Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Comment on Power

I've had a couple of comments on the previous entry - please do read the one attached. At the PCC one member had information from the green electricity website which he said gave details of Ecotricity's New Energy Plus sources of power. This listed 18.3% coal and 18% nuclear among others which was rather a shock to me and inevitably undermined the case I was making to change to this company.
Following the comments to the blog entry I have checked up the website and found that this table of sources actually refers to all of Ecotricity's power sources, not just New Energy Plus which is indeed sourced 100% from its windfarms and other renewable sources that they have bought. It's an easy mistake to make given the website layout but I apologise to Ecotricity for failing to check this out in more detail earlier.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Monday of last week was the crucial PCC vote on changing our electricity supplier. I had given everyone a briefing from which my 1 September blog on this subject was written. I was recommending Ecotricity because it is investing in more renewable energy sources than any other company in this country and because it is significantly cheaper than Good Energy. To my surprise, despite the impending rise in the parish share and other strains on our budget, the general feeling was that if we're going to do this we should opt for whatever is genuinely greenest.

The coal and nuclear contributions in Ecotricity's so-called 100% green option caused concern among many. Eventually we voted not on the specific company but on whether to change our supplier and this was carried by a signficant majority. Three of us were then asked to go away, do more research and present the PCC with 'the greenest option' at the next meeting. I do have a concern that there is no such thing as 'the greenest option', only better options from different perspectives. However, it's great that we're now on track to make a really significant cut in our financial support for carbon production.

A quick note on banking - it seemed to make sense to refer this back to the diocese since so many of Oxford's churches bank with NatWest and we would clearly make a bigger impact if we acted together. I've e-mailed the diocese's social responsibility officer on this and await the finance officer's response.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

World Toilet Day

After the success of last year's Clutter Sale we thought we'd ask the Exclaimers to organise another. They suggested raising money for Water Aid. It's not a charity I'm very familiar with so I looked it up on the web and discovered that aptly the Wednesday after we'd scheduled the sale is their World Toilet Day. It sounds a funny concept, but that's because we're not among the 40% of the world's population without the basic human right of adequate sanitation, a lack that leads to 2.4 million child deaths every year.

We chose this Sunday because the Scout's Nearly New Sale is next Saturday and they're going to try to sell what we did not. Unfortunately we didn't realise we would clash with stewardship Sunday, which may have contributed to the lower income than last year. Nonetheless many people were generous and we raised £103.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Diocesan Synod

Just back from the Oxford diocesan synod in High Wycombe. Along with Eco-congregation representatives from All Saints, Wokingham and from Great Missenden I had about 2 minutes to talk about what Eco-congregation means to our church. This was part of a motion being proposed by the Diocesan Board for Social Responsibility:

This synod affirms its commitment to the Fifth Mark of Mission‘To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth’ and accordingly:

Recognises and commends the work of the Oxford Diocesan Environment Group (ODEG);

Aims to implement the motion on carbon emission reductions adopted by synod in 2005;

Draws attention to the resources offered by Eco-congregation;

Recommends that each department at Diocesan Church House nominate a link person to work with ODEG in co-ordinating a diocesan strategy on climate change issues;
Welcomes the General Synod’s plans to set up an ‘adaptation fund’ to mitigate the disproportionate burden of climate change in other parts of the world, and encourages parishes to make use of this.

What struck me most about the accompanying presentation is the fact that the average Tanzanian's carbon emissions are equal to those of my freezer alone. All my freezer contains at present are ice lollies I'm usually too strict to let the children eat, an occasionally used ice-cream maker and some beef burgers from a student barbecue here that need to be transferred to the freezer of someone who actually eats meat - that is a scandal. (Of course I always mean it to be full of home-grown produce but my gardening has been utterly chaotic this year).

Guessing what was most appropriate to say to the delegates was not easy. I aimed for referring to easy-to-do, visible actions like the recycling boxes, clutter sales and LOAF meals that involved a number of environmental/development issues at once. Even as I did so I was aware that it felt very small scale. I should of course have mentioned political campaigning, but beyond postcard signing most members of the congregation haven't done much on this issue. I've not been on a demonstration myself since my youngest was in utero.

