Environmental Conservation and Stewardship Efforts

Environmental Conservation and Stewardship Efforts

Additional Resource

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints strives to be a good steward of the environment, to conserve and manage energy appropriately, to utilize water resources for the benefit of food production and beautification, to minimize or reduce pollution and waste, to be a good neighbor and to maintain its properties in a cost-effective and sustainable way.

Green Building Initiatives

The Church owns and operates a significant number of buildings worldwide. The Church also constructs many new buildings each year, including temples, meetinghouses, welfare facilities, Church Educational System (CES) facilities, family history centers and other structures. As a property owner, the Church recognizes that constructing, operating and maintaining facilities can impose a significant impact on the earth’s resources and on the environment. For this reason, the Church has implemented a green building initiative in which sustainable design and construction principles and practices have been researched and, where possible, incorporated to increase energy efficiency, lower operating costs and make the facilities easier to maintain.

The application of this initiative can be seen in many of the Church’s recent projects, including the Conference Center, the Family History Library, City Creek Development, a number of newly constructed meetinghouses and several urban meetinghouses that have incorporated green roof technologies. Many of the facilities have received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification in various categories from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

Also, the Church utilizes the expertise of its staff — including architects, engineers and other professionals who are LEED Accredited Professionals (LEED AP) — in an effort to be more sustainable. These professionals have been trained and accredited under the direction of the USGBC and Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) as qualified green building experts. The Church also has organized the Church Environmental Coordinating Committee, Green Building Committee and other related groups made up of employees from various departments.

The Church recognizes the importance of conserving energy and natural resources; not polluting the environment; preserving the health, safety and welfare of the occupants of its facilities; and complying with the local laws and ordinances as outlined in current green building codes and rating systems. Green building strategies vary from location to location and require site-specific application.

Energy and Water Conservation

Recent efforts have been made by the Church to reduce its energy footprint and conserve water and other natural resources. 

Projects have been undertaken to manage heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and install more energy efficient lighting. At Church headquarters, 11 lighting projects, many involving LED lighting, were completed between October 2012 and June 2014. The total annual energy savings is more than $282,000. Additional projects are planned for 2014.   

The Church seeks to follow environmentally friendly practices in landscaping and water conservation. Best management practices are utilized for all new landscape designs and remodel projects of meetinghouses, welfare facilities and seminary and institute buildings. They include the conservation of water and natural resources, reduction of maintenance, long-term cost savings, neighborhood beautification and natural enhancement of Church buildings.

At Church headquarters, the irrigation system has been upgraded, using more efficient smart controller technology to reduce water usage. Thirty-two controllers have been installed at the properties maintained by grounds crews. A water savings of at least 30% is anticipated as the new controllers are brought up to their full capacity. The Church is also investigating applying for a rebate from the Central Utah Water Conservancy District for installing these controllers.   

The Church’s guideline for soil is to utilize existing material as much as possible and amend it as needed. The importing of soil occurs but is discouraged. Using soils in place helps landscape projects more easily integrate with native soil and plant conditions and thus conserves natural resources.

The Church has embraced the adaptation of eco-regions from the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation and then created suitable prototypical landscape plans for its facilities. These landscape and irrigation plans were created to consider regional and natural limitations. Hotter, drier areas, for instance, have significantly reduced water-consuming lawn areas. Irrigation conservation efforts include use of smart controllers, hydrometers, rain sensors, drip irrigation, head-to-head coverage, high distribution uniformity and secondary or reclaimed water.

The Church has assembled an extensive database of plant materials that are found to thrive in certain soil types, which allows suitable plant selection based on appropriateness of the region, aesthetics, resistance to cold temperatures and the amount of sun exposure and water needed.

Church orchards are utilizing mating disruption pheromones to reduce pesticide sprays and reduce the amount of diesel fuel that would have been required to apply the pesticides. Crops are rotated on Church farms generally on a four-year rotation to prevent disease, which reduces the need for pesticides.

Recycling and Land Management

Recycling is another example of the Church’s overall conservation effort. In 2013, the Church headquarters campus recycled about 180 tons of cardboard, 65 tons of paper, 26 tons of plastic and 2 tons of aluminum. That same year, the LDS Printing Division recycled about 4,400 tons of paper, 180 tons of plastic, 130 tons of cardboard, 56 tons of metal, 30 tons of leather and 250 gallons of used oil from machinery. Similarly, in 2013, Beehive Clothing recycled about 24 tons of rags, 24 tons of cardboard, 25,000 plastic pallets and 2,000 wooden pallets. In 2013, Salt Lake Distribution Services recycled about 1,000 tons of paper, 150 tons of cardboard and 1,000 pounds of metal.

In 2013, Deseret Industries recycled about 13,000 tons of clothing, 870 tons of shoes, 3,100 tons of household goods, 3,400 tons of books, 5,500 tons of metal and 4,000 tons of electronics. Humanitarian aid donations included about 3,800 tons of clothing and 350 tons of shoes.

Additional examples of conservation efforts by the Church include no-till dry farming and the use of new tillage equipment that is more efficient in reducing erosion and retaining moisture, as well as good range management practices to avoid overgrazing. Public lands are also used for grazing.

Community gardens in the western United States are sponsored to give people an opportunity to grow nutritious foods and reduce costs. In Utah, there are volunteer farms that produce crops for the bishops’ storehouses and local community food kitchens. 

In addition to offering aid, the Church works to promote self-reliance for those it helps. The LDS Charities organization targets families living in urban and rural areas and teaches them sustainable techniques for food production, nutrition, diet and home food storage. Through demonstration gardens and hands-on workshops, families learn to grow vegetables and fruits or raise small animals appropriate to their circumstances. In 2013, 43 projects were initiated to improve food production in local community settings in 20 countries around the world.

In conclusion, the Church actively seeks to remain informed and engaged about matters of environmental conservation, and steps have been taken to make its facilities more sustainable.

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