Responding to the environmental crises facing our planet
Since Diocesan Synod declared a climate emergency in March 2020, our Environment Task Group (ETG) is overseeing an ambitious programme of change.
As Christians, we're called to care for God's creation, and the climate issues facing our planet are hugely important to us. You can watch a series from Bishop Olivia on why we should care for creation at all levels in the Church, and read about our commitments to becoming an Eco Diocese.
Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth?
With the help of God I will.
Campaigning for Environmental Justice in our Local Communities
A blog by Joanna Laynesmith, St John and St Stephen's Church
“Our generation is at a critical point and we have to do something in these next few years, otherwise everything is going to be different”
I’ve been passionate about the environment since I was young. I was nine when we left the suburbs of Birmingham for the Worcestershire countryside and it felt like being on permanent holiday. I’ve belonged to wildlife conservation organisations ever since. Not long after moving to Reading in 2005, I became involved with the Churches Together in Reading Environment Group, pushing for change within our local community. These days, that group has become Reading Area Green Christians which I co-ordinate. I have also worked with a team to help my church, St John and Stephen’s, in Newtown, Reading, to become an Eco Church achieving bronze then the silver award.
“Find some like-minded people... so you don’t feel like you're doing it on your own”
Feeling part of a wider community is so important as it helps you keep going and feel inspired by what others are doing. It is vital to work with those who share your ambitions, and to set actionable goals towards this. Working towards reducing our environmental footprint is not something we need to do solely as individuals - it is a collective effort, and by watching and learning from those around us, we can all make changes to improve our footprint.
“You can’t stand up to tell politicians ‘make things better’ if you’re not doing things yourself”
As a family we gave up our car about 12 years ago, which has had a big impact on the way we live. We have also switched to a green electricity and gas provider, follow a largely meat-free diet, and shop second-hand where possible. My children just consider taking these actions to be a normal part of life now. Taking things one step a time makes the process far less daunting that it may initially appear to be.
“Being part of something with other people… and feeling yes, there’s lots of people here, there’s an energy, we’re moving forward”
The coronavirus pandemic made life more challenging for everyone. We struggled a bit with buying food because using public transport was discouraged, and online deliveries were difficult to come by. However, there were some positive developments: when we moved the Reading Area Green Christians meetings online, more people turned up, and of course avoided unnecessary travel.
Towards the end of 2020 our church took part in an energy audit recommended by Oxford diocese. We received a number of recommendations on how we could improve energy efficiency, and it was a much more comprehensive and informative process than we had expected. I’m excited to work with our church on the journey towards net zero, but it’s going to complicated. The church switched to a green tariff a long while ago but now we’re looking at a solar panel scheme with the school that shares our building and they have a different tariff.
I passionately believe that climate change and loss of biodiversity is something that should be discussed in all churches and all communities, and the more people talk, and campaign for change, the brighter our futures will be.
If you would like to hear more about the amazing work Joanna is doing, check out her blog
Interview with Joanna Laynesmith by Olivia Atkins and Laura Watson during their Oxford University Micro-Internships March 2021
Beating the Rising Costs
Join our final webinars on how your church can save energy and money: they will take place on the evenings of 3rd or 10th October, contact us for the registration link.
THIS WEEK - Great Big Green Week - Season of Creation
The Great Big Green Week is a nationwide celebration of action on climate change, taking place across the UK from the 24 September - 2 October 2022, and which falls during the Church's Season of Creation, giving Christian groups the perfect opportunity to join in.
In 2021, over 5000 events took place and over 200,000 people took part. If you want some ideas, there are lots of resources on the 'GBGW' website
The Environment team ran an 'Energy Saving in the Home' webinar on 26th September, with speakers from Low Carbon North Oxford and Low Carbon West Oxford. Watch the webinar back here.
Energy Footprint Tool: thank you and next steps
Thank you to all those that completed this year’s Parish Returns Energy Footprint Tool. The data gathered is used nationally to establish the Church’s carbon baseline and monitor progress, locally so that you can track the impact of the steps you are taking to reduce your emissions, and at a Diocesan level it also helps us to:
- Spot churches which have issues with their heating systems.
