Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Eco-friendly in Forest Lake

Faith Lutheran Church is taking care of the earth seriously

Although the north suburban ELCA congregation spent more initially for its eco-friendly heating and cooling system, Faith Church is expected to save in the long run in ongoing costs. The geothermal heat pump uses the ground temperature to heat and cool the congregation’s physical plant.

The system extracts heating/cooling energy from well water prior to returning the water to the ground. It is expected that heating and cooling bills will be as much as 50% lower than with a traditional heating-ventilating-air conditioning unit.

But that’s not the end of this congregation’s commitment to caring for the environment. Through a special arrangement (under the name “Air Care”) with the manufacturer, the congregation is offering for sale the Neuton® battery-powered lawn mower at a lower than factory-direct price through its Web site. The offer is also extended to other congregations and their members through an organization called Con-gregations Caring for Cre-ation. (Faith Lutheran re-ceives a small royalty for each sale generated through its Web site.)

How does the battery-powered lawn mower tie in with the congregation’s environmental concerns?

Don Berger, member of Faith Lutheran and state program administrator for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, points out that operating a gas lawn mower for one hour creates as much smog-producing pollution as driving a car 340 highway miles — equivalent to about 5,000 miles for a season’s mowing. He noted that recharging a battery mower using electricity produces some greenhouse gases but 64% less carbon dioxide than a gas mower equivalent.

“By plugging in and not gassing up, you consume 72% less energy overall,” Berger explained. He said that measurable differences can be obtained in Minn-esota’s air quality by doing something as simple as mowing lawns with a different type of mower.

A battery mower offers no-pull starting, no spark plugs, no seasonal tuneup cost, no mess in handling oil and gas and no exhaust fumes. The cordless mower can also be stored upright to save space. Recharging the battery costs about 10¢. Also, because the battery mower is so quiet, no hearing protection is required.

Berger said his 81-year-old mother had given up mowing her own lawn, but tried out the battery unit and found it so easy to use that she mowed half his lawn.

One downside is that, because of the shorter mower blade, it takes about 15% more time to mow a lawn. And, the mowers are not self-propelled. On the other hand, they are very lightweight.

Faith Lutheran’s construction and remodeling plan reflects a commitment to environmental stewardship by using engineering features and materials designed to reduce pollutants in the air and the nearby lake. Low impact design (LID) is being implemented where practical.

The Rev. Phil Peterson, who leads the 2,500-member congregation, says, “I had no idea when I came here 21 years ago that I’d be involved in a $5 million capital program.” A major feature of the current construction is a new multipurpose space for alternative worship services, community meetings and recreation. (The space includes a basketball court and stage.) A second floor is being added to the educational wing, and there’s renovation of older spaces, primarily for the music department. When completed, the project will nearly double the previous 24,000 square foot facility.

Don Berger states that the commitment to implement LID is supported by a partnership with Congregations Caring for Creation whose mission focuses on the “active care of creation as integral to spiritual life and social justice.” It provides leadership for those who want to accept personal responsibility and ownership for environmental stewardship, but don’t know where to start or how to make a difference. For more information on that organization, check its Web site: www.congregationscar

The Neuton® cordless electric mowers are available at below factory direct prices (including a six-month money-back guarantee and a free bagger attachment) only at the Faith Lutheran Web site, For more information about Faith Lutheran’s eco-friendly development project and the “Air Care” special on the mowers, call the church at 651/464-3323