Loving your Neighbour in an Age of Climate Crisis:
A Reading-based Guide
Activism: Join others in campaigning for a low carbon/sustainable future: Christian groups include www.operationnoah.org; www.greenchristian.org.uk; www.tearfund.org; www.christianaid.org.uk; www.cafod.org.uk; arocha.org.uk.
Local activist groups include www.readingfoe.org.uk (Friends of the Earth), www.transitionreading.org.uk; and www.greenpeace.org.uk/groups/berkshire – for more see the website of the Greater Reading Environment Network at www.gren.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 RSPCA Freedom Food labels or Soil Association ratification. Better still find locally reared organic meat and milk (eg www.sheepdrove.com, for Reading Farmers’ Market, the True Food Co-op and Riverford see below Food) and cut down consumption so you can afford to 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. Triodos Bank only finance positive social, environmental and cultural projects (www.triodos.co.uk). At present they only do savings accounts (by post or online) but are launching a current account in 2016.
Books: Greyfriars’ Bookshop has a small but useful range of green Christian books eg excellent advice in Ruth Valerio, ‘L’ is for Lifestyle and C. Foster and D. Shreeve, How Many Lightbulbs does it take to change a Christian? For a very wide range of green books see the RISC shop on London Street: Leo Hickman’s A Good Life is a great starting point. Use the library!
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. www.co-wheels.org.uk provide a fantastic car share scheme including cars at Cemetery Junction and Addington Road.
Church: ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it’ (Psalm 24:1) – what is your church doing about it? See your denomination's website for advice and inspiration, eg: the Church of England's site at www.churchcare.co.uk/shrinkingthefootprint, www.oxford.anglican.org/mission-ministry/environment. See also www.ecochurch.arocha.org.uk; www.ctbi.org.uk (search Creation Time); www.greeningstjohns.blogspot.com, www.ccow.org.uk, (as well groups cited under activism), for ideas and resources to help your church to respond. Join Christians from across Reading at outdoor services: www.stnicolas.org.uk/worship/oakwood-forest.
Compost: plants, food waste and paper in landfill produce methane (which is at least 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). Traidcraft also have a good range of cleaning products.
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’ - they are legally obliged to use a certain amount of renewables, don't let them charge you extra for it). Ecotricity provide Britain's greenest electricity and have started building green gas mills too. www.ecotricity.co.uk, mention Christian Aid when you switch and they’ll get £60 too (£150 for businesses, schools and churches).
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: on the 1st Saturday of the month, 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: 61 Grove Road, Emmer Green, www.truefood.coop, for organic (often fairtrade or vegan) wholefoods, fruit, veg, dairy and pre-ordered meat plus green cleaning etc at low prices with minimal packaging.
RISC, London Street; Greyfriars Book Shop and Oxfam Books, 8 High Street, sell fair trade foods and other goods.
See www.mapledurhamwatermill.co.uk for flour from Oxfordshire wheat (making bread can be a wonderful space to de-stress in, even to pray. See also www.sustainweb.org/realbread).
Veg boxes are much more local than supermarkets 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) www.riverford.co.uk.
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. Why not join a horticultural association for talks, visits etc and trading sheds for competitively priced essentials. See www.readingfoodgrowingnetwork.org.uk. Remember to look for peat free compost and growbags.
Heating: a typical home wastes one third of the heat produced by its central heating system through the roof and walls. Check out possible free insulation installation. Add thick curtains in front of doors, radiator boosters draw heat into the room. Berkshire Energy Pioneers are a Community Benefit Society helping community organisations to install solar PV onto their buildings.
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) and high street stationers sell recycled printer paper. RISC, Traidcraft, the Co-operative and the True Food Co-op 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 if possible or recycle. Be inventive – old maps make great wrapping paper.
Travel: Join Reading Cycle Campaign to help make cycling safer and for discounts at cycle shops: www.readingcyclecampaign.org.uk. Reading now has an extensive network of cycle lanes so that cycling is often the quickest route for journeys into the town centre. 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 or group travel). The Travel Office in Broad Street Mall sells smartcards for cheaper travel on Reading Buses (see www.reading-buses.co.uk/smartcard).
RCEL apologise for any errors or changes occurring to this information. None of the organisations cited had any input in the compilation of this guide.