First Lutheran Church


What: Implemented organics recycling and improved single stream recycling.

Why: To extend care and sustainable resource use to people and the planet.

How: Worked with Waste Wise to receive Anoka County Non-Residential Recycling grant to get new bins, signs, and compostable products.

Results: Diverting 12,360 pounds of organics recycling and 4,160 pounds of recycling annually. 

First Lutheran Church of Columbia Heights

First Lutheran Church’s Board of Spiritual Growth saw an opportunity to encourage better stewardship of resources through composting and improved recycling.

As a member of the board in 2016, Laura Grunloh worked with board members, Waste Wise and church leadership to help institute improved recycling practices throughout the church. Waste Wise was able to meet with Laura and the custodial team in order to map the building and develop a plan for implementing an organics recycling program that would allow First Lutheran to begin diverting their food waste, paper towels, and compostable food service materials from the trash.

Following grant approval, high quality color coded bins were delivered to the church. They hosted a “launch party” event in February 2017. Enthusiastic congregation members attended to help custodial staff assemble, label and place the bins throughout the church. The event also included training and education about what materials could be collected through the new, expanded program.

At the same time, First Lutheran received a shipment of compostable products that would allow the majority of their food service waste to be composted. With all of the physical tools in place, it was time to start educating staff, after school program students, and the congregation. Waste Wise and Laura were able to coordinate and lead both a staff training and a time for the children involved in the after school program to learn about composting and recycling. The results of the training were felt right away; Nathan Roberts, director of community engagement, said, “The children really do understand where to put stuff and are open to learning about this.” He added, “Since our program is a little different than the schools that these students come from, we made some of our own signs with the actual materials glued onto them.”

In order to show the “full circle” nature of their successful organics recycling program, First Lutheran decided to host a Plate to Garden event where they bought back some of the compost generated by their recycling efforts, and sold it at a charity event. They even had some left over compost they were able to spread on their own community garden that produces nutritious food for SACA, a local food shelf.

With a new school coming into the church next year, First Lutheran has high hopes that the organics recycling program will expand to include their lunch service and really divert a lot of waste. First Lutheran is already diverting 12,360 pounds of organics recycling and 4,160 pounds of single stream recycling from the trash stream! During a recent sermon Pastor Jill Bergman really did a great job of summarizing the importance of the new recycling program saying, “It’s no longer good enough for the people of our church to do God’s work, our building needs to be helping us care for people and the environment too, and that’s what we’re doing now!”