SPRING CAMPAIGN FOR CLEAN ENERGY
This year ESC will expand our efforts to assist members of the Parish to support clean energy through their electricity bill. In making recommendations the committee members are being careful to discuss only steps that we have found affordable and reliable based on our own personal experiences. Many exciting developments have occurred in the past five years to facilitate the switch to solar and wind, including falling prices, better technology, and attractive financing approaches. Beginning with Wind Power we will be building on our earlier relationships with Interfaith Power and Light, www.gwipl.org
, and Groundswell, groundswell.org
to facilitate enrollments. Buying Wind power is exceedingly simple and the per kilowatt price is only slightly higher than ‘dirty’ energy. Several of us on the committee signed up for wind power two years ago and found it a very easy process. Your service, billing, and relationship with your utility, such as BG&E, will remain the same. There is no upfront cost. This option is open to both renters and homeowners.
Interfaith Power and Light and Groundswell’s clean energy campaign will begin soon – to stay up to date please visit gwipl.org/clean energy and add your name to their sign up form. This year we expect that there will be multiple open sign up periods. Please note, Delmarva Power is expected to be one of the participating utilities this year. REMEMBER YOUR coastal VACATION HOMES! You can now get clean wind power for your condos in the Ocean City area as well as your homes in the Annapolis area.
Solar energy is another option experiencing rapidly changing economies. In a coming update we will discuss the various options for using solar electricity.
Working with BGE and the University of Maryland, a comprehensive energy audit was conducted of the parish facilities and meetings arranged with BGE energy conservation leaders to plan energy conservation measures that BGE helps fund. The Parish has accomplished the following:
- Highly efficient lighting systems have been installed in three buildings (old Primary bldg., Fine Arts bldg, and the High School) and records show that electric use has been cut by an average of 18% in these buildings. That is a total reduction of about 104,000 kWh a year, saving about $8,000 each year and reducing our carbon footprint. As part of the lighting upgrades, motion sensors were installed that automatically turn off lights when not in use such as in bathrooms and class rooms. The cost for the projects to St. Mary’s was $9,500 while the BGE contribution was $47,500. Next up is Notre Dame Hall.
- The Church heating system switched from steam to a more energy efficient hot water system, which is saving several thousand dollars a year in heating costs and reducing our carbon footprint.
- In the past several years when mechanical equipment is replaced, high efficiency units with digital controls are substituted, saving on operating costs and reducing our carbon footprint.
- An upgrade is under consideration with BGE support to use more efficient motors with VFD (variable frequency drive) on applicable mechanical units to further reduce electrical consumption.
- Opportunities are being explored to use solar panels (photo-voltaic cells) on roofs to produce electricity and further reduce non-renewable electricity consumption. There are major grants and rebates for such systems and St. Mary’s has been approached by companies willing to fund and implement these systems whereby they are paid for out of yearly energy savings.
- St. Mary’s will be purchasing a greater percentage of renewable “Green” energy, such as wind power, in the new electric utility contract.
- St. Mary’s joined hands with the Spa Creek Conservancy and Carroll House and Gardens and obtained a $105,000 state grant to retrofit the 2.1 acre parking lot behind St. Mary’s Church that drains polluting stormwater to Spa Creek. Nine rain gardens were installed to allow much of the runoff to naturally infiltrate the soils and the large old storm drain and parking lot were cleaned-out. St. Mary’s students helped plant the gardens with water-absorbent native plants. These rain gardens and improved stormwater management have greatly decrease nutrients, sediment, and toxic chemicals running off into Spa Creek after each rain storm. The project won the top environmental award from Anne Arundel County in 2009 and only used $56,000 of the grant. The SMESC has helped maintain, clean, and water these pollutant-absorbing gardens with the help of students. Read The Capital article about the project.
- Rain barrels have been placed around drain spouts from school buildings to hold stormwater from roofs and prevent pollution.