- Identify which churches would particularly benefit from an energy audit.
- Discover examples of good practice to share.
On the national website you can find out more about why we need EFT, how adjustments for Covid disruption have been made, and what you can do with the data. (Scroll down for FAQs: Energy Footprint Tool)
Collection of 2022 data will begin in January 2023, so will be available as soon as you have a complete set of 2022 bills to hand. Thank you in advance for your invaluable contribution. In the meantime, do get in touch with the Environment team if you have concerns about your current energy bills or contracts.
Growing in Grace - Rural Churches and Environmental Wellbeing
Are you a rural church that is interested in creation care or would like support to embed environmental wellbeing within your wider mission? With support from the National Church, we are producing a suite of resources to enable a DIY lighting audit, a churchyard scavenger hunt, a transport audit, procurement and catering points to consider guides. We have also run a webinar on how to beat the rising energy costs, with some no-cost and low-cost top-tips. You can view the checklist of actions here and find out about the wider work the Diocese is doing to support rural mission.
Eco Church: Over 20% of all our churches have registered with A Rocha UK’s Eco Church scheme. It's a great way to engage your whole congregation in care for creation. This map shows registered churches in our diocese - Let us know when your church has registered or gains an Eco Church award and we can add it to the map.
Reducing energy use:: the Diocese can offer tailored green advice on how to help your church reduce their environmental footprint and save money on energy bills through an 'energy audit'. This is particularly helpful during the current energy crisis. Plus you receive a grant to fund improvements once the audit has been completed. It's the perfect way to get started.
Resources, guidance and information
The EcoHub is your one-stop shop for information, practical advice and theological reflection on how we can best care for God’s creation. Each zone walks you through a different stage of climate action - or you can browse all of the resources to find exactly what you're looking for.
Greenshoots Network: Are you helping your church take environmental action? Would you like to connect with others doing the same, for mutual support and information sharing? Join our Greenshoots Network email group if so. Let us know you'd like to join by emailing us. We have monthly online get togethers and occasional in person gatherings.
Highlights from our summer Greenshoots Gatherings:
In July’s get-together, we heard how St Mary’s North Leigh are planning steps towards their gold Eco Church award, St Mary’s Shaw shared how they had declared a climate emergency using the Climate Emergency Toolkit resources, and St Michael’s, Tilehurst, told us they are working with others locally on some tips for reducing plastic, which will be shared in due course.
A question was asked about churches that already generate their own power. We shared some helpful resources and case studies from the Church of England Environment Programme, including renewable energy generation as well as other net zero adaptations.
In the August meeting we started with some very helpful information from the Revd Mark Nelson on starting and running a Repair Café, and a 20-minute recording of this part of the evening and our Q&A with him afterwards are available to watch on demand.
Care for Creation newsletter
Our monthly newsletter contains resources, stories, information, updates, news and events on everything related to caring for creation in the Diocese of Oxford and beyond.
How the diocese is taking action
The diocese is aiming to reach 'net zero' - the point at which we are no longer contributing to climate change. We've got two goals: the national Church of England 2030 net-zero carbon goals, which cover buildings and transport, and our wider diocesan goal of reaching net zero in full by 2035.
We also have a goal to become a Silver Eco Diocese by 2026, which will mean embedding holistic creation care across all our activities.
The first step is to stand up and be counted! We need your church to help by completing the Energy Footprint Tool on the C of E Parish Returns website. If you can't answer all the questions, don't worry just do those you can. The most helpful for us are the energy bill details, the hours of use for the building/s and the travel expenses claims. If you can't access this, please use our very short Word form instead. Thank you!
The diocese has taken a lead on calling for divestment and disinvesting from fossil fuels.
Church House Oxford is powered by renewable electricity, and we have a Staff Green Group always looking at ways of minimising our office environmental footprint, minimising waste, providing more recycling opportunities, increasing veggie or vegan menu options in the café, inviting colleagues to join in with climate campaigns such as as Great Big Green Week. We encourage more sustainable transport options, and all of our bishops drive electric or hybrid vehicles.