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Wylde Green United Reform Church

The following is an example of good practice in which Steve Lyne of Wylde Green United Reform Church takes us through some of the steps the church has taken in order to become an eco-congregation.

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1: Make the link between the Christian faith and our environmental concerns.

An annual service from 2003, highlighting the environment, and our responsibility for it. This deliberately coincides with ‘parade’ services, with the uniformed organisations and some of their (non-church) parents present.

2005:

Brownies had been encouraged to see how many birds they could spot in their gardens – a tremendous take up, and tales of all sorts of birds they’d seen on holiday (hoopoes, golden eagles) as well as at home (sparrow hawk taking a pied wagtail). They brought this into prayers.

Three different age groups prepared material for the service: “Don’t care won’t care” about the environment; a sketch about pollution, and a contribution about trees.

The service was followed by activities on the church field.

2006:

The service took place with the Flower Festival arrangements all around them.

Young people performed “The Conservation Train”- a sketch created following the book by John Burningham. The younger children then went for activities on the field, For the young people and adults, there was input following David’s Attenborough’s recent TV work, drawing attention to his two tipping points: Arctic Ice melting, and the Amazon rain forest burning up. We also had displays of 10 pledges from World Environment Day (and our Guides had also made their own list), which we then got people to sign up to as part of the prayers.

Also:

A children’s talk on trees including a poem from green poems (Vera Cullimore), We have a very good photographer, who has taken some exquisite photos of trees, flowers etc, and linked them with a bible verse, for notice boards in the church rooms, drawing attention to the sheer beauty of nature and various green items included in the monthly items to pray for.

Future Plans

  • A debate about whether we as have a duty to promote the care of the earth and action on climate change
  • Generate an active debate on climate change.

2: Practical action in the church and or church grounds.

The formation of a ‘Green Group’, which meets regularly to exchange information and organise what we are going to do.

Buildings:

  • Junior Church put plastic bottles in the toilet systems, throughout our buildings and according to our accounts we save £90 per year on our water rates.
  • The gardens are moving towards being organic with companion planting.
  • We also planted native plants to encourage wildlife.
  • We have had one energy-saving survey of the Church buildings.
  • Replacement of some wooden windows, with double glazed window.
  • Replacing old lights in the church with dimmable low energy fluorescents.
  • Replacing boilers and radiators with a new boiler and new radiators with thermostatic radiator valves.
  • Paying the minister an allowance for using a bicycle, as well as his car allowance.
  • Arranging car sharing / lifts to church and meetings elsewhere.

Spreading ideas:

  • Posters in the toilets with nappy changing facilities, on the benefits of using re-usable nappies.
  • Obtaining a fair-trade church award.
  • Lending people eco balls to try: some families now use them.
  • Getting people to sign up for the Mail Preference Service and the telephone preference service.
  • One couple have installed solar powered water heating.
  • Three households take Permaculture magazine.
  • Several families have visited the Centre for Alternative Technology, a sustainable building development, (The Wintles), Ryton Gardens and Castle Bromwich Gardens.
  • Brochures, leaflets, posters left in the entrance to the church; displays on the walls in the church halls, for people who use the church premises.
  • Highlighting the nature reserves and open spaces on our doorstep.
  • Encouraging the children to grow things – e.g. sunflowers, at various times.
  • We occasionally have a specific exhibition and leaflets on display while people have tea and coffee after church services e.g. at the end of October we had a selection of ‘green’ mail order catalogues for people to take and order their green Christmas presents.
  • Talk to the Women’s Fellowship on climate change.
  • An ecumenical group of people run the Traidcraft (fair trade) stall at the church and provide goods for many churches and groups in the area.
  • Constant campaigning through the church’s Peace and Justice group, on fair trade, ‘drop the debt campaign’ and Trade Justice.
  • Articles in the church monthly magazine.
  • Circulating a copy of “The Inconvenient Truth” to members of the Church to watch in their homes – quite a lot of interest generated by this.
  • Snub campaign to get people to take re-usable bags when shopping.
  • The Handicraft group made and sold fabric shopping bags at various Church functions.

Recycling:

  • List all recycling facilities in the area – and to lobby for more to be done by the council (which is now broadening its range considerably).
  • Actual recycling: paper, stamps, and inkjet cartridges on a regular basis;
  • Collecting up baby clothes, toys and equipment for a ‘nearly new’ shop in an inner city church.
  • Recycling a lot of magazines e.g: The Ecologist, Earth Matters etc.
  • Taking ecover washing up liquid bottles to be refilled.

Schemes we tried

  • Plastic bottles were collected and taken to a tip by a church member on his way to work, until superseded by a local authority doorstep box scheme.
  • Recycling plastic film until the quantities became too great.
  • Considered the possibility of recycling tetra-packs to Scotland, but decided that Royal Mail flying them there rather nullified any carbon saving.

