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Environmental Stewardship Reflections

 

Berge’s Corner. John Berge of Mount Pleasant Lutheran Church in Racine Wisconsin has been writing articles on environmental matters for his church newsletter for over five years. His wife Lila has also contributed some of the articles. Here is the archive of articles from May 2005 to the present. New reflections are added regularly. Please feel free to adopt or adapt these for your own newsletters. The two of them have been active environmentalists for decades. Thanks, John and Lila.

For new up-to-date reflections, go to http://www.racinegreencongregations.org/home/bulletin-newsletter-items/berg-s-corner.

May 2005 --- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

When St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Wausau, WI., decided to make environmental stewardship a priority, they also proved that this decision was economical.  They installed energy efficient technology (compact florescent  lamps and T-8 florescent lamps with electronic ballasts), purchased programmable thermostats, applied weather stripping, replaced some windows with energy efficient models and turned down the water heater.  The effectiveness of their high-efficiency heating and air conditioning systems were enhanced by a high-efficiency fan and pump motors.  The annual savings for the church is approximately $5,000  and thousands of pounds of C02 emissions are not generated each year.  Could we do that here?
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April 2005 ---- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

Although our church’s roof is not of the shingle type, now, when we must replace the roof, might be a good time to look into using our very large and sunny roof for the generation of electricity.  One of the latest developments in the solar energy field are shingles that go on and look similar to regular shingles, but actually generate significant amounts of electricity.  They can be tied into the transmission grid so that we would sell electricity to the utility when the roof generated more than is currently being used by the church, and flow into the church in the usual way during other times.  The church thus would pay only the net difference.  If solar shingles are not an option, then regular solar panels that would cover the southern part of the roof might also be investigated.  What an example of a “green congregation” this would be!

Whether the church would choose an electricity-generating solar roof or not, individuals in the congregation who are looking towards replacing all or some of the shingles on their home, might very well consider this option.  To get more information, a “Google” search of “solar shingles” on your computer will give you plenty of references (maybe 290,000) and sources of this revolutionary new idea for energy generation.

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May 2005 --- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

On average, everyone of us produces about five pounds of household waste every month.  That comes out to 50 or 60 pounds per year.  Some of that is hazardous material.  It has been said that there are six ways to get rid of this Household Hazardous Waste (HHW), five of which are illegal or dangerous and have the potential for releasing the hazardous material into the ground and surface water, the air and the soil.  (1) We might find a friend or relative in Kenosha or Milwaukee to take our waste and utilize their HHW program.  (2) We might wrap it so as to hide its true identity and put it out with the regular trash.  (3) We might drive out to a lonely road somewhere on a dark night and dump it.  (4) We might pour it down a storm drain and have it end up in Lake Michigan.  (5) We might store it indefinitely in the garage or basement where our children, grandchildren or pets may get into it.  (6) We should take any HHW to the Clean Sweep collection in our municipality where it will be disposed of safely, cleanly and legally.  The City of Racine will have a Clean Sweep drop-off on May 14 from 9 to 12 a.m. in the parking lot across from the City Hall Annex, 8th and Center Sts..  Mt. Pleasant and Caledonia will have a Clean Sweep drop-off at Caledonia - Mt. Pleasant Joint Park in Franksville on June 18 from 8 to 11 a.m.  If all goes according to plan, the City of Racine and the other municipalities that are part of the Sewer Agreement will have regular monthly collections of Household Hazardous Waste starting in 2006.

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June 2005 --- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

Do you have any dead cell phones hanging around your house?  Here is a chance to dispose of them and help to make Greater Racine greener and more beautiful.  A working group arising from Sustainable Racine’s second visioning process is providing a bin in the narthex to collect any and all dead cell telephones and turn them into trees.  If they can collect 4,000 cell phones from churches like ours, businesses and other institutions, a recycler will give them $10,000 towards the purchase of trees to be planted in the Greater Racine area.  This group has supplied us the bin and will provide pickup service.  So, check those bottom drawers and closets where you put your old cell phones and drop them off in the bin in the narthex.  This not only will provide us the trees, but will keep the mercury and other heavy metals out of the environment and recycle what is still usable ... a win-win situation.

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July 2005 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

A young child was overheard praying the Lord’s prayer, “ ... Forgive us our trash baskets ... “ While the child obviously had misheard and misspoke, there is much truth in the error.  A walk around the neighborhood on trash collection day, or a glance at the sanitary landfill, “Mt. Trashmore”, shows us the tremendous amount of material we throw out every week.  How much of that material should never have been bought?  How much is typical of an extravagant and affluential life style?  How much has good use left in it and should have been saved for the church’s rummage sale or a resale shop?  How much should have been recycled?  These questions apply to the church as an organization and as individuals.  Trash costs us and the environment much too much to continue this life style.  Why not start an informal competition in your neighborhood to see who can put out the least trash.  Pray that God will forgive us our trash baskets.

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August 2005 -- Environmental Stewardship

If you want to do something for the environment and save money in the process, as they burn out replace the incandescent bulbs in your home or church with fluorescent bulbs.  The incandescent bulbs are old technology, essentially unchanged since Thomas Edison invented the light bulb about 120 years ago and a young GE engineer discovered how to frost the bulb on the inside.  A compact fluorescent light bulb will give off the same amount of light for about one-third to  one-fourth of the electricity.  The fluorescent bulb will cost 8 or 9 times as much but will last from 10 to 13 times as long and save 2/3 to 3/4 of the electricity.  The days of noticeable flicker are gone, as is the poor color quality you may remember.  Newer designs allow the use of fluorescent bulbs in fixtures that couldn’t take them before, even security flood lights which are a major user of lighting electricity.  “If every household in the U.S. replaced one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent light bulb, if would prevent enough pollution to equal removing one million cars from the road,” according to ENERGY STAR, a government/industry partnership.

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September 2005 -- Environmental Stewardship

“Invasive, alien species” sounds like science fiction ... Martian invaders, maybe.   But in truth it is a much more down to earth and present problem about which we should all be concerned.  “Alien species” refers to plants, insects, aquatic organisms and other plants and animals that are not native to this region, but come over from other parts of the world either accidentally or intentionally imported.  The “invasive” part refers to those that spread rapidly and perniciously, because they are prolific and have left their natural predators behind.  Examples are the zebra mussels, gypsy moths, garlic mustard, buckthorn and exotic honeysuckles.  Invasive, alien plants “destroy three million acres per year in the United States and cost our society $35 billion annually”, according to a recently published book by Elizabeth Czarapata.  What can you do?  First, don’t buy any plants that are invasive, alien species.  Second, cut down and root out any that are in your yard or woodlot now.  Third, join with others in removing them from our parks and along rivers and streams.  On Make A Difference Day, October 22, there will be many groups out doing this who will appreciate your help and be glad to train you and teach some plant recognition.  Prior to then, you might wish to buy Czarapata’s book or contact groups such as The Wild Ones or the local group of the Sierra Club for more information.

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October 2005 -- Environmental Stewardship

The answer to the query “plastic or paper?” is neither.  Both use up valuable natural resources, have negative impacts on wildlife, pollute our environment, and neither is effectively recycled.  Worldwide, we are using up more than 500 billion plastic bags per year.  At an average price of a nickel per bag, that is $25 billion dollars per year.  To reduce that to numbers we can swallow, that is 83 bags per person per year.  Ireland has recently levied a twenty cent tax on plastic bags and seen their use drop 90% in the first six months.  Paper bags take over four times as much energy as plastic bags to make, but usually hold two to three times as much, are often reused once for garbage or recycling newspapers, and are made from renewable wood chips.  Plastic bags are made from petroleum or natural gas, and are seldom reused, mostly to cleanup after pets.  Paper bags disintegrate reasonably promptly if they blow away, where plastic bags do not.  In a landfill, the latter, used only once, may last 300 years!  Compare this with cloth bags; they can be used more than once a week for decades!  If you didn’t buy some of the Mt. Pleasant Lutheran Church cloth bags when they were on sale awhile back, or need more, they will be on sale in the narthex again on October 8 and 9.  Buy several.  Do your bit to save money, the environment and natural resources.

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November --Environmental Stewardship

The first chapter of Genesis describes the order in which God created the Earth and filled it with living things.  (The WHO, not necessarily the HOW.)  “And God saw that it was good.”  In verses 26-30, He creates humans and charges them to take care of all living things.  Native Americans have a standard by which to measure the “goodness” of their stewardship called “the seventh generation”.  This means the effect of actions and decisions must do no harm over the next seven generations.  How will the decisions we make in 2005 affect people who inherit God’s good earth seven generations from now?  Do you think God finds our care for His creation “good”?

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January 2006 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

Is it more energy efficient to wash the dishes or use disposables?  To quote The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices:  Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists, “It all comes down to quantity.  It is of course best to avoid wasting materials ... If you ate all your meals using one-time-use plastic utensils and paper plates, it would not only be unnecessarily wasteful but would cost more money than washing the dishes.”  Unfortunately, because there are so many variables, there are few good published studies to quantify the increased cost.  A few years back Martin Hocking of the University of Victoria published a study comparing the energy to make paper cups vs. glass or plastic cups.   The extra energy to make the more permanent glass or plastic cups is recouped if they are used only 15 or 18 times.  His study didn’t include the cost of heating the water to clean the reusable cups nor the cost of bagging up, collecting and hauling the paper cups to the landfill, or the very high cost of operating, and eventually replacing, the landfill.  But let us extrapolate the practice of single use disposables.  If cups, plates and flatware, why not clothes?  They have to be washed, too.  Or why not one-time-use cars?  They are recyclable.

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February 2006 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

Environmental stewardship is usually good economics.  Ecology and economics are derived from the same root, oikos meaning household.  How we run our household can be good environmental stewardship and good economics using the three r’s: reduce, reuse and recycle.  We should reduce the temperature setting of our thermostats, and save valuable fossil fuels and money.  We should reduce the wattage of our lamps by using compact fluorescent bulbs and again save energy and money.  We should reuse so many things from grocery bags to fabrics for making quilts to reusable dishes and cups.  When we do use disposable paper, cardboard, glass, cans and plastic containers, we should recycle them.  It costs the city of Racine $33 per ton to dispose of trash in the landfill, but they are paid for the recyclables.  It is currently less than a dollar a ton, but that is a savings of over $33 compared to throwing them out.  The Village of Mt. Pleasant charges its residents almost four times as much to get rid of their trash as to recycle because they also are paid for the recyclable material.  Good stewardship is good economics!

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March 2006 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

If we were to drive vehicles which go farther on a gallon of gas, we could save money, curb global warming and cut our dependence on foreign oil.  Forty percent of the oil consumption in the United States comes from cars and light trucks.  Twenty percent of the carbon dioxide, the major heat trapping gas that is causing global warming, comes from cars and light trucks.  How do different vehicles compare in their life time (124,000 miles) production of carbon dioxide?  A Ford Excursion at only 13 miles per gallon (MPG) produces 134 tons!  A Ford Crown Victoria at 21 MPG produces 83 tons, while a Ford Escape Hybrid at 33 MPG is down to 51 tons and a Toyota Prius at 55 MPG produces only 32 tons.  If all of the vehicles in the U. S. averaged 40 MPG, we would save over 3 million barrels of oil each day, more than we now import from the Persian Gulf and could ever extract from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, combined.

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April 2006 --Environmental Stewardship

Saturday, April 22, individuals and groups all across the country and around the world, will be celebrating the 36th anniversary of Earth Day with projects and other activities.  Here, in and around Racine, there are many activities planned by groups that could use your help with a morning’s work, nine ‘til noon.  Groups will be doing highway cleanups on 6-Mile Road in Caledonia and Hwy. D in Rochester.  The Sierra Club and the St. Catherine's Environmental Club will be working on removing alien species and planting native species in Colonial Park.  KOBO needs volunteers to finish labeling the last of the storm drains.  Friends of the Zoo Path will be working on saving plants affected by the Bike Path Construction.  UW-P students are creating a rain garden and green space at Jane’s School.  The Nehemiah project will be building bird houses.  The Eco-Justice Center will be preparing garden beds for planting.   More planting will be done at the English Street outfall.  And there will be more.  How to volunteer?  Just call Aaron Hertzberg at Sustainable Racine, 262-632-6440.  He has the list of projects and will be glad to take your name for whichever project you like.  Please help.

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May 2006 -- Environmental Stewardship

Now that we are past the worst of the utilities’ bills, at least for this season, it is time to see what we can do to reduce our energy consumption, cut greenhouse  gases and save some money at the same time.  Install a programmable thermostat and don’t overheat in the winter or overcool in the summer.  Upgrade to an Energy Star water heater and lower temperature setting to 120 degrees F.  Check insulation in attic, basement and walls; add where necessary.  Seal any gaps in walls.  Clean or replace air filters regularly.  Weather-strip and caulk drafty doors and windows.  Upgrade windows if possible.  Consider ceiling fans.  Use curtains, shades and shutters for insulation and shade.  Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs, inside and out.  Install aerating shower heads and faucets to reduce hot water consumption.  For your kitchen and laundry, always buy Energy Star appliances. Use water- and energy-saving features on dishwasher and only run full loads.  Front-loading washing machines are generally more efficient.  Install and use a clothesline; that really saves energy and money.

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June 2006 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Once upon a time, not too long ago, Mt. Pleasant used glass communion cups that were carefully cleaned in a Sacristy dishwasher and reused many, many times.  For various reasons, including the lack of volunteers willing to do that washing, we changed to plastic, disposable cups.  Since we carefully place them in the large treys held by the acolytes as before, many believe that we are still reusing those cups.  It certainly would not be “meet, right and salutary” to drop them into a wastebasket or plastic trash bag, but that was where they were ending up ... more than 30,000 per year.  The Green Team was not happy with this, feeling that we should at least recycle the polystyrene (number 6) cups.  Neither the Village of Mt. Pleasant (only plastics 1 and 2) or the City of Racine (no numbers on the cups) would take them.  But we finally found a recycler in Milwaukee which will take them after they are rinsed once or twice in cold water and air dried.  I save up about 3 or 4 months supply in the garage and take them to the recycler when I happen to be going that way.  No cost or income to the church, but some of us feel a bit better because we try.

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July 2006 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by Lila Berge

As natural places shrink or disappear around us, we should make our yards more attractive for native species.  It is no longer a cultural necessity to have lawns that rival golf courses.  Herbicides and fertilizers cost big bucks and damage healthy biodiversity around us.  Reduce the size of your lawn with native shrubs, trees, ferns and wildflowers.  Choose plants that feed and shelter birds, butterflies and their caterpillars.  For example, milkweed has lovely sweet-smelling flowers and the foliage is where Monarch caterpillars feed.  Avoid nonnative, invasive plants such as Purple Loosestrife, Buckthorn and Dames Rocket, which escape to infest parks, woods, wetlands and roadsides, out-competing native plants needed by birds and butterflies.  Go to the internet or County Extension Office for advice and assistance.  Why not  volunteer with one of the groups working to remove invasive species in our local parks?

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August 2006 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by Lila Berge

The National Wildlife Federation Magazine had an interesting article earlier this year titled “Baby Steps to Protect the Earth”.  Reflecting on the birth of twins three years ago, made the author realize their environmental cost, and threats to her babies.  An early decision: washable vs. disposable diapers.  The typical baby will add 8,000 disposable diapers to the landfill.  Those diapers are not cheap in dollars or the trees ground up for the absorbant filler or the petroleum to make the plastics.  Babies also may be given an endless stream of plastic toys, sippy cups and nursery furniture.  Babies put their mouths on everything; their brains and immune systems are vulnerable to chemicals such as vinyl chloride and the phthalate ester plasticizer in toys and the formaldehyde in composite wood and particle board used in cheaper furniture.  The author recommended avoiding soft plastic toys in favor of cloth and hard plastic or wooden toys.  Clothing made from organic cotton or secondhand garments are recommended, with only treatments approved by the USDA.  Lightly worn items should be recycled to other babies ... via our rummage sale.

