University Lutheran Church of East Lansing changed every light possible in the church to LED lights and didn’t break the bank to do it.
In 2017, they participated in the free Light the Way program and found some “low hanging fruit to fix up,” explains Dale Romsos, who serves as an Earth Keeping Team member and leads the Facilities Team. “By 2020, we were paying $6,000 less a year for energy, thanks to the changes we made in our church and a big part of that was thanks to utility rebates.”
"It all started with a small group of people dedicated to caring for God’s Creation.” - Judy Kindel, ULC Earth Keeping Team member
Dale Romsos and Judy Kindel are leaders in ULC's Earth Keeping Team, whose energy conservation efforts paved the way for the church to install solar!
Dale suggested changing all of the church’s indoor and outdoor lights to LEDs, but it initially seemed like a far-fetched goal. For one thing, University of Lutheran Church’s parking lot lights were over 50 years old, and a contractor told them it would cost $25,000 to replace 30 poles, which was far too expensive for the church’s budget. Luckily, Dale reached out to Consumers Energy and not only received an 80% rebate for the project, but advice on how to change the lights without replacing the poles. University of Lutheran Church was able to light the parking lot with only $1,000 after rebates.
“The Earth Keeping Team was a catalyst for us to practice stewardship over God’s creation. We were a small group to start, and now we have made big changes at University Lutheran.” - Judy Kindel
In Michigan, discounts and rebates are available from our major utilities for energy-saving upgrades because of legislation first passed in 2008.
University Lutheran Church’s journey to energy efficiency started in 2009 when an eight-member group created the Earth Keeping Team. First, they tackled projects like changing the church’s mission statement to include caring for Creation, which laid the groundwork for the team’s longevity and future success. “The Earth Keeping Team was a catalyst for us to practice stewardship over God’s creation,” said Judy Kindel, Earth Keeping Team member. “We were a small group to start, and now we have made big changes at University Lutheran.” The church is now using 56% less fossil fuels than in 2017, and will continue to use less with a new solar array that is estimated to cover another 25% of the church’s energy costs.
So how does a house of worship make their building more energy efficient while staying on budget? We might jump to “funding” or “engineering know-how” as obvious answers, but sometimes change is nurtured by teamwork and enacted incrementally. “Our journey has been a long process of small steps and I encourage everyone to carry forth with the important work of achieving carbon neutrality,” Judy said. “It all started with a small group of people dedicated to caring for God’s Creation.”
And sometimes, that’s all you need to start.
If your congregation has received a free assessment as part of the Light the Way program and are looking for more ways to make your building energy efficient, visit Next Steps to find out about the resources and rebates available to you!
For free one-on-one guidance on energy efficiency projects, discounts and rebates, reach out to Energy Programs Manager Jennifer Young, 248-463-8811, [email protected], or book a time on her calendar: https://calendly.com/energystewardship