Environmental Stewardship

The Environmental Stewardship Work Area helps us become responsible stewards of God's creation, and care for humankind. We

  • Provide environmental education
  • Encourage individual and corporate green living habits
  • Help the church take steps to make our facilities more energy efficient and earth friendly
  • Provide avenues for environmental social action

Environmental Stewardship Sunday - What Are We Doing And Why Is It Important

Join us this Sunday as the Environmental Stewardship Work Area (ESWA) hosts Environmental Stewardship Sunday. During all three services, work area members will be delivering the message of “Christian Earthkeepers.” 

The ESWA will also host displays in the parlor before and after the 9:30 & 11:00 services including: 

  • organic cleaning products, including whether they work and whether they come with a really high price tag;
  • saving energy and reducing maintenance by changing to LED lighting;
  • the value and payback of energy assessments;
  • composting; recycling batteries, noting that alkaline batteries are more difficult to recycle that in past; recycling and reusing; water conservation and use and what can be done at your home;
  • retail cost and availability of LED light bulbs for home use;
  • fand other topics from the Environmental Stewardship Work Area members.

Community Supported Agriculture – A local produce adventure in every box

It's late-January, and a handful of purple and gold potatoes still remains from my great produce adventure of 2014. Last year for the first time my husband David and I signed up for a Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, subscription. Over the past seven months, we’ve cooked and eaten better—and more deliciously—than ever before!

CSA’s allow people to receive a regular supply of produce from a farm near where they live. It’s a direct line to locally grown food. For the duration of the growing and harvest season, you receive a weekly or biweekly box of whatever veggies happen to be ready for picking. You pay for the full season’s produce up-front, essentially becoming an investor in the success of that particular farm. In exchange, you get to know exactly where your food is coming from, and since it was usually picked the day before, you can be sure you’re getting the freshest vegetables available.

Last year, having just moved to Downers Grove from Chicago the year before, we discovered that a farming operation outside Rockford, Angelic Organics, had just started making deliveries to our area. Angelic Organics is a biodynamic farm that has been supplying organic, sustainably grown vegetables to the Chicago area since 1991. Dave and I already visited local farmers’ markets, grew some of our own veggies in the backyard, and tried to cook with the produce that was in season during the warm months. We decided to take the plunge and signed up to receive a biweekly box starting in June and going through the fall.

An area family had volunteered their house to be the delivery site for Downers Grove. After we picked up our first box—marking our name off the honor-system list on their porch—opening it up was a bit like Christmas morning. The box was packed to the brim with two heads of lettuce, broccoli, a bunch of radishes, beets, scallions, parsley, and a summer squash. It was also stuffed with three types of greens we’d never tried before: Chinese cabbage, mizuna, and red choi. I was making spaghetti that night and immediately sliced up and cooked the summer squash with some olive oil and spices, then made a green salad with the lettuce and radishes. Our first CSA meal was a success!

Next came planning how to use the rest of the veggies, including those colorful mystery greens. Fortunately, we had help from a free online recipe service called Local Thyme that was available through Angelic Organics. Each week, Local Thyme put out a meal plan with recipes that would use all the items in our box, including main dishes, side dishes, and sometimes drinks and desserts! Meatless and/or gluten-free versions of each recipe were provided, so Dave and I (who are vegetarian) had it easy.

We learned that mizuna is a Japanese plant with a peppery flavor similar to arugula and that it’s very tasty sautéed with garlic and served over pasta. As the weeks went by, many new surprises arrived in our boxes that allowed us to get acquainted with other produce we’d never tasted before—from kohlrabi to garlic scapes to celeriac. We learned other things we’d been missing out on for years: You can eat carrot tops! (They taste like carrots.) And we tried recipes that ranged from black bean, green pepper, and corn enchiladas in June to butternut squash and kale flatbreads in November.

All of it was delicious. In fact, the entire summer and fall became a cooking and eating extravaganza beyond our wildest dreams. Meanwhile, we got a newsletter tucked in each of our CSA boxes, updating us on what was happening at the farm and how the crops were progressing with pictures of the crew at work.

Dave and I set a goal at the start of our CSA deliveries to not buy any produce from the grocery store from mid-June through mid-November. When we rolled into the week before Thanksgiving, we had met that goal easily. Not only were we able to connect with and support an organic and sustainable local farmer, but we actually ended up saving money. Our grocery bills were significantly lower throughout those six months—even after we factored in the cost of the subscription.

Needless to say, we’ve signed up for our next CSA season in 2015, and we can’t wait to open up that first box to see what’s inside.

~Vera Miller

Energy Assessments Can Make A BIG Difference!

What are you doing and why is it important?

You can have a free energy assessment of you home! Improvements implemented as a result of a home energy assessment can make a big difference in your home energy use. Nicor and ComEd customers have opportunities to reduce the energy usage in their home through their free Home Energy Assessment Program. By contacting Nicor at 888-652-2955, you can have a free “walk through” energy assessment of your home. During your home energy assessment, you will uncover opportunities to save energy, after which you can find a contractor to implement some of the identified energy efficiency projects and improvements to your home. During your home energy assessment, where needed, you will receive free installation of CFLs, low-flow showerheads, low flow aerators in bathroom and kitchen sinks, and hot water pipe insulation and a programmable thermostat. You will also learn about rebates you can receive to help cover the cost of any energy efficiency improvements you choose to implement. These rebates may be for thermostats, high-efficiency HVAC equipment, air sealing, insulation, duct sealing and other energy reducing items. These rebates are usually funded on a first-come basis, until that year’s funds are used up, so it is wise to act soon.