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September 2006 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

The American Wind Energy Association recently announced that U. S. wind energy installations now exceed 10,000 megawatts (MW) in generating capacity, and produce enough electricity on a typical day to power over 2.5 million homes.  The industry is now installing more wind power in a single year than the amount that was operating in the entire country just six years ago.  Those 10,000 MW of wind power are keeping 16 million tons of carbon dioxide, 73,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and 27,000 tons of nitrogen oxide out of the air every year.  For a small premium on your electricity bill, you can insure that all, or a selected fraction, of your electricity is generated by wind power or other renewable sources.  Just notify we energies that you want to become part of their Green Energy program.  The more people that sign up, the more renewable energy they must generate or buy in place of electricity generated from fossil fuels.

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October 2006 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

While reading Jimmy Carter’s book “Our Endangered Values”,  he reminded me of a cartoon that appeared some time ago in Habit for Humanity’s newsletter.  It depicted a community from overhead showing some people playing tennis, others riding bicycles, others are in automobiles, or teaching school.  At the edge of town there might have been some farmers plowing their farms and suburbanites mowing their lawns.  Everyone had a cartoonist’s bubble above them with the words, “What can just one person do?”  While the cartoon was aimed at poverty and housing, it applies equally well to environmental stewardship.  What can be the effect when many people all make a decision to do what they can to protect our environment from our excesses and thoughtless actions?  Lord, forgive us our excesses.

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November 2006 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Still skeptical about the dangers of global warming?  A study just published online in the prestigious “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” has determined that the Earth’s temperature has already climbed to levels not seen for 12,000 years.  The mean surface temperature of the Earth has been warming at a rate of 0.2 degrees Celsius for the last thirty years and is now within about 1 degree C of the maximum for the past million years.  The authors state that if the global warming can be kept within that one degree, it may be relatively manageable.  If we continue with “business as usual” and further warming reaches 2 to 3 degrees C, we will see changes that make Earth a “different planet”.  The last time that the Earth was as warm as projected with BAU was about 3 million years ago, in the Middle Pliocene, when sea level was about 25 meters (over 80 feet) above current levels.  Farewell Florida, New Orleans, New York City, coastlines around the world and most of Bangladesh!  The authors conclude, “given that a large proportion of human-made CO2 will remain in the air for many centuries, sensible policies must focus on devising energy strategies that greatly reduce CO2 emissions.”  Next month I will suggest a number of strategies that you might adopt to reduce CO2 emissions.
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December 2006 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
By John Berge

The average American today uses enough energy to release about 25 TONS, of carbon dioxide per year.  Here are a dozen suggestions from the Environmental Defense Action Fund which we can take to lower our contribution to this major contributor to global warming:  Run your dishwasher only with a full load and use the energy-saving setting.  Wash clothes in warm or cold water, not hot.  Turn down your water heater thermostat to no more than 120 degrees.  Buy energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs for your most used lights.  Install low-flow shower heads to use less hot water.  Caulk and weatherstrip around doors and windows.  Walk, bike, carpool or use mass transit whenever possible.  Reduce waste by buying minimally packaged goods.  Choose reusable products over disposable ones.  If you need to replace your windows, install the best energy-saving models.  Recycle.  When you replace home appliances, select the most energy efficient models; often it pays in the long run to replace even before they wear out.  Most of these suggestions will save you money as well as fight global climate change.

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January 2007 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by Lila Berge

Let’s make some Green Resolutions for 2007:

1.  Get more exercise -- walk instead of drive, take the stairs instead of the elevator; dust off that old bike and use it; push back from the table without that rich dessert.

2.  Recycle more -- take junk mail and other clean paper to the recycle bin in the church parking lot; rinse and flatten cans, milk and other plastic containers and put them out for your municipality’s recycling collection; recycle your newspapers and  magazines.   None of these belong in the landfills.

3.  Clean out closets, dressers and cupboards -- donate some of your abundance to the 2007 rummage sale.

4.  When you have to drive -- carpool, consolidate errands; don’t idle the engine; keep your vehicle well tuned and tires properly inflated.

5.  Use your cloth tote bags when shopping; don’t forget them at home.

6.  Think what other resolutions you can make to reduce pollution, greenhouse gases and wasting of our limited resources.

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February 2007 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Would you drive a car that gets zero miles to the gallon?  I hope not.  Yet that is your mileage whenever your engine idles.  Idling wastes money and fuel, contributes to air pollution, and generates carbon dioxide emissions that add to global warming and climate change.  Many people believe that idling is necessary or even beneficial – a false perception that has carried over from the 1970s and 1980s when engines needed time to warm, especially in colder weather.  Fuel-injection vehicles, which have been the norm since the mid-1980s, can be restarted frequently without engine damage and need no more than 30 seconds to warm up even on winter days.  In fact, idling longer than that could actually damage your engine in the long term due to incomplete combustion and water buildup in the exhaust system.  No matter what time of year, minimize your idling time.  When starting, idle no more than 30 seconds.  Turn your engine off if you must wait in your car for more than 30 seconds.  Make your next car a hybrid, which turns off the engine automatically when not needed. 

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March 2007 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

On December 12, 2006, the Wisconsin Council of Churches adopted an environmental statement entitled “Reconciled in Christ with Creator and Creation:  The Worshipful Work of Caring for the Earth and People”.  Excerpting sentences throughout the statement, I will try to give a flavor of this statement.  “As citizens of Wisconsin, we have enjoyed the beauty and the bounty of our state and wish to preserve it for all who live here and for those who come after us. –– we call ourselves and our fellow citizens to repentance and to a renewed commitment to responsible living in our part of Creation. –– As we provide for ourselves and our human neighbors, we must also provide for the survival of our fellow creatures in their habitats –– Environmentally unsustainable practices undercut our efforts to achieve justice and peace for all persons; violence and injustice undermine sustainability. –– Over-consumption of natural resources by a relative few is a major cause of environmental degradation. –– The beauty, integrity, and diversity of the earth, as well as its material resources are an inheritance from the past that we hold in trust for future generations. –– Democracy must serve the good of all, rather than the desires of a powerful few who stand to benefit in material terms from the destructive exploitation of people and the earth. –– The Holy Spirit calls the church, as Christ’s body in the world, to reflect in word and action God’s intention to reconcile the whole creation.  This calling is not an optional activity to be relegated to a congregation’s social ministry committee, but belongs to the whole worshipful work of every congregation.”  These quotes are, by definition, taken out of context.  To get that well-reasoned context, please read the full statement, which will be placed on their website, www.wichurches.org.

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April 2007 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Clean Wisconsin and members of Mt. Pleasant’s Green Team are presenting a special program on global warming on Sunday evening, April 23 starting at 6:30 p.m.  Global warming has been called “the greatest moral issue of our time” by religious leaders across the country.  A special program on it from a faith-based perspective is certainly warranted.

Ryan Schryver of Clean Wisconsin will provide an overview on global warming, and then  zero in on the effect that global warming is having on Wisconsin’s environment, culture and economy.  Ryan was recently trained by Al Gore to lead discussions on global warming.  This training – coupled with his experience in energy policy and environmental activism – provides a unique perspective on this important topic.

Reverend Dave Steffensen from the Wisconsin Interfaith Climate and Energy Campaign will then address why global warming is one of the most important issues facing religious communities today.  He is a retired Methodist Minister, and has many years of experience working on environmental issues within the faith community.

A question and answer session will follow these brief presentations.  Please join us for what should be an interesting and insightful evening, exploring one of the most urgent and important issues of our time.  The program will be open to the public, so invite your friends and coworkers.

Clean Wisconsin, founded in 1970 as Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade, is an environmental advocacy organization, protecting Wisconsin’s clean water and air and advocating for clean energy.

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May 2007 – ENVIRONMENTAL  STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

With your help, Mt. Pleasant Lutheran Church recycles, even though the village does not pick up from the church.  We have all seen the large dumpster on the west end of the parking lot.  This is used by the staff to recycle office paper, bulletins, cardboard boxes and other clean paper products.  It is also available to members for paper that is not collected by the municipality in which you live.  Aluminum soft drink cans are recycled by the youth group to help pay for their activities.  Be sure that your aluminum cans are crushed and placed in the recycle bin in Fellowship Hall by the dispensing machine.  The custodian should not have to chase these cans all over the building.  The wine and grape juice bottles from holy communion are recycled locally.  The polystyrene communion cups are rinsed and once or twice a year taken to a recycler in Milwaukee.  Lutherans are great coffee drinkers; so our coffee grounds are recycled and composted by a master gardener member of the congregation.  The bottles, cans, jars, etc. from the kitchen are also recycled.  At present, a member of the staff takes these home for recycling, but she would greatly appreciate it if a member of the congregation would take over this responsibility.  If you want to help in any of these recycling tasks, please contact any one of the office staff to volunteer.

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June 2007 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

The cars you drive are likely your household’s biggest source of global warming pollution, releasing 25 pounds of heat-trapping emissions for each gallon of gasoline burnt.  While I drive a hybrid which gets around 50 miles per gallon (less in short trips in the winter), the most obvious solution for most people not in the market for a new car is to DRIVE LESS.  The average American drives 15,600 miles per year.  By driving just 12 fewer miles per week, you would reduce the carbon dioxide emissions by 4% and reduce your expenditures for gasoline by the same amount.  How to do it?  Carpooling, walking, biking or taking the bus just a couple of days a week will probably more than do it.  Getting better gas mileage by keeping your tires properly inflated, applying modest, even acceleration and braking, reducing idling, and minimizing high-speed driving are other ways to save money and reduce your carbon dioxide emissions.  Fuel economy drops 17% between 55 and 70 miles per hour.  Global warming is real, is man-made, and will lead us to disaster if we don’t start acting now.  (These data and suggestions are from the Union of Concerned Scientists of which I am a member. )

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July 2007 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

With a proposed plant in Racine county, there was a lot of heated discussion about making ethanol to use as fuel for our automobiles from corn.  Such plants in Iowa and elsewhere in the midwest have already driven up the price of corn and therefore the price of many meats, milk and other food products.  Fermenting corn for burning in our cars has affected international trade and hungry people around the world.  There has been much less discussion about a proposal being pushed in Congress by the administration, lobbyists, Senators and Representatives from coal producing states to make gasoline out of coal.  The latter would be an environmental disaster.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, replacing petroleum fuels with ethanol from corn would reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 22%.  Ethanol from cellulosic materials would reduce GHG emissions by 91%.  But Coal-to-liquids without carbon capture (an unproven technology) would increase GHG emissions by 119%!  Even with carbon capture, it would still increase GHG emissions by 4%.  If we are going to be good environmental stewards, we should be aware of what is being proposed, the data behind the proposals and let our representatives know where we stand.

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August 2007 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

A number of environmental organizations have proposed that, to avoid reaching a tipping point leading to catastrophic global warming, we must reduce our carbon dioxide output by 20% by the year 2020 and 50% by 2050.  To do this, a renewable energy standard is proposed.  Several states have already adopted similar goals and they have been proposed as amendments to a federal energy bill.  On the other hand, there have been those that say that it would cripple the economy and the goals are too far reaching.  But if we realize that this will only require a reduction of 2% or less per year, the goals are readily attainable.  The local Group of the Sierra Club in the Fourth of July Parade presented a number of options by which individuals could reduce their family’s carbon dioxide production by tons per year – carpooling, walking or biking, driving a hybrid car, careful purchase and use of efficient appliances, etc.  A new analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists shows that a 20% national renewable energy standard would create 4,240 jobs in Wisconsin, save Wisconsin consumers $90 million on our utility bills and help address the threat of global warming. 

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September 2007 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

In the year 2000, each person in the United States, on average, threw away approximately 4.5 pounds of waste each day, totaling 231.9  million tons of municipal solid waste.  Of this, 11.2% was food scraps, amounting to almost 26 million tons of food waste produced in this country.  If each of us would reduce the amount of processed foods consumed, try to cook from scratch more often, pay attention to the foods we eat and where they come from, and be willing to save and eat leftovers, how much could we save?  There is enough food produced each year to feed everybody on this planet, but due to waste, poverty and poor distribution, 800 million people are either malnourished or on the verge of starvation.  As Jesus said in Matthew 25: 35 and 40, “For I was hungry and you gave me food ... as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.”  This information was taken from the Web of Creation at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago.

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October, 2007 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

One type of household hazardous waste (HHW) that citizens of Racine County have not been able to take to the HHW site has been expired and/or unwanted medications, especially prescription drugs.  They should not be flushed down the toilet and even disposal in the landfill is questionable.  But as of Make-A-Difference Day, October 27, this will change.  The three Public Health Departments in Racine County, personnel from Racine’s Water and Waste Water Utility, law enforcement and others have set up two collection sites in Racine County that will accept unwanted medications for proper disposal on October 27.  It is anticipated that this will be an annual event.  Safely get rid of these drugs before a child, an experimenting adolescent or confused older adult misuses them.  Many drugs past their expiration date will have lost either their efficacy, their safety, or both.

The eastern site will be at the HHW site on 21st Street, north of Sam’s Club, the western site will be at the Waterford Village Hall.  Both will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  Such a collection is subject to strict FDA regulations.  A registered pharmacist and law enforcement officer must be at each site.  Volunteers must log in every medication by name of the drug, hence the need for a pharmacist.  People bringing in medicines or drugs are not required to identify themselves except by ZIP code to indicate they are residents of Racine county.  Keep the medication in their original containers if possible.  Cross out your name, if you wish, but don’t cover up the name of the medication.  But even unidentified medications will be accepted.  Arrangements have been made for proper and legal incineration.

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November, 2007 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Most everyone agrees that one of the easiest ways to save energy and natural resources, make our air and water cleaner, and reduce the rate we fill our land with waste is to recycle.  Yet a recent article in Chemical and Engineering News stated that “everybody involved in recycling agrees that not enough plastics are being recycled today to ensure the industry’s success.”  In 2005, only 23.1% of plastic 1 (polyethylene phthalate) and 27.1% of plastic 2 (high density polyethylene) were recycled, up only slightly from the previous year.  These two plastics account for more than 99% of plastic bottles recycled in the U.S.  Thus, three-fourths of these plastic bottles end up in the trash, discarded along the side of the road or in our parks and recreational areas.  Good environmental stewardship should mean that all of us who have a concern for our environment, saving energy and raw materials pledge that our recycle rate for these plastic bottles approaches 100%.  This is one case that a tithe is not enough.  Better still, we should reduce our usage of bottles for water when we have such excellent quality water right out of the tap.

