Eco Congregation

What is “Eco Congregation”?

Eco Congregation is an award process whose purpose is to help us to make our responsibility to the earth and the natural world part of the day to day work of the church.  Participating involves undertaking a range of projects, whose progress and impact is assessed at regular intervals by an external team from A Rocha UK on behalf of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.  We were one of the first congregations in the UK to gain this award in 2006 and we were delighted to be able to renew the award in 2010.  At present we are working towards the new review date of 2012.

What is St Mark’s doing?

Projects for the Eco Congregation award have included efforts to make the work of the church itself greener, such as improving recycling and exploring ways to reduce the carbon footprint of the church.  Environmental issues are routinely recognised in our services and church members are working in the broader community to change our lives in practical ways.  For instance members have played a leading part in organising a lecture/discussion series in Sheffield cathedral on the dilemmas of economic growth and have set up a Carbon Reduction Action Group (CRAG).

What is the St Mark’s CRAG?

Many of our activities result in the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, but the ones that we can measure reasonably accurately and which are most directly under our control are the fuels we use at home and in travel.  For most people these represent about 50% of our greenhouse gas production.

Just over two and a half years ago a group of households from St Mark’s agreed to start measuring their use of these fuels on a monthly basis with a view to reducing usage as a response to climate change.

This has proved simple, reliable and informative. At the beginning of the month members of the group send a few bits of information to the ‘CRAG administrator’ including car milometer reading, an estimate of the household’s bus, train and air mileage, and the gas and electricity meter readings at home.  The administrator converts this into tons of CO2 and provides an ongoing record to each household of how it is doing.

One group member comments, “We have found this a good discipline but we now have few illusions about how difficult it is to reduce our emissions once the obvious things have been done! Some were concerned at first that this might lead to members of the group feeling judged but in practice the group has been supportive and a source of encouragement and useful advice.”

Are you interested?

If you are interested in the Eco Congregation scheme, please contact the co-ordinator, Rick Hughes, on email: srhughes@blueyonder.co.uk. The next accreditation visit is still some time away so there is time for new ideas to take shape and be implemented.

If you are interested in CRAG, please contact Michael Bayley on email: mjbayley@btinternet.com.  CRAG wants to involve more people – there are about 10 at the moment – so new recruits are most welcome.

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