AFM Environmental Initiatives

Environmental Harmony, Annapolis Friends Meeting

Pagemaster: Bob Bruninga, PE
Meeting House and Lands Committee
lastname @ usna.edu
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Disclaimer: This page is not intended to be an official minute of AFM but is more of an informal summary from an individual's perspective


Environmental Heritage: Quakers have a tradition of peace, simplicity and a testimony for the stewardship of the Earth. When clearing the land for our 1992 new meeting house, horse power (a Clydsdale and his birthright Quaker owner from the Eastern Shore) was used for some initial clearing of the land rather than dirty diesel power. It was the scariest thing to me to see a water heater come flying up out of the ravine hitched to a Clydsdale running away at full speed!

AFM Climate Change Minute and Greater Annapolis Group: In 2014 AFM approved a climate change minute that describes human responsibility for the increasing risks being created by global warming and advocates the weaning of our economy from its reliance on fossil fuels. To help extend our concern about the impacts of climate change, and to organize for private and public actions to reduce the burning of fossil fuels, AFM has facilitated the formation of the Climate Stewards of Greater Annapolis -- a group that welcomes everyone in our local area who is concerned about global warming. For more information, contact Phil Favero at pgfavero@gmail.com.

Rainwater Runoff: AFM supports the state/county initiatives to reduce storm-water runoff. We have no objection to paying the recently enacted Bay-saving runoff fee since it's goal is the same as ours, to clean up our environment. For years we have had rain-barrel collection systems and rain gardens for our building runoff and our parking area was intentionally all gravel to help with absorption. What runoff that remains from the parking lot is routed to a 20' deep 10' diamter dry well that prevents any further runoff into the Luce Creek watershed.

Interfaith Youth Trail: We are committed to living in harmony with our environment and our small 5 acres of woods and stream. While searching for a home in the 1980's we found our land as an abandoned dump on the outskirts of Annapolis. We are proud of our years of work in cleaning it up and enjoy an annual participation with other local groups to clean up the Luce Creek Watershed. As part of that effort we maintain a nature trail and have connected it to the Unitarian Trail next door. But there is an even larger potential to extend this trail throughout the Luce Creek watershed area to as many as a dozen other Faith and Youth groups. We call this the Bestgate Interfaith Youth Trail and. are soliciting the participation of all adjacent landowners in their areas of the watershed.

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ENERGY: Our peace testamony recognizes the instability of the human condition in our competition and greed for fossil fuel resources. Around 2009 we began to consider our fossil/carbon footprint an its impact on our environment and conflict around the world. Almost everything we consume to date has originated with the burning of fossil fuels. This course is simply not sustainable and as a spiritual society with concerns for our fellow man and woman we hope to do what we can in sustaining our future for the long term. In our fossil fuel burning pie at right, the bulk of our meeting's consumption and damaging emissions comes from coal for electricity, propane for heating, and gasoline for driving to and from meeting. All of these needs, now in the 21st century, can be not only be met with clean renewable energy from the Sun and wind, but they are actually more economical in the long run!

Wind Electricity: In 2011, AFM signed up for 100% clean renewable electricity from our utility via Interfaith Power and Light of DC/MD/VA. They aggregate congregations into collective bargaining with Groundswell to find the lowest cost renewable energy sources. This eliminated our use of coal and oil fired electricity. This was as easy as signing a piece of paper and by being a member of the larger faith collective, our electricity was even slightly less than the existing utility electric rates.

Our own Solar Array: But an even better and more direct way to generate clean renewable solar energy is with our own solar panels. So at the same time we began to investigate our own system and in January, 2014, AFM switched 90% of our electric load to our own clean renewable Solar Energy system. The 10% remaining electricity comes from our wind contract above.

