20 ways to help the Earth

by
03 January 2008

Growing partnership: Land from St Leonard’s, Balderstone, being used by next-door St Leonard’s C of E School as a vegetable garden

Growing partnership: Land from St Leonard’s, Balderstone, being used by next-door St Leonard’s C of E School as a vegetable garden

For individuals

Short-term

Be more flexible about the heating: if your radiators have thermostatic valves, put the radiator on only when you are in the room. Turn on bedroom radiators half an hour before you go to bed.

Ask at your workplace whether it has had an environmental audit. Your local Agenda 21 council sustainability team or the Energy Saving Trust might be able to help. It will save your organisation money in the long term.

Eat meat and dairy products less. Agricultural emissions globally are equivalent to those of transport. Methane from cow flatulence is 23 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Medium-term
Get rid of the tumble-dryer and put the clothes on the line outside. For the days when you cannot dry outside, fix an indoor airer to the ceiling or above the stairwell.

Start cooking local ingredients from scratch rather than relying on convenience foods. This takes time and effort, but food miles are reduced and energy is saved, as well as skills retained and passed on to future generations.

Long-term
Look at your lifestyle: do you live near where you work? Is your work adding to the problem? Could you use your skills in a more environmentally friendly situation? Could you share living space with others to reduce the need for every one-, two-, or three-person household to own every gadget? Could you share meals more often with friends or neighbours, thereby reducing the energy needed to cook?

The expected increase in global travel is a serious problem. Can you investigate UK holidays?

The expected increase in global travel is a serious problem. Can you investigate UK holidays?

For the community

Short-term
Have a few friends round to watch the film An Inconvenient Truth, and discuss afterwards what you might do together to make a difference.

Advertisement

Get a community allotment going. If you cannot face doing it all by yourself, talk some friends into sharing the load with you.

Medium-term
Start car-sharing. Get together with friends in the neighbourhood, and see if any of your car-needs dovetail so you can reduce your dependency on car ownership. Often the way to do this is to move from two cars to one, or from one to shared use, or set up a community-car club. It begins to get people out of the mindset that says, “Well, the car’s there; so I might as well use it,” and it is a spur to investigating other modes of transport, or other ways of sharing transport. Working together builds community. Creative options might emerge, if only people would have the conversations.

Get involved with your local council’s climate-change strategy. They need people to help them deliver, so they want community groups to help them. What an opportunity for churches!

Long-term
Get people in your neighbourhood to act together to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions — and have fun as well. Visit energy-saving websites for ideas and inspiration.

www.transitiontowns.org; http://lowcarboncommunity.org

www.transitiontowns.org; http://lowcarboncommunity.org

Church: practical actions

Short-term
Change the light bulbs — the easiest and quickest thing to do that will result in financial savings. Borrow a light-bulb library if you have one in your area. Alternatively, create one by talking to a lighting shop committed to low-energy lights. Once you have used it, you can pass the library around the church members and community, so that exactly the right sort of bulb can be ordered out of the 90-or-so different sorts of low-energy bulbs now available.

Look at simple things to reduce draughts, for example, putting curtains over external doors. Section off parts of a big building with curtains so that smaller numbers of people can meet in (and heat) a smaller space. If you are a small evening congregation, for instance, could you meet in a smaller space?

For more ideas, start with the Eco-congregation church check-up. It’s a simple checklist of ideas addressing different areas of church life. Afterwards, you can draw up an action plan to take to the church. www.ecocongregation.org

Medium-term
Invite a farmers’ market to use your building if you are in a rural neighbourhood. If you are in an urban setting, set up a food co-op to give those on low incomes access to local fresh fruit and vegetables.

Advertisement

Is it possible to insulate any part of your church or church hall? You might be surprised. Space heating is a huge contributor to the production of carbon dioxide. Anything you can do to reduce the amount of fuel burned saves you money in the long term, but, more importantly, it reduces carbon-dioxide emissions.

Long-term
Investigate the possibility of using renewable sources of energy such as a ground or air-source heat-pump; solar thermal (if the church uses hot water); photovoltaic panels; or a wood-fuelled boiler (especially if you have a local source of fuel).

Church worship
Spell out the links for the congregation between worship and planet care. The biggest difficulty all NGOs are facing is that there is no incentive for people to make the necessary changes. Even the Environment Agency recognised that churches and other faith groups need to take a lead. Number two on their “50 ways that will save the planet” from a poll of 25 leading experts was that “religious leaders need to make the planet their priority.” So, church members need to understand the links.

http://image.guardian.co.uk/sysfiles/Environment/documents/2007/10/31/50top.pdf

Re-engage people with the natural environment. Be bold. Take people outside during worship, so that our worship is seen in the context of the worship of all creation. Engaging with the natural world often leads to a greater appreciation of it, and hence a renewed commitment to look after it.

Light-bulb library

Light-bulb library

If you’re looking for something to read, a rummage in the library box at St Margaret’s, Lewknor, Oxfordshire, will not help you — it is full of light bulbs.

The light-bulb library was launched last November as part of the Chiltern Gateway Project, an environmental enterprise run in partnership with the organisation Natural England, and based at St Margaret’s. (The reordered church is now also the visitors’ centre for the nearby Aston Rowant Nature Reserve.)

Jane Pendlenton, the assistant project manager, says that “most people have the wrong idea about low-energy bulbs. They think there’s a delay when they’re switched on, that they only give a dim light, and that there are very few fittings available.”

The library seeks to shed a truer light on the situation. The box contains more than 30 different types of low-energy bulbs, from candle-light bulbs to LED fittings for a kitchen ceiling. It contains, as Ms Pendlenton says: “All those unusual ones you need to try out first.”

