The Great Green Question for Churches
Hype or sound economics? Experts weigh environment-sustainable building practices.
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Years ago, Kermit the Frog lamented that it wasn't easy being green. Kermit should feel right at home these days.

Today, we buy "green" paint for the walls, look for "green" ways to fertilize our lawns, and bring home our groceries in "green" shopping bags. And of course, leading the way is the green building movement, which encourages the use of sustainable products and energy-efficient designs. Being green is a major trend in all segments of society, including the church community.

On a Bandwagon

Many church leaders actively promote the concept of environmental stewardship, and it is easy to understand why. "When we trash the environment, we are not holding up our end of the bargain for taking care of God's creation," explains Steve Fridsma, an architect. "When you over-consume, it hurts the poverty line around the world. When consumers use less, we all win."

In a similar mindset, the National Council of Churches of Christ Eco-Justice Programs website states, "The impacts of global climate change threaten all of God's creation and will make it more difficult for people of faith to care for those in need. With expected increases in drought, storm intensity, disease, species extinction, and flooding, the impacts of global climate change will increase the lack of food, shelter, and water available, particularly to those living in or near poverty."

On the other hand, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works released a report several years ago stating that more than 400 prominent scientists do not believe that climate changes are man-made. "In addition," according to the report, "many scientists who are also progressive environmentalists believe climate fear promotion has 'co-opted' the green movement."

Economics Or Semantics?

What is the best course of action for churches considering a remodel or new construction, but also wanting to be good environmental stewards? After all, green building tends to be more expensive at the outset than traditional building. And with practically every product available today having the green label slapped on it—a term known as green washing—it is difficult for the average person to know which green approach makes sense and which is a waste of money.

Savings from even the smallest green practices could be better spent on funding the church's ministry.

First of all, it's best to understand what green building is. Fridsma admits that sometimes the concern surrounding green building isn't always a matter of economics but of semantics. "Environmentalism often brings up images of tree hugging and Al Gore," he says, which makes more conservative church members wary of green building practices.

February 9, 2009

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