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December 2007 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Over two years ago, I wrote about the need, and the opportunity, to recycle old or no longer used cell phones.  It is time for a reminder.  Studies show that on average cell phones are replaced every 18 months.  That means that 65,000 tons of them are discarded annually.  95% of these are sitting around in closets, basements, desk drawers or glove compartments.  Or maybe they are ending up in the landfill where the cadmium in the batteries and bromine in the flame retardants may leak into the environment.  Here at Mt. Pleasant we have a box on the east side of the narthex in which you can get rid of these old cell phones in an environmentally safe way.  We donate them to Neighborhood Watch which sells them to a recycler.  The proceeds are used for the Nehemiah Project which, among other efforts, buys trees, shrubs and other plants for beautification and improvement of inner-city neighborhoods.  The recycler renovates those in useable condition, reselling them to those who can’t afford new ones.  The more valuable parts of the rest are recycled, the hazardous materials responsibly disposed of and the remainder sent to landfills.  So, check for those no longer used cell phones and bring them to church, dropping them off in the box in the narthex.
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January, 2008 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by  John Berge

This suggestion may be too late for your Christmas shopping, but it may be in time for the January sales and possible major appliance purchases.  Always look for the Energy Star tags on all major purchases.  These tags are part of a government program to determine what the electrical energy cost is for each appliance.  Energy cost not only comes in your utility bill, but adversely affects the environment when that energy is derived from a fossil fuel ... coal, oil or gas.  The right choice of an appliance can save you money, not only in lower energy costs but in tax credits.  About 55% of the energy used in a typical home goes toward heating and cooling.  You can receive a $150 tax credit for buying an energy-efficient furnace or boiler and a $300 credit for an efficient central air conditioning system or water heater.  The Energy Star website (www.energystar.gov) lists all eligible purchases.  If you are looking for a new TV, Energy Star currently only compares the energy used when the set is nominally off, but a bigger difference can be when it is on.  A 28” CRT set uses $30 worth of energy per year, but a 60” plasma type set uses $130 per year ... more than twice what a good refrigerator will use. 
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February, 2008 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Recycling saves.  Not only does it save money for the municipality within which the recycling is done, but it saves energy for those who use recycled material rather than virgin material.  The City of Racine saves because it actually gets paid slightly over $3/ton and saves the $32/ton tipping fee which it must pay to the land fill.  A recent article in National Geographic lists the energy – number of BTUs – saved per ton of recycled material when products are manufactured using the maximum percentage of recycled material, compared with virgin materials alone.  For aluminum cans it is 206 million BTUs; for carpets it is 106 million BTUs; for copper wire 83 million BTUs; for plastic such as LPDE, HDPE and PET it ranges from 53 to 57 million BTUs.  For aluminum, this is a 95% savings; for plastics it is 70%; for steel, the most recycled material because of the automotive industry, it is 60% and for paper and glass it is 40% and 30% of the energy.  Saving energy cuts down fossil fuel use and that combats global warming.  So, do you recycle as much as you can?

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March 2008 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

While on a stewardship call on a cold, rainy autumn evening, the young man who opened the door was barefoot and dressed in T-shirt and shorts.  His home was that warm.  If you don’t have to wear a sweater in the winter, your thermostat is set too high!  You are wasting money, using up more fossil fuel than is necessary, and adding to the excessive amounts of green house gases (carbon dioxide in this case) that are causing rapid climate change.  One part of climate change, and only one part, is global warming; another is increases in extreme weather.  We can save some money, improve our health and reduce climate change by turning down the thermostat in winter and turning it up in the summer.
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April 2008 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

On April 22nd, America will celebrate the 38th anniversary of the first Earth Day, established through the efforts of Wisconsin’s Senator Gaylord Nelson.  Many churches will honor this event with special liturgies and hymns on the Sunday before, April 20th.  At this time, I do not know what our congregation will be doing.  On the following Saturday, April 26th, many organizations will be working on projects throughout the city and county to clean up, to remove invasive, alien plant species from our parks and pathways, to plant, to teach children about the natural life around us all and to teach adults what they can do to fight global warming and improve our environment.  Most of the projects are in the morning, starting at 8:30 or 9:00.  The Sierra Club and I will be working in Colonial Park at the foot of West High Street.  Come join us or any of the other projects going on that day (see the Volunteer Center’s web site).  We are not worshiping the creation, but honoring the creator by caring for his creation.

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May 2008 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Congregations in Racine, Madison, and presumably several other cities have set up a friendly competition to see which congregation can record the highest proportion of “sustainable travel” to church on a chosen weekend in May.  “Sustainable travel” includes anything other than driving alone – such as carpooling, bicycling, walking or riding the bus.  It may be too late (or too inconvenient) for us to participate this year, but we can certainly promote the idea that sustainable travel honors Creation and the Creator.  The apostles walked.  Considering sustainable travel, both to church and during the rest of the week, often highlights the difficulty of doing so.  Bicycles need a tune-up after winter; we don’t have enough secure places to park them.  Pedestrian access, other than from the parking lot, may not exist or at least is not easy.  Traffic may be hazardous.  We don’t know which of our neighbors are planning to attend church on a particular weekend and so would carpool with us.  The rationales are numerous, but with the rising cost of gasoline, we should be able to figure out ways to reduce our carbon footprint on a weekend in May and on the other 364 days of the year.

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June 2008 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, be a better environmental steward, and save money, slow down.  The easiest and most effective way to save gasoline is to slow down on your highway driving this summer.  The Union of Concerned Scientists has shown that dropping from 70 to 60 mph improves fuel efficiency by an average of 17.2 percent.  Dropping from 75 to 55 mph improves fuel efficiency by an average of 30.6 percent!  That is like paying 30 percent less for your gasoline ... $2.80 instead of $4.00 per gallon.  Leaving a little earlier not only is easier on the environment, but also on your nerves and your pocketbook ... and that is good stewardship.  Also, be sure to check your tire pressure before starting out.

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July 2008 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

I recently saw a common, plastic spoon mounted in a recessed picture frame, hanging on a wall.  Around the spoon was some text which in essence said:  Thanks to our modern technology and major investments, we are able to drill for oil, ship it half-way around the world, refine it, separate out the appropriate chemicals, polymerize those chemicals into long chains and then mold it into this shape.  Unfortunately, we do not seem capable of washing and reusing them.  Does the same technical capabilities and inabilities apply to our communion cups?

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Here is Pastor Kara's edited version after objecting to the last sentance and keeping my paragraph out of the July newsletter


August 2008 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
John Berge

I recently saw a common, plastic spoon mounted in a recessed picture frame, hanging on a wall. Around the spoon was some text which in essence said:  Thanks to our modern technology and major investments, we are able to drill for oil, ship it half-way around the world, refine it, separate out the appropriate chemicals, polymerize those chemicals into long chains and then mold it into this shape.  Think about how much energy we could save - how much we could reduce pollutions - how much less we could put in the landfill if we spend a bit more time together in the kitchen?  What practices do we need to change within our congregation to be more inventive than the folks who figured out how to make that spoon? 

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September 2008 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

With most of the summer’s heat and humidity probably behind us, you may be starting an outdoor construction project.  If you are, remember to choose products that conserve resources and minimize pollution.  When buying lumber, look for labels that indicate the wood comes from sustainably managed forests (Forest Certification programs).  Or consider composite lumber made from recycled plastic and wood wastes.  Avoid pressure-treated wood when possible, but if necessary, be sure to properly dispose of the sawdust and scrap.  Do not try to compost or burn this waste, especially in an indoor fireplace.  For ground-based patios, consider brick or paving stones.  Compared with poured concrete, they allow better water drainage and minimize storm runoff.  Consider the lifetime of your project and the furniture on it.  It is better to buy quality than to be frequently throwing out and replacing cheaper products.  Furniture constructed with composite materials made from recyclables can save frequent replacements while protecting our natural resources.
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October 2008 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

An organization called EcoMom™ inspired the following EcoChic Tips.  SHOP GREEN:  Read labels.  Clothing is changing.  Look for organics, sustainables, renewables and ingredients that help extend a product’s life cycle.  DON’T SHOP - SWAP:  Clothing swaps refresh a wardrobe.  GO VINTAGE:  It’s recycling and reusing.  DRIVE LESS:  Walk, bike or use mass transit.  DRIVE MORE...EFFICIENTLY:  Carpool, don’t idle during drop off and pick up or drive a hybrid.  BUY LOCAL AND ORGANIC PRODUCE:  Or grow it yourself.  REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE AND ROT:  The latter means composting – good for the earth, your garden and lawn.  CHANGE A LIGHT BULB:  Compact fluorescent lamps and LEDs are energy efficient.  TURN ON, TURN OFF, UNPLUG:  Your appliances don’t need to work while you’re at work.  CELEBRATE GREEN:  Let nature inspire your holiday and party themes.  RETHINK LAUNDRY:  Only run full loads, use cold water and line dry.  PLANT A PLANT:  It will beautify and absorb CO2.  CHOOSE WISELY:  Inform yourself about companies making an effort to improve the environment – ask questions, read labels and share information with friends. 

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November 2008 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

As we enter Wisconsin’s heating season, remember that it is good environmental stewardship to minimize our use of fossil fuels to heat our homes.  It also makes good “dollars and sense”.  To minimize your home’s carbon footprint here are some suggestions:  Check the caulking around all windows, doors and other openings.  Replace where needed.  Weather-strip around all doors leading to the outside and don’t forget the door or trapdoor up to an unheated attic.   That shrinkable plastic film to place over windows may waste some plastic in the spring, but it can reduce drafts around the windows and raise the R-value to that of double- or triple-glazed windows.  Close off and don’t heat rooms that are not being used.  Install a programmable thermostat so that you don’t have to remember every night to turn down the temperature for when you are under the nice warm covers.  Also it can be programmed to warm up the house before you get up in the morning.  And finally, if you don’t wear a sweater in your house during our Wisconsin winters, your thermostat is set too high.  Turn it down to save money, protect the environment and fight climate change.

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December 2008 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

How green is your kitchen?  Not the paint color but how environmentally friendly is it?  Washing dishes by hand in a dish pan is more energy and water efficient than the dishwasher, but both are more efficient than using throwaway, single-use paper and plastic plates, cups, napkins, etc.  Big environmental savings are also available by being a “locovore”, that is, eating foods that are as locally raised as possible.  Your own garden is best; buying from local farmers’ markets and food stands being next best, especially if it does not mean a special trip.  When buying at the grocery store, check for place of origin.  Several stores in Racine sell southeast Wisconsin produce when available.  And do we really need fruits and vegetables that are shipped halfway around the world?  Preparing from scratch is generally better than serving commercially prepared foods or ordering in. Refrigerating leftovers instead of throwing them out is both economical and environmentally friendly.  Homemade soups can be a flavorful and eco-friendly way to use up leftovers.  Food scraps that can not be reused, other than meat products, should be composted and thus returned to the garden or lawn.

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January 2009 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Why should we oppose any and all coal-fired power plants?  Not only do they emit more climate changing carbon dioxide than any other source, but they also are the largest source of human-generated mercury, a potent neurotoxin affecting the learning ability of our children.  They produce more than 120 million tons of ash, slag and sludge annually – roughly the same amount as all municipal solid waste disposed in U.S. landfills each year.  To obtain the coal, mountaintop mining in Appalachia has buried more than 700 miles of some of the most biologically diverse streams in the country.  And fine particulate pollution from U.S. Power plants cuts short the lives of approximately 24,000 people each year – 50 percent more than are murdered annually.  Environmental stewardship should also mean good citizenship.

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February 2009 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

As I walked and drove on errands after Christmas, I saw the tremendous piles of trash placed out for collection and dumping into the landfill, “Mt. Trashmore”.   I was reminded of one of the first articles I wrote for this newsletter.  It was about a
young child overheard praying the Lord’s prayer, “ ...Forgive us our trash baskets ... “

While the child obviously had misheard and misspoke, there is much truth in the error.  A walk around the neighborhood on any trash collection day shows us the tremendous amount of material we throw out every week.  How much of that material should never have been bought?  How much is typical of an extravagant and affluent life style?  How much has good use left in it and should have been saved for the church’s rummage sale or a resale shop?  How much should have been recycled?  These questions apply to the church as an organization and as individuals.  Trash costs us and the environment much too much to continue this life style.  Why not start an informal competition in your neighborhood to see who can put out the least trash.  Pray that God will forgive us our trash baskets.

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March 2009 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

At the most recent Green Congregations meeting, the subject of recycling came up many times.  Many of us are trying our best to recycle as much as possible, but many are not.  Recycling saves raw materials, energy and landfill space.  Harris Poll® #67 taken some months ago showed that nearly one-quarter (23%) of all people do not recycle anything!  People on the east and west coasts do better than us in the midwest where 30% say they don’t recycle anything.  67% of adults say they recycle aluminum or metal cans, and 54% to 59% recycle glass bottles, plastic and paper.  81% of those of us over 62 recycle at least something compared to only 70% of the “echo boomers” (18-30).  And worst of all, only 2% say they recycle batteries, motor oil and other hazardous waste.  In the City of Racine, we can keep the hazardous waste out of our ground water, our neighboring land fill and the environment in general, by taking advantage of the Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collections on the third Saturday of each month, April through October.  Caledonia, Mt. Pleasant and North Bay residents can take their HHW to Franksville Park on June 20.  Wind Point has a HHW collection only every other year and this is not the year.
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April, 2009 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Are you a locovore?  Would you like to be one?  A locovore is a person who eats locally produced foods as much as possible, rather than food shipped hundreds or thousands of miles from their place of origin.  It has been said that eating just one-quarter of our food from locally grown sources saves more energy than recycling all of your household waste.  Growing your own food in your own garden is about as local as you can get, but Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) may be the next best thing.  CSA is a partnership of mutual commitment between a farm and a community of supporters which provides a direct link between the production and consumption of food.  You, the consumer, pays up front for fresh produce to be delivered or picked up weekly (usually from mid-June to mid-October).  The farmer agrees to supply you with fresh vegetables that are generally grown organically and guaranteed to be local.  The consumer, in essence, becomes part owner of the farm for the year.  Two such farms nearby are:  Pinehold Gardens in Oak Creek, David Kozlowski and Sandra Raduenz, 414-762-1301, or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and LotFotL Community Farm, Tim Huth at the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or www.myspace.com/lotfotl.  Why not investigate these or other CSA locations to see whether you want to become a locovore.
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May, 2009 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

About three-fourths of the people in Wisconsin use ground water for daily use at home; the others use surface water.  According to the U. S. Geological survey, the total amount of water used in Wisconsin for home, industry and agriculture is over one billion gallons per day!  So it is good stewardship to protect both our ground and surface water.  Two ways each of us can help is the use of rain barrels and rain gardens, both of which reduce the run-off of polluted water while increasing the amount of water that percolates into the ground, recharging the aquifer.  The Sierra Club sells rain barrels for $50.  Call Jeff at 262--637-6845 or e-mail him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  The collected rain water is great for watering house and garden plants and washing your hair.  Rain gardens might be a bit more work, but it is well worth it to see the water from your roof producing healthy plants and flowers instead of running down the gutters picking up debris and pollution along the way.  To learn how and where to build a rain garden and what to plant in it, attend one of the two remaining Rain Garden Workshops sponsored by the Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network:  Saturday, May 9, 9:30-11:30 a.m. in the Auditorium of the Racine County Ives Grove Office Complex, 14200 Washington Avenue, Sturtevant, or Saturday, May 16, 9:00-11:00 a.m. at the Southport Beach House, 7825 First Avenue, Kenosha.  They are free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required.  Call 262-898-2055 or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  
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June 2009 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

In some parts of the country, water shortages make it difficult, if not impossible, to keep up the style of living to which we have become accustomed.  In some parts of the world, water shortages are a matter of life or death.  We on the shores of Lake Michigan do not face these problems.  Still, we are encouraged to turn off the faucet when brushing our teeth, throttle back the shower and install low volume toilets.  Worthwhile as these efforts are, most of us tend to ignore a much larger water use called “virtual water”.  This is all the water used to raise the food we eat and to make the products we use.  According to an article in the latest Discover  magazine, it takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef!   Chicken and pork are somewhat better, requiring 470 and 580 gal./lb., respectively.  Wheat requires only 160 gal./lb. and rice 360 gal./lb.  Fruits and vegetables use even less water.  A pound of potatoes requires 110 gallons and an orange or apple requires only 13 or 18 gallons.  It should be noted that these crops may be using all this water in regions of the world where water is in short supply.  The worst part is not the virtual water in what we consume, it is the virtual water in the 30 to 50% of the food that is thrown away uneaten, or lost in harvesting, processing, transportation and storage.  We can save a lot of water, virtual or otherwise, by reducing waste and changing our eating habits.  It’s good stewardship to eat our fruits and vegetables.
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July 2009 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Are bioplastics, those made from corn starch, potato starch, cane sugar and soy protein, good for the environment?  Unfortunately, the answer is, “Not yet”.  These are advertised as renewable alternatives to petroleum-based plastics and we need to reduce our use of fossil fuels.  Bioplastics are designed to be composted, not recycled.  Mixing any of them in with conventional plastics for recycling will ruin the whole batch.  The bacteria in most home composting will not work at all on some of the bioplastics.  Most may require the high heat and humidity of an industrial composting plant.  As noted above, bioplastics are currently made from food crops, using large amounts of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that pollute our air and water, while many people in the world go hungry to meet our want for convenience.  Someday, we may have bioplastics in our grocery bags and other plastic items that are made from renewable, nonpolluting and nonfood materials.  Until then, we should reduce our use of disposable products, recycle our conventional plastic items, and look for the “compostable” label from the US Composting Council on anything labeled as bioplastic.
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August 2009 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

As I write this paragraph, we are having a cool snap but we all know it will get warm this summer.  In 2005, 91.4 million households in the USA consumed 258 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity running air conditioners; that is about $24 billion in energy costs and 171 million tons of global warming emissions.  So here are a few ideas for keeping cool without excessively warming up the outside.  Whole-house fans installed in the ceiling can pull in cool evening and morning air, forcing hot air out, using only one-tenth the electricity of an air conditioner.  Even if you use an air conditioner, the use of a ceiling fan permits setting it four degrees higher for the same comfort level.  Install an Energy Star-rated fan 10-12 inches from the ceiling.  Plant deciduous trees on the south side of the house for passive cooling in the summer.  Trees reduce the air temperature by as much as nine degrees.  Keeping an air conditioner in full shade can increase its efficiency up to ten percent.  Solar screens on the windows can block up to 90 percent of incoming solar heat without obscuring the view.  Awnings on west facing windows can reduce solar heat by 77 percent according to the DOE.  If you decide you must have an air conditioner, be sure that it is an Energy Star-rated model sized to your needs.  If all room air conditioners in the USA were Energy Star models, it would avoid 650,000 tons of global warming emissions – the equivalent of taking 115,000 cars off the road.

