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Shrinking the Footprint

National Leadership

The work we must all do for the good of the earth, of the poor and of future generations is work to which we are called from the heart of our faith. It is a practical response to the ‘Micah Challenge’: ‘What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?’[1]

The Church’s Shrinking the Footprint campaign and programme of action to mitigate climate change was launched in 2006. It invited all parish churches to carry out an audit of their energy uses so that a benchmark could be established. Having assessed the size of the current ‘carbon footprint’ of the Church, the idea was to roll out initiatives to shrink that footprint. The target is to achieve a carbon reduction of 80% by 2050 (in line with Government commitments), with an interim target of a 42% reduction by 2020. A dedicated website was set up, which gives suggestions for action and includes examples of good practice.


Church and Earth 2009-2016, the Church of England’s Seven Year Plan on Climate Change and the Environment, was part of the project of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) for ‘Seven-Year Plans for Generational Change’ by the world’s major faiths presented to the United Nations Secretary General in advance of the UN Convention on Climate Change, Copenhagen, December 2009. The Plan, commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London, was the work of a task group established under Shrinking the Footprint. It is divided into three main sections:

· The basis for environmental action: the scientific basis for our understanding of climate change, its consequences and those of other causes of environmental depredation plus the moral, biblical and theoretical grounding for Christian responses to these challenges.

· The environmental record of the Church of England from 1978 to the present, including resolutions to the Lambeth Conference and General Synod, C of E writings on environmental issues and examples of action at diocesan and parish level.

· Challenges for future church action in relation to buildings and assets; governance and partnerships; education and young people; lifestyles; pastoral and community work; media and advocacy; celebration.

A national project: Grow Zones

Grow Zones is a national project supported by the Big Lottery Fund’s Local Food scheme (http://www.growzones.com). It was started by EarthAbbey, an organisation founded by the Revd Chris Sunderland, a priest in Bristol Diocese. EarthAbbey (www.earthabbey.com) aspires to be a prophetic community inspired by Jesus whose life and mission was to bring about a peace which embraces all creation, acting out a message of radical change and focused on the need to live more in tune with the earth.

Grow Zones was piloted in Bristol. It is a resource for those wanting to start a community growing project. No gardening experience is required, though the facilitator needs some organisational skills. Grow Zones will provide the help and resources needed for the first season. An average size team could be 15–20 people with 8-12 different gardens, but Grow Zones works with bigger and smaller sized teams. The participants will have different skills, experience and garden sizes and different availability over the season.

In the spring or the autumn a team who live geographically close to one another get together. An easy schedule of Saturday morning visits is arranged to each of the gardens to match what needs doing – creating raised beds, pruning and grafting fruit trees, sowing seeds and sharing seedlings. We do preparatory jobs like seed sowing in the spring and harvesting, preserving and tidying up in the autumn. In exchange for helping each other, we’ll learn about permaculture and growing, and share in a bumper crop of fresh produce and most importantly, have some fun. Together we halve the risk and workload but double the harvest.”

There is a Grow Zones Kit designed to make life for the facilitator easy, which comprises materials for the participants and special resources for the facilitator:

1. It gets people growing: Grow Zones gets people growing which, for many, will be their first time. It is designed to encourage reflective practice which means that that learning is shared by the whole group rather than there needing to be one expert or teacher in charge.

2. It introduces permaculture: Participants are encouraged to design along permaculture principles if possible which is a great way to overcome some of the challenges facing a new grower.

3. It is an organisational resource. The kit provides the resources and the structure to organise the garden designs and the diary of visits. Organising garden designs and a diary of visits for a large group of people (so that each garden has a design, is visited by the team, but that no participant does more than four visits) can be a lengthy task without a structured process to help you do it.

4. It is a community forming project. Participants are likely to form friendships and stay in touch through Grow Zones.

5. It provides insurance cover. Registered Grow Zones are covered by insurance to give you peace of mind during the group visits.

David Shreeve, the Church of England’s national environment adviser, said:

“Churches and faith groups are ideally placed to establish Grow Zones. Many younger families have the enthusiasm whilst older people often have the gardens which they would welcome some help with and so here's an excellent way to bring congregations together. Grow Zones not only provide practical opportunities, but can produce a very real sense of community with all ages sharing in a 'real-life good life'.”

Chris Sunderland said: “The Grow Zones Kit has been developed to help teams get organised and growing without necessarily having any expert knowledge. At the beginning the project was a way to get people growing their own food but it has proved to be an amazing friendship and community forming project too. It seems easier for people to make friends over shared work.”