In conjunction with this program, we had a home energy assessment performed on our home during December 2012. This included a detailed analysis of energy use as influenced by insulation, light bulbs, appliances, water use, and air leaks in our home. This program included free installation of CFLs, low-flow showerheads, low flow aerators in bathroom and kitchen sinks, and hot water pipe insulation. We already had programmable thermostats, or they would also have installed those. The free items performed during our energy assessment were valued at a total cost of $117.66 and with an annual savings of $114.00. This energy assessment indicated that we could reduce our energy use by at least 10% by adding some additional attic insulation and by targeted air sealing, even with the 95% high-efficiency furnace which we had installed a few years prior. However, before we could have the targeted air sealing performed, we would also need to install a fresh air ventilation system. Fresh air ventilation systems are being installed on new construction where the homes are very tightly sealed. As result of our assessment, including the free items added during the assessment, the added insulation and the targeted air sealing, we have reduced our energy use, i.e., our carbon footprint by over 15%.

Thomas R. Roose

Saving Energy and Reducing Maintenance By Changing to LED Lighting

Trustees, Environmental Stewardship Work Area and S.O.S. continue to join together to change to LED lighting in key high usage areas of our church’s building. You may have noticed that some of the rooms and hallways are a little brighter. 

Chapel Hall was the first room to have all the fluorescent tubes replaced with LED light tubes. A team of S.O.S. workers washed and retrofit all the fixtures and put in LED tubes in Chapel Hall and its kitchen this past September. Those of you who attended Sunday early services in that room, due to the elevator repair challenge, immediately saw the difference. 

Next, during the October S.O.S., a number of staff offices on the second floor, the PAD’s entrance hall by the gym and the main hallways on the west half of the second floor were changed to LED lighting. Additional LED tubes have been purchased to retrofit key difficult or dangerous fixtures in stairways throughout the church. These installations will happen during future S.O.S. work Saturdays.

LED lighting uses much less electricity to provide the same light than the traditional incandescent and fluorescent lighting. The LED tubes use about 1/3 of the electric power to generate the same amount of light as long-tube fluorescent tubes. Additionally, depending on usage, they will last from 5 to 10 years, or over four times longer than the lighting being replaced. This is a great benefit for the difficult or dangerous fixtures in stairwells or high ceiling areas. 

About a year ago, the Environmental Stewardship Work Area purchased LED bulbs for the parlor on the first floor. You may have noticed that this room is a little brighter. These LED bulbs use about 1/10 of the electric power to generate the same amount of light as incandescent light bulbs. Another great thing is that LEDs are available at local hardware and big box stores like Home Depot, Lowes and Menards.

August Provides Gusto for Local Produce

Look here to find out what local produce is in season this month!

July is the Jackpot for Local Produce

Look here to find out what local produce is in season this month!

Organic Cleaning Products-Do they work and, if so, do they come with a really high price tag?

When we think of the term “organic,” many of us believe that healthier cleaning products must also be associated with higher price tags. But, each of us in our own way can begin to make strides to gradually adopt a more organic lifestyle which can minimize our exposure to toxic chemicals, and all without going broke.

So, how do we begin? Some products on the market are labeled “natural.” Does this mean they are not toxic to us or to our environment? Not necessarily. First, we can begin by learning more about toxic chemicals which are found in the food items that we buy, the products that we use both inside and outside of our homes, our water, and in our cleaning supplies. Then we can begin to understand how these chemicals directly or indirectly affect our health, well being, and the environment. Some of the products we use to clean our homes could be causing more harm to us than good. We should check brand labels and on the website and look for "green" and non-toxic cleaners that don't contain chlorine, alcohols, triclosan, triclocarbon, lye, glycol ethers, or ammonia. Choose instead safer products that say "petroleum-free," "biodegradable," "phosphate-free," "VOC-free," and "solvent-free."

Another option we might consider is to begin using common household items to clean our homes. Common household items can be great substitutes for many of the toxic chemicals found in the products we find at our local stores. For example, a few items that we have in our homes can have a dual purpose, such as: baking soda, cooking oil, lemon and vinegar. These are just some of the items that can brighten our homes and hot harm, us, our children, or Fido, our best friend.

There are many websites that include a list of toxic-free products that we can keep on hand and also some websites with recipes for making our own cleaning products for glass, floors, toilet bowls, tile, countertops, showers, and so on. A couple helpful websites for making and/or purchasing toxic-free products are: www.livingwellspendingless.com, www.eartheasy.com, www.keeperofthehome.org, and www.ewg.org.

If we all take steps to be more conscious about what we use to clean our homes, our cars, our clothing, etc., we can begin to do our part in helping our small world and the world around us become a cleaner and healthier environment.

October Okays for Local Produce

Look here to find out what local produce is in season this month!

September Shines with Local Produce

Look here to find out what local produce is in season this month!

Jump Into June With Local Produce

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