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September 2009 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

We Americans buy about three billion household batteries every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.  That is about ten per person and nearly all of them end up in landfills.  The Union of Concerned Scientists suggest that the next time you need to power up your gadgets, be good environmental stewards and choose rechargeable batteries instead.  Unlike disposable alkaline batteries, rechargeable batteries can be reused hundreds of times, which not only saves money and resources, but also reduces global warming pollution associated with battery manufacturing and transportation.  According to an independent study, using a disposable battery to create one kilowatt-hour of electricity has a global warming impact equivalent to driving a car 283 miles.  Using a rechargeable battery for the same power is equivalent to driving 10 miles!  Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) is the most common rechargeable battery and comes in most sizes.  Nickel-cadmium (NiCad) rechargeable batteries have more problems because of the toxicity of Cadmium.  Lithium-ion batteries are currently used mostly in high-end electronics, are more expensive, but have greater energy density.  Buy an Energy Star-rated recharger which can be 35% more energy efficient than the older models.  Solar-powered battery chargers require no power off the grid at all.  Also look for a “smart” charger that shuts itself off when the battery is fully charged.  In any case, unplug the charger when not in use, since it will otherwise still draw current.  When a battery has finally fulfilled its lifetime, dispose of it correctly where it was purchased, at a hazardous waste collection (3rd Saturdays in Racine), or at volunteer sites such as Battery Plus.

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October 2009 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Is your home’s landscaping hard on the earth and your budget?  About 30% of total household water usage is used to water our lawns according to the U.S. Geological survey.  Homes lacking shade trees can pay up to 25% more for heating and cooling according to research done by the Department of Energy (DOE).  Add to that the cost to the pocket book and the environment in water and soil pollution of the millions of pounds of fertilizer and pesticides spread on lawns each year.  So what to do?  Plant trees strategically.  Deciduous trees on the south and west sides of the house will give shade in the summer and let the sunlight in during the winter.  Evergreen trees planted on the north and windward sides can reduce heating costs.  According to the DOE, just three well-placed trees can offer yearly energy savings of $100 to $250, absorb global-warming carbon-dioxide and reduce storm-water runoff – good environmental stewardship.  One can further reduce outdoor water usage significantly by replacing some or all of your lawn with native plants and groundcovers.  Mulching around trees and in flower beds will save water and keep the soil cool.  Use hand and leg or electric-powered lawn equipment.  The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that gas-powered push lawnmowers emit as much nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons per hour as eleven cars; riding mowers emit as much as thirty-four cars!

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November 2009 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Advent Lutheran Church in Madison, WI, is reported by the Union of Concerned Scientists to be doing very well with their environmental stewardship.  When Pastor Jeff Wild arrived in 2000, he found that “the concern for creation and the environment among members was a very important part of this church’s mission”.  The congregation had already started a restoration of native prairie grasses on the church’s 7-acre site.  An appointed task force replaced old light fixtures and appliances with energy efficient models.  Professional assessors showed that their site was not a good one for wind power, but was situated in a perfect position for solar power.  So with a partial grant from Focus on Energy, they installed a 2.4-kilowatt solar array in 2002.  The solar panels and their efficiency measures have reduced their conventional electricity consumption by 40% and their annual carbon dioxide emissions by 22,000 pounds.

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December 2009 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Problems with burning leaves have been in the news lately.  To some the smell of leaf smoke evoke nostalgia for days past when we didn’t know any better.  For others, especially those with allergies, asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and other lung and heart diseases, it has meant misery, illness and retreating into the house.  Open air burning of just one ton of leaves (I believe that I raked at least that many this fall) produces 38 pounds of fine particulates, 26 pounds of hydrocarbons of various types and 112 pounds of carbon monoxide, which reduces the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen.  85% of those particulates are inhaled deep into the lungs and can enter the blood stream.  The hydrocarbons include seven which are known to cause cancer.  Among the products of combustion are several polyaromatic hydrocarbons and benzo(a)pyrene, a known carcinogen.  According to Dr. B. W. Carnow at the University of Illinois, benzo(a)pyrene is found in oak leaves in the same concentrations which exist in tobacco leaves and is directly related to the incidence of lung cancer.  So what to do with all those leaves?  They are of great value for mulching and composting.  If your municipality does not collect the leaves for composting, start your own compost pile in a back corner of your yard, add vegetable scraps and coffee grounds from the kitchen and harvest “brown gold” for your garden beds and lawn.  You will not only be a good environmental steward but a good neighbor, too.

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Note:  The January 2010 Environmental Stewardship article was written by Betsy Georg about a revitalization of the Green Team.
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February 2010 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Recently I had the opportunity to see a friend’s renovated kitchen with all LED under cabinet and other lighting fixtures.  What a pleasant and energy saving way to be good environmental stewards!  A six-watt LED (light emitting diode) generates more light than an 11-watt CFL (compact fluorescent lightbulb) or a 40-watt incandescent (Thomas Alva Edison’s old invention) while using 45 percent less electricity than the CFL and 85 percent less than the incandescent.  If every family in Mt. Pleasant Lutheran Church replaced just one 40-watt incandescent that is on for an average of six hours per day with a six watt LED, we would keep more than 33.5 tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere each year.  LEDs generate about 97 percent less heat than incandescent bulbs and so are advantageous in enclosed fixtures and other heat sensitive places.  CFLs last about ten times longer than incandescents 6,000 to 15,000 hours vs. 1,000 to 2,000, but LEDs last around 50,000 hours – nearly 23 years if used six hours per day – or more.  However, they still are initially expensive, about $35 for a 6-watt bulb, so I don’t expect many will fit out their entire house or church in LEDs until the price comes down.  But why not try one?
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March 2010 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Did you know that Carnival is derived from the latin carne vale and means farewell to meat?  At the most recent meeting of the Green Team Congregations, a program called Meatless Mondays was discussed.  This is a program started in association with the Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health that does exactly as it’s name suggests -- urges people to go meatless on Mondays.  In place of beef, chicken, fish or pork, substitute protein from beans, other legumes, eggs, nuts and seeds.  Why?  Going meatless once a week can reduce your carbon footprint, save money and precious resources such as fresh water and fossil fuel (especially with corn-fed beef), and may reduce your risk of chronic, preventable conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity through better nutrition and lower saturated fats.  By reducing our meat consumption by 1/7th, we each save up to 900 gallons of water per week to produce that meat.   We reduce our personal calorie intake by 450 calories and the energy to produce 8 ounces of beef rather than soy by 23,668 calories.  Need more information or meatless recipes?  Go to www.meatlessmonday.com.  So why not say “Carne vale” to meat on Mondays starting in Lent and continuing on throughout the year?
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April, 2010 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Once upon a time, I tried to study our electrical usage by looking at the bill from the utility company or the meter outside the house.  Foolish, frustrating  and futile!  Appliances consume different amounts of energy at different times and the bills may be weeks after the fact.  Then I discovered that there are a growing number of plug-in devices which permit one to track electricity usage in real time.  A friend had a meter that I could borrow that tracks energy use of individual devices in real time.  According to an Oxford University study, this type of direct feedback on energy use typically helps homeowners reduce their energy consumption -- and costs -- by 5 to 15 percent and even more if it leads one to replace an energy glutton with a more efficient “green star” appliance.  If you don’t have a friend from whom you can borrow a plug-in meter, you can check one out at the Racine Public Library.  You simply plug the meter into an outlet and plug the appliance of interest into the meter, which displays the appliance’s electricity usage as it operates -- and even as it sits apparently doing nothing.  Many appliances, such as TVs, microwave ovens, computers and the like continue to draw current even when nominally off.  Unfortunately, these meters do not work for “hard-wired” appliances such as central air conditioners, water heaters, and ceiling fans.  For these, one must still go out and check the electricity meter as, for example, the air conditioner runs vs. when it is off.  Find the energy hungry appliances in your house and see if you can be a better environmental steward.  If there is enough interest, possibly the church could buy such a meter to lend out.
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Nay 2010 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John  Berge

Is environmental stewardship involved when one buys a new TV set?  Those who preach the simple life might say just don’t buy it and enjoy all that extra time to communicate with nature, your family, friends, neighbors and church.  But we know that others will say it is a necessary purchase (to watch all those nature programs and intelligent talk shows on public television).  There is an energy price with any new TV.  According to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, the more than 275 million TVs in this country consume over 50 BILLION KILOWATT-HOURS of electricity each year.  This is equivalent to the total output of more than 10 coal-fired power plants!  There are three HDTV technologies on the market today.  Although energy consumption varies widely between HDTVs, on average, plasma TVs are the least efficient, consuming 0.33 watt per square inch of screen, liquid crystal display (LCD) TVs are a little better at 0.28 watt per square inch, but the best choice from an energy standpoint is the rear-projection microdisplay (commonly known as DLP or digital light processing) at 0.13 watt per square inch.  Old cathode-ray tubes (CRT) averaged somewhere in between plasma and LCD. Energy use goes up with size and I have yet to meet the person that bought an HDTV smaller than their old CRT set.   Sets that meet the EPA’s 2008 standards can be up to 30% more efficient than those that don’t.  So look for the Energy Star label and check the energy use both when the set is on and when on standby.  Reducing energy consumption is good environmental stewardship.  The above data are from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
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June 2010 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by Lila Berge

The City of Racine has issued large blue bins for residents to use for recycling all sorts of household trash.  Apparently, many well-educated people have had difficulty these first few weeks following the well-distributed directions.  The every-other-week collection schedule and zone map were published in the Racine Journal Times, mailed to every resident who is eligible for trash collection -- complete with a refrigerator magnet showing the schedule -- and made available on the City’s website, www.racinerecycles.org.  The city is divided into two zones, green generally on the east side and gold on the west, for the alternate week pickups.

The bins have ID numbers on them because they are city property and, if lost or stolen, the numbers will aid return to the proper residence.   You can co-mingle all your recyclables according to the very complete listing on the top of each bin.  To keep down odors and not attract pests, it is recommended to rinse food containers before placing them in the bin.  If you tend to fill the bin too quickly, you might consider flattening tin cans, milk bottles, soft drink and beer containers.  This not only saves space, but can be a great way to release any violent urges. 

Recycling is required by state law; it is against the law to place a long list of recyclables into landfills.  Recycling will make our landfills last longer, save money for municipalities and taxpayers, and make our finite natural resources, including energy and fossil fuels, last longer.  Recycling materials is generally much more fuel efficient than using virgin material.  Recycling saves money and resources and is the right thing to do.
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July 2010 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

It was recently suggested that I review the Environmental Stewardship articles we have written over the past five years and pick out the ten best suggestions.  Here are my picks in no particular order.

1.      “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” -- to which we can add “rot” (that is compost), “swap” and “donate” (to the church’s rummage sale).

2.      Drive a higher mileage car and reduce the total miles driven by walking, biking, carpooling, and limiting idling.  If we all averaged 40 mpg, we would save 3 million barrels of oil and 3.15 BILLION pounds of CO2 -- per day.

3.      Insulate, weather-strip and caulk the leaks in our homes and install a programable thermostat, set no higher than 68 in the winter and no lower than 76 in the summer.

4.      Be a “locovore” (eat locally grown food) as much as you can.  Buy at local farmers’ markets and make adjustments in your grocery store buying habits.

5.      Replace hot, inefficient, incandescent lamps with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light emitting diodes (LEDs).

6.      Use reusable shopping bags, NOT paper OR plastic.

7.      Try “Meatless Mondays” to save energy, water and calories.  It takes 1800 gallons of water to raise one pound of beef vs. about 100 gallons per pound of fruit or vegetables.

8.      Keep household hazardous waste out of our landfills and ground water by taking the appropriate items to the collections on the third Saturday of the month and medication drop-offs twice a year.

9.      Support renewable energies -- solar and wind -- rather than polluting fossil fuels -- coal and oil.

10.  Plant natural areas in your yard which will reduce herbicide, pesticide and fertilizer use; install rain barrels and rain gardens to reduce runoff.

Mar. 2005 --- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

When St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Wausau, WI., decided to make environmental stewardship a priority, they also proved that this decision was economical.  They installed energy efficient technology (compact florescent  lamps and T-8 florescent lamps with electronic ballasts), purchased programmable thermostats, applied weather stripping, replaced some windows with energy efficient models and turned down the water heater.  The effectiveness of their high-efficiency heating and air conditioning systems were enhanced by a high-efficiency fan and pump motors.  The annual savings for the church is approximately $5,000  and thousands of pounds of C02 emissions are not generated each year.  Could we do that here?
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April 2005 ---- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

Although our church’s roof is not of the shingle type, now, when we must replace the roof, might be a good time to look into using our very large and sunny roof for the generation of electricity.  One of the latest developments in the solar energy field are shingles that go on and look similar to regular shingles, but actually generate significant amounts of electricity.  They can be tied into the transmission grid so that we would sell electricity to the utility when the roof generated more than is currently being used by the church, and flow into the church in the usual way during other times.  The church thus would pay only the net difference.  If solar shingles are not an option, then regular solar panels that would cover the southern part of the roof might also be investigated.  What an example of a “green congregation” this would be!

Whether the church would choose an electricity-generating solar roof or not, individuals in the congregation who are looking towards replacing all or some of the shingles on their home, might very well consider this option.  To get more information, a “Google” search of “solar shingles” on your computer will give you plenty of references (maybe 290,000) and sources of this revolutionary new idea for energy generation.

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May 2005 --- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

On average, everyone of us produces about five pounds of household waste every month.  That comes out to 50 or 60 pounds per year.  Some of that is hazardous material.  It has been said that there are six ways to get rid of this Household Hazardous Waste (HHW), five of which are illegal or dangerous and have the potential for releasing the hazardous material into the ground and surface water, the air and the soil.  (1) We might find a friend or relative in Kenosha or Milwaukee to take our waste and utilize their HHW program.  (2) We might wrap it so as to hide its true identity and put it out with the regular trash.  (3) We might drive out to a lonely road somewhere on a dark night and dump it.  (4) We might pour it down a storm drain and have it end up in Lake Michigan.  (5) We might store it indefinitely in the garage or basement where our children, grandchildren or pets may get into it.  (6) We should take any HHW to the Clean Sweep collection in our municipality where it will be disposed of safely, cleanly and legally.  The City of Racine will have a Clean Sweep drop-off on May 14 from 9 to 12 a.m. in the parking lot across from the City Hall Annex, 8th and Center Sts..  Mt. Pleasant and Caledonia will have a Clean Sweep drop-off at Caledonia - Mt. Pleasant Joint Park in Franksville on June 18 from 8 to 11 a.m.  If all goes according to plan, the City of Racine and the other municipalities that are part of the Sewer Agreement will have regular monthly collections of Household Hazardous Waste starting in 2006.

