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Alabamians among those taking steps to care for environmentcomment (0)

April 3, 2008

Every week, Jim Jackson carries a small bin full of paper down the street to be picked up. And every now and then, there’s a little more than usual, so he drops it off at a recycling center in Wetumpka.

But Jackson, director of missions for Elmore Baptist Association, doesn’t mind the walk or the drive.

“When I have to take it to Wetumpka, it’s no problem; it’s just right on my way to the post office and the bank,” he said.

Jackson has been doing it for 13 years. He really doesn’t even think about it anymore.

“It struck me when I began associational work that so much paper came in the mail to us. We decided we wanted to conserve — it became a stewardship issue,” Jackson said.

Since starting to recycle paper, he’s also started swapping out light bulbs at the office for more efficient ones, recycling cans, regulating the air conditioning and driving slowly to conserve gas.

“We realized that energy is important and limited and costly,” Jackson said. “If everybody did just a few things, it would really help with conservation.”

In Andalusia, similar efforts at Baptist churches have attracted local media attention. According to The Andalusia Star-News, Bill Pritchett, pastor of Southside Baptist, and Fred Karthaus, pastor of First Baptist, both said they’re “going green” in an effort to conserve.

“[H]ere at Southside, we do some things to help improve the environment,” Pritchett told the Star-News, noting that the church recycles and monitors its air conditioner, among other things.

“Our custodians address water leaks as quickly as possible to preserve and promote environmental focus. Every Christian is responsible for being good stewards of God’s earth,” he said. “We should be involved in helping ensure His creation is preserved in a proper way.”

Other churches across the state are finding creative ways to join in, such as putting timers on lights and making sure new building projects include cost- and energy-saving features.

And the effort isn’t stopping with state Baptist churches and associations.

Samford University in Birmingham has employed energy management practices for many years, said Don M. Mott, vice president for facilities.

Some of these are:
- installing energy-efficient lighting,
- installing controls that switch lights off when no one is in a room and
- replacing numerous inefficient boilers with a central system with greater control.

“Samford is also engaged in a ‘Go Green’ program to increase awareness of environmental issues and to promote recycling where appropriate,” Mott said. “We are using environmentally friendly cleaning and maintenance products.”

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., implemented a similar plan in the last three years, schools officials said.

Among the changes, Southeastern Seminary installed low-flow toilets, faucets and showerheads to reduce water consumption and did a large-scale change-out of the lights, installing high-efficiency fluorescent fixtures. The school replaced old thermostats in many of the dorms with newer ones that have a more energy-efficient range — meaning that, for instance, the thermostat can be turned no lower than around 67–68 degrees in the summer.

Additionally Southeastern:
- installed a peak-shaving generator that supplies power to the campus during peak energy usage times. That reduces the strain on the local power grid but also keeps the seminary from having to pay the local electric company for energy that costs significantly more during peak times.
- added better insulation to its buildings.
- does not irrigate its campus and uses mostly drought-resistant plants.
Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas, implemented an energy conservation program in 2006 that involved, among other things, changing light bulbs and altering water usage. Since then, the church has saved more than $1.5 million on utility bills, church officials said.

Prestonwood Baptist also:
- installed 28 Weathermatic irrigation controllers around the church grounds to prevent the overuse of water during irrigation. The controllers automatically determine how much water is needed.
- installed a well and pump to fill a lake near the church. Previously city water was used.
- “de-lighted” 22 drink vending machines and installed timers on the machines to limit the use of the compressors.
- installed timers on all interior Christmas light displays.
- holds seminars and classes for members and guests on how to have a more energy-efficient home. (BP, TAB)

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