Gifts for environmental sustainability from the classes of 2008, 2010, and 2013 have catalyzed grants of over $185,000 for energy efficiency improvements at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC). The classes raised and donated nearly $10,000 toward the enhancements, which will be completed by September 2013.
Members of the Green Zone, LSTC’s creation care team, re-envisioned the original proposal for a small solar water heating system on a single building into a comprehensive approach to energy conservation throughout the campus. “As we researched options for generating our own energy, from solar thermal to photovoltaic panels, it became clear that we would make the greatest impact by making better use of the energy we already buy,” said student Chris Anderson, who did the solar feasibility study as a Green Zone internship.
Anderson worked closely with Jim Schaal, Green Zone Staff Advisor, and Bob Berridge, Vice President of Operations, on the study. “Shifting our focus allowed us to plug into resources available through CNT Energy and local utility providers ComEd and People’s Gas,” Schaal noted. The Chicago-based nonprofit CNT Energy provided energy audits, filed grant applications, and coordinated contractors at no cost to LSTC through its Energy Savers program, supported in part by federal funding for energy conservation and efficiency. CNT Energy's mission is to help people and organizations conserve energy and save money while protecting the environment.
“I am proud of and grateful for the fine leadership of our staff and students in seeking these grants,” said James Nieman, President of LSTC. “This dedicated effort and innovative partnership shows not only that we’re committed to the ongoing improvement of our residential buildings, but especially that these become more environmentally responsible and sustainable. That’s not easy to do with older facilities, but this project shows a creative way to make that happen.”
Reduced carbon footprint equivalent to planting 6,065 trees
An energy audit of eight student housing buildings resulted in a $155,000 grant for roof cavity insulation and a $28,000 grant for pipe insulation and low-flow water fixtures. The funding comes from Energy Impact Illinois, an alliance of government, non-profits and utilities supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to support energy efficiency in multi-family housing owned by nonprofits.
The housing retrofits will conserve about 40,145 therms of natural gas per year for steam heating and domestic hot water, or more than $4,000 per year in utility costs at current rates. The savings comes in carbon as well as cash: according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the reduction in LSTC’s carbon footprint is equivalent to taking 44 cars off the road or planting 5,462 trees. The roof insulation will also lower cooling needs in summer and the low-flow fixtures will conserve cold water as well as hot water.
With the help of CNT Energy, the senior class gifts have leveraged an additional $2,250 in utility incentives to retrofit lighting in LSTC's main academic building, replacing obsolete incandescent bulbs and outdated fluorescent fixtures with state-of-the-art LED lamps and high-efficiency fluorescent fixtures. The lighting improvements alone will save 55,433 kilowatt-hours per year. “At current electricity rates, these retrofits will pay for themselves in less than two years—and the new LED lights will last much longer and require less maintenance,” Berridge said. According to the EPA, the reduction in LSTC’s carbon footprint from the lighting retrofits is equivalent to taking 8 cars off the road or planting 1,003 trees.
Green Zone completes year of education on energy and environment
Anderson’s internship was just one aspect of a year-long effort by the Green Zone to educate the seminary and the wider community about energy and the environment. Master of divinity student Janice Heidlberger, who graduated with an emphasis in environmental ministry, worked with Schaal to present a Green Zone film series on the topic. Student Amy Westphal worked with faculty member Dr. Klaus-Peter Adam to organize a Green Zone workshop in April on energy stewardship for students, pastors, and parish leaders.
“We’ve learned so much this year about faithful stewardship of energy and care for God’s creation,” said Anderson, who is pursuing a master of arts in theological studies with an environmental ministry emphasis. “I hope that the churches we serve can benefit from what we’ve learned here in seminary.”
About CNT Energy
CNT Energy combines rigorous research with effective solutions to help consumers and communities control energy costs and become more energy efficient. CNT Energy's Energy Savers program makes it easy for building owners to tame high utility costs through a practical approach to energy efficiency and water conservation. Learn more at www.cntenergy.org.
Green Zone Staff Advisor
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The Lutheran School of Theology (LSTC) is dedicated to bearing witness to the good news of Jesus Christ. Based in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, it is the leading urban Lutheran seminary training students for purposeful vocations in the global community. Aligned with its Lutheran heritage and built on a foundation of intellectual rigor, LSTC’s innovative, nationally recognized curriculum gives students skills for visionary Christian leadership in the public sphere.