Library users borrow the box for a week, to help identify what they need to make the switch in their own homes.

Advertisement

As an added incentive to action, Eco-St, at Chinnor Garden Centre, offers a ten-per-cent discount on bulbs bought by library users from its range of 90 different low-energy fittings.

Sponsorship for the scheme came from the ClimateXChange project, based at Oxford University. And while its simplicity may not seem ground-breaking, the Revd Simon Brignall, Team Vicar at St Margaret’s and half-time manager of the Chiltern Gateway Project, feels that it is important to take “little steps to show what can be done and help people get started”.

www.eco-st.com/storeLocation.aspx

Vegetable growing
The rural parish of St Leonard’s, Balderstone, in Blackburn diocese, is fostering a growing partnership with its next-door neighbour, St Leonard’s Church of England Primary School.

www.eco-st.com/storeLocation.aspx

Vegetable growing
The rural parish of St Leonard’s, Balderstone, in Blackburn diocese, is fostering a growing partnership with its next-door neighbour, St Leonard’s Church of England Primary School.

Land from the churchyard has been loaned to the school for pupils to cultivate as a fruit and vegetable garden.

The idea was spearheaded by the church’s former warden and keen gardener Pam Martin. “She came in to offer our gardening club her help and expertise,” says Catherine Finch, the head teacher.

Since the garden plot of two raised beds was set up 18 months ago, the children have grown potatoes, leeks, and onions, and produced a strawberry crop. The crowning glory of the first harvest was two large pumpkins that were made into soup and served up for school lunch.

From getting involved in the growing to the experience of tasting the results, Ms Finch says the garden has proved extremely popular: “We can only have so many in the gardening club at one time.”

For the Revd Dr Jim Garrard, Priest-in-Charge at St Leonard’s, the project is one way of “doing something more for the environment than just having a recycling box for printer cartridges at the back of the church”. It also cements the already strong partnership between church and school.

“When it comes to environmental issues, rather than being overwhelmed by guilt, we need to accept our blessings gratefully, and seek to live responsibly as ethical consumers through whatever personal practical action we can take.”

Catching the light

After St John’s, Hinckley, in Leicestershire, was demolished in 2007, a replacement was planned that would build on sound ethical, as well as physical, foundations. “We wanted to think through the impact of our activities,” says the Team Rector, the Revd John McGinley; “so we developed our own environmental policy.”

Advertisement

Issues such as water, insulation, and materials came under the green spotlight. “Our site limited our options for renewable energy. But our diocesan environmental officer helped us decide on solar panels,” Mr McGinley says.

The system at St John’s is being installed by Solstice Energy Ltd. Richard Warren, the managing director, says that churches’ south-facing roofs are well-positioned for solar panels: “Due south works best, but there’s leeway to swing around a bit. Panels can also be installed and angled on a flat roof.”

The budget is a significant factor. Mr McGinley says: “Funding makes this idea viable. We’ll save £600 a year in energy bills; so without significant financial assistance we could not proceed.”

The church has gained half of the £30,000 it needs from the government grants scheme for low-carbon-energy buildings. Gaining this funding is relatively straightforward, with no conditions concerning building use. Churches can apply for 50 per cent of their costs. But the Government is not continuing this scheme beyond the end of 2009.

St John’s has also approached other bodies, including the EDF Green Fund, for £7500. The remaining money will come from its £650,000 building budget.

St John’s has also approached other bodies, including the EDF Green Fund, for £7500. The remaining money will come from its £650,000 building budget.

EDF supports projects that benefit whole communities. St John’s is confident of fulfilling its criteria — all the new building is accessible to the wider community, with no area reserved solely for worship. Having an environmental policy also helped with grant applications, enabling the church to present itself as a worthwhile investment.

Mr Warren warns: “Installing solar panels is a long process. Design, consultations, gaining permissions and grants, plus the installation, takes from six to 12 months.”

http://stjohnshinckley.blogspot.com
www.solsticeenergy.co.uk
www.lowcarbonbuildingsphase2.org.uk

http://stjohnshinckley.blogspot.com
www.solsticeenergy.co.uk
www.lowcarbonbuildingsphase2.org.uk

Community environment group

Eighteen months ago, 70 people turned up to an open Christian meeting at the pub in the village of Elham, in Kent. It was the first of a series of “FAQs about the Christian faith” run by the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin. The subject was Christianity and the environment.

Canon David Ratcliff, a retired Archdeacon of Scandinavia and Germany in the diocese in Europe, and a member of St Mary’s, felt that the turn-out was significant: “We didn’t want green issues to dominate all our meetings, but we did want to respond to people’s interest.”

The church advertised a follow-up meeting in the local newsletter. They invited Kent Energy Centre, who came bringing energy-saving ideas and distributing free low-energy light bulbs.

From this meeting, an environment group of about 12 was born — a mix of people both from within the church and from the wider community. Last March, the group held a fair in the village hall, where local firms came with goods and ideas and advertised services, such as where people could obtain grants for cavity-wall insulation.

The group is currently making a survey of Elham village’s carbon footprint, with the aim of reducing it by 20 per cent in the first year. “We sent out a questionnaire with the local newsletter in December, and we’re hoping for enough responses for us to make an accurate assessment.”

Canon Ratcliff says that Christians wanting to make a difference can begin in a small way: “We need to encourage one another in the basics, such as changing our light bulbs and insulating our homes. These are relatively straightforward changes, and they’re also money-savers. Then we can move into more complicated, expensive, and long-term projects.”
www.elhamenvironment.co.uk

Subscribe now to get full access

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read seven articles each month for free.