- St. Mary’s is examining a pilot project for a floating wetland along the border of the Carroll House Gardens on Spa Creek that would prevent erosion and cleanse run-off by using floating vegetated mats.
- St. Mary’s has implemented a Parish-wide wide recycling system including the schools with recycling bins in every classroom. Recycling is going full-scale in the Churches, rectory, Priests’ living quarters, and all other buildings. Tons of recycled materials are turned into new products each year instead of being burned in incinerators or buried in landfills.
Dedicated teachers in our elementary and high schools serve on the Environmental Stewardship Committee and have done much with their students:
ST. MARY’S HIGH SCHOOL
- The school is committed to environmental education through academic programs, co-curricular club offerings, and through volunteer learning opportunities. It is the goal of the High School to offer a range of courses and activities that will encourage students to consider their place in the natural world, to provide depth and breadth to their knowledge of the scientific, literary and moral dimensions of conservation and to foster understanding of and responsibility for their choices and the affects that these choices have on the natural world. St. Mary’s High School fosters environmental awareness inside and outside the classroom. The school’s environmental curriculum is an integral part of the school’s mission to prepare students intellectually, and spiritually to meet the challenges of today and the future.
- Through the Environmental Studies Program, created in 2009, the High School offers a two-year, elective interdisciplinary course of study focused on the environment. Students study environmental matters in an academic context through the Environmental Science and Environmental Literature courses. This classroom learning is expanded by a three-day residential field experience, most recently a trip taken to Port Isobel Island to study the Bay and its challenges. This classroom and field learning is enriched by independent readings and volunteer service. The program culminates in an independent project which the student creates and has leadership responsibility for. Past final projects include neighborhood stream cleanups, rain garden restorations, photo essays, and environmental education videos. Each year the program graduates a small, but dedicated group of 5-10 students with a certificate in environmental studies.
- The high school has an Environmental Club which educates itself on environmental current events, while also volunteering with rain garden cleanups and raising oysters in nearby Spa Creek. The Club raises funds every Earth Day through a bake sale and out-of-uniform day with the funds donated to an environmental non-profit group chosen by the Club’s members. Since the Club’s founding in 2005 it has donated more than $10,000 to a number of local and global environmental groups. A favorite recipient has been the Nature Conservancy’s Adopt-an-Acre program for which the club’s donations have paid for the preservation of over 150 acres of habitat around the world in places as diverse as Costa Rican rainforests and African savannahs.
- The high school has implemented a plastic, paper and aluminum recycling program. Every room is equipped with a recycling container, which is emptied daily, and Marian Hall (the lunch room), is serviced by larger recycling cans which the students use.
ST. MARY’S ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
- The Elementary School includes in its mission providing environmental education for students, faculty and staff. In doing so, the school strives to create an environmentally sound city school and involve everyone in being stewards of God’s gift of the Earth. To fulfill this mission, the School has a standing Green School Committee comprised of volunteer faculty and staff. The Committee also enlists the help of parent and community volunteers. Students are active participants on a daily basis. St. Mary’s Elementary was designated a Green School by the state of Maryland.
- Each year, the Green School Committee establishes a set of goals based on a school wide assessment of the campus that identifies areas which could be made more environmentally sound.
- Rain barrels were installed to hold rainwater and help cleanse it before it runs off into Spa Creek.
- Earth Week events are conducted, and complete clean-ups have been done of the parking lot and grounds with the Spa Creek Conservancy.
- Projects have included wetland construction.
- Recycling programs (paper, plastic, aluminum, glass, and electronics) have been instituted and each class room has a recycling bin.
- A rain garden of native Maryland plants was planted and is maintained to reduce polluted stormwater runoff, provide an educational place for students, and increase faculty environmental education.
- Earth Week activities are conducted throughout the school.
- A new learning environment was established with the addition of a 150 gallon Chesapeake Bay tank in the school. This tank has Bay species as inhabitants.
PARISH-WIDE ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS
- Parish-wide Earth Week activities are conducted, including seminars, conservation projects, liturgy recognition of Earth Care, engagement with student groups at St. Mary’s, and, in the past, skipjack trips on the Bay for clergy members.
