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 Work Area: Weed Prevention Study


Over the past two years the Environmental Stewardship Work Area (ESWA) at DGFUMC has looked for an area on the grounds of the church to take responsibility for general maintenance, planting, mulching, and overall appearance.  During the Spring/Summer of 2011 the group asked the church if they could be responsible for the semi-circle area between the main entrance/exit to the church off of Maple Ave (see picture).  After becoming responsible for the area, the ESWA gathered one Spring evening in 2011 to remove weeds, plant new Coral bells (Heuchera), and put down mulch within the area.  Over that Summer the group set up a bi-weekly weed removal schedule in which a member of the group would be responsible for removing weeds during their selected time slot. 


This went so well that the ESWA thought of ways in which to expand their role within the area and to relate it even more to what the work group stands for: Environmental Stewardship.  During the Spring of 2012 then, the group decided to begin a weed prevention study within the area using various chemical-free weed prevention options.  A designated area within the semi-circle area had the mulch removed and three types of weed prevention tactics were used: 1) commercial weed matting with mulch on top, 2) wet newspaper with mulch on top, and 3)  mulch directly on top of the dirt (acting as a control).  The same bi-weekly weeding schedule as the previous summer was used except during the Summer of 2012 each person would report back on the number of weeds they found within of the three areas, ranking each in order from the most to the least amount of weeds found.  The study took place from late April through early November 2012 and data was collected every two weeks throughout this time period.


As 2013 began the work area had lots of data and it was then time to analyze it.  Overall, 14 times weeds were removed from the area throughout 2012, so there were 14 sets of rankings of weed growth within the three environments.  After the data was collected and tabulated, we discussed the results at our monthly meetings. 

  • 3 times out of 14 the area with the commercial weed matting and mulch had the most weeds
  • 2 times out of 14 the area with mulch only had the most weeds
  • The area with newspaper and mulch never had the most weeds
  • ~80% of the time all the areas reviewed against each other had a similar number of weeds


Even though there were some differences in the number of weeds reported in each area it can be concluded from this study that overall there was no real difference in weed growth from one area to another as no one area had the most weeds more than 21% of the time.  Nearly 80% of the time observations were made there were no differences between weed growth due to using weed matting or newspaper with mulch vs. just using mulch.  What could this mean for around the house?  You can spend more money on weed matting or try to use newspaper to prevent weeds, but in the end you'll want to cover both with mulch to give a natural appearance.  With this, the study may lead one to believe that simply using mulch alone with a bit of maintenance throughout the season will give as good a barrier against weeds as other methods. 

Benefits of Mulch:

Benefits of mulch are well known as it inhibits weed germination and growth, holds in soil moisture for your plants, moderates soil-temperature fluctuations, insulates plants throughout the winter, helps keeps roots cool during the summer, and, depending on what you use, adds a bit of nutrients to an area as it breaks down.  There are many mulch types out there, so feel free to ask any representative at your local nursery or store what mulch type would work best for your specific area.

Final Thoughts:

Not only was this study fun, interactive, and time spent outside.....it was fun.  Such studies as this can be done at smaller and larger scales and provide pathways for communication between a family.  In the end it will give parents information and time with their kids while at the same time helping their children learn and promoting environmental responsibility.  Ask any local library or book store for environmental/nature books relating to education and activities and you will find environmental activities for your family to participate in year round.

Earth Day Celebration - April 28, 2013

Are we good stewards of our planet? On April 22, more than one billion people around the world will take part in the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day. Come to our Earth Day presentations sponsored by the Environmental Stewardship Work Area to see how you can live, work and move toward a responsible life on our planet. See how the church has responded to conserving energy and becoming a good steward. Exhibits will be in the parlor and the front parking lot after all worship services on April 28.

What do you do? What is your reason? Exhibits will help you look at various ways you can help. In your household, at your work and and as you move, there are many ways to become good stewards of the earth.

Sunday, April 28, 2013 - 9:15am to 12:30pm

We can all be Environmental Stewards...Just Outside Our Front Doors!

While it’s daunting to consider the global environmental challenges that we face, all of us can steward our little piece of land with some forethought and responsible decisions. From the plantings we choose to the hardscapes we create, nearly every decision we make about our property and landscape impacts our environmental footprint.

A Virtual Tour Around Our Property

Take a short stroll out your front door…sure, grab your coffee or drink! As you walk take in your surroundings – lawn, trees, bushes, plants, ground cover, patios, decks, walkways, lighting. We each have our own style and approach to creating and maintaining our outdoor space. Some of us become more attached to our property and its sanctity than others, but for those who own a home it’s nearly always a significant part of your investment.

