LINCOLN, Neb. — A southeast Nebraska church has become one of the few churches in the state to be recognized as a sustainable nature site.

The Aldersgate Methodist Church in Lincoln was recognized on Friday after a yearlong landscaping initiative, the Lincoln Journal Star reported .

The church was recognized as one of more than 100 Landscape Steward sites at the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum’s annual awards ceremony. The nonprofit works with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to create sustainable landscapes.

The church converted nearly 2 acres of green space this year into a sustainable rain garden and tree haven. Church members planted more than 50 trees and 80 shrubs. The rain garden spans 1,000 square feet.

Many of the plants are native to Nebraska, said Steven Schafer, the chair of the church’s board of trustees.

The church installed a higher-efficiency lighting system to cut back on energy waste last year

“Being environmentally friendly is a step up,” said Joseph Rafique, a pastor at the church. “The wish is that other churches would pick up where we left off and ask, ‘if they can do it, why not we?”

While few churches have undergone renovations to become more environmentally friendly, Schafer said he hopes to see that change.

“I think the long-term trend is changing,” Schafer said. “Churches don’t want to spend a lot of money on turf grass and other things. If you put native, sustainable plants in the ground it will ultimately look nicer.”

Other steward sites in the state include the Nebraska State Capitol and the Prairie Song Arboretum.

Information from: Lincoln Journal Star,