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Eco-Justice in Church Office Administration

A congregation that is theologically committed to eco-justice, or is striving for that commitment, will reveal their commitments in their management of the resources of the church.

Church administration is a large and complex area, ranging from matters of staffing and church finances to upkeep of the building and grounds.

Eco-justice, which holds together ecological sustainability and social/economic justice, has applications beyond the directly "environmental" issues.

These quick tips provide a starting point for looking at some of the eco-justice implications of church administration.

In most congregations, the church offices are the part of the facility with the most day-in and day-out activity. This concentration makes the office an important place to focus eco-justice efforts.

Photocopiers, computers and printers should have power saving features activated. Turn off all equipment over night. Look for energy efficiency when purchasing new equipment.

If you are replacing or upgrading copiers, mid-sized to large churches should consider using equipment that prints with ink. This can have significant energy savings, and is substantially cheaper per copy.

Try to buy from small businesses and minority contractors. This supports the diversity and economic life of your local community.

Recycle office paper and toner cartridges. Treat outdated office equipment (especially computers and monitors) as hazardous waste that should be properly recycled or processed.

Use recycled paper.

Some churches have decided to use long distance carriers that donate a portion of their income to progressive or environmental groups.

The church building can be important to the wider community. Look at the policies and fees that apply to outside groups that use the building. Are the groups that your church wants to encourage in the community able to use your building?

If it is available in your region, consider buying "green power" from renewable sources such as wind and geothermal.

Check on the cleaning chemicals that are used around the building. Are they safe for the people using them, and for the environment? Are they stored safely?

Do you buy supplies from small and local businesses? Do you work with minority contractors? (On the flip side, are contracted service workers the only minorities working for the church?)

Pay attention to the "4 Rs" (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) for all the products and packaging that might be purchased and produced by the church. Note especially recycling possibilities for paper, glass, plastic, cans and cardboard. Many churches serve as recycling drop-off locations for their members and communities.

Because of their large spaces and irregular use, church buildings have special issues around heating and cooling. The strategies and priorities here might be quite different than in a home or an office building. Improvements and changes in this area can have a rapid financial payback.

* Open the windows! Make use of ventilation and fans to replace or reduce air conditioning, or even some heating. Especially note the use of ceiling fans in the sanctuary.
* Be sure that your heating and cooling system is divided into appropriate zones, so that the same thermostat does not control the sanctuary and the minister's office.
* Keep all thermostats at appropriate temperature settings -- a bit cool in the winter, and a bit warm in the summer. Turn thermostats back when an area will not be in use. Explore the use of timed thermostats in some areas of the building.
* Have your heating and cooling equipment checked for efficiency on a regular basis. Rising energy costs may make servicing, repairs and replacement more cost-effective.
* Keep the outside out, and the inside in. Insulate and weatherstrip the building. Install double-glazed or storm windows.
* If you are in a dry climate, use "swamp coolers" instead of air conditioning.
* Use window shades, and shading from trees, to reduce heat build-up in warm weather.
* Explore the possibilities for other heat sources (especially solar) for some or all of your building's needs.

Lighting is another area of significant energy use. Pay the most attention to the lights that get the most use -- a fixture used two hours a week isn't wasting as much energy as one that is on all night, every night.

This information is courtesy of Eco-Justice Ministries, www.eco-justice.org.

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Religious Product News