption, and reproduction that safeguard Earth’s regenerative capacities, human rights, and community well-being.

a. Reduce, reuse, and recycle the materials used in production and consumption systems, and ensure that residual waste can be assimilated by ecological systems.

b. Act with restraint and efficiency when using energy, and rely increasingly on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.

These were recommended because we believe these goals can be embraced and achieved by our congregations and because energy efficiency and adoption of renewable energy sources is critical to address our climate crisis.

As such, we developed an Eco-Resolution (see here) that was to be presented during this year’s Delaware-Maryland Synod Assembly in May 2020.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our assembly was cancelled, however we continue to share our message via digital means including videos we have produced.

Our Synod Council will vote on whether to pass the resolution and Larry Ryan produced a video to explain our objectives:  YouTube link

  1. Awareness of the ELCA’s longstanding support of Creation Care and specifically the 1993 ELCA Social Statement on the Environment.

2. Awareness of the Earth Charter that was endorsed during Churchwide Assembly in 2019.

3.  Implementation of portions of the Earth Charter working in cooperation with the ELCA Sustainability/Environment Table.

4. Engaging with congregations to help them be better stewards of creation as defined in our project “New Hope for Creation” that received funding from our Synod Connectedness Team.

In addition to our video on the Eco-Resolution, we asked Delaware-Maryland Synod Bishop Bill Gohl to produce a video that explains the Earth Charter at a high level : CLICK HERE

And as part of our outreach to congregations with our New Hope for Creation project, Charlie Bailey produced a video (click here) for his congregation that invites them to become better stewards of creation by becoming a covenant congregation, modeled after LRC’s Covenant for Congregation.

The Delaware-Maryland Synod Creation Care Ministry would be happy to engage with other Synods in implementing the Earth Charter and other creation care work.

What do we know (and do) about Carbon Pricing?

Lenten Resource: Carbon Fast Calendar

This year, the Central  States Synod Lutherans Restoring Creation Mission Table encourages you to skip the fasting from chocolate or soda, and instead, give up one thing every day that contributes to unnecessary waste and pollution in our environment. Thanks to the creativity of Pastor Christyn Koschmann*, we have a “Carbon Fast Calendar,” with ideas for each day of Lent.

Download the Calendar (click here) and reproduce to share within your congregations and/or synod!

In addition, creative posts for social media are available on the shared Google Drive (below) to help keep members of your congregation engaged each day:
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1BSTpY5qTz6xsb3Ncj0G9nwG-8fCkDszo

As we recall Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the desert, may this “Carbon Fast” not only strengthen our faith, but also prove that taking little steps toward environmental stewardship can have a big impact. You can get started now by calculating your carbon footprint at https://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx and then calculate your energy savings throughout the season of Lent. Share your results with other members of your congregation (and share on a report to Lutherans Restoring Creation!) to see how, together as a community of faith and action, we are caring for God’s Creation in measurable ways.

*

Thanks to Christyn for all her creative and spiritual talents – the Central States Synod office is lucky to have her and we appreciate them sharing her talents with other Lutherans Restoring Creation across the country!

Climate Justice & Faith Concentration at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary

An invitation from Cynthia Moe-Lobeda:

Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary is so very pleased to announce a new development in our curriculum that may be of strong interest to you.

We have inaugurated a concentration in Climate Justice and Faith! It is available to all M.Div students and will be available to all students in the new Masters in Spirituality and Social Change that we intend to launch in the fall of 2021.

This flier (click here) describes the climate justice concentration. Please see the website for a fuller depiction at: https://www.plts.edu/programs/master-divinity/climate-justice.html

It is so utterly crucial that faith communities provide leadership in moving our world away from climate catastrophe and toward the flourishing of God’s marvelous creation. Therefore we intend – as soon as possible – to create a version of this concentration for people who want to prepare for leadership in creation care and climate justice, but who are not studying for a masters degree.  It will be a certificate in Climate Justice and Faith.  Stay tuned for more information on that opportunity.

We invite you to share this website and flyer broadly in your organization or network.

May God’s power for healing and liberation flow among us,

Cynthia D. Moe-Lobeda, Ph.D.
Professor of Theological and Social Ethics,
Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary of California Lutheran University
Church Divinity School of the Pacific
Core Doctoral Faculty, the Graduate Theological Union

Ways to Integrate Creation Care in your Lenten Practices

As we prepare for the season of Lent, share these resources with your Bible Study group, Worship committee , Church Council or just for your own personal Lenten journey:

Tools for Talking and Acting on Climate with Faith-based Language

Blessed Tomorrow’s Moving Forward Guide

ecoAmerica helps leaders from the local government, the public health sector, and faith-based cohorts figure out how to usher people into urgent action on climate change. This brief guide provides you with information and resources to reduce energy use, to build resilient houses of worship as refuges from a changing climate, and to encourage support for policies that better care for creation.