The inside of our homes may be pristine or a mess, but far fewer strangers or neighbors will ever know whether we have mounds of laundry, dishes or magazines and books strewn about. Many more will know the state of our outdoor property. For that reason alone many of us are willing to invest in keeping up the appearances of our property. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that we’re so superficial that we obsess over the appearance of our lawn, drive, shrubs and trees – no, not us – but we are all laid a bit bare as the weather improves and neighbors drive, walk or ride by with greater frequency. We don’t have the equalizing influence of barren trees, messy walks and snow-blanketed lawns. We get out and begin sprucing up, planting, sweeping, seeding, treating, mowing, watering and, aargh – weeding!  And that’s okay. In fact, I think it reflects as much respect and appreciation for our neighbors and neighborhood as it does at least a bit of our keepin’ up with the Joneses mentality.

But I digress. Back to our stroll. If you need to warm up your coffee, please do. As you walk your property ask yourself what you know about the improvements. Start with the big stuff – like that massive tree whose limbs are quickly encroaching on your roof and gutters. Is that a Silver Maple or a Red Maple? Would I know the difference? Is it healthy? How old is it? Does it support wildlife? Is its canopy appropriate or is it encroaching on other plantings? When it’s reached its natural life span what will we do? Replace it? What with? I know, stop already! Consider the same for your lower plants and shrubs. Then ask yourself about the material of your walk, patio or deck. How much energy went into its production? Are the materials sustainable? Recyclable? The questions can seem endless.

An Environmental Gem in our Backyard

Most of us aren’t arborists or even terribly well-informed on our trees, shrubs, and other plantings around the home. But we’re in luck. We have a living classroom right in our own neighborhood – well Lisle to be accurate. The Morton Arboretum is a vital resource to gain actionable knowledge that you can use to make better decisions about what to plant, how to maintain our properties and the many small steps that we can take to become better stewards in our own back – and front – yards. They offer classes, informative plaques as you walk the grounds, great food, an incredible children’s outdoor discovery museum (for the kid in all of us) and great staff who are always happy to engage and answer questions. And I promise you won’t find a better outdoor gym!

Before visiting their site – or better yet – making a day of it on the beautiful grounds – here are some questions to consider about your property and ways that we can all begin to be better environmental stewards:

1. What do I/we know about our trees and plants?
     a. Are they native to the region?
     b. Are they supportive of a healthy ecosystem in the region?
     c. Do they offer shade and help to reduce cooling costs of the home in warm months?
     d. Are they resistant to pests?
     e. Do they support pollination or help to sustain wildlife?
     f. How much watering do they require?
2. Have we considered further improvements to our property that impact the environment?
     a. Have we considered a rain barrel to capture water for our plantings?
     b. Have we considered a mulch barrel to spread as nutrient-rich cover for our soil?
     c. Have we considered a raised garden or flower bed to grow healthy vegetables, add some beauty and educate kids in a fun way on environmental issues?
3. Do we use chemicals on our lawn and trees/shrubs?
     a. If yes, how toxic are these chemicals to people and wildlife?
     b. Can we reduce or eliminate these chemicals – or consider a non-toxic treatment?
4. What can we do to create healthier and more natural hardscapes and exteriors?
     a. Have we considered the source of materials?
     b. Are they natural, renewable and local?
     c. Can we recycle or repurpose materials from replaced walks, patios, decks?
     d. Have we considered painting or refurbishing siding vs. replacing?

Here’s hoping that the next stroll you take around your property will have you beaming with pride that you’ve made one or two better decisions about your environmental stewardship!

Forgetting about the "Reduce" in "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle"

As Americans have gotten better at recycling over the past few decades many forget that recycling is just one of the steps in the sequential “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” process to try to minimize our impact on the Earth. In 2008, the recycling rate reached an all-time high of 33.2% for Americans (per data from 2010). This is great as recycling rates overall have risen steadily since the 1960’s. But with this it may not be apparent to everyone that the amount of waste sent to landfills has also risen dramatically since the 1960’s. Recycling doesn't have as direct an impact on the amount of waste sent to landfills as reducing what we buy, reducing our waste streams, or reusing items within our households. The 3 “R’s” of waste reduction are really a sequential process in which everyone should try to first reduce the amount of waste they procure or produce, then reuse the materials they have, and finally recycle materials left over from there. Even with recycling rates increasing, we as Americans and a global community will only see the amount of trash we send to landfills increase in the decades to come from increased consumerism and rising population numbers. With this we need to remind our children and generations to come about the importance of reducing our waste streams and how the 3 “R’s” all work together in a specific order.

Alternative Modes of Transportation to Minimize Your Carbon Footprint

Mass Transit
Whenever possible use mass transit, especially when commuting to work. In the suburbs Metrarail offers railroad service to downtown Chicago. Their website is www.metrarail.com. The schedules are posted on their website. When you arrive in Chicago use the RTA bus service. Their website is www.RTAChicago.com. For suburban bus service Pacebus provides a variety of bus services. They offer a vanpool program, paratransit service, a fixed route bus system, and a vanpool incentive program. For more information, go to www.pacebus.com. Mass transportation is good for the environment and it helps save money.

