Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Loving your neighbour in an age of climate crisis

I recently put together a sort of beginner's guide to green living for Christians in Reading for use at some of the Christian Ecology Link stalls we've been holding. I'll be taking some paper copies to St John's on Sunday (recycled paper of course!) but thought it would be useful to put a version up here too:

Activism: the Copenhagen climate change summit this December is the crucial opportunity for politicians to commit to sustainable stewardship of our planet. Join other Christians in campaigning to make sure this happens: www.operationnoah.org; www.tearfund.org; www.christianaid.org.uk; www.cafod.org.uk.

Animals: meat and dairy production contribute more to climate change than the entire global transport sector. Most of the recent destruction of the irreplaceably diverse and beautiful Amazon rainforest has been for beef farming (the UK is a major consumer of this beef), some has been for soya chicken feed. Intensive farming is not just an abuse of God’s creatures (cf Proverbs 12:10) but a breeding ground for disease, including swine flu. For animal welfare, look for RSPB Freedom Food labels or Soil Association ratification. Better still find locally reared organic meat and milk (www.sheepdrove.com, for Reading Farmers’ Market, True Food Co-op and Riverford see below Food) and cut down consumption so you can afford and enjoy meat as the luxury it should be in a fairer world. Try going veggie for Lent or Advent and see what happens.

Banking: our money is powerful. We can make sure it is not used to invest in destroying Indonesian rainforests for paper or mining operations that devastate local eco-systems. The Co-operative bank (and insurance companies) have an impressive ethical policy that serves its customers well too (see www.goodwithmoney.co.uk) Their Reading branch is on St Mary’s Butts. For a bank with real ‘kingdom ethics’, see Triodos Bank who only finance positive social, environmental and cultural projects (www.triodos.co.uk). At present they only do savings accounts (by post or online).

Books: Greyfriars’ Bookshop and St Andrew’s, London Street each have a small but very useful range of green Christian books. Ruth Valerio, ‘L’ is for Lifestyle is a great starting point for greening your life; J Matthew Sleeth, Serve God Save the Planet is compelling easy reading; C. Foster and D. Shreeve, How Many Lightbulbs does it take to change a Christian? is full of green tips.

Cars: transport accounts for about one quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions, mostly from road traffic. Leaving your mobile phone charging all day uses as much energy as driving your car for one second. The RAC and AA campaign for more roads, so change to the Environmental Transport Association (www.eta.co.uk) and see their website for advice on greener driving. Try giving up the car for a week and see what happens. It can prove surprisingly liberating. If you want to scrap a car, offer it to Reading Skidz to help kids learn useful skills: 0118 987118. www.commonwheels.org.uk provide a fantastic car share scheme based at Cemetery Junction and Kennet Island.

Church: ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it’ (Psalm 24:1) – what is your church doing about it? See www.ecocongregation.org.uk, www.arocha.org, www.ctbi.org.uk/375, www.ccow.org.uk, www.greeningstjohns.blogspot.com (as well as those cited under activism), for ideas and resources to help your church respond.

Compost: plants, food waste and paper in landfill produce methane (which is 20 times worse than CO² as a greenhouse gas). See Reading Borough Council’s website for advice on composting and for special offers for residents on compost bins and green cones (the latter are for cooked food waste that might otherwise attract rats).

Dirt: conventional cleaning products for our bodies, homes and clothes are, or have recently been, commonly tested on animals. They contain various substances that damage water eco-systems and are hard to process at water treatment works (requiring greater energy and water input). All you really need can be bought at RISC, London Street, or the True Food Co-op (see below, Food). For household cleaning they sell Bio-D, probably the greenest household cleaner. Ecover come a close second and with (slightly less green but award-winning) Fresh and Green or Simply Active Eco-smart can be purchased at Robert Dyas. The Co-operative sell a similar ‘own brand’.