A regional response: 1. South West Diocesan Regional Environment Group

The South West Diocesan Regional Environment Group was set up in 2009 by Truro, Exeter, Bath and Wells, Bristol, Gloucester and Salisbury Dioceses. The purposes of the Group are to:

· Bring together personnel from different diocesan departments across the six dioceses in the south west, to develop common working on the Shrinking the Footprint campaign in the region.
· Pursue initiatives in co-operation that individual Dioceses cannot pursue in isolation.
· Encourage each other and share best practice.
· Provide guidance regarding development of policies, plans and initiatives.
· Derive greater influence by joining together to represent the church’s interest; for example, campaigning and joint purchasing.

The departments represented are Archdeacons; Cathedrals; DAC; Diocesan Environment Officers; Diocesan Secretaries; Education; Finance; Property; Social Responsibility Officers. The Group reports to the Diocesan Secretaries.

A regional response: 2. Faiths4Change

The original idea for the multi-faith, environmental pilot project, Operation EDEN, came from the Bishop of Liverpool. Developed in partnership with senior members of different denominations and world faiths, the underlying assumptions were that:

· World religions share common ground in their values and commitments to caring for the earth and communities.
· Faith communities are often historically rooted in local neighbourhoods and have considerable resources of land, buildings, people (volunteers and paid staff), expertise and relationships.
· Most faith communities use their resources to provide services to all members of the community.
· Most people care about their community, irrespective of whether or not they have a religious faith.
· Organisations/agencies from all sectors would support partnership action that enabled residents to transform their communities.
· By facilitating action led by faith community partners, activity undertaken could be sustained.

The idea was to have paid workers who could facilitate positive environmental change supported by local people and faith communities working together. Operation EDEN provided free support, advice and training and access to a Development Fund to seed small scale projects with grants of up to £4,000. Projects in the 10% most deprived areas had to secure at least one sixth match funding and in other areas, one third. Projects workers supported them to do this. Between 2004 and 2007, 57 projects were funded. Funding was secured from the Northwest Development Agency (NWDA), the Environment Agency and Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority, totalling of over £500,000 over three years. There were output targets attached to the funding (such as hectares of land remediated or brought back into community use and number of adults trained). The range and reach of the projects far exceeded expectations.

The Eden Project only covered Merseyside, the geographical area of the Diocese of Liverpool. However, the intention was always to test the success of a multi-faith project on Merseyside and, if it worked, roll it out regionally. In 2007, with the support of NWDA, it was retitled Faiths4Change and extended to working with faith communities from across the North West, still focusing on the interlinked areas of climate change, social justice and health and wellbeing. New bases were established in Burnley, Manchester and Preston, all within faith community-owned buildings. Faiths4Change expanded and flourished until Spring 2011 when the abolition of Regional Development Agencies cut off its main source of funding. Between 2008 and 2010, it supported 74 projects which together had over 900 volunteers who put in about 12,000 volunteer hours. F4C invested around £88,000 in projects which attracted a further £124,000 cash match and over £200,000 in kind. In recent times, as a registered charity and social enterprise, F4C has had contracts from bodies such as United Utilities, Merseyside Waste Disposal Agency and the Environment Agency, primarily to work with faith communities in some of the most disadvantaged areas in the North West. F4C also receives a donation for each individual or faith community that signs up to Ecotricity and uses the income to purchase sustainability kits for parent and toddler groups.

Examples of current projects are:

· Food4Thought is a joint project with Asylum Link Merseyside that enables asylum seekers, refugees and local people to socialise, using food as a means to learn about each other, increase health and wellbeing and to enjoy sharing.

· The Simply Living project engages parents/guardians on low incomes with babies and pre-school children to promote awareness and behavioural change in relation to energy and water efficiency, food growing and waste disposal habits.

· Sowing Seeds for Transformation – a Schools Food Growing Programme was developed in partnership with the Liverpool Diocese Education Team and their Advisory Head Teacher. It is a chargeable service that supports Every Child Matters, Sustainable Schools, Eco Schools and Healthy Schools. Exciting and rewarding for children and staff, it builds confidence for children, supports their learning and promotes exercise and increased nutrition and it involves parents and community members. Services are tailored to meet the needs of each school community. First Steps enables staff to plan and develop a sustainable food growing partnership project with considerable support from Faiths4Change Projects Officer. One-day workshops for the whole school community include ‘Sowing and Planting’, ‘African Bag Gardens’ and ‘Food from Around the World’.

