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You are here: Home » GreenFaith in the Media » Press Clips » Longview Church Earns National Certification for Eco-Friendly Practices

Longview Church Earns National Certification for Eco-Friendly Practices

By Bill Wagner
The Daily News

St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Longview, WA graduates the GreenFaith Certification program

Longview Church Earns National Certification for Eco-Friendly Practices

From left to right: Michael Wright, Margaret Lapic and Kathleen Patton have been active in St. Stephen’s Green Faith practices, which include having living plants decorate the altar area instead the of the cut flowers the church used to use.

Kimberly ferns and other live plants surround the altar at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Longview.

The growing greenery replaces the cut flowers — sometimes tropical ones shipped in from around the world — that used to adorn the worship area in the church. Making the switch was a simple task, but the impact has been large in helping reduce the church’s carbon footprint.

“The plants were specifically chosen for survival in low light and minimal maintenance,” church member Margaret Lapic said.

Bringing in live plants is one of nearly 100 projects conducted by the congregation as part of the GreenFaith Certification Program, a two-year environmental leadership program for houses of worship. The members’ efforts led to St. Stephen’s being certified as a “green” church by GreenFaith, a national organization that “believes that the world’s great religions see the sacred in nature and teach respect for the earth,” notes the program’s website.

Margaret, the committee chairperson for the St. Stephen’s undertaking, said the plants were just the beginning. Inside the church, energy-sucking incandescent bulbs were replaced with more efficient models and changes were made to the building’s heating.

The work, she said, has been “transformational.”

“Our cost reduction for the period that we entered data was 12.3 percent,” she said.

Committee leaders and other congregation members took the message outdoors, too. Joel Rupley designed and installed a drip system for the potted plants and for the fountain in the church courtyard.

Volunteers planted a wildlife habitat garden in an area that was “mainly splotchy grass,” committee member Michael Wright said.

“We put 70 plants in here,” Margaret said, many of which have gone dormant until spring.

Congregation members Ron and Pat Schauer organized composting bins with red worms, the Rev. Kathleen Patton said.

“We call Ron the ‘Verm-Meiser,’ ” she said, smiling as she walked past the plastic bins. “He’s the one who understands vermiculture.”

Compostable leftovers after Sunday’s fellowship time are added to the plastic tubs. The tiny wigglers feast on foods, creating fertile worm casings used to plant tomatoes and other vegetables along the church’s outer walls.

The bounty from the plants are harvested by congregation members, who use them in their personal meals and hand them out as part of the FISH program for community members in need.

People who attend the church were encouraged to bring in their home data — utility bills, gas usage and other information. The details were input into a computer program, which allowed each parishioner to figure out their personal carbon footprint.

“Some people said, ‘I had no idea,’ and others said they were doing pretty well,” Margaret said.

Church members were given an opportunity to contribute to an offset project in the south Philippines. They could contribute financially to the care of coffee and rubber trees in an area that had, at one time, been almost completely deforested.

They also were encouraged to reduce their energy consumption as much as possible, Kathleen said.

“I think that just about everybody in the congregation moved a little bit to the greener side,” she said. “The people who were already living green moved a little deeper, and those who had never thought about it began to do so.”

As church leader, Kathleen rides her bicycle to work as much as possible to reduce her gasoline usage. The bike is equipped with baskets so she can haul whatever she needs with her from her home.

Another way parishioners were encouraged to be greener was to reduce their consumption of meat, the production which packs an environmental punch.

“Joel’s wife did a monthly vegeterian recipe in our newsletter,” Kathleen said.

“And we passed a policy to always have a vegeterian option at our church meals,” Margaret added.

Joel, whose wife is a dietitian, said the church also stopped using paper products at meals and for snack times. Instead, they use and wash dinnerware and cutlery.

In addition to the physical energy use reductions, the program at St. Stephen’s also focused on the spiritual aspect of GreenFaith.

“It was connected more to our spirituality than to politics,” Michael said. “That’s what people would often get wrapped around their axle ... but this is a call that God has placed on us to care for his creation.”

In the process, Kathleen said they are all regarding the prayerful words they speak differently.

“We found how much of our scriptures and our tradition is really deeply agrarian and rich in celebration of creation,” she said. “You have to have the right lenses to see it.”

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