See especially the section: Roadmap to Clean Energy by 2030 for clarity on steps to make once your congregation affirms the need for urgent action.

EPA’s Energy Star Congregation’s Guide

The United States (U.S.) Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR® program and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Building Technologies Office (BTO) collaborated through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Commercial Buildings Research Group to create this workbook.
This workbook serves as a resource and planning guide for clergy, staff, and laypersons of houses of worship who want to increase the energy efficiency of their facilities by implementing realistic and cost effective energy improvement projects. Download the guide and appendices for free below.  Be sure to also find out who near you  (see map) has become a part of the EPA’s Protfolio Manager program +/or has tried some of these suggestions in their house of worship.

EPA’s Energy Guide for Congregations

Appendices to support EPA Guide

Disclaimer

All energy, water, and monetary savings listed in this document are based upon average savings for end users and are provided for educational purposes only. Actual savings will vary based on energy, water, and facility use, national weather data for your locality, energy prices, and other factors. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are calculated based on emission factors reported to the U.S. EPA by the electric utility provider serving your ZIP Code. Data referenced in this document is provided by the U.S. EPA and the U.S. DOE’s NREL

Water discipleship tools – fresh from Vermont!

Vermont Lutheran Church partners with Interfaith Power & Light to Share the Various Ways to Revere Water:

In 2018, Vermont Interfaith Power and Light (VTIPL) joined with local organizations to create a model for watershed stewardship, based on the experience of Ascension Lutheran Church in South Burlington, Vermont.  The Reverend Dr. Nancy Wright, pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church, and Richard Butz, a member of the church, are co-authors of the manuals. Rev. Nancy Wright is also a chairperson of the New England Synod’s Lutherans Restoring Creation “Green Team”. 

VTIPL has created two manuals, one with a Christian emphasis, Congregational Watershed Discipleship Manual: Faith Communities as Stewards of the World’s Waters (1st Christian edition) and another with an interreligious emphasis, Congregational Watershed Manual: Religious Communities as Stewards of the World’s Waters (1st Interreligious edition).

Each one of these inspiring and practical manuals is available by free download from the pdfs on VTIPL’s website (www.vtipl.org) and this website.  Alternatively, if you’d like one copy or multiple copies of the printed and bound manual(s), you can fill out and mail in the order form (attached below).  These are high resolution print copies, spiral bound to conveniently lie flat.  If you’d like to order one or more copies online, you can do this through the website of the organization Voices of Water for Climate (VOW).  VOW is working with VTIPL to take orders and distribute printed copies of the manuals.  Donations to VOW for printed copies will cover costs incurred, including shipping and handling.  The link to order online is below.

www.vow4climate.org/store 

(Email info@lutheransrestoringcreation.org if you are interested in going in on a bulk order with others!)

Energy Stewardship

Lutherans have had a tremendous history with being good energy stewards – but we have a LONG way to go.  There is a broad range of steps to be taken that all make progress in the long run for the environment and for a congregation’s budget.  Our houses of worship can either be a beacons of sustainability to our neighbors or a draw on the community’s power  – what does God call of us?

  • Find out if there is an Energy Steward you would like to contact within our ELCA networks in facilities and investments who could give you advise by looking at our Map (click here).
  • Explore the FREE EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager program (which has more Lutherans registered users than any other denomination – so far). Check out (click here) their entire pdf guides here for free.
  • Be inspired by reading about stories from the ELCA realm who have had great experiences saving energy while freeing up more money to be used in other ministries!
  • Reach out to your local utility and/or regional Interfaith Power and Light for insight as to local support for energy savings and alternative choice options.

 

Living the Change: A Tool Connected to Many Faiths

GreenFaith has helped pull together leaders from various religions across the globe to recognize our common concern for the planet and life on it. In doing this they have created a tool that can be customized to each tradition and helps us focus on the major activities which we can alter to mitigate a changing climate. Please use this link to sign up (either solo or as a whole team… youth group, Bible Study Class, family, etc.) we want to know of your efforts and celebrate together!

Living the Change as Lutherans Restoring Creation 

Growing a garden church from food scraps and compost

We turned an empty lot in L.A. into an edible sanctuary.

by Anna Woofenden (shared from Christian Century magazine)

When I moved to Los Angeles in 2014 to start a church that connected people with food, the earth, each other, and God, I envisioned a sanctuary created around the table. It would not be built out of stones and stained glass and wood but would be circled by vegetable beds and fruit trees, with sky for ceiling and earth for floor. The vision was to create an urban farm and outdoor sanctuary feeding people in body, mind, and spirit.