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June 2005 --- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

Do you have any dead cell phones hanging around your house?  Here is a chance to dispose of them and help to make Greater Racine greener and more beautiful.  A working group arising from Sustainable Racine’s second visioning process is providing a bin in the narthex to collect any and all dead cell telephones and turn them into trees.  If they can collect 4,000 cell phones from churches like ours, businesses and other institutions, a recycler will give them $10,000 towards the purchase of trees to be planted in the Greater Racine area.  This group has supplied us the bin and will provide pickup service.  So, check those bottom drawers and closets where you put your old cell phones and drop them off in the bin in the narthex.  This not only will provide us the trees, but will keep the mercury and other heavy metals out of the environment and recycle what is still usable ... a win-win situation.

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July 2005 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

A young child was overheard praying the Lord’s prayer, “ ... Forgive us our trash baskets ... “ While the child obviously had misheard and misspoke, there is much truth in the error.  A walk around the neighborhood on trash collection day, or a glance at the sanitary landfill, “Mt. Trashmore”, shows us the tremendous amount of material we throw out every week.  How much of that material should never have been bought?  How much is typical of an extravagant and affluential life style?  How much has good use left in it and should have been saved for the church’s rummage sale or a resale shop?  How much should have been recycled?  These questions apply to the church as an organization and as individuals.  Trash costs us and the environment much too much to continue this life style.  Why not start an informal competition in your neighborhood to see who can put out the least trash.  Pray that God will forgive us our trash baskets.

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August 2005 -- Environmental Stewardship

If you want to do something for the environment and save money in the process, as they burn out replace the incandescent bulbs in your home or church with fluorescent bulbs.  The incandescent bulbs are old technology, essentially unchanged since Thomas Edison invented the light bulb about 120 years ago and a young GE engineer discovered how to frost the bulb on the inside.  A compact fluorescent light bulb will give off the same amount of light for about one-third to  one-fourth of the electricity.  The fluorescent bulb will cost 8 or 9 times as much but will last from 10 to 13 times as long and save 2/3 to 3/4 of the electricity.  The days of noticeable flicker are gone, as is the poor color quality you may remember.  Newer designs allow the use of fluorescent bulbs in fixtures that couldn’t take them before, even security flood lights which are a major user of lighting electricity.  “If every household in the U.S. replaced one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent light bulb, if would prevent enough pollution to equal removing one million cars from the road,” according to ENERGY STAR, a government/industry partnership.

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September 2005 -- Environmental Stewardship

“Invasive, alien species” sounds like science fiction ... Martian invaders, maybe.   But in truth it is a much more down to earth and present problem about which we should all be concerned.  “Alien species” refers to plants, insects, aquatic organisms and other plants and animals that are not native to this region, but come over from other parts of the world either accidentally or intentionally imported.  The “invasive” part refers to those that spread rapidly and perniciously, because they are prolific and have left their natural predators behind.  Examples are the zebra mussels, gypsy moths, garlic mustard, buckthorn and exotic honeysuckles.  Invasive, alien plants “destroy three million acres per year in the United States and cost our society $35 billion annually”, according to a recently published book by Elizabeth Czarapata.  What can you do?  First, don’t buy any plants that are invasive, alien species.  Second, cut down and root out any that are in your yard or woodlot now.  Third, join with others in removing them from our parks and along rivers and streams.  On Make A Difference Day, October 22, there will be many groups out doing this who will appreciate your help and be glad to train you and teach some plant recognition.  Prior to then, you might wish to buy Czarapata’s book or contact groups such as The Wild Ones or the local group of the Sierra Club for more information.

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October 2005 -- Environmental Stewardship

The answer to the query “plastic or paper?” is neither.  Both use up valuable natural resources, have negative impacts on wildlife, pollute our environment, and neither is effectively recycled.  Worldwide, we are using up more than 500 billion plastic bags per year.  At an average price of a nickel per bag, that is $25 billion dollars per year.  To reduce that to numbers we can swallow, that is 83 bags per person per year.  Ireland has recently levied a twenty cent tax on plastic bags and seen their use drop 90% in the first six months.  Paper bags take over four times as much energy as plastic bags to make, but usually hold two to three times as much, are often reused once for garbage or recycling newspapers, and are made from renewable wood chips.  Plastic bags are made from petroleum or natural gas, and are seldom reused, mostly to cleanup after pets.  Paper bags disintegrate reasonably promptly if they blow away, where plastic bags do not.  In a landfill, the latter, used only once, may last 300 years!  Compare this with cloth bags; they can be used more than once a week for decades!  If you didn’t buy some of the Mt. Pleasant Lutheran Church cloth bags when they were on sale awhile back, or need more, they will be on sale in the narthex again on October 8 and 9.  Buy several.  Do your bit to save money, the environment and natural resources.

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November --Environmental Stewardship

The first chapter of Genesis describes the order in which God created the Earth and filled it with living things.  (The WHO, not necessarily the HOW.)  “And God saw that it was good.”  In verses 26-30, He creates humans and charges them to take care of all living things.  Native Americans have a standard by which to measure the “goodness” of their stewardship called “the seventh generation”.  This means the effect of actions and decisions must do no harm over the next seven generations.  How will the decisions we make in 2005 affect people who inherit God’s good earth seven generations from now?  Do you think God finds our care for His creation “good”?

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January 2006 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

Is it more energy efficient to wash the dishes or use disposables?  To quote The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices:  Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists, “It all comes down to quantity.  It is of course best to avoid wasting materials ... If you ate all your meals using one-time-use plastic utensils and paper plates, it would not only be unnecessarily wasteful but would cost more money than washing the dishes.”  Unfortunately, because there are so many variables, there are few good published studies to quantify the increased cost.  A few years back Martin Hocking of the University of Victoria published a study comparing the energy to make paper cups vs. glass or plastic cups.   The extra energy to make the more permanent glass or plastic cups is recouped if they are used only 15 or 18 times.  His study didn’t include the cost of heating the water to clean the reusable cups nor the cost of bagging up, collecting and hauling the paper cups to the landfill, or the very high cost of operating, and eventually replacing, the landfill.  But let us extrapolate the practice of single use disposables.  If cups, plates and flatware, why not clothes?  They have to be washed, too.  Or why not one-time-use cars?  They are recyclable.

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February 2006 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

Environmental stewardship is usually good economics.  Ecology and economics are derived from the same root, oikos meaning household.  How we run our household can be good environmental stewardship and good economics using the three r’s: reduce, reuse and recycle.  We should reduce the temperature setting of our thermostats, and save valuable fossil fuels and money.  We should reduce the wattage of our lamps by using compact fluorescent bulbs and again save energy and money.  We should reuse so many things from grocery bags to fabrics for making quilts to reusable dishes and cups.  When we do use disposable paper, cardboard, glass, cans and plastic containers, we should recycle them.  It costs the city of Racine $33 per ton to dispose of trash in the landfill, but they are paid for the recyclables.  It is currently less than a dollar a ton, but that is a savings of over $33 compared to throwing them out.  The Village of Mt. Pleasant charges its residents almost four times as much to get rid of their trash as to recycle because they also are paid for the recyclable material.  Good stewardship is good economics!

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March 2006 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

If we were to drive vehicles which go farther on a gallon of gas, we could save money, curb global warming and cut our dependence on foreign oil.  Forty percent of the oil consumption in the United States comes from cars and light trucks.  Twenty percent of the carbon dioxide, the major heat trapping gas that is causing global warming, comes from cars and light trucks.  How do different vehicles compare in their life time (124,000 miles) production of carbon dioxide?  A Ford Excursion at only 13 miles per gallon (MPG) produces 134 tons!  A Ford Crown Victoria at 21 MPG produces 83 tons, while a Ford Escape Hybrid at 33 MPG is down to 51 tons and a Toyota Prius at 55 MPG produces only 32 tons.  If all of the vehicles in the U. S. averaged 40 MPG, we would save over 3 million barrels of oil each day, more than we now import from the Persian Gulf and could ever extract from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, combined.

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April 2006 --Environmental Stewardship

Saturday, April 22, individuals and groups all across the country and around the world, will be celebrating the 36th anniversary of Earth Day with projects and other activities.  Here, in and around Racine, there are many activities planned by groups that could use your help with a morning’s work, nine ‘til noon.  Groups will be doing highway cleanups on 6-Mile Road in Caledonia and Hwy. D in Rochester.  The Sierra Club and the St. Catherine's Environmental Club will be working on removing alien species and planting native species in Colonial Park.  KOBO needs volunteers to finish labeling the last of the storm drains.  Friends of the Zoo Path will be working on saving plants affected by the Bike Path Construction.  UW-P students are creating a rain garden and green space at Jane’s School.  The Nehemiah project will be building bird houses.  The Eco-Justice Center will be preparing garden beds for planting.   More planting will be done at the English Street outfall.  And there will be more.  How to volunteer?  Just call Aaron Hertzberg at Sustainable Racine, 262-632-6440.  He has the list of projects and will be glad to take your name for whichever project you like.  Please help.

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May 2006 -- Environmental Stewardship

Now that we are past the worst of the utilities’ bills, at least for this season, it is time to see what we can do to reduce our energy consumption, cut greenhouse  gases and save some money at the same time.  Install a programmable thermostat and don’t overheat in the winter or overcool in the summer.  Upgrade to an Energy Star water heater and lower temperature setting to 120 degrees F.  Check insulation in attic, basement and walls; add where necessary.  Seal any gaps in walls.  Clean or replace air filters regularly.  Weather-strip and caulk drafty doors and windows.  Upgrade windows if possible.  Consider ceiling fans.  Use curtains, shades and shutters for insulation and shade.  Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs, inside and out.  Install aerating shower heads and faucets to reduce hot water consumption.  For your kitchen and laundry, always buy Energy Star appliances. Use water- and energy-saving features on dishwasher and only run full loads.  Front-loading washing machines are generally more efficient.  Install and use a clothesline; that really saves energy and money.

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June 2006 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Once upon a time, not too long ago, Mt. Pleasant used glass communion cups that were carefully cleaned in a Sacristy dishwasher and reused many, many times.  For various reasons, including the lack of volunteers willing to do that washing, we changed to plastic, disposable cups.  Since we carefully place them in the large treys held by the acolytes as before, many believe that we are still reusing those cups.  It certainly would not be “meet, right and salutary” to drop them into a wastebasket or plastic trash bag, but that was where they were ending up ... more than 30,000 per year.  The Green Team was not happy with this, feeling that we should at least recycle the polystyrene (number 6) cups.  Neither the Village of Mt. Pleasant (only plastics 1 and 2) or the City of Racine (no numbers on the cups) would take them.  But we finally found a recycler in Milwaukee which will take them after they are rinsed once or twice in cold water and air dried.  I save up about 3 or 4 months supply in the garage and take them to the recycler when I happen to be going that way.  No cost or income to the church, but some of us feel a bit better because we try.

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July 2006 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by Lila Berge

As natural places shrink or disappear around us, we should make our yards more attractive for native species.  It is no longer a cultural necessity to have lawns that rival golf courses.  Herbicides and fertilizers cost big bucks and damage healthy biodiversity around us.  Reduce the size of your lawn with native shrubs, trees, ferns and wildflowers.  Choose plants that feed and shelter birds, butterflies and their caterpillars.  For example, milkweed has lovely sweet-smelling flowers and the foliage is where Monarch caterpillars feed.  Avoid nonnative, invasive plants such as Purple Loosestrife, Buckthorn and Dames Rocket, which escape to infest parks, woods, wetlands and roadsides, out-competing native plants needed by birds and butterflies.  Go to the internet or County Extension Office for advice and assistance.  Why not  volunteer with one of the groups working to remove invasive species in our local parks?

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August 2006 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by Lila Berge

The National Wildlife Federation Magazine had an interesting article earlier this year titled “Baby Steps to Protect the Earth”.  Reflecting on the birth of twins three years ago, made the author realize their environmental cost, and threats to her babies.  An early decision: washable vs. disposable diapers.  The typical baby will add 8,000 disposable diapers to the landfill.  Those diapers are not cheap in dollars or the trees ground up for the absorbant filler or the petroleum to make the plastics.  Babies also may be given an endless stream of plastic toys, sippy cups and nursery furniture.  Babies put their mouths on everything; their brains and immune systems are vulnerable to chemicals such as vinyl chloride and the phthalate ester plasticizer in toys and the formaldehyde in composite wood and particle board used in cheaper furniture.  The author recommended avoiding soft plastic toys in favor of cloth and hard plastic or wooden toys.  Clothing made from organic cotton or secondhand garments are recommended, with only treatments approved by the USDA.  Lightly worn items should be recycled to other babies ... via our rummage sale.

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September 2006 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

The American Wind Energy Association recently announced that U. S. wind energy installations now exceed 10,000 megawatts (MW) in generating capacity, and produce enough electricity on a typical day to power over 2.5 million homes.  The industry is now installing more wind power in a single year than the amount that was operating in the entire country just six years ago.  Those 10,000 MW of wind power are keeping 16 million tons of carbon dioxide, 73,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and 27,000 tons of nitrogen oxide out of the air every year.  For a small premium on your electricity bill, you can insure that all, or a selected fraction, of your electricity is generated by wind power or other renewable sources.  Just notify we energies that you want to become part of their Green Energy program.  The more people that sign up, the more renewable energy they must generate or buy in place of electricity generated from fossil fuels.

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October 2006 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

While reading Jimmy Carter’s book “Our Endangered Values”,  he reminded me of a cartoon that appeared some time ago in Habit for Humanity’s newsletter.  It depicted a community from overhead showing some people playing tennis, others riding bicycles, others are in automobiles, or teaching school.  At the edge of town there might have been some farmers plowing their farms and suburbanites mowing their lawns.  Everyone had a cartoonist’s bubble above them with the words, “What can just one person do?”  While the cartoon was aimed at poverty and housing, it applies equally well to environmental stewardship.  What can be the effect when many people all make a decision to do what they can to protect our environment from our excesses and thoughtless actions?  Lord, forgive us our excesses.

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November 2006 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Still skeptical about the dangers of global warming?  A study just published online in the prestigious “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” has determined that the Earth’s temperature has already climbed to levels not seen for 12,000 years.  The mean surface temperature of the Earth has been warming at a rate of 0.2 degrees Celsius for the last thirty years and is now within about 1 degree C of the maximum for the past million years.  The authors state that if the global warming can be kept within that one degree, it may be relatively manageable.  If we continue with “business as usual” and further warming reaches 2 to 3 degrees C, we will see changes that make Earth a “different planet”.  The last time that the Earth was as warm as projected with BAU was about 3 million years ago, in the Middle Pliocene, when sea level was about 25 meters (over 80 feet) above current levels.  Farewell Florida, New Orleans, New York City, coastlines around the world and most of Bangladesh!  The authors conclude, “given that a large proportion of human-made CO2 will remain in the air for many centuries, sensible policies must focus on devising energy strategies that greatly reduce CO2 emissions.”  Next month I will suggest a number of strategies that you might adopt to reduce CO2 emissions.
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December 2006 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
By John Berge

The average American today uses enough energy to release about 25 TONS, of carbon dioxide per year.  Here are a dozen suggestions from the Environmental Defense Action Fund which we can take to lower our contribution to this major contributor to global warming:  Run your dishwasher only with a full load and use the energy-saving setting.  Wash clothes in warm or cold water, not hot.  Turn down your water heater thermostat to no more than 120 degrees.  Buy energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs for your most used lights.  Install low-flow shower heads to use less hot water.  Caulk and weatherstrip around doors and windows.  Walk, bike, carpool or use mass transit whenever possible.  Reduce waste by buying minimally packaged goods.  Choose reusable products over disposable ones.  If you need to replace your windows, install the best energy-saving models.  Recycle.  When you replace home appliances, select the most energy efficient models; often it pays in the long run to replace even before they wear out.  Most of these suggestions will save you money as well as fight global climate change.

