"We are spirits of the earth and it's our responsibility to take a pro-active approach," Beard said while holding a high-efficiency light bulb in the church sanctuary on Friday. The bulb was an example of the money and energy-saving changes Beard and other congregation members have implemented at SUMC.
Lighting, plumbing, heating and cooling upgrades have significantly cut electricity and water consumption at the church. The changes increased up front costs but have reduced operating expenses in the long run said SUMC Reverand Tom Butler.
Older buildings, even a century-old church, can be more energy efficient or "green".
Ben Machol of the Environmental Protection Agency rewarded the church congregation with the EPA's Energy Star Award on Friday. According to an EPA press release, the church has cut electrical costs by $30,000 per year, water consumption by ten percent and annual greenhouse gas emissions by 160 tons. The Sparks church is one of three in the U.S. to receive the award.
"The church has demonstrated a committment to the environment and public health while saving money," Machol said.
The award drew praise from Nevada Senator Harry Reid and Sparks Mayor Geno Martini.
"I'm very impressed," Reid said. "Every church, every building, has the ability to do this."
"What an example they've set for the other churches," Martini said.
Flourescent lighting fixtures can be upgraded, at low cost, saving energy at any church or small business, Rev. Butler told a television reporter. Energy upgrades at SUMC will continue with roof-top solar panels a possibility if they become less expensive, Butler added.
The church, founded in 1906, provides free breakfast for low-income elementary school students, pre-school and kindergarten education, senior outreach and shelter for homeless families through the "Family Promise" program.