In the early months, the Garden Church wandered from public park to downtown street corner. We walked the neighborhood and listened to our neighbors, finding out which grocery stores had fresh vegetables and noticing the homeless encampments, the schools, the clinics, and the empty lots. [Read more here…]

 

 

 

Green IT

The Office of Information Technology (OIT) at Muhlenberg College has been on the forefront of campus sustainability initiatives. Not only do all the new college computer purchases meet EPEAT Gold standards, but energy reduction mechanisms are constantly being introduced.

Most recently, a pilot program to automatically hibernate public computers not in use for more than 10 minutes has been tested. Also, multiple servers have been consolidated into one. Both of these efforts have significantly reduced energy consumption.

Muhlenberg is also considering future expansions of the Green IT program with technology to detect room occupancy to turn off technology when a room is not being used.

Learn more about Muhlenberg Green IT initiatives.

Valparaiso University shares tips about how to reuse plastic bags!

When one ton of plastic bags is reused or recycled, the energy equivalent of 11 barrels of oil is saved! By bringing your own bag to the grocery store, you can save thousands of plastic bags from ending up in landfills, or even worse in ecosystems where they can harm living creatures.

Look for alternate uses for the bags you’ve collected

  • Old bags make great in-car trash containers.
  • Use them as shoe protectors in the garden.
  • Re-use them to clean up kitty litter, or to pick up dog droppings when walking your pet.
  • Use them in your smaller waste bins around the house.
  • Fill a few with shredded paper and tie them off for cheap, reusable packing materials. They’re also a handy way to maintain the shape of your favorite tote.
  • Cut a slit in your bags and use them to protect clothes from dust, moths, and other pests.
  • Take them with you for easy disposal of diapers.

To see other tips, visit Valparaiso’s sustainability page.

Eco-Resources for Your Synod Gatherings

What can YOU do to get congregations in your area thinking about Caring for Creation as part of church?

1. Host a Presentation or Workshop:
  • No need to start from scratch – we have many templates that you can use as is or add to. Also plenty of resources are available that connect with a broad range of themes depending on the synod’s theme.  Contact us to have materials sent/attached to you directly: info@lutheransrestoringcreation.org
  • If your gathering is looking for special guests – check our list of speakers and see what other “Green Shepherds” may be in your area. 

2. Care for Creation Worship:
3. Propose resolutions:
4. Host a display table with information:
  • Print out a few sample materials and be sure to have people sign up for more information (you can use this form [Sign-IN-at-Events-sheet.pd]  scan/email it back to us and then we’ll send back a list of everyone in your synod who has interest in this ministry!) Set up a computer(if wi-fi is available) and share some video educational tools.
  • Stories. Showcase examples of what is happening in the congregations of your synod and ask for more stories – from gardening together, to washing dishes rather than throwing them away. Celebrate what everyone has to offer!
5. Use Environmental “best practices” at your synod assembly

Within Limits: Remember the Sabbath

Jim Martin-Schramm
Luther College Chapel
October 7, 2011
Exodus 23:10-12 (or 31:12-17)

Within Limits: Remember the Sabbath

Our reading this morning is from the 23rd chapter of Exodus:

For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat. You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.

For six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, so that your ox and your donkey may have relief, and your home-born slave and the resident alien may be refreshed. (Exodus 23:10-12)

One of the problems that has plagued the modern era has been a self-defeating anthropocentrism. This brief passage from Exodus is remarkable for its breadth of moral concern. The injunction to let the land lay fallow every seven years reflects God’s concern for the landless poor who needed access to food, but it also reflects God’s concern for wild animals and even for the land itself. The injunction to rest from work every seven days was made to provide rest and relief for all who work the land, including domesticated animals and servants. In this passage God’s scope of moral concern extends well beyond human beings to the welfare of all that God has made.

The alternative reading for today from the 31st chapter of Exodus ties this practice of taking time to rest more directly to observation of the Sabbath:

The Lord said to Moses: You yourself are to speak to the Israelites: ‘You shall keep my sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, given in order that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. You shall keep the sabbath, because it is holy for you; everyone who profanes it shall be put to death; whoever does any work on it shall be cut off from among the people. For six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the Israelites shall keep the sabbath, observing the sabbath throughout their generations, as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign for ever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.’

Now, I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t remember the part about being put to death for doing work on the Sabbath. How many of you have done work on the Sabbath? If we put everyone to death who worked on the Sabbath I suspect there would not be many of us left!

More seriously, however, perhaps this text has a point. Is it possible that by never taking time to rest we are working ourselves to death? Is it possible that our own work schedules and relentless lifestyles are also working others to death? Is it possible that our industrious and industrial way of life is working our planet to death?