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January 2007 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by Lila Berge

Let’s make some Green Resolutions for 2007:

1.  Get more exercise -- walk instead of drive, take the stairs instead of the elevator; dust off that old bike and use it; push back from the table without that rich dessert.

2.  Recycle more -- take junk mail and other clean paper to the recycle bin in the church parking lot; rinse and flatten cans, milk and other plastic containers and put them out for your municipality’s recycling collection; recycle your newspapers and  magazines.   None of these belong in the landfills.

3.  Clean out closets, dressers and cupboards -- donate some of your abundance to the 2007 rummage sale.

4.  When you have to drive -- carpool, consolidate errands; don’t idle the engine; keep your vehicle well tuned and tires properly inflated.

5.  Use your cloth tote bags when shopping; don’t forget them at home.

6.  Think what other resolutions you can make to reduce pollution, greenhouse gases and wasting of our limited resources.

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February 2007 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Would you drive a car that gets zero miles to the gallon?  I hope not.  Yet that is your mileage whenever your engine idles.  Idling wastes money and fuel, contributes to air pollution, and generates carbon dioxide emissions that add to global warming and climate change.  Many people believe that idling is necessary or even beneficial – a false perception that has carried over from the 1970s and 1980s when engines needed time to warm, especially in colder weather.  Fuel-injection vehicles, which have been the norm since the mid-1980s, can be restarted frequently without engine damage and need no more than 30 seconds to warm up even on winter days.  In fact, idling longer than that could actually damage your engine in the long term due to incomplete combustion and water buildup in the exhaust system.  No matter what time of year, minimize your idling time.  When starting, idle no more than 30 seconds.  Turn your engine off if you must wait in your car for more than 30 seconds.  Make your next car a hybrid, which turns off the engine automatically when not needed. 

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March 2007 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

On December 12, 2006, the Wisconsin Council of Churches adopted an environmental statement entitled “Reconciled in Christ with Creator and Creation:  The Worshipful Work of Caring for the Earth and People”.  Excerpting sentences throughout the statement, I will try to give a flavor of this statement.  “As citizens of Wisconsin, we have enjoyed the beauty and the bounty of our state and wish to preserve it for all who live here and for those who come after us. –– we call ourselves and our fellow citizens to repentance and to a renewed commitment to responsible living in our part of Creation. –– As we provide for ourselves and our human neighbors, we must also provide for the survival of our fellow creatures in their habitats –– Environmentally unsustainable practices undercut our efforts to achieve justice and peace for all persons; violence and injustice undermine sustainability. –– Over-consumption of natural resources by a relative few is a major cause of environmental degradation. –– The beauty, integrity, and diversity of the earth, as well as its material resources are an inheritance from the past that we hold in trust for future generations. –– Democracy must serve the good of all, rather than the desires of a powerful few who stand to benefit in material terms from the destructive exploitation of people and the earth. –– The Holy Spirit calls the church, as Christ’s body in the world, to reflect in word and action God’s intention to reconcile the whole creation.  This calling is not an optional activity to be relegated to a congregation’s social ministry committee, but belongs to the whole worshipful work of every congregation.”  These quotes are, by definition, taken out of context.  To get that well-reasoned context, please read the full statement, which will be placed on their website, www.wichurches.org.

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April 2007 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Clean Wisconsin and members of Mt. Pleasant’s Green Team are presenting a special program on global warming on Sunday evening, April 23 starting at 6:30 p.m.  Global warming has been called “the greatest moral issue of our time” by religious leaders across the country.  A special program on it from a faith-based perspective is certainly warranted.

Ryan Schryver of Clean Wisconsin will provide an overview on global warming, and then  zero in on the effect that global warming is having on Wisconsin’s environment, culture and economy.  Ryan was recently trained by Al Gore to lead discussions on global warming.  This training – coupled with his experience in energy policy and environmental activism – provides a unique perspective on this important topic.

Reverend Dave Steffensen from the Wisconsin Interfaith Climate and Energy Campaign will then address why global warming is one of the most important issues facing religious communities today.  He is a retired Methodist Minister, and has many years of experience working on environmental issues within the faith community.

A question and answer session will follow these brief presentations.  Please join us for what should be an interesting and insightful evening, exploring one of the most urgent and important issues of our time.  The program will be open to the public, so invite your friends and coworkers.

Clean Wisconsin, founded in 1970 as Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade, is an environmental advocacy organization, protecting Wisconsin’s clean water and air and advocating for clean energy.

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May 2007 – ENVIRONMENTAL  STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

With your help, Mt. Pleasant Lutheran Church recycles, even though the village does not pick up from the church.  We have all seen the large dumpster on the west end of the parking lot.  This is used by the staff to recycle office paper, bulletins, cardboard boxes and other clean paper products.  It is also available to members for paper that is not collected by the municipality in which you live.  Aluminum soft drink cans are recycled by the youth group to help pay for their activities.  Be sure that your aluminum cans are crushed and placed in the recycle bin in Fellowship Hall by the dispensing machine.  The custodian should not have to chase these cans all over the building.  The wine and grape juice bottles from holy communion are recycled locally.  The polystyrene communion cups are rinsed and once or twice a year taken to a recycler in Milwaukee.  Lutherans are great coffee drinkers; so our coffee grounds are recycled and composted by a master gardener member of the congregation.  The bottles, cans, jars, etc. from the kitchen are also recycled.  At present, a member of the staff takes these home for recycling, but she would greatly appreciate it if a member of the congregation would take over this responsibility.  If you want to help in any of these recycling tasks, please contact any one of the office staff to volunteer.

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June 2007 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

The cars you drive are likely your household’s biggest source of global warming pollution, releasing 25 pounds of heat-trapping emissions for each gallon of gasoline burnt.  While I drive a hybrid which gets around 50 miles per gallon (less in short trips in the winter), the most obvious solution for most people not in the market for a new car is to DRIVE LESS.  The average American drives 15,600 miles per year.  By driving just 12 fewer miles per week, you would reduce the carbon dioxide emissions by 4% and reduce your expenditures for gasoline by the same amount.  How to do it?  Carpooling, walking, biking or taking the bus just a couple of days a week will probably more than do it.  Getting better gas mileage by keeping your tires properly inflated, applying modest, even acceleration and braking, reducing idling, and minimizing high-speed driving are other ways to save money and reduce your carbon dioxide emissions.  Fuel economy drops 17% between 55 and 70 miles per hour.  Global warming is real, is man-made, and will lead us to disaster if we don’t start acting now.  (These data and suggestions are from the Union of Concerned Scientists of which I am a member. )

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July 2007 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

With a proposed plant in Racine county, there was a lot of heated discussion about making ethanol to use as fuel for our automobiles from corn.  Such plants in Iowa and elsewhere in the midwest have already driven up the price of corn and therefore the price of many meats, milk and other food products.  Fermenting corn for burning in our cars has affected international trade and hungry people around the world.  There has been much less discussion about a proposal being pushed in Congress by the administration, lobbyists, Senators and Representatives from coal producing states to make gasoline out of coal.  The latter would be an environmental disaster.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, replacing petroleum fuels with ethanol from corn would reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 22%.  Ethanol from cellulosic materials would reduce GHG emissions by 91%.  But Coal-to-liquids without carbon capture (an unproven technology) would increase GHG emissions by 119%!  Even with carbon capture, it would still increase GHG emissions by 4%.  If we are going to be good environmental stewards, we should be aware of what is being proposed, the data behind the proposals and let our representatives know where we stand.

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August 2007 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

A number of environmental organizations have proposed that, to avoid reaching a tipping point leading to catastrophic global warming, we must reduce our carbon dioxide output by 20% by the year 2020 and 50% by 2050.  To do this, a renewable energy standard is proposed.  Several states have already adopted similar goals and they have been proposed as amendments to a federal energy bill.  On the other hand, there have been those that say that it would cripple the economy and the goals are too far reaching.  But if we realize that this will only require a reduction of 2% or less per year, the goals are readily attainable.  The local Group of the Sierra Club in the Fourth of July Parade presented a number of options by which individuals could reduce their family’s carbon dioxide production by tons per year – carpooling, walking or biking, driving a hybrid car, careful purchase and use of efficient appliances, etc.  A new analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists shows that a 20% national renewable energy standard would create 4,240 jobs in Wisconsin, save Wisconsin consumers $90 million on our utility bills and help address the threat of global warming. 

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September 2007 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

In the year 2000, each person in the United States, on average, threw away approximately 4.5 pounds of waste each day, totaling 231.9  million tons of municipal solid waste.  Of this, 11.2% was food scraps, amounting to almost 26 million tons of food waste produced in this country.  If each of us would reduce the amount of processed foods consumed, try to cook from scratch more often, pay attention to the foods we eat and where they come from, and be willing to save and eat leftovers, how much could we save?  There is enough food produced each year to feed everybody on this planet, but due to waste, poverty and poor distribution, 800 million people are either malnourished or on the verge of starvation.  As Jesus said in Matthew 25: 35 and 40, “For I was hungry and you gave me food ... as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.”  This information was taken from the Web of Creation at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago.

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October, 2007 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

One type of household hazardous waste (HHW) that citizens of Racine County have not been able to take to the HHW site has been expired and/or unwanted medications, especially prescription drugs.  They should not be flushed down the toilet and even disposal in the landfill is questionable.  But as of Make-A-Difference Day, October 27, this will change.  The three Public Health Departments in Racine County, personnel from Racine’s Water and Waste Water Utility, law enforcement and others have set up two collection sites in Racine County that will accept unwanted medications for proper disposal on October 27.  It is anticipated that this will be an annual event.  Safely get rid of these drugs before a child, an experimenting adolescent or confused older adult misuses them.  Many drugs past their expiration date will have lost either their efficacy, their safety, or both.

The eastern site will be at the HHW site on 21st Street, north of Sam’s Club, the western site will be at the Waterford Village Hall.  Both will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  Such a collection is subject to strict FDA regulations.  A registered pharmacist and law enforcement officer must be at each site.  Volunteers must log in every medication by name of the drug, hence the need for a pharmacist.  People bringing in medicines or drugs are not required to identify themselves except by ZIP code to indicate they are residents of Racine county.  Keep the medication in their original containers if possible.  Cross out your name, if you wish, but don’t cover up the name of the medication.  But even unidentified medications will be accepted.  Arrangements have been made for proper and legal incineration.

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November, 2007 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Most everyone agrees that one of the easiest ways to save energy and natural resources, make our air and water cleaner, and reduce the rate we fill our land with waste is to recycle.  Yet a recent article in Chemical and Engineering News stated that “everybody involved in recycling agrees that not enough plastics are being recycled today to ensure the industry’s success.”  In 2005, only 23.1% of plastic 1 (polyethylene phthalate) and 27.1% of plastic 2 (high density polyethylene) were recycled, up only slightly from the previous year.  These two plastics account for more than 99% of plastic bottles recycled in the U.S.  Thus, three-fourths of these plastic bottles end up in the trash, discarded along the side of the road or in our parks and recreational areas.  Good environmental stewardship should mean that all of us who have a concern for our environment, saving energy and raw materials pledge that our recycle rate for these plastic bottles approaches 100%.  This is one case that a tithe is not enough.  Better still, we should reduce our usage of bottles for water when we have such excellent quality water right out of the tap.

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December 2007 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Over two years ago, I wrote about the need, and the opportunity, to recycle old or no longer used cell phones.  It is time for a reminder.  Studies show that on average cell phones are replaced every 18 months.  That means that 65,000 tons of them are discarded annually.  95% of these are sitting around in closets, basements, desk drawers or glove compartments.  Or maybe they are ending up in the landfill where the cadmium in the batteries and bromine in the flame retardants may leak into the environment.  Here at Mt. Pleasant we have a box on the east side of the narthex in which you can get rid of these old cell phones in an environmentally safe way.  We donate them to Neighborhood Watch which sells them to a recycler.  The proceeds are used for the Nehemiah Project which, among other efforts, buys trees, shrubs and other plants for beautification and improvement of inner-city neighborhoods.  The recycler renovates those in useable condition, reselling them to those who can’t afford new ones.  The more valuable parts of the rest are recycled, the hazardous materials responsibly disposed of and the remainder sent to landfills.  So, check for those no longer used cell phones and bring them to church, dropping them off in the box in the narthex.
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January, 2008 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by  John Berge

This suggestion may be too late for your Christmas shopping, but it may be in time for the January sales and possible major appliance purchases.  Always look for the Energy Star tags on all major purchases.  These tags are part of a government program to determine what the electrical energy cost is for each appliance.  Energy cost not only comes in your utility bill, but adversely affects the environment when that energy is derived from a fossil fuel ... coal, oil or gas.  The right choice of an appliance can save you money, not only in lower energy costs but in tax credits.  About 55% of the energy used in a typical home goes toward heating and cooling.  You can receive a $150 tax credit for buying an energy-efficient furnace or boiler and a $300 credit for an efficient central air conditioning system or water heater.  The Energy Star website (www.energystar.gov) lists all eligible purchases.  If you are looking for a new TV, Energy Star currently only compares the energy used when the set is nominally off, but a bigger difference can be when it is on.  A 28” CRT set uses $30 worth of energy per year, but a 60” plasma type set uses $130 per year ... more than twice what a good refrigerator will use. 
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February, 2008 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Recycling saves.  Not only does it save money for the municipality within which the recycling is done, but it saves energy for those who use recycled material rather than virgin material.  The City of Racine saves because it actually gets paid slightly over $3/ton and saves the $32/ton tipping fee which it must pay to the land fill.  A recent article in National Geographic lists the energy – number of BTUs – saved per ton of recycled material when products are manufactured using the maximum percentage of recycled material, compared with virgin materials alone.  For aluminum cans it is 206 million BTUs; for carpets it is 106 million BTUs; for copper wire 83 million BTUs; for plastic such as LPDE, HDPE and PET it ranges from 53 to 57 million BTUs.  For aluminum, this is a 95% savings; for plastics it is 70%; for steel, the most recycled material because of the automotive industry, it is 60% and for paper and glass it is 40% and 30% of the energy.  Saving energy cuts down fossil fuel use and that combats global warming.  So, do you recycle as much as you can?

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March 2008 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

While on a stewardship call on a cold, rainy autumn evening, the young man who opened the door was barefoot and dressed in T-shirt and shorts.  His home was that warm.  If you don’t have to wear a sweater in the winter, your thermostat is set too high!  You are wasting money, using up more fossil fuel than is necessary, and adding to the excessive amounts of green house gases (carbon dioxide in this case) that are causing rapid climate change.  One part of climate change, and only one part, is global warming; another is increases in extreme weather.  We can save some money, improve our health and reduce climate change by turning down the thermostat in winter and turning it up in the summer.
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April 2008 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

On April 22nd, America will celebrate the 38th anniversary of the first Earth Day, established through the efforts of Wisconsin’s Senator Gaylord Nelson.  Many churches will honor this event with special liturgies and hymns on the Sunday before, April 20th.  At this time, I do not know what our congregation will be doing.  On the following Saturday, April 26th, many organizations will be working on projects throughout the city and county to clean up, to remove invasive, alien plant species from our parks and pathways, to plant, to teach children about the natural life around us all and to teach adults what they can do to fight global warming and improve our environment.  Most of the projects are in the morning, starting at 8:30 or 9:00.  The Sierra Club and I will be working in Colonial Park at the foot of West High Street.  Come join us or any of the other projects going on that day (see the Volunteer Center’s web site).  We are not worshiping the creation, but honoring the creator by caring for his creation.

