Caroline Meyers is a pastor at Amherst South Congregational Church, a United Church of Christ located in Amherst, Massachusetts. Although a religious institution, The Amherst South Congregational Church has made considerable efforts in the environmental movement as well. Back in 2006, the Board of Trustees voted for a net zero energy usage goal. In 2007, while the church looked over plans for deferred maintenance that was finally being addressed, the opportunity to work towards the net zero energy use came into fruition. Meyers and her congregation raised the funds in order to fix the steeple, cellar, trusses, interior walls, exterior walls, and insulation. Much of the structure of the church was in dire need on repair with some of it dating by to 1824.
The renovation project did not just end with new walls and insulation. They also built a solar array on the south side of the roofs and converted the heating of the building from oil to electricity in 2013. The electric bill for the church in its first year on solar energy was just eight cents. Beyond big capital investment projects, the church has implemented smaller green projects such as planting rhubarb on their property and composting food.
Nevertheless, the funds for the renovation of the church were not just for the building itself. Ten percent of the funds were put aside for mission work with the Appalachia Service Project. Amherst South Congregational Church has works with Appalachia Service Project and has sent youth volunteers over the past several summers to help build and renovate homes to those in need. Amherst South Congregational Church hopes their work towards sustainability inspires other faith communities to follow suit. Furthermore, they want to send the message that religious institutions are not just closed systems and are also thinking about the welfare of the future.
By Helen Song ’14