Wendell Berry raises these sorts of questions in his foreword to Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight by Norman Wirzba (Brazos Press, 2006). I read this book in preparation for this homily and found it very helpful. Berry writes:

We are living at the climax of industrialism. The “cheap” fossil fuels on which our world has grown dependent, are now becoming expensive in money and in lives.…. The industrial economy, by definition, must never rest…. Whatever we have, in whatever quantity, is not enough. There is no such thing as enough…. Six workdays in a week are not enough. We need a seventh…. We need an eighth…. We cannot stop to eat. Thank God for cars! We dine as we drive over another paved farm. Everybody is weary and there is no rest. (11)

There is very little that is sustainable about our current industrial way of life. According to Paul Hawken in The Ecology of Commerce, every day the global economy burns an amount of fossil fuel that it took nature 10,000 days to create.[1] Put another way, 27 years of stored solar energy in coal, oil, and natural gas are burned by utilities, cars, houses, factories, and farms every 24 hours. Think about that: Every day we consume an amount of fossil fuel energy that it took the planet 27 years to create.

Given the focus of these Exodus texts on agriculture, it is worthwhile to reflect on how our industrial way of life is affecting the land, other animals, and the people who work to produce the food we consume. While we have made some important strides in the U.S. regarding soil and water conservation, we are still losing topsoil faster than nature can replenish it and our applications of fertilizers and pesticides are polluting waterways and contributing to huge dead zones like the one in the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, our land use practices have destroyed and fragmented so many habitats that we are now experiencing an unprecedented rate of species extinction and loss of biodiversity.

Our industrial way of life has not been good for wild animals and it certainly has not been good for domesticated animals. The vast majority of the ten billion animals slaughtered in the United States last year were raised in massive confinement operations that gave them little room to move and little access to fresh air and sunlight. In Iowa, the nation’s largest producer of pork, the total swine herd of nearly 20 million pigs outnumbers the human population of Iowa by almost seven to one.[2] An overwhelming majority of these pigs are locked in stalls that do not provide enough room for them even to turn around. Similar conditions afflict chickens in Iowa, which also leads the nation in egg production. According to Norman Wirzba:

Chickens are crammed, eight at a time, into wire crates no bigger than the drawer of a filing cabinet. The crates are stacked on top of each other in darkness, which means that chickens higher up defecate on those below. As a result, illness and anxiety run rampant, and so heavy uses of antibiotics are required to keep the fowl healthy enough till slaughter…. “(Living the Sabbath, 26)

As we know all to well from the raid in Postville, IA, the people who work in these industrial slaughterhouses are not treated much better than the animals they kill for our consumption. The meat-packing industry is one of the most dangerous in the nation and it relies on cheap and disposable labor frequently furnished by desperate immigrants to our nation. No creature should have to live like this, whether worker or animal.

Norman Wirzba argues that we will not be able to abandon our destructive, industrial way of life until we recover the discipline and practice of the Sabbath. He does not mean that it will be sufficient merely to ritually observe the Sabbath day and to refrain from work during that day. Rather “[t]he key to Sabbath observance is that we participate regularly in the delight that marked God’s own response to a creation wonderfully made.” (15) On the seventh day of creation God steps back to rest and to rejoice in a creation that is “good, very good.”

By keeping the Sabbath we stop to praise God for the goodness of creation. Ellen Davis, the Hebrew Bible scholar, reminds us, however, that “Praise does more for us that in does for God…. We praise God in order to see the world as God does.”[3] By praising God we learn to train our desires and to value creation as gift and not possession.

A life oriented around the Sabbath should lead us to give thanks and praise for the gifts of photosynthesis, soil regeneration, clean water, and the daily supplies of sun and wind. Wirzba writes: “When we forget these gifts, or when we fail to see them as gifts and mistake them to be ours by right or by our own effort, we falsify who we are. We overlook the fact that our lives are everywhere maintained by a bewildering abundance of kindness and sacrifice.” (36)

The Sabbath tradition confronts our anthropocentrism and industrial mindset head-on. We are not independent but radically interdependent with all that God has made. We must let go of our false sense of superiority and live more humbly under the restrictions and limits God has provided so that all may flourish. To deny these limits and turn our backs on God’s creation is to deny God. Thomas Aquinas reminds us that “Any error about creation also leads to an error about God.”[4] God invites us to turn away from our failed and frenetic ways in order to live our lives rooted in God’s delight in the goodness and wonder of creation. Only with such a Sabbath mindset will be able to live sustainably in this world.

Amen.

[1] Paul Hawken, The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability, Revised edition., (San Francisco: Harper Paperbacks, 2010).