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May 2008 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Congregations in Racine, Madison, and presumably several other cities have set up a friendly competition to see which congregation can record the highest proportion of “sustainable travel” to church on a chosen weekend in May.  “Sustainable travel” includes anything other than driving alone – such as carpooling, bicycling, walking or riding the bus.  It may be too late (or too inconvenient) for us to participate this year, but we can certainly promote the idea that sustainable travel honors Creation and the Creator.  The apostles walked.  Considering sustainable travel, both to church and during the rest of the week, often highlights the difficulty of doing so.  Bicycles need a tune-up after winter; we don’t have enough secure places to park them.  Pedestrian access, other than from the parking lot, may not exist or at least is not easy.  Traffic may be hazardous.  We don’t know which of our neighbors are planning to attend church on a particular weekend and so would carpool with us.  The rationales are numerous, but with the rising cost of gasoline, we should be able to figure out ways to reduce our carbon footprint on a weekend in May and on the other 364 days of the year.

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June 2008 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, be a better environmental steward, and save money, slow down.  The easiest and most effective way to save gasoline is to slow down on your highway driving this summer.  The Union of Concerned Scientists has shown that dropping from 70 to 60 mph improves fuel efficiency by an average of 17.2 percent.  Dropping from 75 to 55 mph improves fuel efficiency by an average of 30.6 percent!  That is like paying 30 percent less for your gasoline ... $2.80 instead of $4.00 per gallon.  Leaving a little earlier not only is easier on the environment, but also on your nerves and your pocketbook ... and that is good stewardship.  Also, be sure to check your tire pressure before starting out.

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July 2008 –– ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

I recently saw a common, plastic spoon mounted in a recessed picture frame, hanging on a wall.  Around the spoon was some text which in essence said:  Thanks to our modern technology and major investments, we are able to drill for oil, ship it half-way around the world, refine it, separate out the appropriate chemicals, polymerize those chemicals into long chains and then mold it into this shape.  Unfortunately, we do not seem capable of washing and reusing them.  Does the same technical capabilities and inabilities apply to our communion cups?

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Here is Pastor Kara's edited version after objecting to the last sentance and keeping my paragraph out of the July newsletter


August 2008 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
John Berge

I recently saw a common, plastic spoon mounted in a recessed picture frame, hanging on a wall. Around the spoon was some text which in essence said:  Thanks to our modern technology and major investments, we are able to drill for oil, ship it half-way around the world, refine it, separate out the appropriate chemicals, polymerize those chemicals into long chains and then mold it into this shape.  Think about how much energy we could save - how much we could reduce pollutions - how much less we could put in the landfill if we spend a bit more time together in the kitchen?  What practices do we need to change within our congregation to be more inventive than the folks who figured out how to make that spoon? 

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September 2008 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

With most of the summer’s heat and humidity probably behind us, you may be starting an outdoor construction project.  If you are, remember to choose products that conserve resources and minimize pollution.  When buying lumber, look for labels that indicate the wood comes from sustainably managed forests (Forest Certification programs).  Or consider composite lumber made from recycled plastic and wood wastes.  Avoid pressure-treated wood when possible, but if necessary, be sure to properly dispose of the sawdust and scrap.  Do not try to compost or burn this waste, especially in an indoor fireplace.  For ground-based patios, consider brick or paving stones.  Compared with poured concrete, they allow better water drainage and minimize storm runoff.  Consider the lifetime of your project and the furniture on it.  It is better to buy quality than to be frequently throwing out and replacing cheaper products.  Furniture constructed with composite materials made from recyclables can save frequent replacements while protecting our natural resources.
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October 2008 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

An organization called EcoMom™ inspired the following EcoChic Tips.  SHOP GREEN:  Read labels.  Clothing is changing.  Look for organics, sustainables, renewables and ingredients that help extend a product’s life cycle.  DON’T SHOP - SWAP:  Clothing swaps refresh a wardrobe.  GO VINTAGE:  It’s recycling and reusing.  DRIVE LESS:  Walk, bike or use mass transit.  DRIVE MORE...EFFICIENTLY:  Carpool, don’t idle during drop off and pick up or drive a hybrid.  BUY LOCAL AND ORGANIC PRODUCE:  Or grow it yourself.  REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE AND ROT:  The latter means composting – good for the earth, your garden and lawn.  CHANGE A LIGHT BULB:  Compact fluorescent lamps and LEDs are energy efficient.  TURN ON, TURN OFF, UNPLUG:  Your appliances don’t need to work while you’re at work.  CELEBRATE GREEN:  Let nature inspire your holiday and party themes.  RETHINK LAUNDRY:  Only run full loads, use cold water and line dry.  PLANT A PLANT:  It will beautify and absorb CO2.  CHOOSE WISELY:  Inform yourself about companies making an effort to improve the environment – ask questions, read labels and share information with friends. 

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November 2008 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

As we enter Wisconsin’s heating season, remember that it is good environmental stewardship to minimize our use of fossil fuels to heat our homes.  It also makes good “dollars and sense”.  To minimize your home’s carbon footprint here are some suggestions:  Check the caulking around all windows, doors and other openings.  Replace where needed.  Weather-strip around all doors leading to the outside and don’t forget the door or trapdoor up to an unheated attic.   That shrinkable plastic film to place over windows may waste some plastic in the spring, but it can reduce drafts around the windows and raise the R-value to that of double- or triple-glazed windows.  Close off and don’t heat rooms that are not being used.  Install a programmable thermostat so that you don’t have to remember every night to turn down the temperature for when you are under the nice warm covers.  Also it can be programmed to warm up the house before you get up in the morning.  And finally, if you don’t wear a sweater in your house during our Wisconsin winters, your thermostat is set too high.  Turn it down to save money, protect the environment and fight climate change.

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December 2008 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

How green is your kitchen?  Not the paint color but how environmentally friendly is it?  Washing dishes by hand in a dish pan is more energy and water efficient than the dishwasher, but both are more efficient than using throwaway, single-use paper and plastic plates, cups, napkins, etc.  Big environmental savings are also available by being a “locovore”, that is, eating foods that are as locally raised as possible.  Your own garden is best; buying from local farmers’ markets and food stands being next best, especially if it does not mean a special trip.  When buying at the grocery store, check for place of origin.  Several stores in Racine sell southeast Wisconsin produce when available.  And do we really need fruits and vegetables that are shipped halfway around the world?  Preparing from scratch is generally better than serving commercially prepared foods or ordering in. Refrigerating leftovers instead of throwing them out is both economical and environmentally friendly.  Homemade soups can be a flavorful and eco-friendly way to use up leftovers.  Food scraps that can not be reused, other than meat products, should be composted and thus returned to the garden or lawn.

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January 2009 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Why should we oppose any and all coal-fired power plants?  Not only do they emit more climate changing carbon dioxide than any other source, but they also are the largest source of human-generated mercury, a potent neurotoxin affecting the learning ability of our children.  They produce more than 120 million tons of ash, slag and sludge annually – roughly the same amount as all municipal solid waste disposed in U.S. landfills each year.  To obtain the coal, mountaintop mining in Appalachia has buried more than 700 miles of some of the most biologically diverse streams in the country.  And fine particulate pollution from U.S. Power plants cuts short the lives of approximately 24,000 people each year – 50 percent more than are murdered annually.  Environmental stewardship should also mean good citizenship.

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February 2009 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

As I walked and drove on errands after Christmas, I saw the tremendous piles of trash placed out for collection and dumping into the landfill, “Mt. Trashmore”.   I was reminded of one of the first articles I wrote for this newsletter.  It was about a
young child overheard praying the Lord’s prayer, “ ...Forgive us our trash baskets ... “

While the child obviously had misheard and misspoke, there is much truth in the error.  A walk around the neighborhood on any trash collection day shows us the tremendous amount of material we throw out every week.  How much of that material should never have been bought?  How much is typical of an extravagant and affluent life style?  How much has good use left in it and should have been saved for the church’s rummage sale or a resale shop?  How much should have been recycled?  These questions apply to the church as an organization and as individuals.  Trash costs us and the environment much too much to continue this life style.  Why not start an informal competition in your neighborhood to see who can put out the least trash.  Pray that God will forgive us our trash baskets.

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March 2009 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

At the most recent Green Congregations meeting, the subject of recycling came up many times.  Many of us are trying our best to recycle as much as possible, but many are not.  Recycling saves raw materials, energy and landfill space.  Harris Poll® #67 taken some months ago showed that nearly one-quarter (23%) of all people do not recycle anything!  People on the east and west coasts do better than us in the midwest where 30% say they don’t recycle anything.  67% of adults say they recycle aluminum or metal cans, and 54% to 59% recycle glass bottles, plastic and paper.  81% of those of us over 62 recycle at least something compared to only 70% of the “echo boomers” (18-30).  And worst of all, only 2% say they recycle batteries, motor oil and other hazardous waste.  In the City of Racine, we can keep the hazardous waste out of our ground water, our neighboring land fill and the environment in general, by taking advantage of the Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collections on the third Saturday of each month, April through October.  Caledonia, Mt. Pleasant and North Bay residents can take their HHW to Franksville Park on June 20.  Wind Point has a HHW collection only every other year and this is not the year.
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April, 2009 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Are you a locovore?  Would you like to be one?  A locovore is a person who eats locally produced foods as much as possible, rather than food shipped hundreds or thousands of miles from their place of origin.  It has been said that eating just one-quarter of our food from locally grown sources saves more energy than recycling all of your household waste.  Growing your own food in your own garden is about as local as you can get, but Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) may be the next best thing.  CSA is a partnership of mutual commitment between a farm and a community of supporters which provides a direct link between the production and consumption of food.  You, the consumer, pays up front for fresh produce to be delivered or picked up weekly (usually from mid-June to mid-October).  The farmer agrees to supply you with fresh vegetables that are generally grown organically and guaranteed to be local.  The consumer, in essence, becomes part owner of the farm for the year.  Two such farms nearby are:  Pinehold Gardens in Oak Creek, David Kozlowski and Sandra Raduenz, 414-762-1301, or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and LotFotL Community Farm, Tim Huth at the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or www.myspace.com/lotfotl.  Why not investigate these or other CSA locations to see whether you want to become a locovore.
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May, 2009 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

About three-fourths of the people in Wisconsin use ground water for daily use at home; the others use surface water.  According to the U. S. Geological survey, the total amount of water used in Wisconsin for home, industry and agriculture is over one billion gallons per day!  So it is good stewardship to protect both our ground and surface water.  Two ways each of us can help is the use of rain barrels and rain gardens, both of which reduce the run-off of polluted water while increasing the amount of water that percolates into the ground, recharging the aquifer.  The Sierra Club sells rain barrels for $50.  Call Jeff at 262--637-6845 or e-mail him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  The collected rain water is great for watering house and garden plants and washing your hair.  Rain gardens might be a bit more work, but it is well worth it to see the water from your roof producing healthy plants and flowers instead of running down the gutters picking up debris and pollution along the way.  To learn how and where to build a rain garden and what to plant in it, attend one of the two remaining Rain Garden Workshops sponsored by the Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network:  Saturday, May 9, 9:30-11:30 a.m. in the Auditorium of the Racine County Ives Grove Office Complex, 14200 Washington Avenue, Sturtevant, or Saturday, May 16, 9:00-11:00 a.m. at the Southport Beach House, 7825 First Avenue, Kenosha.  They are free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required.  Call 262-898-2055 or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  
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June 2009 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

In some parts of the country, water shortages make it difficult, if not impossible, to keep up the style of living to which we have become accustomed.  In some parts of the world, water shortages are a matter of life or death.  We on the shores of Lake Michigan do not face these problems.  Still, we are encouraged to turn off the faucet when brushing our teeth, throttle back the shower and install low volume toilets.  Worthwhile as these efforts are, most of us tend to ignore a much larger water use called “virtual water”.  This is all the water used to raise the food we eat and to make the products we use.  According to an article in the latest Discover  magazine, it takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef!   Chicken and pork are somewhat better, requiring 470 and 580 gal./lb., respectively.  Wheat requires only 160 gal./lb. and rice 360 gal./lb.  Fruits and vegetables use even less water.  A pound of potatoes requires 110 gallons and an orange or apple requires only 13 or 18 gallons.  It should be noted that these crops may be using all this water in regions of the world where water is in short supply.  The worst part is not the virtual water in what we consume, it is the virtual water in the 30 to 50% of the food that is thrown away uneaten, or lost in harvesting, processing, transportation and storage.  We can save a lot of water, virtual or otherwise, by reducing waste and changing our eating habits.  It’s good stewardship to eat our fruits and vegetables.
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July 2009 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Are bioplastics, those made from corn starch, potato starch, cane sugar and soy protein, good for the environment?  Unfortunately, the answer is, “Not yet”.  These are advertised as renewable alternatives to petroleum-based plastics and we need to reduce our use of fossil fuels.  Bioplastics are designed to be composted, not recycled.  Mixing any of them in with conventional plastics for recycling will ruin the whole batch.  The bacteria in most home composting will not work at all on some of the bioplastics.  Most may require the high heat and humidity of an industrial composting plant.  As noted above, bioplastics are currently made from food crops, using large amounts of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that pollute our air and water, while many people in the world go hungry to meet our want for convenience.  Someday, we may have bioplastics in our grocery bags and other plastic items that are made from renewable, nonpolluting and nonfood materials.  Until then, we should reduce our use of disposable products, recycle our conventional plastic items, and look for the “compostable” label from the US Composting Council on anything labeled as bioplastic.
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August 2009 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

As I write this paragraph, we are having a cool snap but we all know it will get warm this summer.  In 2005, 91.4 million households in the USA consumed 258 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity running air conditioners; that is about $24 billion in energy costs and 171 million tons of global warming emissions.  So here are a few ideas for keeping cool without excessively warming up the outside.  Whole-house fans installed in the ceiling can pull in cool evening and morning air, forcing hot air out, using only one-tenth the electricity of an air conditioner.  Even if you use an air conditioner, the use of a ceiling fan permits setting it four degrees higher for the same comfort level.  Install an Energy Star-rated fan 10-12 inches from the ceiling.  Plant deciduous trees on the south side of the house for passive cooling in the summer.  Trees reduce the air temperature by as much as nine degrees.  Keeping an air conditioner in full shade can increase its efficiency up to ten percent.  Solar screens on the windows can block up to 90 percent of incoming solar heat without obscuring the view.  Awnings on west facing windows can reduce solar heat by 77 percent according to the DOE.  If you decide you must have an air conditioner, be sure that it is an Energy Star-rated model sized to your needs.  If all room air conditioners in the USA were Energy Star models, it would avoid 650,000 tons of global warming emissions – the equivalent of taking 115,000 cars off the road.

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September 2009 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

We Americans buy about three billion household batteries every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.  That is about ten per person and nearly all of them end up in landfills.  The Union of Concerned Scientists suggest that the next time you need to power up your gadgets, be good environmental stewards and choose rechargeable batteries instead.  Unlike disposable alkaline batteries, rechargeable batteries can be reused hundreds of times, which not only saves money and resources, but also reduces global warming pollution associated with battery manufacturing and transportation.  According to an independent study, using a disposable battery to create one kilowatt-hour of electricity has a global warming impact equivalent to driving a car 283 miles.  Using a rechargeable battery for the same power is equivalent to driving 10 miles!  Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) is the most common rechargeable battery and comes in most sizes.  Nickel-cadmium (NiCad) rechargeable batteries have more problems because of the toxicity of Cadmium.  Lithium-ion batteries are currently used mostly in high-end electronics, are more expensive, but have greater energy density.  Buy an Energy Star-rated recharger which can be 35% more energy efficient than the older models.  Solar-powered battery chargers require no power off the grid at all.  Also look for a “smart” charger that shuts itself off when the battery is fully charged.  In any case, unplug the charger when not in use, since it will otherwise still draw current.  When a battery has finally fulfilled its lifetime, dispose of it correctly where it was purchased, at a hazardous waste collection (3rd Saturdays in Racine), or at volunteer sites such as Battery Plus.

