Follow Jessica on Twitter @CrossAndLeaves or follow the Five Leaf Eco-Awards @fiveleafeco

Monday, October 26, 2009

Greening our Homes and Churches speech

I gave this speech at City Church at Night:

Around the middle of last year I was chosen as an Australian delegate to the Asia Pacific Interfaith Youth Camp on Climate Change in Surubaya, Indonesia. In preparation for this trip, I conducted research into the Christian obligation to care for the environment so I would be able to share this point of view with those from other faiths. I came to what was, perhaps, a belated realisation- my faith compelled me to combine the work I was doing for the environment and the work I was doing for God, and indeed I was being called to do so. Soon after the camp, I started the Five Leaf Eco-Awards, an ecumenical church greening program designed to help churches become more environmentally friendly; and ever since I have endeavoured to do all that I can to promote the church greening movement in Australia.

I have been invited here tonight to paint a picture of how we might green our churches and homes, and how we might be able to fight global problems locally. I have also come to share with you a vision of what the church could be; a vision that goes something like this:

It’s Sunday morning so I drag myself out of bed and ride my bike to church. As I enter the solar panels on the roof glint in the sun and I can see the water tank peeking around the side. I am greeted by a smiling face and handed a newssheet printed on recycled paper. I flick to the environmental tips and events section and scan the offerings. I move to a table to place some native flowers and a box of fruit from my garden on it for distribution. I grab a cup of Fairtrade coffee and sit in the sun to enjoy the building’s passive heating. In worship we sing thanks to God for the wonders of creation and as it is September and we are doing the Season of Creation we have an interesting sermon about the need to follow Biblical practices and values in our lives in order to reduce our environmental impact. When we share communion it is with tasty, freshly baked bread from organic flour and environmentally friendly grape juice. The gentle light of beeswax candles and sunlight lights the scene.

In our prayers for others our weekly endangered species prayer is for the endangered frogs we had a talk about at the youth meeting on Friday. We also thank God for the way he has blessed and added to our church through our environmental work. After the service I pack up my copy of the Green Bible and join the communal lunch. Fresh, local, vegetarian food abounds and is shared with the homeless. After the meal I quickly make a couple of arrangements for the clothes and tool swap next week. On the way out I meet up with the church greening group and we head out to Greenhills Camp and Conference Centre for a working bee. Our Canberra Christian Environmental Action group is going quite well, with our church teams and local conservation groups making quite a difference around Canberra by dedicating a few hours per week. It is a testament to the way the church has now taken leadership in the environmental arena.

Ok, so I’m dreaming. Yet I have not mentioned anything that is not possible, nor anything that could not, in theory, be started today. The church could, and I think should, lead the future development of the environmental movement, and I would like churches like this to be a part of that.
But we are not there yet, and an important part of greening our churches and homes is understanding the impact we have so that we know how we can improve.

Let’s start with our ecological footprint. Firstly, does everyone know what an ecological footprint is?

Basically, it is the area of land and resources needed to support our lifestyle.

Ok, can anyone guess what the ecological footprint of a person living in the Civic area of Canberra is?

It’s actually 8.59 hectares. And the national average is 6.4 hectares, about the
size of 9 rugby league fields. As we can see, 40.5% of this impact comes from the food we eat and 30.3% from the other goods and services we buy, but clothing, construction and electricity also figure.

What about the amount of water someone living in civic uses? Any guesses?
We use 1,090,000 litres per person per year. Do people think this is higher or lower than the national average?

It’s quite a bit higher, with the average being 722,500 litres – which is almost enough to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool. Again, this is mostly used in food and goods and services with 16.1% being used in households.

What about our greenhouse gas emissions? In civic the average person creates 30.53 tonnes of GHG pollution each year. Does anyone know the national average? It’s 18.9 tonnes, or around 9 round car trips from Perth to Melbourne.

If you would like to look up these figures for your suburb you can visit the Australian Conservation Foundation’s Consumption Atlas at or you can calculate your own ecological footprint by looking up the eco-calculator on the ACF Green Home website.