· Sustainability audits for churches (see box below).

· Faiths4Change is currently developing new work with United Utilities in Burnley, an area experiencing water resource issues, to engage with Muslim households and Mosque groups to create a water saving programme.

· Environment Agency funding is directed towards work around flood risk, for example in Rochdale and Bolton.

Having begun as a Diocese of Liverpool initiative, F4C became an independent charity in 2010. It has had to go through a period of retrenchment because of the loss of significant pots of funding, though some of the staff who were made redundant are continuing on a self-employed basis because demand remains.

Faiths4Change Energy and Environmental Audits for Churches

The purpose is to help identify wastage providing a starting point to reduce energy consumption, lower CO2 emissions, and use water more carefully, whilst also thinking about how any waste may be better managed.

“We’ll come and spend a day with you and look at how your building is being used and the heating and lighting, water and waste. You’ll need to provide us with information such as utility bills and meter readings. We’ll provide you with a detailed report based upon the observations made and analysis of information which will highlight areas of good stewardship as well as areas to be addressed to lower your carbon and environmental footprints and your financial costs.

Following on from the audit and report, we’ll continue to analyse your energy consumption so that from start to finish of the process you’ll have a better understanding of how your building is performing and as a consequence you’ll be able to determine if you are burning money or making savings that could be put to good use elsewhere.”



A diocesan response 1: Exeter

Action on the environment began in the 1980s in the area of the Exeter Diocese when the Devon Christian Ecology Group was set up and a Churches Green Action programme began. There is a team to oversee and promote Shrinking the Footprint, (StF) focusing on churches and other buildings. Bearing in mind that the three largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions are power production (mainly electricity), buildings and transport, it was concluded that the StF campaign needed to focus on activities in five areas:

· procurement and supplies;
· property and plant;
· transport and travel;
· personal lifestyles;
· theology and worship.

The Diocese has a ten year Strategy Plan 2010-2011 delegated to the Council for Church and Society, but owned by the Bishop’s Council and resourced through the Diocesan Board of Finance.

“There are a number of key challenges which underpin this strategy: climate change, peak oil, energy security, food security. As part of our covenantal relationship with God and the Earth, we need to be working towards a just and sustainable stewardship of the world and its natural resources.”

The vision is to achieve a sustainable future for Exeter Diocese (CofE in Devon) in terms of the environment, financial security, energy security and viability of local communities. Exeter StF is working on all the areas listed in the challenges for future action in Church and Earth 2009-2016. The main objectives are to:

· be able to measure the Diocese’s annual carbon footprint;
· reduce carbon emissions in the Diocese compared with the 2005-08 average by at least 24% by 2015 and 42% by 2020;
· measure the annual ecological footprint;
· seek to maximise potential financial benefits in the longer term;
· encourage green investment;
· develop renewable energy projects;
· reduce consumption of fossil fuels;
· promote local energy and food sourcing.

The Diocese is responding by different means:

· Taking action to achieve the sustainable operation of the Diocese. For example, a programme of insulating parsonages was set up in collaboration with local authorities.
· Influencing other organisations within the Diocese to work towards sustainability.
· Encouraging individuals to take positive action.
· Lobbying external bodies in the church, local and national government and elsewhere to improve the context.


A diocesan response 2: Chichester

Eco Faith is a resource created by Chichester diocese, local councils and the Catholic diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The programme is designed for all faith groups to help them reduce the environmental impact of their faith buildings and also the impact of members on the environment in order to slow down the effects of climate change. There are resources on topics such as climate change, energy efficinecy in places of worship and homes, fuel poverty, waste reduction and food as well as theology and the environment.


A local response: St Margaret’s Church, Putney Eco-Congregation

'Eco-Congregation' developed from a partnership between the Government funded environmental charity ENCAMS (which runs the Keep Britain Tidy Campaign and the Going for Green brand) and the Environmental Issues Network of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. It aims to encourage churches to consider environmental issues within a Christian context and enable local churches to make positive contributions in their life and mission.

The Eco-Congregation Award is given to churches that have:

- Worked through the churches’ environmental check-up;
- Helped the whole congregation to make the link between their Christian faith and environmental concerns (growing in faith and understanding);
- Taken practical action in the church and/or church grounds (putting God’s house in green order);
- Had a positive impact on and/or worked with their local or wider community (changing lives: changing communities).