[2] Iowa State University Farm Outlook, June Hog and Pig Report Summary (7/6/11), http://www.econ.iastate.edu/ifo/; U.S. Census Bureau: Iowa Quick Facts, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/19000.html

[3] Ellen Davis, Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament, (Boston: Cowley Press, 2001), 34. Cited in Norman Wirzba, Living the Sabbath, pg. 28

[4] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, cited in Wizba, Living the Sabbath, pg. 143.

The Nature of Things: Rediscovering the Spiritual in God’s Creation

Edited by Graham Buxton and Norman Habel
Forward by David Rhoads

With contributions by David Rhoads, Paul Santmire, Celia-Diane-Drummond, Heather Eaton, Ernst Conradie and others, this volume highlights a diversity of perspectives on the spiritual in creation, both traditional and radical.

Download a copy of the flyer here.

Visit the publisher’s website to order

Coming Home To Earth 

by Mark Brocker

As a young Norwegian Lutheran teenager in rural Wisconsin, Brocker lay awake one night worrying whether he believed in Jesus enough to get to heaven. This getting-to-heaven anxiety reflected an excessive focus on individual salvation and a loss of concern for the well-being of the Earth community. A faith journey that leaves Earth behind is misguided.

Ever since those early teen years Brocker has been on a journey to come home to Earth.

Coming Home to Earth makes the case that there is no salvation apart from Earth and that Earth care is at the core of our identity and mission as followers of Jesus. The ecological consequences of a loss of concern for the well-being of Earth have been devastating. Brocker is especially concerned to determine what will motivate followers of Jesus to make radical changes in our way of life so that we can participate in the healing of wounded Earth and all of its inhabitants, both human and nonhuman. We are far more likely to make needed sacrifices for our fellow creatures if we share God’s delight in and affection for them, and cherish Earth as our home.

Read more and order

Checklist for Energy Savings Room by Room

Overall Home Energy Saving Measures

Efficiency

  • Heat/ AC: Install high efficiency ENERGY STAR-rated furnace and air conditioner, at least at level of 94% efficiency. Place furnace where it can provide the greatest distribution of forced air flow throughout the house.
  • Heat/AC: Have duct settings adjusted for maximum spread/flow of heat and cool air throughout the house.
  • Heat/AC: Install ceiling fans to bring heat to floor levels in winter and to circulate cool air in summer.
  • Heat/AC: Seal heat ducts to prevent leaking hot air into basement.
  • Heat/AC: Shut off rooms not in use. Use magnetic mats to cover heat vents in closed off room.
  • Windows: install high efficiency energy star double-or triple-paned windows and storm windows. Close/lock tightly and seal in winter. Seal window sash at top and bottom with self-adhesive foam.
  • Windows: Use honeycomb shades with double or triple cell construction. Put up drapes with thermal liners, measured to cover window frame.
  • Windows: Use window insulation kits (clear, easily removable caulk or plastic covers) for extra protection from cold.
  • Windows: On south side, open curtains and lower shades for sun to heat in winter. Shift from east to west from morning to night. Open windows for outside air to cool in summer.
  • Insulation: Request of energy company or hire energy expert to do complete evaluation (incentives from government and energy company on the changes you make will pay for the expert advice). EE will do blower test to identify leaks, use “X-ray” to find places in walls that are not insulated, and find nooks and crannies throughout the house where air is escaping or entering.
  • Insulation: The biggest benefit comes from installing heavy insulation in attic, including under attic floors.
  • Insulation: Insulate electrical outlets on outside walls. Install small pads that go inside outlet covers.
  • Insulation: Insulate and weather strip outside doors, including a door to the garage. Paint and seal wood doors to the outside, or put on insulation.
  • Insulation: Put door sweeps (or snakes) at bottom of outside doors or doors to rooms that have been shut off from heat. Make sure doors close tightly.
  • Lights: install CFLs or LEDs in every outlet and lamp. Where needed retrofit for the most efficient fluorescent tubes.
  • Lights: Install motion sensors for rooms where lights are used often and prone to be left on.
  • Water: Put aerators on all sink faucets throughout the house. Install low-flow shower heads.
  • Water: Check regularly for leaks in all faucets (inside and out), toilets, and pipes throughout the house. Repair leaks immediately.

