Seven Key Areas
We all have a choice to live a life that treads more lightly on the planet. And many faith teachings and traditions encourage us to live more simply and in harmony with the environment. But in order to change our practices, we also have to understand the effect that our present ways of living are having on the planet. How can faith communities help with that process?
The growing possibility of our destroying ourselves and the world with our own neglect and excess is tragic and very real.
– Billy Graham
Some areas to consider as you develop your Faith Plan
Understanding our impact on nature as faith communities, families and individuals is the foundation to building ambitious plans to improve. Have you carried out an environmental audit of your assets and use of natural resources, recycling, energy etc as a faith community, families and individuals? Are those in existence up to date and relevant?
Have you or could you encourage your own faithful to do their own environmental audits and take action accordingly?
What kind of resources and tool are you able to provide for members of your faith community to be able to effectively carry out their own audits?
What are your reference points?
Are there areas where you and your faithful can use your joint purchasing power to help the environment?
Could you encourage your faithful to live more simply and in harmony with the environment – particularly when it comes to choices around food, travel, energy, personal investments, charity giving, businesses etc.?
Can you draw upon any of your own traditions – monasticism, for example – to promote a simpler lifestyle?
What exists within your tradition that could be adopted as a regular practice? For example, many Christians chose to give something up during the season of Lent before Easter. What would it look like for Christians to make a permanent change by giving up something (either consuming a product, or undertaking an activity) in order to benefit social development or the environment?
Will your practices of simple living ensure a healthy well-being for your community? Are they based on your theology and values?
Are there any examples of simple living from other faith communities that could work well within your faith group, organisation or local area?
With their beautiful temples, monasteries, mosques, churches, synagogues etc, faiths own many of the most prized tourist destinations around the world. They are also responsible, in terms of pilgrimage, for much of the ‘tourist’ travel in the world. As a faith, have you looked at your role in tourism and pilgrimage within the countries in which you operate and asked what can be done, at all levels of operation?
Have you thought about how many pilgrims now travel by plane, coach and car where previously they walked, and considered ways of lessening the environmental impact of this?
Have you considered what pilgrims will eat and where they will stay?
In the past, what has been the environmental impact on the destination, thinking particularly of litter and waste?
How might pilgrimage have changed since the outbreak of Covid-19?
That's cool – congregations from all faiths take inspiration to cut their carbon footprint
Interfaith Power & Light
Interfaith Power & Light is an alliance of faith groups from across the US. It was founded 20 years ago as a religious response to global warming.
Interfaith Power & Light’s ‘Cool Congregations’ programme enables faith groups to make changes in how they manage their places of worship, as well as how worshippers use energy in their own homes.
Cool Congregations is a stewardship programme which aims to change both collective and individual mindsets. It provides Carbon Calculators, tailored differently for congregations and for households, to track progress in cutting energy use and reducing carbon footprints. It also provides opportunities to plant trees in places like Tanzania to offset carbon usage.
An impressive 59 emissions reports have been filed since the Carbon Calculators were launched in June 2020, and 47 congregations have become certified, meaning that their energy use has been reduced by 10% or more.
By getting involved with the Cool Congregations project, congregations are able to demonstrate community leadership. Rev Susan Hendershot says that “different stories inspire different types of action”, and groups are encouraged to build spiritual values into their plans of action. An excellent example of this can be found in Palo Alto, California, where the Kol Emeth Congregation won the 2020 Cool Congregations Planning Award for their new ‘net zero energy’ worship facility and zero waste plans, resulting in a building that avoided waste of energy and resources and enables greater involvement with the local community.
The largest installation of its kind on a house of worship in the US is this large solar array at Temple Beth El, in Stamford, Connecticut. The 210 kW system, uses 845 solar panels on the synagogue's 30,000 sq ft roof, which is also fitted with with three inches of insulation. The panels supply 70 per cent of the synagogue’s annual electrical needs.