Improving Efficiency, Advancing Stewardship

This is the first in a series of posts about the work done by 8 students in a May-term Ecological Economics class at Goshen College. The Sustainability Coalition is proud to have been a part of their unique experiential learning process that combined the principles of Ecological Economics with the practical application of saving energy. Thank you to the students and the Goshen College Business Department for bringing these bright ideas for a sustainable future to our community.

Waterford Mennonite Church is a vibrant, active fellowship community located just outside of Goshen, IN by the Elkhart River.  The church campus is situated on a 61 acre plot of land, of which 55 acres is forested floodplain wetland. Waterford believes that “by protecting and managing this unique asset for the benefit of the congregation, community and God’s creation, Waterford Mennonite Church exhibits another way it lives out it’s core value of Stewardship.”

Therefore, when the students at Goshen College made the case to Waterford Mennonite Church for changing out older, inefficient bulbs with new energy saving lights, they focused on stewardship citing Leviticus 25:23-24 – The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. Throughout the country that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land.

But even a church has to make smart decisions on how to spend money. So to make the business case, the students created a robust lighting calculator that generates three critical numbers that can help Waterford decide what projects to do: payback, return on investment (ROI), and net present value (NPV).

After crunching the numbers and conducting employee interviews, the students made recommendations about how the quality and energy efficiency of lighting at the church could be improved.  Here are just a few of those recommendations:

Replace exit signs with high efficiency LED signs
This simple switch will pay for itself in 3 years and has an ROI of 30%. Even more important, the project has a Net Present Value of more then $550.  This is an easy project for any small business or organization to do and is a great first step toward improving lighting efficiency.

Install light tubes in the front foyer
A light tube is a day lighting application similar to a skylight. This project improves the quality of the light in the foyer and minimizes the use of overhead lights.  Another positive aspect of installing a very noticeable energy efficiency measure is that it creates awareness.  People may not notice the difference between a T8 and a T12 bulb but they certainly will notice natural light streaming into a building!

The students also pointed out another benefit to these efficiency measures. Waterford Mennonite Church can take their energy savings and invest them in activities and programs that are a core part of the church’s work including ministries and missions.

Every organization from a small church to a large corporation can realize savings from energy efficiency efforts.  We look forward to hearing how Waterford Mennonite Church takes the next step toward Improving Efficiency and Advancing Stewardship.

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