St. Francis of Assisi is a Catholic parish with 2,500 families (approximately 6,000-7,000 members) located in Ann Arbor. The parish has a dedicated Sustainability Team and a building manager who keeps abreast of opportunities to save energy.
St. Francis also has a school as part of its parish. Educators have seen the need to integrate sustainability concepts and topics into the curriculum for their students with age appropriate material for each grade level. The program currently uses the parish garden as a teaching tool. This year 5th graders planted potatoes in the spring and will harvest the crop as they come back as 6th graders in the fall.
Education is important to St. Francis beyond the students. A core group of members reaches out to parishioners through articles, bulletin inserts, and events. Consistent in their messages is the belief in the moral obligation to care for the planet and its people. To spread awareness, an electronics-recycling event was held at the church to promote cleanly disposing and reusing of old computer monitors, phones, CD players, and other items that are potentially hazardous if disposed of incorrectly. The parish also encourages energy audits for its members to promote energy efficiency in the home as well.
The building manager keeps the school building itself well insulated, changing older windows for glass that better seals and prevents leaking air. Air conditioning was installed a few years ago, but it is reported that even with the added demand for electricity, there has been no increase in the cost of running the building due to the energy savings experienced through changing incandescent bulbs for CFLs, window sealing, occupancy sensors, and related measures.
In total, St. Francis has:
- Installed CFL lighting
- Stayed up to date on window and building sealing
- Encouraged energy audits for congregation members
- Supported education of members at all levels, both students in school and parents at home
- Articulated the call to stewardship for the planet
- Hosted and supported events encouraged sustainable decisions and practices
- Care of a community garden at the parish
Steve Lavender, winner of the Outstanding Earth Steward award from Michigan IPL, has graciously offered to discuss the work St. Francis has done. He can be reached by email at: email@example.com.