How to become a Bronze Eco Church (England and Wales)

As part of the Climate Justice for All campaign, each country is encouraging their Methodist churches to make a long-term commitment to the planet. This is lived out differently in different contexts. In the Methodist Church in Britain, we are asking churches to commit to a ‘greening scheme’, to help them transform their habits and practices for climate justice.

In England and Wales, Methodist churches can sign up for Eco Church. This scheme is run by A Rocha. Eco Church encourages churches to take action to become more environmentally conscious and to lessen their environmental impact, through focusing on five main topics. The scheme has an awards programme, where churches are classified as Bronze, Silver or Gold based on the environmental action they have taken. Points are awarded based for actions taken in each of the five categories. As a starting point, a Bronze Eco Church needs to have achieved 25% of the things in each of the five categories.

In Scotland, Methodist churches can be part of Eco Congregation, which looks a little different.

CJ4A hopes that Methodist churches in England and Wales will use this year to work towards at least a Bronze Eco Church award with A Rocha. In this article, we will explain what a church needs to do to become a Bronze Eco Church.

Worship and Teaching:

This category looks at how environmental issues are embedded in the worship and teaching of the church community. This can include exploring environmental issues through annual activities, such as celebrating special Sundays like Climate Sunday, teaching in church through sermons and study groups, and hosting guest speakers. Other activities such as articles in newsletters and hymns on environmental topics should ideally be quarterly, and the scheme suggests that prayer about the environment should ideally be weekly.

As a starting point, churches can use the material Climate Justice for All is creating, to bring the environment into worship. We are creating monthly, environmentally focused prayers, hymns, and reflections for use in services and small groups. Take a look at these resources here.

Buildings

This category looks at the church building, and the various changes that can be made to reduce emissions (this category does not count for churches who do not have control over their building). Many of the key actions involve the installation of technology to improve energy efficiency, such as A-rated boilers, insulation, double-glazing and LED or low-energy lightbulbs. Energy supply is also considered, as churches are encouraged to consider getting their electricity and gas on a ‘green tariff’, or from renewable sources. Those churches who are able to install their own renewable energy generators such as heat pumps and solar panels can gain extra points.

The buildings category isn’t just about energy. Other structures such as water butts, dual-flush buttons for toilets, cycle racks and recycling facilities are also counted. The easiest and cheapest changes in the buildings category follow the principles of reduce, reuse, and recycle: reducing the use of disposable tableware and paper through reusing crockery and printing double-sided, and using recycled paper and toilet roll.

Land

The land category may not apply for the majority of Methodist churches, which are built in towns and lack churchyards. Nevertheless, for those lucky enough to possess control over some green space, the land category has a lot of potential for environmental work. The primary goal is for the land to encourage wildlife through a number of different means: providing habitats with native wildflowers, trees, and ponds; providing housing such as nesting boxes and bug hotels; providing feeding stations; and reducing damaging practices such as pesticide use and mowing. The land can also be used for wider community involvement: through carrying out wildlife surveys with local nature groups; growing fresh fruit and vegetables; and encouraging the community to use the land for recreation.

Community and global engagement:

This category looks at the environmental activities of the church which engage with other communities, both locally and internationally. Local activities can be regular events and schemes which the church contributes to, such as awareness-raising events, organised walks, and car-share schemes. Other events can be more annual, such as meeting with local politicians and environmentalists, community clean-ups, and green fairs. Anyone hosting an event on the church premises should be trained to minimise their resource and energy use. Any food provided should follow the LOAF principle, and be Locally grown, Organic, Animal-friendly and Fairtrade. Food waste should be reduced and composted. Churches are also encouraged to support overseas projects, both financially and through prayer. Raising awareness of global issues is an important part of this too. Engaging with Climate Justice for All’s monthly short films is a good first step – take a look at them here.

Lifestyle:

This category looks at the day-to-day environmental habits of the church community. Unlike the other categories, lifestyle focuses more on smaller, regular actions. Some actions are things that the church can implement itself. These include swap shop/repair café events, communal Christmas/Easter card schemes, food cooperatives, and ethical investment of church funds. These can then encourage individual actions, such as adhering to the principles of reduce, reuse, recycle; consuming food that is Local, Organic, Animal-friendly and Fairtrade; and ethically investing personal savings. Personal carbon footprint and environmental lifestyle audits are encouraged at least annually, and consequently personal energy and waste reduction are encouraged regularly. Finally, some elements of the lifestyle category link into the actions for buildings; by providing cycle racks and recycling facilities the church can encourage cycling and recycling.

 

There are a lot of different changes a church can make to become a Bronze Eco Church. I was surprised to discover that my own church already qualified for Bronze in three of the four categories it was eligible for, and yours might do too. To find out, register your own church on the Eco Church website and complete the survey to measure your process. From this you can get a better idea of which categories your church needs to focus more work on to achieve award status. If you decide to sign up, let us know by emailing cj4a@methodistchurch.org.uk. We hope that your church can commit to taking action for the environment, helping to achieve climate justice for all.