When Friends Meeting of Austin purchased the house of worship formerly occupied by St. James Episcopal Church in East Austin, they saw an opportunity to go green in a big way. For the sixty-year old congregation, becoming more energy efficient and environmentally conscious was simply an act of faith.
Since they moved to their new building in 2007, Friends Meeting of Austin (FMA) has taken numerous steps to ensure that they are a more energy efficient congregation. Most prominent is the 20 kilowatt solar system that was installed on the congregation's three buildings. FMA got help from the City of Austin's rebate program to cover the cost of installation, and believe that the solar panels will pay for themselves in less than 20 years. The Friends Meeting of Austin agrees that this step was a great investment and important step in becoming greener.
Furthermore, FMA has made several other improvements to their building to become more energy efficient. From tearing down paneling so they can better insulate the building, to tearing up the front lawn to find and fix a very leaky pipe, the Austin Friends have done it all.
Although FMA has received the most attention for their major solar project and large-scale efficiency upgrades, member Belle Zars thinks it’s all the "little things" that add up to make the most difference. FMA has taken on many energy projects that require little more than a change in mindset. This includes keeping the thermostat at 78 degrees when the building is in use (and turning it off otherwise), only using the main building when necessary, recycling and reducing trash, and limiting mowing and watering of the three-acre grounds. Bike racks have also been installed and members are encouraged to ride the bus or carpool to meeting.
Texas Interfaith Power and Light applauds Friends Meeting of Austin for all the extraordinary effort that its members give to make their congregation greener. Thank you!
And what about St. James Episcopal Church? They’ve moved into new digs and accomplished a number of impressive green initiatives of their own. Look for a feature on them coming soon!