Benefits of Walking and Bicycling
Studies have found that walking and bicycling helps reduce your carbon footprint. Walking and bicycling produces no pollution, and helps make the roads safer. In congested areas cyclists and pedestrians breathe less fumes than drivers. Walking and bicycling also help reduce your waistline.

Benefits of Carpooling
Studies have found that carpooling helps reduce carbon dioxide. Taking your car off the road one day a week will help keep the air clean and remove congestion from the roads. Combine car trips instead of making separate trips throughout the day, combine errands to help reduce your carbon footprint. When possible, park in a central location and do all your errands. Also, be sure to bring reusable shopping bags when doing your errands.

A Little Conservation Goes a Long Way

What is Water Efficiency?

Water efficiency is the smart use of our water resources through water-saving technologies and simple steps we can all take around the house. Using water efficiently will help ensure reliable water supplies today and for future generations.

Save Water, Save Money

The average household spends over $700 per year on its water and sewer bill. By making just a few simple changes to use water more efficiently, you could save about $200 per year. Also, when we use water more efficiently, we reduce the need for costly investments in water treatment and delivery systems.

Drops to Watts: Save Water, Save Energy

It takes a considerable amount of energy to deliver and treat the water you use every day. For example, letting your faucet run for five minutes uses about as much energy as letting a 60-watt light bulb run for 14 hours.

Heating water for bathing, shaving, cooking, and cleaning also requires a lot of energy. Homes with electric water heaters, for example, spend one-quarter of their electric bill just to heat water.

With climate change concerns, pervasive droughts, and high energy prices across the country, nearly everyone is looking for ways to conserve resources and cut costs. The good news is that by using a little "water sense" we can all save water, energy, and money.

The preceding information is a direct citation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Wastewater Management. Read more on the EPA website.

Here are three simple and effective ways you can make a difference:

1. Do full loads of laundry and dish washing.  Use cold water wash/ rinse for laundry (90% of the energy in doing laundry goes to heating water and only 10% to powering the machine).

2. Limit the length and temperature of showers (a family of 4 limiting shower time under 5 minutes can reduce 1,000 lb/ yr. CO2.

3. Turn down hot water heater temperature to 120 degrees or medium temperature setting.

Together, we can all make a difference!

Battery Recycling - Where Can You Recycle and What Must You Recycle?

Battery Recycling    
Improperly disposed batteries may produce the following potential problems or hazards: pollute lakes and streams as the metals vaporize into the air when burned, contribute hazardous heavy metals that infiltrate our water supply, expose the environment and water to lead and acid, contain strong corrosive acids, cause burns or danger to eyes and skin.  All of these are a high cost to individuals and society.

An excellent website that gives recycling information for all types of batteries and many other recyclable items is http://earth911.com/. Not only does this website provide information on specific products, it provides locations near your home where you can take your recyclable items. 

Each of us can make a difference and collectively we can change the world for the better. 

Alkaline Batteries
Mercury has been the major concern with alkaline batteries, but in 1996 Federal law changed for regular alkaline batteries requiring that they contain no mercury.  IL EPA apparently agrees that alkaline batteries are not very toxic, because they do not contain mercury.  Most people, including disposal companies, assume that after 16 years the mercury batteries have worked their way out of the system and it is okay to put them trash.  However, it is still much better to recycle these single-use, alkaline batteries.  In 2010 battery manufacturers, Rayovac, Panasonic, Duracell and Energizer committed to a nationwide program aimed at improving the recycling of household batteries.  Together, these four companies launched the non-profit Corporation for Battery Recycling (CBR) that has studied how to improve the recycling of batteries in the United States so that it is both environmentally sound and cost-effective.  Although some places no longer collect these single-use, alkaline batteries, local Walgreens Drug stores and the COM2 Recycling Solutions Collection Center, 87 W 61st St., Westmont, IL 60559 [(630) 434-1250] still collect and recycle these batteries as well as many other batteries.

Rechargeable batteries
All rechargeable batteries are considered toxic.  They contain mercury, lead, lithium, silver, cadmium and other metals that are hazardous to the environment and humans.  All of these should be disposed through recycling channels to minimize the effect on the environment and humans.  Local Walgreens Drug stores and the COM2 Recycling Solutions Collection Center mentioned in the preceding paragraph collect and recycle these batteries. 