Churches must have undertaken one reasonably substantive piece of work or a number of smaller projects in each area. When there is overlap, for example a church involving the local community in improvements to their grounds, the church will be given credit for taking action in both areas.


St Margaret’s Church, Putney received an Eco-Congregation award in March 2011. The following shows the way St Margaret’s meets the criteria for the award.

Made the link between the Christian faith and our environmental concerns

Our emphasis is on the care of God’s Creation rather than Climate Change which is a real ongoing stewardship.

1. Annual Environment Sunday with a special service and promises made by congregation to reduce personal carbon footprint.
2. Regular prayers and hymns remembering the environment and regular mention of environmental matters in sermons.
3. Notice board in Church dedicated to St. Margaret’s is Going Greener which is renewed on a fairly regular basis.
4. Bookshop and Library feature environmental books.
5. The Environment Group meets at about six weekly intervals on a Sunday over a Fair Trade breakfast.
6. The Pathfinders (teenagers) and Sunday School regularly consider environmental issues and have tried to put up bird feeders which have been savaged by squirrels!
7. Regular reports and articles in the Parish magazine.
8. Reports to every P.C.C. Meeting.

Future plans:

· Set up an environmental study group with Churches Together in Putney to follow the Methodist Study ‘Hope in the Future’;
· Hold an annual Environment Sunday with a relevant theme, e.g. water;
· Invite another Environmental preacher;
· Keep assessing our environmental position prayerfully.

Taken practical action in the church and/or church grounds

1. We have completed an environmental audit.
2. We monitor our energy consumption very regularly and have a new more efficient boiler which operates on a timer and will be serviced regularly.
3. We have insulated the Parish Hall roofs, try to keep the windows clean, have installed low-energy light bulbs and encourage all users to switch off unnecessary lights and not leave items on stand-by.
4. We check all water outlets.
5. We have put a new disabled access plan into effect and have installed a disabled toilet.
6. We have an active recycling scheme where we collect items (stamps, spectacles, mobile phones, cartridges, batteries and light bulbs) in Fair Trade bags at the back of the Church and the Environment Group take them to the appropriate place on a monthly rota. We have joined a scheme run by Christian Aid’s partner Redeem whereby Christian Aid will receive about £4 for every old mobile phone and £1 for every recyclable ink cartridge sent to Redeem.
7. We are a Fair Trade Parish (every body drinks F.T. tea or coffee at Church functions). We use crockery rather than paper cups and plates.
8. We maintain our garden which is used as a play area for the nursery school which uses our Hall.
9. We use the website wherever possible and encourage members of the congregation not to print unless necessary (for the last A.P.C.M. we only printed ten sets of papers instead of the usual sixty).
10. Our logo is green!

Future plans and hopes:

· Widen our recycling campaign;
· Put up a rain water butt;
· Erect a cycle shed;
· Put up squirrel proof bird feeders;
· Install a bench so that people can sit and enjoy our garden

Had a positive impact on and/or worked with their local or the global community

1. Articles in Roundabout, the Parish newsletter that goes to every home in the Parish twice a year.
2. We strongly support Christian Aid (many members collect every Christian Aid Week) and actively support ‘Send a Cow’.
3. We actively support Churches Together in Putney and have been instrumental in trying to set up an Eco Group within C.T.P.
4. All building users are invited to join in our ‘Reduce your footprint’ campaign and many of them have made promises on Environment Sundays.
5. We do include environmental issues in our weekly pew sheet (e.g. recycling).
6. We have been in discussion with Wandsworth Borough Council to see how we can support their very active environment campaigns.
7. I have been in touch with the wife of the Bishop of the Amazon to try to open a dialogue on the environmental issues in our countries.
8. I have been to a meeting at St. Andrew’s Earlsfield and have offered to join a group working in the area to promote a Christian response to the problems facing our environment.
9. We have a regular Traidcraft stall selling their products.

Future plans:

· Invite Wandsworth Borough Council to have a recycling stall on St. Margaret’s Day in June.
· Develop our links with Brazil.
· More articles and green tips in Roundabout.
· Join the scheme promoted by the Putney Society to make Putney Park Lane a ‘Bee Line’.
· Improve and extend our links with Fair Trade, Christian Aid and the Council.


[1] From the Foreword to the Church and Earth 2009-2016, the Church of England’s Seven Year Plan on Climate Change and the Environment, (October 2009) by the Rt Revd Dr Richard Chartres, Bishop of London and Chair of the Shrinking the Footprint Campaign.