One of those who stood up to comment afterwards compared it with making buckets when we need an ark. Another asked whether we should be buying fair trade sugar or locally grown Silver Spoon.

The event has been reported in the diocesan newspaper, The Door.

The motion passed almost unanimously but I was left feeling it was inadequate - are we achieving any more than creating a culture of green consciousness?

All the campaiging that made the government agree to an 80% emissions cut target was clearly good, but on Thursday I met with Reading Faith Forum's environmental group which includes a borough council rep: I was struck by how very low the immediate carbon reductions targets are and the lack of planning for meeting the 80%. Those making the commitments will not be on the political scene to be held accountable if the grander targets are missed.

Friday, November 14, 2008

God's Green Word

The switchover to greener cleaning is progressing. I found SquirtEco is 1/3 off in Sainsbury's at present so bought six bottles but have just learnt that we can order from Natural Collection via Christian Aid's website and then Christian Aid get 10% of the cost. So once we've got our system sorted out this will definitely be the way forward.

Our home group began following Eco-congregation's Exploring God's Green Word study series last night. I admit I wasn't immediately sure that it was going to develop into a particularly constructive discussion, partly since the Creation stories do seem very familiar stories and partly because our group has already done a lot of thinking about Creation issues. However, it did prove very fruitful so we'll certainly be continuing with it.

I have been persuaded to rethink on plastic recycling, but am hoping to find someone who actually shops at Sainsbury's who would be prepared to deliver the plastic once I've sorted it.

I've been distracted while typing by a handful of little birds just outside the window, including one of my favourites - a long tailed tit - hence today's picture.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


I've recently stopped collecting the church's plastic bags and wraps for recycling. Unfortunately I simply couldn't find time to sort it all out which meant that we were gathering a hazardous amount of plastic in a two-year-old's home, plus it was getting costly to post off. Part of the problem was the large quantity of unsuitable plastics that appeared, especially so-called 'degradable' plastic which is apparently actually made of tiny particles of plastic (which never will break down and are therefore a pollution hazard) bound together with starch which must not be mixed with polythene in the recycling process. After the last sort out my bin was looking disturbingly full.

However, I've just found out from the Christian Ecology Link e-mail group that the plastics I was previously posting can be put into recycling banks at Sainsbury's. Consequently I'm hoping the congregation members who got into the habit of collecting will continue to do so and have just sent off the following message for inclusion in next week's notices:

Plastic Recycling: Please don't stop collecting your plastic to recycle, but please sort it carefully. HDPE (2) and LDPE (4) or bags which say they are recyclable polythene can all be put into the plastic recycling bins at large Sainsbury's stores. They can also be posted to PolyPrint Mailing Films Ltd, Unit 21a Mackintosh Road, Rackheath Estate, Rackheath, Norwich, NR13 6LJ ()1603 721807). It is essential that you do not include 'degradable', 'biodegradable', 'oxydegradable' or compostable film - this all contains starch which messes up the process and will ruin the entire batch of plastic. Please also carefully cut off any paper labels which will block the machinery.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Autumn flowers

At Oasis again today (unfortunately by car again, this time because I'm trying to squeeze too much in to my day - not because our vicar's recent history of cycling accidents is putting me off). Finally got round to putting some heather and cyclamens into the newly bare spaces in the garden - my toddler enthusiastically directing operations and desperate to water them afterwards (with the cafetiere that was the only 'watering can' I could find).
We clearly have quite a long way to go in moving to greener cleaning products: the kitchen smelt of bleach even though the Ecover spray is apparently being used by some people, and I've realised we have a vast stock of 'conventional' washing up liquid to get through before we can transfer to something greener. Since the items in use in the kitchen are visible not only to the congregation but also to the school mums who drop in to the new morning cafe this is a disappointing lack of green witness. On the positive side the tea and coffee at the cafe is fairly traded and someone has taken the opportunity of putting out leaflets from the True Food Co-op there.