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Spotlight: First Presbyterian Church of Stillwater

The First Presbyterian Church of Stillwater, on Osgood Ave, has implemented various big and small projects to lower their carbon footprint over the past couple of years.

What is a Carbon Footprint: the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person, group, etc. This includes decreasing energy use and waste and increasing appliance efficiency.

From Melissa May, Chair of the Peace & Social Justice team,

We all want to save the planet (or at least ensure that we can still live on it) but where to start? At First Presbyterian Church of Stillwater, we took on projects big and small. Most of the big ones had to do with the building and grounds. Solar panels got installed, saving an average of $500 per month on the electricity bill. With a recycling grant from the county, we put in a system that includes composting. When the parking lot was redone, some permeable pavers were installed, along with rain gardens. Thermostats were replaced with new wireless pneumatic ones allowing rooms to be cooler when unoccupied. Motion sensors were installed where appropriate.
There were also many items that did not require digging deep into the pocketbook. Timers were added to lights, pumps, water coolers, and televisions. All light bulbs were replaced with LED bulbs. Purposely using washable dishes and flatware or compostable versions when needed to serve. Communion by intinction saves a lot of dishwashing. For events, pitchers of water instead of individual bottles were offered.

Outreach to the community is also in the plan. The summer program that the church hosts have so far built four naturescapes (playgrounds made with natural materials) at various schools in the area. Big River Farms has a produce stand in the parking lot every Wednesday during the summer. Carpooling is encouraged and there are bike racks available for those who wish to two-wheel it to church. One of the staff picks up the leftovers at Panera Bread one night a week and drops them off at a shelter in Minneapolis. The Alternative Gift Market that takes place every November offers fair trade items and opportunities to donate to various non-profits. First Presbyterian has reached out to other churches in the area to share ideas.
It does not happen overnight, but the more awareness there is, it seems that more opportunities for caring for our earth seem to show themselves.

CHECK OUT ALL of First Presbyterian Church's Energy Projects:

Office HVAC Wall Units

Expect rebate from Xcel Energy

  • Replacing three original (1968) office wall units that provide air conditioning and radiant heat (from hot water boiler lines) to the offices.

  • Will require draining and cutting the hot water lines connecting the boiler to all heating units in the building.

  • Estimated cost $13,500

  • Will include programmable thermostat for more efficient use and energy savings.

Wireless Pneumatic Thermostats with Controller

Expected rebate from Xcel Energy

  • Project estimate is $6,500

  • REplacing 10 old-style pneumatic thermostats with new wireless, programmable pneumatic stats ($300 each) that communicate with each other via a wireless radio mesh.

  • Adding a controller/server to program these new zones ($2,000) and control the sanctuary, thus giving us 24/7 programmability nd the option of offsite monitoring or access.

  • Will included Ark, Ark classrooms, Dining Room, nurseries, choir room, and children's choir room. More can be easily added later.

  • Currently, nearly every room with hot water heat is set at a constant temperature of 65-70 for the entire winter. With this upgrade, we will be able to make these rooms comfortable in the winter when they are being used, and then turn them down to 50 degree when they are unoccupied, saving energy and fuel costs.

Solar Panel installation (later summer or early fall)

Expected tax credits, energy credits, and our own discounted energy payments.

  • No up-front cost; uses the mechanism of a capital lease to allow the installer to collect tax credits we're ineligible to receive (as a non-profit).

  • 40 kw solar panel array will be installed on our flat roof

  • Will replace 60% of our electricity usage in a year.

  • Will save us 20% of the cost of that amount of electricity for 13 years, then 100% after 13 years (expiration of lease).

  • It requires no holes in the roof. Panel sleds are weighted down with concrete blocks

  • excess energy is sold back to Xcel

  • We will be able to monitor real-time energy production on the web and will have a display in the Gathering Area.

Other Energy-Saving Projects (90% complete)

Expected energy rebates

  • Replacing Parking Lot 400-watt metal halide bulbs with LED bulbs

  • Adding digital timers on all three parking lot lights

  • Adding a timer to the hot water recirculating pump

  • Adding shutoff switches to both coffee makers

  • Adding timers to water coolers and switches to televisions and other equipment to save energy when not in use

  • Adding digital thermometers to all four entryway vestibules to monitor temperature and keep it as low as safely possible in winter

  • Adding a digital programmable thermostat to the front entryway to better control the 10,000-watt heater (summer)

  • Added new external mailbox near the main entrance and sealed off old, drafty mail slot in North entrance

  • New LED light over the piano.


Is your Stillwater business or organization taking action to be more sustainable and lower your carbon footprint? If so, let us know and we will spotlight you!

Criteria for the spotlight:

  • Business/Organization name and description.

  • 300-500 word essay of what your business or organization is doing to be sustainable.

  • 1 to 3 pictures depicting your efforts.

  • Simple bulleted list of all your big and small projects (can vary in detail).

  • Send your information to

Sustainable Stillwater MN is working on creating a Green Business Directory for the Greater Stillwater Area for certified green business (we are currently in the planning stages). However, we want to continue spotlighting local businesses and organizations that are working towards being more sustainable and lowering their carbon footprints.

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