So what makes these figures important? I believe you have been hearing about the global impacts of climate change over the last few weeks in services, but do you know what some of the predictions for NSW and the ACT are?
• In NSW/ACT if the global temperature rise is greater than 3 degrees Celcius
• Decrease of up to 20% in Cotter catchment
• Flow in Murray—Darling Basin falls by 16-48%
• Southward expansion of Dengue Fever zone to Sydney
• Snow-covered Alpine region to shrink by 22-85%
• Number of Extreme Fire Danger Days to rise by 22-42% by 2020 and 137-221% by 2050.
• Source: The Climate Institute Policy Brief “Climate Impacts and Emmissions Targets” Sept 2008 with thanks to SEE-Change

Another reason these figures matter is because climate change affects the poor the most, while we in Canberra share many privileges, including high levels of education, income and environmental awareness with this great power comes great responsibility, so we need to act.

You will be happy to know that acting to reduce your environmental impact doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact it can save you a lot of money. Today I am going to take you through 10 tips from the Moreland Energy Foundation in Victoria on how to save up to $500 or 30% of your power bill in one year through energy efficiency and conservation. You will find small savings can really add up.

So let’s start with using a quilt and a hot water bottle at night instead of the heater- how much money do you think that would save you over a year? It’s $150
Tip two: You can save a further 5% of your power bill by sealing doors and windows with snakes or weather strips.
Tip three: Ok, everyone knows this one. So how much money do you think you can actually save by changing your light bulbs over? - $110
Tip four: You can reduce your hot water bill by 10% by installing an aerator, and save a further $50 by washing your clothes in cold water.
Tip number five – how much money can you save by installing a water saving shower head – about $50
Tip number six – get rid of the vampires sucking energy through your appliances when they are not switched off at the wall. Standby is not your friend.
Tip seven – insulate your hot water pipes and system. You can literally wrap a blanket around it to save energy.
Tip eight: Reduce your hot water setting to 50 degrees Celsius for more savings
Tip nine: Keep room temp to 24-26 in summer and 18=20 in winter. Any guesses for savings? $90 per year
Lastly, the fridge and freezer should be at four and neg 15 degrees and in a cool place to save 10% per degree you turn them up.

So those are the real money savers. In terms of reducing your impact, here are some extra tips. I apologise if you already know or practice these, but it is good revision.
• Firstly – don’t eat yourself out of house and planet. This is a massive topic, but to summarize very briefly:
• Choose the following:
• Local Organic Unprocessed Less packaged Free Range
• Sustainable seafood (80% of the world’s fish stocks are depleted, 60% of Australian seafood is imported, visit the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s website and get informed about which species are sustainable and non-sustainable choices)
• Grow your own
• Try having a meat free day once or twice a week.
• According to the Australian Conservation Foundation animal products make up the biggest part of the average person’s eco footprint - 34% to be exact.
• Meat, particularly beef, has a very high environmental impact, using much water and land to produce it, and creating significant greenhouse pollution.
• In fact if you reduce your intake by one 150g serve of red meat each week, you'll save 10,000 litres of water and 300kg of greenhouse pollution in a year.
Now its all very nice to know that we should be choosing our food more carefully from an ethical and environmental point of view, but working out which products to buy in a sea of choice can be difficult. One way to cheat is to understand some of the third party labels that are available on different foods. To make sure you are equipped, I’m going to quiz you on some of the most important eco-labels on food products in Australia.

So does anyone recognise this?

Another tip is to mend, swap and vintage your clothes.
• Producing clothes has a significant environmental impact
• The amount of water used in the production and transport of clothes bought by an average Australian household each year is 150,000 litres
• Buying second hand clothes or repairing old clothes could save much of this water.
• Cotton in particular requires a lot of water and often also uses a lot of chemicals.

In terms of paper and paper products, make sure it always recycled, and you want it post consumer recycled, not pre-consumer recycled. Made in Australia is best – try reflex. Use duplex on your printing and try to print as little as possible.