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October 2009 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Is your home’s landscaping hard on the earth and your budget?  About 30% of total household water usage is used to water our lawns according to the U.S. Geological survey.  Homes lacking shade trees can pay up to 25% more for heating and cooling according to research done by the Department of Energy (DOE).  Add to that the cost to the pocket book and the environment in water and soil pollution of the millions of pounds of fertilizer and pesticides spread on lawns each year.  So what to do?  Plant trees strategically.  Deciduous trees on the south and west sides of the house will give shade in the summer and let the sunlight in during the winter.  Evergreen trees planted on the north and windward sides can reduce heating costs.  According to the DOE, just three well-placed trees can offer yearly energy savings of $100 to $250, absorb global-warming carbon-dioxide and reduce storm-water runoff – good environmental stewardship.  One can further reduce outdoor water usage significantly by replacing some or all of your lawn with native plants and groundcovers.  Mulching around trees and in flower beds will save water and keep the soil cool.  Use hand and leg or electric-powered lawn equipment.  The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that gas-powered push lawnmowers emit as much nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons per hour as eleven cars; riding mowers emit as much as thirty-four cars!

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November 2009 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Advent Lutheran Church in Madison, WI, is reported by the Union of Concerned Scientists to be doing very well with their environmental stewardship.  When Pastor Jeff Wild arrived in 2000, he found that “the concern for creation and the environment among members was a very important part of this church’s mission”.  The congregation had already started a restoration of native prairie grasses on the church’s 7-acre site.  An appointed task force replaced old light fixtures and appliances with energy efficient models.  Professional assessors showed that their site was not a good one for wind power, but was situated in a perfect position for solar power.  So with a partial grant from Focus on Energy, they installed a 2.4-kilowatt solar array in 2002.  The solar panels and their efficiency measures have reduced their conventional electricity consumption by 40% and their annual carbon dioxide emissions by 22,000 pounds.

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December 2009 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Problems with burning leaves have been in the news lately.  To some the smell of leaf smoke evoke nostalgia for days past when we didn’t know any better.  For others, especially those with allergies, asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and other lung and heart diseases, it has meant misery, illness and retreating into the house.  Open air burning of just one ton of leaves (I believe that I raked at least that many this fall) produces 38 pounds of fine particulates, 26 pounds of hydrocarbons of various types and 112 pounds of carbon monoxide, which reduces the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen.  85% of those particulates are inhaled deep into the lungs and can enter the blood stream.  The hydrocarbons include seven which are known to cause cancer.  Among the products of combustion are several polyaromatic hydrocarbons and benzo(a)pyrene, a known carcinogen.  According to Dr. B. W. Carnow at the University of Illinois, benzo(a)pyrene is found in oak leaves in the same concentrations which exist in tobacco leaves and is directly related to the incidence of lung cancer.  So what to do with all those leaves?  They are of great value for mulching and composting.  If your municipality does not collect the leaves for composting, start your own compost pile in a back corner of your yard, add vegetable scraps and coffee grounds from the kitchen and harvest “brown gold” for your garden beds and lawn.  You will not only be a good environmental steward but a good neighbor, too.

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Note:  The January 2010 Environmental Stewardship article was written by Betsy Georg about a revitalization of the Green Team.
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February 2010 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Recently I had the opportunity to see a friend’s renovated kitchen with all LED under cabinet and other lighting fixtures.  What a pleasant and energy saving way to be good environmental stewards!  A six-watt LED (light emitting diode) generates more light than an 11-watt CFL (compact fluorescent lightbulb) or a 40-watt incandescent (Thomas Alva Edison’s old invention) while using 45 percent less electricity than the CFL and 85 percent less than the incandescent.  If every family in Mt. Pleasant Lutheran Church replaced just one 40-watt incandescent that is on for an average of six hours per day with a six watt LED, we would keep more than 33.5 tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere each year.  LEDs generate about 97 percent less heat than incandescent bulbs and so are advantageous in enclosed fixtures and other heat sensitive places.  CFLs last about ten times longer than incandescents 6,000 to 15,000 hours vs. 1,000 to 2,000, but LEDs last around 50,000 hours – nearly 23 years if used six hours per day – or more.  However, they still are initially expensive, about $35 for a 6-watt bulb, so I don’t expect many will fit out their entire house or church in LEDs until the price comes down.  But why not try one?
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March 2010 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Did you know that Carnival is derived from the latin carne vale and means farewell to meat?  At the most recent meeting of the Green Team Congregations, a program called Meatless Mondays was discussed.  This is a program started in association with the Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health that does exactly as it’s name suggests -- urges people to go meatless on Mondays.  In place of beef, chicken, fish or pork, substitute protein from beans, other legumes, eggs, nuts and seeds.  Why?  Going meatless once a week can reduce your carbon footprint, save money and precious resources such as fresh water and fossil fuel (especially with corn-fed beef), and may reduce your risk of chronic, preventable conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity through better nutrition and lower saturated fats.  By reducing our meat consumption by 1/7th, we each save up to 900 gallons of water per week to produce that meat.   We reduce our personal calorie intake by 450 calories and the energy to produce 8 ounces of beef rather than soy by 23,668 calories.  Need more information or meatless recipes?  Go to www.meatlessmonday.com.  So why not say “Carne vale” to meat on Mondays starting in Lent and continuing on throughout the year?
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April, 2010 – ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

Once upon a time, I tried to study our electrical usage by looking at the bill from the utility company or the meter outside the house.  Foolish, frustrating  and futile!  Appliances consume different amounts of energy at different times and the bills may be weeks after the fact.  Then I discovered that there are a growing number of plug-in devices which permit one to track electricity usage in real time.  A friend had a meter that I could borrow that tracks energy use of individual devices in real time.  According to an Oxford University study, this type of direct feedback on energy use typically helps homeowners reduce their energy consumption -- and costs -- by 5 to 15 percent and even more if it leads one to replace an energy glutton with a more efficient “green star” appliance.  If you don’t have a friend from whom you can borrow a plug-in meter, you can check one out at the Racine Public Library.  You simply plug the meter into an outlet and plug the appliance of interest into the meter, which displays the appliance’s electricity usage as it operates -- and even as it sits apparently doing nothing.  Many appliances, such as TVs, microwave ovens, computers and the like continue to draw current even when nominally off.  Unfortunately, these meters do not work for “hard-wired” appliances such as central air conditioners, water heaters, and ceiling fans.  For these, one must still go out and check the electricity meter as, for example, the air conditioner runs vs. when it is off.  Find the energy hungry appliances in your house and see if you can be a better environmental steward.  If there is enough interest, possibly the church could buy such a meter to lend out.
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Nay 2010 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John  Berge

Is environmental stewardship involved when one buys a new TV set?  Those who preach the simple life might say just don’t buy it and enjoy all that extra time to communicate with nature, your family, friends, neighbors and church.  But we know that others will say it is a necessary purchase (to watch all those nature programs and intelligent talk shows on public television).  There is an energy price with any new TV.  According to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, the more than 275 million TVs in this country consume over 50 BILLION KILOWATT-HOURS of electricity each year.  This is equivalent to the total output of more than 10 coal-fired power plants!  There are three HDTV technologies on the market today.  Although energy consumption varies widely between HDTVs, on average, plasma TVs are the least efficient, consuming 0.33 watt per square inch of screen, liquid crystal display (LCD) TVs are a little better at 0.28 watt per square inch, but the best choice from an energy standpoint is the rear-projection microdisplay (commonly known as DLP or digital light processing) at 0.13 watt per square inch.  Old cathode-ray tubes (CRT) averaged somewhere in between plasma and LCD. Energy use goes up with size and I have yet to meet the person that bought an HDTV smaller than their old CRT set.   Sets that meet the EPA’s 2008 standards can be up to 30% more efficient than those that don’t.  So look for the Energy Star label and check the energy use both when the set is on and when on standby.  Reducing energy consumption is good environmental stewardship.  The above data are from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
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June 2010 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by Lila Berge

The City of Racine has issued large blue bins for residents to use for recycling all sorts of household trash.  Apparently, many well-educated people have had difficulty these first few weeks following the well-distributed directions.  The every-other-week collection schedule and zone map were published in the Racine Journal Times, mailed to every resident who is eligible for trash collection -- complete with a refrigerator magnet showing the schedule -- and made available on the City’s website, www.racinerecycles.org.  The city is divided into two zones, green generally on the east side and gold on the west, for the alternate week pickups.

The bins have ID numbers on them because they are city property and, if lost or stolen, the numbers will aid return to the proper residence.   You can co-mingle all your recyclables according to the very complete listing on the top of each bin.  To keep down odors and not attract pests, it is recommended to rinse food containers before placing them in the bin.  If you tend to fill the bin too quickly, you might consider flattening tin cans, milk bottles, soft drink and beer containers.  This not only saves space, but can be a great way to release any violent urges. 

Recycling is required by state law; it is against the law to place a long list of recyclables into landfills.  Recycling will make our landfills last longer, save money for municipalities and taxpayers, and make our finite natural resources, including energy and fossil fuels, last longer.  Recycling materials is generally much more fuel efficient than using virgin material.  Recycling saves money and resources and is the right thing to do.
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July 2010 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge

It was recently suggested that I review the Environmental Stewardship articles we have written over the past five years and pick out the ten best suggestions.  Here are my picks in no particular order.

1.      “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” -- to which we can add “rot” (that is compost), “swap” and “donate” (to the church’s rummage sale).

2.      Drive a higher mileage car and reduce the total miles driven by walking, biking, carpooling, and limiting idling.  If we all averaged 40 mpg, we would save 3 million barrels of oil and 3.15 BILLION pounds of CO2 -- per day.

3.      Insulate, weather-strip and caulk the leaks in our homes and install a programable thermostat, set no higher than 68 in the winter and no lower than 76 in the summer.

4.      Be a “locovore” (eat locally grown food) as much as you can.  Buy at local farmers’ markets and make adjustments in your grocery store buying habits.

5.      Replace hot, inefficient, incandescent lamps with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light emitting diodes (LEDs).

6.      Use reusable shopping bags, NOT paper OR plastic.

7.      Try “Meatless Mondays” to save energy, water and calories.  It takes 1800 gallons of water to raise one pound of beef vs. about 100 gallons per pound of fruit or vegetables.

8.      Keep household hazardous waste out of our landfills and ground water by taking the appropriate items to the collections on the third Saturday of the month and medication drop-offs twice a year.

9.      Support renewable energies -- solar and wind -- rather than polluting fossil fuels -- coal and oil.

10.  Plant natural areas in your yard which will reduce herbicide, pesticide and fertilizer use; install rain barrels and rain gardens to reduce runoff.

August 2010 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP > by John Berge > > The word “refuse” has two related meanings depending on the pronunciation. As a verb with the accent on the second syllable, it means to turn down or decline to do something. As a noun with the accent on the first syllable it means the junk or trash of which we produce too much and recycle too little. How are they related to environmental stewardship? We can reduce some of that refuse (noun) if we refuse (verb) to accept all the single use items that are pushed on us every day -- the plastic bags to carry something already packaged, the foamed plastic cup or plate instead of a washable, reusable one, disposable flatware, most water bottles, even soft drink and beer contaners if they aren’t recycled. You can probably add much more to that list if each day you look to find what you can refuse to reduce the refuse. Let us add “refuse” to the usual “reduce, reuse, recycle”. > ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ >

October 2010 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP > by John Berge > > One source I read said that the average adult receives 41 pounds of catalogs and other junk mail per year. For a two adult household that is 82 pounds of paper. I assume that you are recycling all those catalogs and offers of things you may not want. But there is a better, more environmentally sound way to handle all this waste than shredding and recycling ... don’t receive it in the first place. Save all those trees or recycled paper, water, and energy, both in manufacture and in transportation. There are several ways to reduce the amount of junk mail you receive. One is to contact a web site specifically set up for that purpose such as CatalogChoice.org. According to their web site, 1,219,171 people use Catalog Choice to communicate with 3,076 companies. You select the company (after all, there are some catalogs you do want to see) and they deliver your opt-out request and keep track of the company’s confirmation, and it is free. Or, the Privacy Council can have your name removed from ten major mailing lists and keep them off. For more information on this service go to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . 41pounds.org claims their service stops 80-95% of unwanted catalogs and junk mail, keeping 100+ million trees in forest, protecting 28 billion gallons of water and not producing more CO2 than from 9 million cars. They charge a fee, but one-third of it is donated to the environmental or community organization of your choice. > > Or you can stop much of the junk mail yourself. Write in large letters on all forms “Please do not sell my name or address” whenever you donate money, order a product of service or fill out a warranty card. These cards probably should not be sent in. On the telephone, ask “Please mark my account so that my name is not traded or sold to other companies”. Many contests and raffles are also fishing for names and addresses. For sexually oriented advertising, fill out USPS forms 1500 (and you can define what is explicit for you). To stop credit card offers call 1-888-5 OPT OUT (or 1-888-567-8688). Or send a postcard or letter to Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, PO Box 643, Carmel, NY 15012-0643, with your name, address and zip code and a request to ”activate the preference service. This should stop mail for five years from all member organizations from which you have not specifically ordered products. > > If you want more means of reducing your junk mail, you can do as I did; run a Google search for “stopping catalogs. It is good environmental stewardship. > ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ >

November 2010 -- ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP > by John Berge > > A friend of a relative of a friend ... somehow overheard this conversation: > > GOD: Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet Earth? What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles. > > St. FRANCIS: It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers 'weeds' and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.* > > GOD: Grass? But, it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It's sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there? > > ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn. > > GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy. > > ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it -- sometimes twice a week. > > GOD: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay? > > ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. Many of them rake it up and put it in bags.

> > GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it? > > ST. FRANCIS: No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away. > > GOD: Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow, and when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away? > > ST. FRANCIS: Yes, Sir. > > GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work. > > ST. FRANCIS: You aren't going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it. > > GOD: What nonsense! At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It's a natural cycle of life. > > ST. FRANCIS: You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away. > > GOD: No! What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose? > > ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves. > > GOD: And where do they get this mulch? > > ST. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch. > > GOD: Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight? > > ST. CATHERINE: 'Dumb and Dumber', Lord. It's a story about....

> > GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

January 2011: Environmental Stewardship by John Berge

In areas without natural gas most of the electricity used goes to the furnace, the water heater, air conditioning unit, and lighting.  To those of us who use gas for those first two uses, lighting, appliances and electronic items such as TVs, computers, DVDs, Blu-ray players and the like are the big users of electricity.  We can reduce our use of electricity, and thus our carbon footprint, not only by using compact fluorescent lamps, but by how we use our appliances and electronics.  It was thought that increased efficiency would reduce our ever increasing need of electrical energy.  Our insatiable desire for the latest technical gadget has overcome the efficiencies.

Many electronic devices are not truly off when you switch them off.  The TV, microwave, DVD with its clock (blinking 12:00 all the time?) and computers that are not switched off at the surge protector are using electricity all the time.  The switch on a surge protector can be a significant saver of electricity as well as protection in a storm.  If something is not going to be used for a significant length of time, unplug it or otherwise cut off these energy drains.  While such “vampire” loads may be small, from 0.5 to 10 watts, it is estimated that a typical household will have 20 appliances pulling standby at any given time.

Other savings can be attained by looking for Energy Star-rated items.  This program, launched in 1992 by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency and U. S. Department of Energy, now covers more than 60 items.  For example, replacing a clothes washer made before 2000 with a 2010 Energy Star one could save $135 per year in electricity and also may save water, which requires energy to bring to your tap.  Replacing a refrigerator made before 1993 could save $65 annually.  The savings would be even greater if the old model is not in good working condition.  It can pay to invest in environmental stewardship.


 

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