From his desktop computer, Denny Newman can monitor the temperature settings of offices inside the South Carolina Baptist Convention, raising and lowering the thermostat as needed.
When it’s time to change a compressor in one of the convention’s six rooftop HVAC units, Newman, the convention’s facilities manager, can climb up to the roof and carry out the malfunctioning compressor in a hand cart, thanks to the installation of smaller, more energy-efficient units. That’s a vast change from the days when a crane had to lift out the 300-400-pound part.
Most recently, the convention has taken the lead in reducing its power use outside its headquarters off of I-126 and Greystone Boulevard by converting all its outside fixtures to energy-efficient LED lighting.
Newman said the convention’s energy conservation measures – which include placing sensors on lighting fixtures in bathrooms, copier areas and other areas where people might step in and out briefly – were aimed at reducing the convention’s energy footprint.
The measures also could lead to an estimated annual savings of about $3,700, Newman said.
With lower electric bills, more of the convention’s budget can go to missions rather than the electric company, he said.
“Every dime that comes to this place comes from someone’s collection plates,” Newman said. So he said he is always mindful of using as many measures as possible to keep the convention’s energy bill low. After 5 p.m., the air conditioning units are turned off and do not come on until 4:30 a.m., “alternately, so there is not a big power surge.”
The convention took advantage of an SCE&G lighting incentive program that gave them an $8,290 rebate on the $27,950 LED installation. SCE&G spokeswoman Emily Brady said 2,259 businesses have taken advantage of the utility’s EnergyWise for your Business program since it started in 2010, adding that she has noticed an increase in inquiries from churches.
Across the Midlands, people of faith have organized under the Midlands Green Congregation Initiative to share ways of conserving resources to care for the environment and free up money for outreach.
Newman attended a “Caring for Creation” event organized by the Green Congregation Initiative in March 2013, which spurred him to to adopt more energy-saving measures at the convention complex.
He also attended a session at First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, which had worked to replace its compact florescent lights.
The Midlands Green Congregation Initiative, under the auspices of the non-profit Sustainable Midlands, brings congregations together to share ideas on “creation care” through recycling, reducing solid waste, developing vegetable and flower gardens, and its “kill-a-watt for God” program to identify ways to reduce electricity.
Bruce Coull, a retired professor and dean emeritus at USC’s School of the Environment and one of the founders of the Green Congregation Initiative, said other faith-based organizations could take a leaf from the convention’s energy notebook.
“I think it is certainly a significant effort,” he said. “And I think it is a really good leadership effort.”
He and Newman lamented that sometimes the savings are eaten up when SCE&G raises rates. Nevertheless, Coull said other faith-based organizations continue with green efforts, among them:
• The expansion of the Cutler Jewish Day School, located at Beth Shalom Synagogue, 5827A N. Trenholm Road, will incorporate green initiatives in the building design.
• Forest Lake Presbyterian Church, 6500 N. Trenholm Road, one of the leaders of the green movement, planted a community garden this spring to raise vegetables for Harvest Hope Food Bank. The church also has motion sensors on lights and timers on its HVAC system, among its energy-saving strategies.
• Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1715 Broad River Road, has developed a triangle patio garden called Jacob’s Garden, named for member Ron Jacobs, who developed the plans for the church’s all-purpose wing. It is certified as a wildlife habitat. Church member June Metts also said the church tries to serve “Earth-friendly” meals that use local produce and lean toward vegetarian fare.
• St. Michael’s & All Angels’ Episcopal Church, 6408 Bridgewood Road, has begun composting kitchen waste material into their garden and educating children to provide food for others.
• St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church, 735 Old Lexington Highway, Chapin, has weatherproofed all doors and windows and installed programmable thermostats in the sanctuary.