Personal tools

Donate

Sign up for news on religious-environmental leadership and opportunities to get involved.
Email Sign Up Privacy Policy

Take the GreenFaith Pledge!

Join thousands of others throughout the world in taking the GreenFaith Pledge, "I pledge to make my life a blessing for the Earth."

Take the Pledge
 
You are here: Home » GreenFaith in the Media » Press Clips » Mills River Church to be One of 2 in NC to Get Eco-Certification

Mills River Church to be One of 2 in NC to Get Eco-Certification

By Nathaniel Axtell
Hendersonville Times News

Episcopal Church of the Holy Family in Mills River, NC graduates GreenFaith's Certification Program

Mills River Church to be One of 2 in NC to Get Eco-Certification

Jim Neal is the leader of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Family's "Green Team," which is nearly complete with a three-year accreditation process to become a certified GreenFaith congregation.

 

 

After installing solar panels over its house of worship in September, a Mills River congregation will become only the second church in North Carolina to earn a national eco- certification.

Members of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Family expect to earn GreenFaith certification from the New Jersey-based Interfaith Partners for the Environment this fall after three years of pursuing the honor.

Holy Family members will cap off their certification requirements by installing 30 solar panels on the church's roof in September, allowing the sun to produce more than 70 percent of its electricity.

Out of 65 religious institutions in 22 states, Grace Episcopal Church in Morganton is the only other North Carolina church to meet the certification program's rigorous standards thus far.

GreenFaith institutions must do ecothemed worship services, undertake stewardship projects, offer interfaith educational events for all ages, “green” their building operations, and advocate around the issue of environmental justice.

Participating congregations have saved between $6,000 and $50,000 through energy and utility savings, according to Interfaith Partners. But that's not the main reason Holy Family's eco-conscious members, nicknamed the “Green Team,” sought the certification.

“It sends a message to our members and to the outside world that we are interested in saving God's creation and that we want to be good stewards of the land, so it can be passed on to generation after generation to follow us,” said Green Team leader Jim Neal.

Holy Family's members had always leaned green, Neal said, recycling their cans, bottles and paper and turning down the thermostat after services to save electricity. They've also acted as stewards of Boylston Creek and Sweetwater Creek, which run through the church's 14 acres on Turnpike Road.

“We had gotten involved with ECO as stream-keepers, monitoring the health of those creeks, and that led to a lot of other activities along those lines,” Neal said.

In 2011, the church entered into a cost-share agreement with the Henderson County Soil & Water District to protect a 50-footwide buffer along Boylston Creek and a 30-foot buffer along Sweetwater Creek. Members donated more than 100 hours in “sweat equity,” stabilizing streambanks, removing invasive species, and planting native trees and shrubs.

“It is a very nice property and they have some fairly significant wetlands on the other side of Boylston Creek — there's a mature hardwood wetland forest back there — so we were happy to protect some on this side, too,” said Shaun Moore, the district's watershed coordinator.

Under the terms of the cost-share grant, the church agreed to protect the stream buffers from development for 30 years. Because the banks “were eroding pretty significantly,” Moore said, “we estimated the total soil loss reduction from doing this project was 34 tons per year.”

Around that time, the Rev. Robert Lundquist heard about the Green-Faith certification program and asked Neal to look into it. The church's vestry liked what he found and gave the go-ahead for Holy Family's “Green Team” to start checking off requirements in four areas: spirit, stewardship, justice and communications.

Many of the requirements were simple to meet, Neal said. The church switched to a shade-grown, fair-trade coffee and served vegetarian meals using locally grown fruits and vegetables, providing members with information about where they could make their own purchases at area farmers markets.

“The clergy had to recommend outdoor activities, which he did,” Neal said. “And one of our members wanted to lose a little weight, so she started a hiking group. They call themselves 'The Puffins.' She leads a hike to different waterfalls every Thursday. We also had to have some outdoor-themed services.”

To save energy and money, church members installed a programmable thermostat in their annex building; aerators on their kitchen and restroom faucets; and replaced an antiquated furnace with a propane model that uses 93 percent of its fuel in heat production.

Green Team leaders were inspired by a tour of the nearby Sierra Nevada Brewery, which is a “zero waste” facility where all organic matter is either composted or delivered to local cattle farmers for feed, and 90 percent of electricity is generated onsite by solar panels.

“One of the tougher requirements was we had to have speakers from three different faith backgrounds come (every year) and speak about how their faith cares for creation,” Neal said. The church has hosted an American Indian, a Buddhist and a Jewish rabbi.

On Aug. 10, the church has invited Jan Partin and Bonnie Arbuckle from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Hendersonville to speak about their congregation's work toward a UU Green Sanctuary certification, which is similar to the GreenFaith program.

Neal said the Holy Family “Green Team” isn't going to stop once they achieve their goal of being GreenFaith certified.

“We're going to continue our work to see what we can do to improve our stewardship around here,” he said.

For more information about Holy Family's services or green efforts, visit www.ourholyfamily.org or call 828-891-9375.

 

Read the original story
Document Actions
powered by Plone | site by Groundwire Consulting and served with clean energy