Conservation:

  • Heat/ AC: Have furnace/ air conditioner tuned and serviced once a year.
  • Furnace: Change furnace filters each month or every three months, depending on the longevity of the filter.
  • Heat/AC: make sure forced-air vents are unobstructed. Make sure air return vents are unobstructed.
  • Heat/AC: Have air ducts cleaned every ten years.
  • Heat: Seal heat ducts to prevent leaking hot air.
  • Heat/AC: Clear and clean cold air returns and registers.
  • Thermostat: Set 24/7 thermostat. Lower heat at night and when absent. Wear warm clothes rather than high heat.  Turn heat down in winter for the night. Set automatic thermostat in house for 60 to begin one-half hour before bed and to end one-half hour before rising.
  • Heat: Turn down heat when away from the house.
  • Lights: Turn off lights in rooms not in use. Use minimal light when in use.
  • Lights: Position lamps/ furniture for optimum lighting.
  • Lights: Open thermal curtains and shades for sun to provide natural heat in winter. Use outside air to cool in summer. Block windows from sun to preserve inside cool in summer.
  • Windows: On south side, open curtains and lower shades for sun to heat in winter. Shift from east to west from morning to night. Open windows for outside air to cool in summer.
  • Lights: Depend on outside natural light. Turn off lights/ overhead fan when not in use. Turn off oven fan and light when not in use.
  • Heat: Turn down heat when away from the house.
  • Insulation: Fill openings into the basement from water spigots, gas lines, electric service outlets, cable TV, and data lines.
  • Heat: Seal heat ducts to prevent leaking hot air.
  • Heat/AC: Clear and clean cold air returns and registers.
  •  Lights: When away from house for days, put lamp on timer to come on at night.

KITCHEN

Efficiency

  • Appliances: (Energy Star): Replace appliances after ten years or sooner. Purchase top to bottom refrigerator. Side by side refrigerator-freezer uses 7-13% more energy than when freezer is at top or bottom.  Do not position refrigerator near heat. Leave two inches on either side of refrigerator.
  • Refrigerator/ Freezer: Set at medium for refrigerator (37-40 degrees F) and freezer (0 to 5 degrees F). A freezer that is filled with food is more efficient.
  • Dish washing: Get ENERGY STAR high efficiency. Use dishwasher rather than hand washing. Run on energy saving/shorter cycle. Turn off “heat drying.” Clean filter; open door to air dry.
  • Compost food: Avoid use of disposal. If you use disposal, run cold water. Compost food scraps.
  • Water: Install aerator on faucets. Fix leaks immediately.
  • Water: Use effective sink stoppers.
  • Cooking: Use microwave or toaster oven for less energy. Use pressure cookers and crock pots.
  • Stove: use lids to heat. Clean burner bowls to retain heat. Use burners smaller than the pan. Have oven on only when pre-heating or in use. Make sure gaskets on oven door seal properly. Don’t open oven when cooking.
  • Small appliances: Avoid unnecessary electric appliances such as electric peelers, can openers, or carving knives. Unplug unused refrigerators and freezers.
  • Clock. Avoid electric clock. Use clock with recycled batteries. Use solar clock.
  • Pantry: Turn off light in pantry or put on motion sensor.

Conservation:

  • Refrigerator: Make sure the rubber gaskets on the doors seal fully (clean or replace).
  • Refrigerator: Clean coils, under refrigerator, behind front panel, evaporator pan, and motor every six months. Use “feet” to make refrigerator level front to back and side to side.
  • Refrigerator: Do not leave refrigerator or freezer door open when doing tasks.
  • Water: Do not let the water run unnecessarily. Use cold water for most tasks. Post reminders.
  • Cooking: Use microwave rather than oven. Use smaller appliances. Save energy with slow cookers (crock pot).
  • Cooking: Lower the heat after boiling. Use lids. Do not check food in oven. Seal oven door.
  • Lights: Depend on outside natural light. Turn off lights/ overhead fan when not in use. Turn off oven fan and light when not in use.
  • Dish washing: Scrape but do not rinse dishes before putting them in the dish washer. If you scrape, use cold water. Do dishwasher only when it is full. Run on energy saving cycle. Turn off heated drying.
  • Cooking: Use microwave or toaster oven for less energy. Use pressure cookers and crock pots.
  • Stove: use lids to heat. Clean burner bowls to retain heat. Use burners smaller than the pan. Have oven on only when pre-heating or in use. Make sure gaskets on oven door seal properly. Don’t peak in oven.
  • Compost: Avoid disposals by composting all food. If you use the disposal, use cold water.
  • Appliances: Unplug unused refrigerators and freezers.
  • Electricity: Turn off at the source toasters, coffee pots, and microwaves when not in use.
  • Avoid paper: Re-use cloth napkins by designating a napkin for each person with napkin holder. Use cloth towels rather than paper towels.
  • Re-use: Re-use personal drinking glasses during the day.
  • Re-use: Avoid disposable paper or plastic plates, cups, utensils, containers.
  • Electricity: Use smart plug to turn off microwave when not in use (phantom electricity)
  • Electricity: Use smart strip to turn off radios and TVs when not in use.

