Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The non-profit Sustainable Midlands says some 80 church congregations have made changes at their churches to officially qualify as green congregations.
"Environmental stewardship has really been, pun intended, an organic kind of thing," said Ellen Skidmore, senior pastor at Forest Lake Presbyterian Church. "It's grown through our faith into an expression of faith that I think a lot of people connect with."
The church's colorful gardens and filled compost bins match the palate of the building's stained glass.
"When we began it was a pretty bleak looking spot," said Margaret Harris, a member of the church who built a Wildlife Habitat Garden. "This garden supplies food and water for beneficial insects and birds and also makes a pleasant place for people as they're walking up to the church."
A full energy audit was done on the church's buildings and property as part of the initiative supported by Sustainable Midlands.
The audit gave the congregation new ideas on how to conserve and saved the church money.
"Out of that has come this replacement of light switches with timers," said Skidmore. "We actually insulated the ceiling of a building to lower energy costs to use less of the resources God's given us."
In the kitchen, ceramic plates replaced disposable products at church dinners.
"We have started composting," said Cindy Welborn, the church member charged with making the kitchen more sustainable. "Before, all the food went into the trash."
The compost is helping grow food in a vegetable garden on the church's campus.
Once harvested, all of the produce is donated to Harvest Hope Food Bank.
"This church is literally feeding it's neighbors and teaching the children and adults what it means to grow to be fruitful in the way that God intended us to steward the earth," said Skidmore. "This grows straight out of Genesis. We were given stewardship of the earth, so that's why we do this."