The Hebrew Scriptures contain an important message about stewardship of the earth: God created the earth, but put human beings in charge of caring for God’s creation. This important teaching is instilled into our philosophy of maintainers of our environment.
The Second Vatican Council points out that, through work, we build up not only our world but the Kingdom of God, already present among us. Work is a partnership with God—our share in a divine human collaboration in creation. It occupies a central place in our lives as Christian stewards.
Sustainability—meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs—has been a part of Saint Martin’s Abbey since its founding in 1895. The pioneer monks carefully managed the surrounding forests to provide shelter and food for the community while at the same time preserving these resources for our enjoyment today.
The old farm that once provided the monks and students with food is now replaced by meadow and much woodland, which is our primary environmental activity. No tree is cut down unless it is assured that other trees are planted to maintain the forest that surround our campus. Over 2,000 trees have been planted between 2012 and 2014. Our Arbor Vita Committee includes university personnel and monks who meet regularly to discuss issues related to tree health and replanting. This is an important way to keep our forest as a model for our local community that surrounds the campus.
“The University’s goal from the beginning was to earn LEED Platinum Certification for our engineering facility, which we designed to be a teaching and learning tool, inside and out,” explains University President Roy F. Heynderickx, Ph.D. “Stewardship is one of the values inherent to our Catholic, Benedictine philosophy of education, so it is especially meaningful to the Saint Martin’s community to be recognized as a leader in sustainability.” “A spirit of responsibility drove the Cebula Hall project forward,” Heynderickx adds. “As we began planning the structure, we committed ourselves to being conscientious stewards of both the environment and the funds raised for the building.”
Saint Martin’s University has reason to celebrate: It is home to the third-highest-ranked LEED Platinum certification building in the world.
Saint Martin’s Abbey, committed to sustainability efforts, maintains three buildings on campus: the Abbey Church, the Monastery, and the Saint Raphael Center. In 2012, the Abbey installed a state-of-the-art energy-efficient dual 10-ton heat pump system (Trane TWA120D) with the newest economizer controls in the abbey church. The economizer controls contains a CO2 demand control ventilation and a programmable thermostat in compliance with 2009 WSEC controls requirements. Later, in 2017, The Abbey invested in yet another “latest” with the installation of a new combined 18-ton ductless heat pump system in Saint Raphael Center. This system is a Variable Refrigerant Flow Multi–Split Air-Conditioner and Heat Pump Heat Recovery System (VFR-HR), which operates at maximum efficiency by moving heat from room to room instead of pulling from the outside only. Each room of the Abbey Guest House has this functionality with each room and guests may enjoy a constant and accurate temperature in each room too for heating and cooling any time of the year. In addition to the heat pump system, the Abbey replaced the original windows (installed in 1924) with new state of the art windows of the St. Raphael Center.
In the monastery, the abbey replaced all the aluminum framed windows with new energy saving vinyl, double-pane insulated glass with heat-resistant and ultraviolet coatings that were installed after the 2001. All new installation of lighting shall support LED lamps. All cleaning work in all abbey facilities is done with microfiber cloths, water saving mops, green seal certified cleaning chemicals and paper products.
The Abbey is committed to operating highly-efficient energy-star rated consumer washer machines for individual monk’s laundry in the monastery. The Abbey Guest House laundering is done using the same machines. The Abbey, in conjunction with Saint Martin’s University, participated in a Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater Treatment (LOTT) grant project, installing 29 low-flow dual-flush toilets and four pressure-assisted gravity-fed style toilets (1.6 gallons or less per flush) in the monastery, Abbey Church and Saint Raphael Center/Abbey Guest House.
The history of St. Martin’s Abbey, the monks and our neighbors have worked to ensure that this stewardship continues. Sustainability includes three interdependent components: economy, society, and environment. A practice is sustainable if the needs of all three components are met. Benedictine values and Catholic social teaching guide the Saint Martin’s community in working toward environmental, social, and economic justice. It is a commitment we take seriously and will continue so that future monks and the university will reap the fruits of our commitment to stewardship and sustainability.