Efficiency

  • Heat/air: make sure forced-air vents are unobstructed.
  • Heat/air: install high efficiency windows and storm windows. Close tightly and seal in winter. Install insulating shades. Put up thermal curtains.
  • Heat/air: Install ceiling fan for heat in winter and cooling in summer.
  • Lights: Use CFLs or LEDs in overhead, lamps, closet. Install motion sensors for overhead lights and closet.
  • Lights: When away from house for days, put lamp on timer to come on at night only.
  • Electricity: Use smart strip to turn off TV and DVD automatically at the source when not in use (phantom electricity).

Conservation

  • Lights: Open thermal curtains and shades for sun to heat in winter. Use outside air to cool in summer.
  • Lights: Place furniture to optimize natural lighting. Position lamps for maximum effect.
  • Lights: turn off when not in use. Use only the lights/lamps needed. Use small LED night lights.
  • Heat: Turn heat down in winter for the night. Set automatic thermostat in house for 60 to begin one-half hour before bed and to end one-half hour before rising, health permitting. Add clothing and bedding for warmth.
  • Heat: Turn down heat when away from the house.
  • Electricity: Turn off TV and radio when not in use. Use smart strip.
  • Clock: Use renewable battery-driven wall or table clock.

BEDROOM

Efficiency

  • Heat/air: make sure forced-air vents are unobstructed. Check need for insulation in walls and ceiling.
  • Heat/air: install high efficiency windows and storm windows. Close tightly and seal in winter. Install insulating shades. Put up thermal curtains.
  • Lights: Install motion sensors overhead lights. Use CFLs or LEDs in overhead and lamps.
  • Lights: Use natural light during the day. Use small LED night light for nighttime.
  • Electricity: Turn off TV and radio when not in use. Use smart strip to turn off TV, DVD, and radio automatically at the source when not in use (phantom electricity).

Conservation

  • Lights: Open thermal curtains and shades for sun to heat in winter. Use outside air to cool in summer.
  • Lights: turn off when not in use. Use only the lights/lamp needed. Use LED night lights.
  • Heat: Turn heat down in winter for the night. Set automatic thermostat in house for 60 to begin one-half hour before bed and to end one-half hour before rising. Use clothing and extra bedding for warmth.
  • Energy: Turn off TVs and radios when not in use.
  • Energy: Use alarm clock powered by renewable battery.

BATHROOM

Efficiency:

  • Heat/air: Make sure heat vents are unobstructed.
  • Heat/air: Attend to windows (see above)
  • Lights: Use CFLs or LEDs. Install motion sensors on lights. If you have multiple lights over sink, use only what is needed.
  • Lights: Use natural light during the day. Use small LED night light for nighttime.
  • Water: Use aerators on sink faucets. Use low-flow shower heads. Repair leaks immediately.
  • Water: Use low water toilets. Or deposit tank balloon or brick to displace water. Flush less often. Repair running toilets immediately. Advanced: self-composting toilet.
  • Paper: Use post-consumer waste toilet paper.

Conservation:

  • Water: Do not run water while brushing teeth, shaving, scrubbing hands, combing hair, etc. Post reminders. Use cold water for washing hands, shaving, etc.
  • Water: Take a shower rather than a bath. Take fewer showers. Get a “shower coach” (small plastic hour-glass to be put in shower area with suction cup) and limit your showers to five minutes.
  • Water: flush less often.
  • Water: Fill bucket with cold water when getting a hot shower and use it for watering plants.
  • Lights: Turn off lights when not in use, even motion sensor lights. Post reminders.
  • Electricity: Turn off curling irons, electric tooth brushes, and other electric devices when not in use.
  • Laundry: Designate personal towels and wash cloths for re-use to limit need for unnecessary laundry. Avoid plush towels so as to provide more space in washing machine.

LAUNDRY ROOM

Efficiency

  • Appliances: Purchase high efficiency energy star washers and dryers. Front load washers use half the energy and water as top loading washers.
  • Lights: Use CFLs or LEDs. Turn off when not in use—between loads. Install motion sensors lights.
  • Heat/air: make sure air vents are unobstructed.
  • Heat/air: install high efficiency windows and storm windows. Close tightly and seal in winter. Put up thermal curtains. Open for sun to heat in winter. Use outside air to cool in summer.

Conservation

  • Washer and Dryer: Run washer and dryer only on full loads.
  • Washer and Dryer: Adjust water level and cycle length to maximize savings. Wash clothes in warm or cold. Rinse in cold.
  • Washer and Dryer Pre-soak only the dirtiest clothes.
  • Washer and Dryer Dry clothes on lines in basement or outside.
  • Washer and Dryer Do not over-dry clothes. Clean the dryer lint filter after each load.
  • Washer and Dryer Clean dryer exhaust duct and outside vents.
  • Washer and Dryer Grab and fold/hang from dryer to avoid the need for ironing.
  • Washer and Dryer Run appliances at night.

