Volunteers Make A Difference Greening The Places They Love

By Johanna Schweiss,
USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator

All of us at the USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter believes that everyone deserves to live, work, learn, and play in green and healthy spaces. Every year we make progress towards our goal of transforming the built environment, and 2015 has been no exception, largely due to the hard work of our volunteers!

Many USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter volunteers serve on standing committees, supporting our organization to provide high quality educational programming, engaging and retaining members, marketing the benefits of green building, and advocating for green building practices. They also serve the community, supporting non-profits, houses of worship, and schools to adopt environmentally friendly practices, with a goal of greening the places we love – because where we live, work, learn, and play matters!

In the 2nd annual Green Schools Quest, volunteer mentors assisted 38 schools to devise and implement low or no cost sustainability projects. School and mentor teams took on a wide variety of projects: implementing recycling and composting, creating and restoring green spaces, exploring and conserving energy, encouraging alternative transportation, reducing paper use, and more. Last year, Green Schools Quest participants at public, private and charter schools in Missouri and Southern Illinois totaled nearly 4,000! And the third annual Quest is now underway with 45 school and mentor teams. Hard working volunteer mentors and Green Schools Committee made these impressive impacts possible!

With the Pope’s recent encyclical on the need to care for creation and a growing understanding of the threats of climate change, faith communities of all types are exploring opportunities to be stewards of our environment. USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter volunteers, together with volunteers from Missouri Interfaith Power and Light, have been working to support congregations to reduce their environmental footprint and reduce operating costs.

At the Green Your House of Worship Workshop in February, USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter volunteers supported congregations to explore green strategies and begin developing a sustainability action plan for their houses of worship. Participants discussed opportunities for their houses of worship to better serve their congregations through water and energy efficiency, waste diversion, green purchasing, and responsible site maintenance.

Often, implementing low or no cost energy efficiency strategies can create large savings in utility costs, creating opportunities for anyone working with a limited budget to invest needed funds directly into their mission! The first step towards understanding the potential for energy savings is energy benchmarking – the process of tracking energy use over time and comparing performance to similar buildings. At a recent event in October, USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter volunteers assisted building representatives from schools, congregations, and businesses of all sizes to benchmark their energy consumption using the free on-line tool ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.

2016 marks the USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter’s 15 year anniversary, and we will be celebrating our volunteers’ many accomplishments. We are looking forward to many more years of working to ensure that everyone has access to green and healthy spaces to live, work, learn, and play.

You can learn more about the USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter and our volunteers at www.usgbc-mogateway.org.