Churches Can’t Afford Not to Embrace Sustainability

By Katrina Saucier

As you read the following case study, consider the implications that can apply to a church that chooses to embrace sustainability.

Recently, the largest family-operated distribution company in the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware area became involved with a program sponsored by ISSA, the nonprofit worldwide cleaning association.

The Distributor Efficiency Analytics & Learning program, better known as DEAL, is designed to work with distributors to help them reduce their environmental footprint and, in so doing, reduce operating costs. The program involves electronically measuring and monitoring the use of fuel, energy, water and other metrics using a cloud-based dashboard system. It also includes a behind-the-scenes team that reviews the metrics as they come in.

Not long after this distributor joined the program, the DEAL system noticed that every August — like clockwork — the company’s trash removal charges went up $200 a month. There was no explanation for this on the billing statements, and in most cases, the rate hikes slipped under the radar. The distributor paid them without question.

The dashboard team noted that the distributor was already paying more for trash removal than other members of the DEAL program. This alone raised red flags, but with the annual rate hikes, it became clear this situation had to be investigated. The distributor contacted the trash removal company, which not only reversed the $200 yearly rate increase but also suggested ways for the distributor to further lower trash removal charges, such as reducing the number of pickups per week and opting for larger trash bins.

With these changes implemented, the distributor found its waste removal charges were reduced by $17,000 in one year — all the result of getting involved in the DEAL program and becoming more sustainability-focused. We should note that although the DEAL program is designed for distributors, many types of facilities now use dashboard tools to help monitor, measure and reduce their use of natural resources, including churches.

Reducing operating costs like this is just one reason that church facilities should become more sustainability-focused — but with churches operating on such tight budgets, it is a crucial one. Many observers believe reducing operating costs is the number one driver for building owners and managers to get on the sustainability bandwagon.

A 2011 study titled, “Green Building Performance: A Post Occupancy Evaluation of 22 GSA Buildings” further verifies savings are possible. Although the study is a few years old, it is considered one of the most in-depth ever conducted on the subject.

It involved 22 federal buildings in the U.S. operated by the General Services Administration that had adopted green and sustainability operating measures.

According to Janelle Penny, an associate editor of, the study found that “on average, the representative buildings chosen from GSA’s portfolio regularly outperformed national averages of building performance data. These buildings use less energy and water and cost less to maintain, as well as emit less carbon dioxide and have more satisfied occupants than conventionally designed buildings.”

The Personal Aspects of Sustainability

While reducing operating costs may be the number one reason facilities are becoming more sustainability-focused, churches have another, unique reason to embrace sustainability: to attract younger congregants. Most church administrators are well aware that Millennials and what is now referred to as Generation Z are tech-savvy. However, there is much more to learn about these generations.

“One of the characteristics of Millennials, besides the fact that they are masters of digital communication, is that they are primed to do well by doing good. Almost 70% say that giving back and being civically engaged are their highest priorities,” said Leigh Buchanan, an editor-at-large for Inc. magazine who is quoted in the book, “The Multigenerational Sales Team.”

Giving back, church administrators may know, is one of the three key components of sustainability. The two others are profits (earned fairly and legally) and planet. A study conducted by Cones Communications in 2016 tells us even more about the younger generations and their focus on social and environmental issues. According to the study:

  • 64% consider a company’s social and environmental commitments before deciding to work for an organization.
  • 64% will not work for an organization that does not have strong corporate and social responsibility values (CSRs).
  • About 70% of all U.S. workers say they would be more loyal to a company if it were socially and environmentally focused; this number jumps to 83% for Millennials.
  • Finally, 88% say they find their jobs more fulfilling when their employers allow them to make their positive impact on the environment in the workplace.

Understanding the importance of sustainability to Millennials and Gen Z will help church administrators welcome these young people into their churches. Practicing sustainability demonstrates that the church has similar values as its new members, building trust and comfort. When that happens, churches can ensure new members become lifelong members.

Katrina Saucier is program manager for Sustainability Dashboard Tools, LLC, and also works with ISSA distributors involved in ISSA’s Distributor Efficiency Analytics & Learning (DEAL) program.

She identifies herself as a Xennial — born on the cusp of the Gen X and Millennial generations.

She can be reached at


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