- Environmental stewardship is promoted through bulletin notes, the Pastor’s letter, pamphlets promoting conservation, presentations to all teachers and staff at the elementary school, articles in Parish publications, seminars, sponsorship and participation at Parish events such as Church donut socials.
OUTREACH IN THE COMMMUNITY
St. Mary’swas the first house of worship to gain the City of Annapolis Environmental Stewardship Certification as part of a Sustainable Annapolis initiative. Launched in 2009, the Certification Program awards best practice certificates to places of worship, homes, restaurants, lodging establishments, auto repair shops, schools, retail stores, and office buildings. St. Mary’s is certifying to its many GREEN practices to earn enough qualifying points from a comprehensive checklist of environmental best practices and then pass a verification inspection.
- The Environmental Stewardship Committee is working with the Archdiocese of Baltimore to help seek funding for a full-time Archdiocesan staffer to implement such projects as above throughout the Archdiocese’s 151 parishes and 70 schools.
- Presentations have been made to other groups on St. Mary’s Environmental Stewardship, including the Catholic Deanery (county-wide Catholic pastors/leaders) and the Annapolis Ministerium (local interfaith group of ministers), individual churches, and conservation groups.
- In 2009, the Chesapeake Interfaith Environmental Group was formed with St. Mary’s an active participant and a co-sponsor of an annual major event, the EARTH, WATER AND FAITH FESTIVAL, which has been held each year at Annapolis Towne Center with faith-based groups from the Jewish, Catholic,
Muslim, and Protestant communities participating. An interfaith seminar was held to foster conservation efforts beyond such Earth Day events with St.
- When the Carroll House hosted GreenDrinks Annapolis, SMESC had an information table and led several walks for more than 40 attendees through our stormwater pollution reducing rain gardens on the parking lot.
WHAT CAN WE DO AS CATHOLICS TO BE GOOD STEWARDS OF THE EARTH?
We can do many simple things to help reduce the excessive drain on our natural resources and the pollution of God’s creation. Most all of these save money and reduce pollutants to the Chesapeake:
- Join the St. Mary’s Environmental Stewardship Committee.
- Read some of the Popes’ and Bishops’ and other messages on the duty to protect the environment on this page over on the right.
- Conserve Energy by car pooling, walking or biking, and using public transit. Drive fuel-efficient cars, keep them well maintained, do not leave cars idling, plan driving trips/errands to minimize miles driven, and keep tires properly inflated. At home and the office weatherize windows and doors, install new efficient compact fluorescent bulbs, and purchase only energy efficient appliances. Keep the thermostat low in the winter and use fans instead of a/c whenever possible. Regularly change furnace filters. Turn off all computers, lights, TV's, and electronic devices when not in use. Contact BGE for FREE installation of energy conservation measures that will save you $$$$: http://www.bgesmartenergy.com Their Peak Rewards Program alone will save you $200 this summer on your electric bill. Conserving energy minimizes pollution and keeps money in your pocket.
- Conserve and Protect our Water by using flow restrictors on shower heads and faucets and waiting for full loads before starting the washing machine or dishwasher. Insulate older hot water heaters and set the temperature at no higher than 120 degrees. Do not let water run while brushing teeth or shaving and try taking shorter showers. Install rain barrels to hold and allow stormwater to flow into the ground.
- Reduce, Re-use, and Recycle to reduce household trash/solid waste by at least 80% through recycling. Recycle all you can and yard waste, too. Bring in your own grocery stores bags. Purchase only recycled paper with post-consumer content.
- Chemical Use: Avoid using chemicals (solvents, Freon, and pesticides) harmful to the environment. If you must use pesticides, use according to label requirements. Recycle used motor oil. Do not place hazardous household substances in the trash or flush down the toilet. Do not use or at least minimize use of fertilizers and test soil before applying fertilizer. Clean up after pets.