We’ve got there at last! We have achieved the Eco Church Silver Award.
We achieved the Eco Congregation Bronze Award in 2013 and planned at that stage to work for the silver award. As we were collecting and collating the evidence for this, the system and criteria changed.
We had to complete an online survey on five sections – worship and teaching, buildings, land, community and global, and lifestyle. As the survey continued, points accumulated section by section on gauges built into the survey. When all the gauges turned bronze, silver or gold, the church qualified for that level of award. Our very first survey would have earned us a bronze award but we were aiming higher – and this is what we have achieved.
Right from the start, due to our minister's enthusiasm and commitment, we achieved gold. He has led eco-themed prayer breakfasts, led eco-themed worship at schools, and open air services at Foxearth. Other areas within this section on which were judged were the hymns and songs used in our services, whether we prayed regularly for environmental issues and whether caring for God’s earth feature as a theme in teaching our young people. Playbox and Messy Church have benefitted from our minister's input on environmental themes.
This was a comprehensive section as we were required to consider the main church building, the church hall, the church office and the manse. The survey required answers in respect of insulation, double glazing, lighting, the water supply and rainwater collection facilities, and toilet cisterns. It also covered recycled toilet paper, disposable cups and plates, paper usage, cycle racks and renewable energy.
There were some areas where we have not been able to make progress and some which would be too costly to implement. Thanks are due also to the Property and Finance Committee who facilitated changes such as low energy light bulbs, and water saving flushing systems in the toilets which enabled us to achieve a silver in that section.
This section has proved the most difficult to achieve as we have a relatively small area of land – and would not, for example, be able to provide an allotment for the community. However with help we have ensured a supply of butterfly/bee friendly plants and are about to add a couple of food producing plants [a gooseberry bush and a currant bush] to our flower beds. Playbox have helped insofar as they have a bird feeder, a bug hotel and pots planted with herbs and a bay tree. A bird box has been hung in the lilac – though too late for residents this year.
Interestingly, Mark Prina, the expert from Foxearth, has visited the church garden to advise how we could reach for the silver award, and was most impressed with the variety of wild flowers. He felt the area had a great deal of potential and has given us pointers as to what we might do in the future.
Community and Global
For this section we were able to record our involvement with the Earth Hour Event, litter picks, with Fair Trade and with local conservation work. We answered questions on the sources of food we use in church and whether it is locally grown or organic, and whether vegetarian options are available.
This section emphasises the need for the church to encourage members to, amongst other things, undertake a personal carbon footprint audit; to reduce their personal energy consumption; to use Fairtrade or ethically sourced goods; to invest money, as individuals and as a church, ethically. We were asked whether the church newsletter included practical lifestyle tips and advice on caring for God’s earth.
This is only a brief summary but you can see it is most comprehensive survey and does require us both as individual members and as a whole church to consider seriously how we are caring for God’s earth in different areas of our life and work.