Electricity: the single biggest thing you can do to reduce your individual direct carbon emissions is change to a genuinely green electricity supplier (don’t be fooled by the ‘greenwash’ of the major energy companies and their ‘green tariffs’). Ecotricity guarantee to charge the same as the Big Six local electricity suppliers but invest over £400 per customer in wind generation (www.ecotricity.co.uk, mention Christian Aid when you switch and they’ll get £25 too. Check the website to decide if you want their 100% green tariff)

Food: Half of all the food produced on British farms is thrown away. At least 1 in 8 people on the planet are undernourished. A similar number are obese. Yet simple, home-cooked food can be one of the deep pleasures of life, echoing sacred meals under the oaks of Mamre or in a house at Bethany.

Use your LOAF: Locally produced, Organically grown, Animal Friendly, Fairly traded .

Where to buy it?

Reading Farmers’ Market: every 1st and 3rd Saturday, 8.30-12, The Cattle Market, Gt Knollys Street for local food and a chance to meet the growers themselves

The True Food Co-op: every 2nd and 4th Saturday 1-4, RISC, London Street and venues throughout Reading the rest of the week (see www.truefood.coop) for organic (often fairtrade or vegan) wholefoods, fruit and veg, green cleaning etc at low prices with minimal packaging in a relaxed atmosphere

RISC, London Street and Oxfam Books, 8 High Street, sell fair trade foods and other goods. County Delicacies on St Mary’s Butts sell local cheeses and many types of flour (making bread can be a wonderful space to de-stress in, even to pray. See also www.sustainweb.org/realbread).

Veg boxes are local and guarantee our farmers a fair price. For very local, see www.tolhurstorganic.co.uk, or (if you want to be able to choose what arrives and have a wider variety, never air-freighted and 22% cheaper than supermarket organics) www.riverfordnorton.co.uk.

These are all also much more enjoyable ways to shop than supermarkets.

Support your local Co-operative shops too: they’re officially the ‘greenest supermarket’.

If your church does not have a Traidcraft stall, it’s time to set one up (www.traidcraft.co.uk).

Grow your own: whether it’s sprouting seeds on the kitchen window or working a whole allotment, most people find such creative acts good for their relationship with the Creator. They can also reduce food miles and make for a better understanding of the planet. Caversham, Tilehurst, Woodley and Earley/East Reading all have horticultural associations that give support (talks, visits etc) and have trading sheds for competitively priced essentials. (See Reading library website for details of the first three, ring 0118 9861909 for the last). B&Q sell peat free organic compost and growbags.

Heating: a typical home wastes one third of the heat produced by its central heating system through the roof and walls. Reading’s Heatseekers will advise on what insulation you need and how to get substantial discounts: 0845 3909390. (See also www.readingenergypioneers.info). Wokingham residents can get discounts through www.markgroup.co.uk.

Living Lightly: Inspired by Psalm 24, A Rocha have set up an online community to encourage Christians to live more sustainably by committing to make one lifestyle change every three months. Even if you don’t join them, the website is full of useful tips: www.livinglightly24-1.org.uk.

Paper: forest loss caused by paper production is a bigger cause of climate change than flying (it’s also driving the orang-utan to extinction). The True Food Co-op (see above, Food) sell recycled printer paper. Along with RISC and the Co-operative they also sell recycled paper goods like toilet rolls. To cancel unaddressed mail, write to Door to Door Opt Out, Royal Mail, Kingsmead House, Oxpens Road, Oxford, OX1 1RX; to cancel addressed junk mail, ring the Mailing Preference Service on 0845 7034599; to cancel free papers, find their phone numbers inside; put up a note for the menu deliverers. Re-think your buying of magazines etc. Re-use as much as possible, then compost.

Travel: join Reading Cycle Campaign to help make cycling safer and for discounts at cycle shops (www.readingcyclecampaign.org.uk). www.seat61.com gives advice on alternative travel arrangements to avoid flying to many destinations. Network or Family&Friends Railcards make for significantly cheaper train travel (as does booking in advance). The Travel Office in Broad Street Mall sells smartcards for cheaper travel on Reading Buses (see www.reading-buses.co.uk/smartcard).

1 comment:

  1. A very helpful list of things - thankyou for your hard work.