You can also green your electricity supply through solar panels and/or green power. If you are interested in green power the Australian Religious Response to Climate change has a deal with Jack Green energy that will give $35 to your church if you switch to Green Power. If you would like to go a step further you can still get in on the solar bulk buy for faith groups being organised by SEE Change a grassroots environmental change group. Expressions of interest are due on the 30th of November.

Final tips include sharing with your community, educating yourself, travelling earth consciously, leading by example, getting involved in environmental projects near you and thinking before you buy.

If you would like some help greening your life or your church, there are many groups available to assist – including the ACF, the members of the ACT Conservation Council, the What Would Jesus Buy website and the Uniting Earthweb website which has some awesome stories about other churches and what they have done. And if you can’t find something, just email me and I will point you in the right direction.
So what are you going to change in your life to make it more environmentally friendly?

I will give you five minutes to think of something and then tell the people on your table.

Would anyone like to tell me what they have decided?

It is important to remember that we are not in this alone, and the best way to save the world is by working together. The church greening movement is an exciting and growing movement worldwide. In the UK, and particularly the US church greening is rapidly taking off and gaining a lot of power as hundreds of churches and church leaders become engaged in environmental improvement projects and environmental certification schemes.

Here in Australia, the movement is smaller, but already there are some really exciting stories coming from churches around the country. Currently a new church is being built in the grounds of an environmental education centre in Melbourne for a congregation who are so focused on the environment they chose their new minister for her ability to fit in with that philosophy. Another church in Melbourne, the Port Melbourne Uniting Church is running an eco-project including a community garden which provides food for their outreach programs to the local poor. They were the first church in Australia to achieve the Five Leaf Eco-Awards Basic Certificate and they have many more exciting plans for the future. Another example is St Luke’s Uniting Church in Geelong who achieved a 22% reduction in their energy use last year, and are planning to reduce this by a further 10% this year. In Sydney Project Green Church at Maroubra Junction Uniting Church have been running their exciting program for years and closer to home we have the community garden at O’Connor UC, some exciting greening work at the Greenhills Camp and Conference centre and the solar panels recently installed my home church at Kippax.

My contribution to the growth of the church greening movement in Australia is through running the pilots in Canberra and Melbourne of a program called the Five Leaf Eco-Awards. The awards are an ecumenical church greening program designed to inspire and assist churches in achieving environmental goals. These goals relate not only to the church’s buildings, but also to their worship, the actions of their congregation, their outreach programs and their leadership in the local community. The program offers a Basic Certificate and five advanced Leaf Awards in each of the areas of focus just mentioned. For example, the basic certificate requires a church to conduct an energy Energy Audit of their premises,
• Take 3 steps to reduce your energy use
• Run 2 behaviour campaigns
• Hold an environment themed worship service
• Provide 2 resources to help your congregation reduce the impact of their own lives
• Host an outreach event with an environmental theme
• Complete a special project to show your dedication

It is my hope and dream that one day all churches will embrace the care of creation as part of their worship and service of God and in response to His call. I challenge you to start by greening your own lives, and working together as a church to lead others into a more faithful relationship with God through their care of the environment.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Important Lessons from the Bible

Why Jesus came:
"that the world might be saved through him"
John 3:17

Who Jesus is going to use to save the world:
"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God."
Romans 8:19

Our role on earth:
"The LORD God put the man in the Garden of Eden to take care of it and to look after it."
Genesis 2:15

The Five Pillars of A Christian Theology of Sustainability

1. God is the creator, sustainer and redeemer of creation.

2. Covenantal Stewardship (we have a covenant with God as stewards of the earth).

3. The creation-fall-redemption paradigm (God made a good world; human failure broke the relationships between god, man and creation; Christ provides hope for all creation).

4.Bodily resurrection(we will rise with bodies, not as spirits)

5.New Creation (a new Heaven and new Earth refers to a renewal and an earthing of heaven, not starting over).

Adapted from When Enough is Enough: A Christian Framework for Environmental Sustainability, Edited by R.J. Berry, Published by Inter-Varsity Press, 2007, Nottingham p43+