The green audit is designed to help faith communities see the greening opportunities in and around their sacred spaces and guide them on how to make changes towards greater energy efficiency, health and sustainability. In 2015, St. Mark’s contracted for a green audit and after the audit was complete, received a comprehensive report that looked at electricity and water use, heating and air conditioning, cleaning, and even photocopying.
Lucy Cummings, FCG. Photo credit, Nancy Harvey.
St. Mark’s, under the leadership of Reverend Canon Jim Sutton, warden Frank Van Heck, and parishioner Duane Bower, were able to meet most of the achievable goals set by the auditors and were able to make significant reductions, especially in electricity and water consumption. Because of this work, St. Mark’s became one of the first congregations in Huron to earn “Deep Green” status under the Greening Sacred Spaces ⁄ Enviro Action program for green certification. We continue to fine-tune our building to meet modern environmental standards, and are also undertaking projects to make our grounds even more environmentally friendly.
About thirty people attended. Many were Anglicans from Huron and Niagara, and there was also representation from the Presbyterian Church, the Convention Baptist Church, and the Stratford Mosque. The morning began with an opening invocation and call to environmental faithfulness by the Rev. Tim Dobbin, rector of St. Mark’s. We then had a primer on reducing consumption and an energizer activity from the Pauline Johnson Collegiate Eco Club, given by Sarah, a high school student who attends St. Mark’s. The student-created Eco Club presentation sent a clear message that overconsumption of Earth’s resources is simply not sustainable.
Photo credit, Nancy Harvey.
Dr. Lucy Cummings, Executive Director of Faith & the Common Good, presented on the Green Audit in the context of all audits available to buildings of worship. Dr. Cummings showed how the Green Audit is unique in Ontario because of its wide scope, but pointed out that it is not the only option and that the wide range of audits available allow us to tailor the choice of tool to congregational needs. She also made the strong point that we need to be tracking our use of utilities over time — if you can’t measure it, how can you know how effective your building improvements really are? To help with this, Dr. Cummings told us about the Energy Star Portfolio Manager, a free, online tool that can be used to track data for energy and water use of any building.
We also had a presentation from Joanne Van Panhuis, Conservation Program Manager for Brantford Power. Joanne advised us to begin with the “low hanging fruit” with items like lighting which are relatively easy and inexpensive to remedy, while still yielding significant savings when upgraded. There is also some funding for electrical audits and upgrades. Congregations can best access this through their local power authority, but can also search information at www.saveonenergy.ca.
After a building tour to see the lighting upgrades in our sanctuary and Munro Hall, a panel discussion with six experts provided us with a fascinating look at the complexities of building maintenance and upgrades. In attendance was an HVAC consultant, a window and door salesperson, a stained glass contractor, a retired heating, plumbing and electricity contractor, and a grounds consultant. Two big take-aways emerged from this session. One was that we need to protect our precious building asset through intelligent and informed care. The other is that a building is a system in which all elements work together and affect each other. Yes, we need to work to reduce our carbon footprint, but we need to do this in an informed way. Panelists were aware of examples in which well meaning renovations had been made to worship spaces in order to make them more efficient, but damage had been done to the asset through unexpected moisture build ups in ceilings, heating of double glazed stained glass panels, and so on. We need to do our due diligence when going ahead with renovations, using new products, and hiring contractors.
The Environmental Stewardship Committee at St. Mark’s took great enjoyment in being able to share our experience and to continue to learn with other faiths, denominations, congregations, and with the Niagara Diocese. We also greatly appreciate the support of Dr. Lucy Cummings and Beatrice Ekoko of Faith & the Common Good in making the day a great success.