ATTIC

  • Lights: Use CFLs or LEDs. Turn off when not in use. Install motion sensor lights.
  • Insulation: Put extensive insulation between floor joists and under floor. Seal floor spaces. R-50 at least.
  • Insulation: Locate hidden spaces around attic edges and insulate well. Insulate stairway to attic.
  • Insulation: If heating ducts or return air ducts go through attic, cover them with insulation.
  • Insulation: Put insulation on inside of attic door and put seals around the door.
  • Air flow: Provide adequate airflow to avoid heat settling on floor of attic in summer.
  • Air flow: Install solar fan on roof for air movement in attic.

BASEMENT

  • Lights: Use CFLs or LEDs. Install motion sensors for some rooms. Turn off when not in use.
  • Heat/AC: Get high efficiency Energy Star furnace/ air conditioner. Have furnace serviced each year. Change filters regularly.
  • Heat: Seal heat ducts to prevent leaking hot air into basement area.
  • Insulation: Weather strip, insulate, and cover small basement windows often overlooked. Install glass block windows.
  • Insulation: Insulate portion of outside walls above the foundation.
  • Insulation: Insulate on ceiling above crawl spaces.
  • Insulation: Insulate basement ceiling if cold, especially along cracks and separations.
  • Insulation Insulate along the rim joists where the foundation meets the walls. R-19.
  • Insulation Insulate hot water pipes.
  • Insulation Fill openings into the basement around water spigots, gas lines, electric service outlets, cable TV, and internet lines.
  • Insulation Seal basement for winter and use air vents in glass-block windows for summer to avoid high humidity.
  • Water: Put aerators on sink faucets. Repair leaks immediately.
  • Water: Use low water toilets. If not a low water-use toilet, deposit tank balloon or brick to displace water. Repair running toilets immediately. Advanced: self-composting toilet.
  • Water heater: Set temperature at 120. Drain overflow occasionally. Put a blanket on water heater (3 inches).
  • Water heater: Advanced: Install on-demand water heater. Or install solar panel panels for energy to heat water.
  • Humidity appliances: Dehumidifier/ humidifier: If use dehumidifier is used in summer, set level and timer to save money. Purchase ENERGY STAR appliance. Same for humidifiers in winter.
  • Appliances: Avoid second refrigerator or freezer in basement.

OUTSIDE

Efficiency

  • Lights: Use CFLs or LEDs for porch lighting and area flood lights.
  • Lights: Put outside safety lights on motion sensor.
  • Lights: If needed regularly, put porch or area lights on timer.
  • Lights: Use solar garden lights.
  • Lights: Put in motion sensor garage lights.
  • Trees: Plant trees, shrubs, vines on trellises to provide protection from wind in winter and sun in summer. Evergreen trees on north and northwest sides of house.
  • Awnings: Put up awnings to cool the house in summer.
  • Insulation: Caulk around the outside dryer and furnace vents.
  • Mowing: Use hand mower or battery or electric mower. Or rotary mower. Keep clean (from grass caking) and serviced.
  • Leaves: Hand rake or sweep rather than leaf/ grass blower. Avoid electric trimmer and grass liner.
  • Snow: Shovel snow, when feasible, rather than snow blower.
  • Shade: Provide shade for air conditioning unit but with plenty of clear space around unit.

Conservation

  • Lights: Use only the lighting needed for use or safety.
  • Lights: Change setting of timed lighting by the season.
  • Lights: Clean outdoor light fixtures.
  • Lights: Put night window lamps on timers.
  • Garage: Limit use of automatic garage opener.

TRANSPORTATION

  • Car/ truck: Purchase electric or hybrid car or one with high fuel efficiency.
  • Alternate transportation: Walk. Ride a bicycle. Take a bus. Car pool. Avoid heavy traffic.
  • Car tip: Keep engine tuned, change regularly oil, replace air filter, have car serviced on schedule.
  • Car tip: Keep tires inflated at recommended levels.
  • Car tip: Avoid jack rabbit starts. Accelerate slowly.
  • Car tip: On highway, approximate 55 miles per hour where safe to do so.
  • Car tip: Avoid engine idling. Coast in gear. Anticipate so you do not need to come to full stop at traffic lights.
  • Car tip: Open windows to limit use of air conditioning. At 60 mph, use air conditioning, because open windows create drag.
  • Car tip: Avoid unnecessary heavy items in the trunk or car.
  • Car tip: Switch to eco-focused tires, which reduce rolling resistance.

 

 

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