By: A Member of Ft. King Presbyterian Church

Three years ago we began as a group of 8-10 interested folks who decided to explore the idea of becoming better stewards of our resources here at Fort King Presbyterian Church (Ocala, Florida). Initially, we were concerned about the use of Styrofoam cups on Sunday mornings. We considered many alternatives from bringing our own cups, to compostable paper cups but finally decided to collect mugs from the congregation and wash them each Sunday. There were concerns about washing the used cups and possible pest problems. It has worked beautifully, however, which encouraged us to explore other options.

We had heard about Earth Care, an organization dedicated to using God’s resources more responsibly and we checked out their web site. After downloading and filling out their survey of our church campus, we went to the Property Ministry to determine their interest and commitment. After their approval, we approached the Session with our request. We were given support throughout the process.

An energy audit was required but since we were operating with a zero budget, we asked for an unofficial walk through. The City of Ocala Utilities personnel were more than gracious and helpful. From their informal audit, we determined that replacing our incandescent bulbs with fluorescents in high use areas would be our first step. Secondly, we looked at our Exit lights and have replaced them with LEDs. Currently, Property Mission has approved 9 new LED emergency lights, with rechargeable batteries. They cost less than the batteries for the old lights and will be installed soon. We replaced an air conditioner with a new energy efficient unit. In addition, we requested and received a proposal for a solar grid for our tin roof, but have found that we were financially limited without some help through federal or state grants.

We have also quit using disposable plates, cups and silverware for our congregational gatherings, and are actually washing dishes! (Our pastor, Andy Gans, often washes the dishes …..Having a pastor who is committed to this effort is essential, and we are grateful) our plan for this year will be to purchase glass communion cups to replace the plastic ones we are currently using. We find that they can be placed in a zippered lingerie bag on the top shelf of the dishwasher, and are easily cleaned and sterilized.

Our thermostats in the sanctuary and fellowship hall have been replaced with digital ones, and “turn off the lights” signs placed prominently in all the rooms. Last year the theme of summer Bible School focused on a Presbyterian program called “Living Water for the World.” It focused on making us better stewards of the gifts we have. Utility managers, water experts and folks interested in recycling were invited to speak. It was well attended and an offering sent to fund clean water in a third world county. In addition to that effort our congregation requested, a recycling bin be placed on the grounds for our members. It has been well used. Finally we looked at our landscape and planted more than 15 live oaks to shade our sanctuary and parking lots.

These small steps have reduced our carbon footprint and our use of electricity making our congregation aware of the need to conserve and use their own resources in a less wasteful way. I think it has made a difference in the way our church looks at our gifts, and the way we will look at water and other environmental issues as they impact our area and state.

For more information on becoming an Earth Care Congregation, click here.