EV Charging Support: As we look at our buildings and grounds for ways to reduce our carbon footprint, it is easy to overlook one of the biggest consumption of fossil fuels in our spiritual lives, and that is the consumption of gasoline driving to and from meeting. Take 100 cars driving 10 miles on Sunday and as much as 33 gallons of gasoline may be being burned. Far more than it takes to heat the building and light the lights. So, earlier in 2011 we had also taken the initiative to encourage members to consider an electric vehicle (EV) for clean renewable local transportation. Already about 1/3rd of our members were driving hybrids or high mileage cars so it was clear that EV's were the next step for some. To be ready, we simply extended two standard 120 volt electric outlets for charging member's cars when driven to meeting. During 2 hours at meeting, the EV's can replenish about 10 miles to secure their ride back home for the cost of about 40 cents. We have also been able to spread this idea to several other churches and institutions in the area.

Geothermal Heating possibility: After our successes with solar and EV's, our next greatest fossil fuel consumption is the $4000 a year for 1000 gallons of propane for heating. Over the 20 years in our new building, the cost of propane has more than quadrupled. In 2013 when oil (and propane) approached $4 a gallon these systems are now even more expensive than straight electric heating which has always been the most expensive kind of heating there is. We should consider switching our heating from propane to 100% renewable energy. If we switch to geothermal and install a ground-source heat pump, we can save nearly 60% of our heating energy since 60% of the heat comes from the ground. The 40% needed to pump that energy comes from electricity, which in our case is already 100% renewable with our solar and wind projects. Further, the increase in electric demand due to heatpump heating will be somewhat offset by the higher efficiency and lower electirc usage of the geothermal heatpump during the summer in for Air Conditioning. If we need more solar then, we can add to our array as needed at that time. So, as we ponder the eventual replacement of our 20 year old HVAC systems, it is time for us to consider a geothermal heating/AC system.

WE CAN DO IT! The amazing thing is that it is CHEAPER to switch our energy systems to renewable than it is to continue with Fossil fuel! First of all, do not get mislead by arguments of BREAK-EVEN or PAYBACK since payback is from day-1. See the the breakeven discussion.

Second, do not be misled that it is too late and it is impossible to get there from here. The slide at right show's one family's wake-up call in 2006 time frame when they realized the nearly 3000 gallons of fossil fuel they were using at ever increasing cost.

  • First, they bought hybrids for their next cars and reduced gas use in half
  • Next, they installed solar (for heating) - reduced fuel oil 200 gal
  • Next was Geothermal - eliminating the remaining 800 gal/year
  • Then they increased electric offset with additional solar in 2014
  • Next they are switching remaining electricity to Wind via Groundswell
  • Next will be an EV for one of the cars to reduce another 300 gal/yr
  • Finally in 2015, reduce electric to near zero with final solar system

    At this point by 2015, all of this family's energy consumption has been moved to electric, and all electic is derived from 100% renewable solar or wind. This includes even the electric lawn mower, electric tools, and even an electric boat! And the cost amortized over the next 10 years is cheaper than doing nothing and continuing to pollute our future.

    Land Conservation and Nature Trails:

    The Annapolis Friends Meeting is located in a natural area in the Luce Creek Watershed off of the Severn River. Their are no roads through the watershed, but there are about a dozen or so churches and other youth oriented areas surrounding the central natural area. As noted above, we have an initiative to connect our nature trails (shown below) to other Faith and Youth groups in the area.

    Luce Creek Watershed: In our busy daily lives as wwe zoom up and down Bestgate Road we are hardly aware of the large wilderness area behind us. Even though we may drive all the roads in the area, we probably do not see the size of this last wiilderness area in the Annapolis Area. The Unitarians and Annapolsi Friends Meeting have long been involved in protecting the natural beauty of this area. Although the south side of the creek has been a dumping ground for most of the last century, most of it is grown over and with several clean up weekends, tons of junk and surfrace debris from old cars and appliances and thousnad of broken bottles have been removed. An outline of the watershed and the possible location of the Interfaith Youth Trail is shown below.

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    Bob Bruninga, PE
    lastname@usna.edu