Lead Acid Batteries - Automotive and Non-automotive
Nearly 99 million wet-cell, lead-acid car batteries are manufactured each year.  A typical lead-acid battery contains 60 to 80 percent recycled lead and plastic.  It is vital that we recycle these batteries so that the hazardous lead does not enter the environment.  Home Depot, Advance Auto Parts, O'Reilly Auto Parts and other auto parts stores collect and recycle these batteries.  
With the increase in hybrid vehicles, Toyota has started hybrid battery recycling program.  While traditional vehicles use lead-acid batteries, hybrid cars typically also incorporate a separate nickel metal hydride or Lithium-ion  battery to generate electric power.

In addition to the website http://earth911.com/, the below websites provide excellent information on battery recycling, including types of batteries that are not mentioned in this article. 
(1) http://www.batteryrecycling.com/
(2) http://www.batteryrecycling.com/battery+recycling+process
(3) http://www.batteriesplus.com/t-metro-chicago.aspx?its=googleadwords&campaign=chicago&adgroup=services&keyword=battery%20recycling
(4) http://www.call2recycle.org/
(5) http://illinoispoisoncenter.org/ipc_media/pdf/RecyclingHP.pdf

Going Green with Your Vehicle - Are You Ready?

Environmental StewardshipIf you are like many, the idea of going green with your vehicle is appealing, but the challenge of understanding the technologies and picking out the right vehicle feels a bit overwhelming. You may be asking:

  • What is the difference between an electric vehicle and a hybrid?
  • What happens to the battery at the end of it's life?
  • What is the true lifecycle cost of these vehicles and will I really save any money in the long run?
  • What is my true environmental impact if I choose one of these vehicles?

If you would like to hear the answers to these questions, please join us on Wednesday, September 26 at 7:00 p.m. in Room 213, where Ken Poindexter, church member and retired 40+ year employee at Electro-Motive Diesel/GM will lead a discussion about green vehicle technologies.

This program follows earlier Environmental Stewardship programs on choosing an alternative electricity provider, installing renewable energy systems and practical ways to reduce energy consumption in your home.

Room 213
Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 7:00pm

Environmental Studies at DGFUMC and at Home

The Environmental Stewardship Work Area at DGFUMC took responsibility for an area on the church's grounds over the past year to maintain its landscaping and vegetation.  This area (south of the main parking lot between the main entrance and exit) is visible to everyone from Maple Street and is seen as everyone enters/exits the main parking lot from Maple.  Over the past year our group has planted more than a dozen Choral Bells, put down mulch, and ensured those pesky weeds don't overtake the tulips, bushes, or other plants.   

One new endeavor our group has undertaken is studying the effects of different weed prevention methods.  In a small area, about 6' x 18' surrounded by grass, we've put down commercial weed matting and wet newspaper, both covered with mulch, to study the potential varying effects of each type of weed prevention method.  Also, what study would be complete without a control?  To allow for an unbiased estimate in the difference in treatment effects we've put an area with nothing but mulch on the dirt in between the weed matting and newspaper prevention methods.  Over this summer our group members will rotate every two weeks to monitor the area to observe and report which areas had the most/least amount of weeds.  From there we'll continue remove the weeds and in the end will report back to the church with a method that may be more effective and worth implementing in other areas around the church.  

Studies like this are simple, thought provoking, great for the summer, and encourage children to spend their time outdoors.  Parents can discuss what they think will "win" with their children and track the progress together.  Children can relate what they may be learning at school with their own home.  Consider such studies as this, making compost, making a small biodome, or tracking the growth of different seeds that you plant together.  A great book with over 90 environmentally friendly activities to encourage the understanding and appreciation of the earth and other living things is Earthways: Simple Environmental Activities for Young Children (Carol Petrash, July/1992).  By setting up such environmental projects together you'll be helping the environment, spending time outdoors, and opening doors of thought and communication.

12 Ways to Save Energy

Finding energy efficiency improvements in your home has been shown to be the most cost-effective way to reduce our energy use and capture cost savings. At the same time, one will achieve improvement to the environment by reducing the pollution that is released when electricity is produced or fossil fuels burned. Energy costs have been and are projected to keep increasing. Jesus taught us to love your neighbor as yourself. By reducing our energy consumption we can demonstrate love to our neighbors by reducing toxic air emissions better protecting public health and by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, helping to mitigate the climate chaos created by such emissions. In our nation alone last year we had at least a dozen severe weather events that each resulted in over a billion dollars in adverse economic impact to our nation plus the loss of many lives.

On Sunday March 11, 2012 we enjoyed a discussion on 12 easy and practical ways to reduce energy consumption in your home. James Cavallo, Principal at Kouba- Cavallo Associates and a former research economist at Argonne National Laboratory, led a discussion on how to conduct a simple energy audit of your home's energy use and how to implement simple yet meaningful measures to reduce energy consumption and realize significant savings in your energy bills. This program followed earlier Environmental Stewardship programs on choosing an alternative electricity provider and installing solar and geothermal renewable energy systems.

A copy of the presentation is available below.


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