Future plans

  1. Calculate the carbon footprint of the church, and put a plan in action to reduce this.
  2. A second energy saving survey of the Church buildings.
  3. A programme of putting posters for grants for insulation, draught proofing etc in local churches.
  4. The children to create posters of all the wildlife that lives in the church gardens.

5. Talk to be given to a group on recycling and saving energy.

6. Campaign to get people to reduce their Junk Mail.

7. Re establish links with the Park Ranger Service.

8. Sign the Multi Faith Initiative on Climate Change.

9. A feasibility study of the potential of the Church Buildings for Renewable energy and rainwater harvesting.

10 Forming a Church Carbon Reduction Action Group to reduce our personal carbon footprint and that of the Church.

  1. Have a positive impact on and /or worked with their local or the global community

We hold an Annual Green Day, sometimes in conjunction with a flower festival, in the church, and advertised in the local press.

Green Day 2004

An exhibition by a church member on composting.

An exhibition on eco-balls.

A range of leaflets, magazines, books to take away or borrow.

Someone wandering around reading green poems to the visitors.

An exhibition on the creation of a Heathland area in Sutton Park

Sorting cans into their respective materials.

Green Day 2005

The local Park ranger leading a bug hunt on the church field and making kites with the children.

An exhibition on re-usable nappies.

A supply of ‘hippos’ for people to put in their water cisterns, with booklets on saving water.

A member of the local beekeeping club with a stall on bee-keeping.

An exhibition on can recycling ,with figures made from cans.

A full programme of activities for all the kids , all based on green issues.

A taste testing session of organic and non organic biscuits.

Heathland Day, Sutton Park

Giving out list of local recycling facilities, talking to people about Green Issues.

Green Day 2006

An exhibition on climate change.

Calculating a person’s carbon footprint, using the Centre for Alternative Technology,

Carbon gym and giving advice on reducing their footprints.

Giving advice to a lady of 92 who wanted to know about installing solar water heating

A plant sale.

A display on a local organic vegetable and fruit box scheme, and an organic meat supplier.

A range of leaflets, magazines, books and green mail order catalogues to take away or borrow.

The local Park Ranger leading a bug hunt on the church field.

We have worked with the uniformed groups – inviting them along to the Green Day services and activities, and encouraging them to take badges about the environment, and display their work.

We have also invented games and quizzes to share with children and young people – e.g.

  • Making spiders, and answering a quiz all about spiders
  • We have worked out a tree trail, taking in the various trees growing on our church field
  • A paper quiz
  • A game trying to guess how long it would take certain items to break down
  • A game sorting steel and aluminium cans using magnets

Local Carnival 2006

Green stand giving out a list of local recycling resources, which we had worked on.

Lots of leaflets, and mail order catalogues from Friends of the Earth, HDRA, Earth Repair Catalogue. Talking to people about green matters.

We have also used the church as a base to bring other people in:

A talk about composting: attendance 40 people – see appendix.

A talk about paper recycling: attendance 20 people – see appendix.

A talk on bringing wildlife into your garden – very popular, and repeated to a different group.

A talk on the local nature reserve, followed by a visit in summer, and the occasional use of the reserve for picnics.

A talk on Climate Change, with a speaker from Friends of the Earth giving each person a copy of a sheet of local recycling facilities and a sheet to calculate their carbon footprint. Boldmere Methodists and Cotteridge Quakers who we contacted sent representatives.

Three people went to a meeting on Climate Change and Poverty.

Advertising meetings organised by Friends of the Earth and the Marches Energy Agency, with quite a good take up.

Went to West Midlands Synod and talked to people about eco congregation and the multi faith initiative.

Steve Lyne became a Climate Change Ambassador, and spoke on the Christian Perspective on Climate Change at a Multi Faith Initiative meeting which was broadcast on the local green radio programme .

On World Environment Day he also spoke on Radio WM about the dangers of plastic carrier bags to wildlife both on land and sea.

Sutton Coldfield Carnival 2007

Exhibitions on climate change, The Multi Faith Initiative on Climate Change, Eco Congregations, leaflets, information, mail order catalogues, insulation grant leaflets.

A take away sheet of local recycling facilities and a sheet to calculate your carbon footprint.

Future events

Putting our list of local recycling facilities on the internet and publicise this in the local press.

Revamping the green part of the church website.

Steve Lyne goes to all the building exhibitions and is able to advise people on sustainable construction.

Helping Bloomsbury Church to address green issues.

On going publicity in the local press.

Using Church Members, Junior Church and Uniformed groups to compile a Green Map of Sutton Coldfield.

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