Thursday, August 4, 2022

Reading-Düsseldorf Churches Interchange

Yesterday afternoon St John's hosted a meeting for the Reading-Düsseldorf Churches Interchange - part of a week long visit. The afternoon was themed around Climate Change and Creation Care and started with a presentation about EcoChurch. I delivered this, and had been asked to focus especially on actions that individuals can do. In my preparation, I came across The JUMP's very optimistic calculations on the impact that individuals can have on the crisis by doing six key things to cut our own emissions, so I put these at the heart of the talk.

Afterwards one of the visitors, Hans, shared some of the activities done and issues faced by German churches also wanting to cut their carbon footprint. He told us of their Green Rooster initiative - their version of EcoChurch. There followed lots of enthusiastic discussion, especially around practical action like installing solar panels and the question of influencing our politicians. As well as learning about actions in Germany, it was a great opportunity to chat with people from other Reading churches who are now interested in becoming EcoChurches too!

After an excellent cream tea, there was a lovely ecumenical service at which Michaela Nieland-Schuller preached on creation care.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Climate Hero - calculating our emissions

Some months ago, members of the green team recommended using the Climate Hero website to calculate our carbon footprint. I have to confess, I never got round to it myself - until today, when it popped up on Twitter and I thought I really ought to take a look. I'd assumed it would want our energy bills etc, but it didn't. In some ways it was annoyingly vague, especially when it came to flights - there was no option for once every few years at any point. But it also asked questions I wasn't expecting and what was really useful was the feedback at the end which gave figures indicating the impact different changes could make. It promised to send a summary to my email address, which it did, but this really was brief so I wish I'd taken a few notes on that feedback. I suppose that's an incentive to do it again in a few months! It's probably not a very precise tool for really calculating your carbon footprint, but it is a very useful tool for flagging up actions you can take to make that footprint lower, whatever it might be. And it really does only take five minutes.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Sunshine, wind, and not much rain

Having put into practice many of the 'quick wins' suggested by the energy audit that Oxford diocese have subsidised for us, we've been looking at some of the more challenging tasks to improve our energy efficiency. Finding anyone prepared to offer a sensible quote for the cavity wall insulation is proving nigh on impossible. Quotes for solar panels are not easy to come by either and we're aware that churches are often not the most efficient buildings on which to put these panels because of the short periods of time for which they are in use. Consequently, we're exploring working together with St John's school so that energy produced on our roof can support them. Unfortunately, the only way to do this will be to link in to their electricity supplier which is not as green as ours, but is part of a much more economical scheme used by the schools. In terms of our EcoChurch score, we would lose as many points for switching our energy supplier as we would gain by installing solar panels, but we've decided that in the bigger scheme of things the latter is the greener option and we're going to keep pursuing it.

Back in May some of the congregation joined Greenpeace's Big Plastic count. Greenpeace recently launched their final report from this, revealing that "the UK’s homes produce 96.6 billion pieces of plastic packaging waste a year, with only 12% being recycled in the UK. The rest is exported to other countries to deal with (17%), buried in landfill (25%) or burnt in incinerators (45%)."

Another May highlight was the St John's School Fair at which we set up a stall for the first time (pictured above). The centrepiece was a craft activity that had proved popular at Forest Church - cardboard hearts (from old boxes) with elastic bands (salvaged from post) across them, into which the children could thread flowers we supplied. It proved a great hit at the fair too. We also encouraged people to make a commitment to green their life in some way, and to put a pebble in the jam-jar marked with their good intention so that we could see which was most popular - walking to school and eating less meat got the most votes; closely followed by picking up litter and turning off the tap when brushing your teeth. A number opted for choosing their own green commitment. The next highest votes were for avoiding buying fruit and veg in plastic and buying fairly traded. Trailing these were a handful of commitments to turn off 'vampire' devices, tell politicians what they thought, and learn about Reading hydro. In addition we had a treasure hunt, using postcards with images from The Lost Words - anyone who found all (or nearly all!) of the 'lost birds' could pick a prize (the results of a recent playroom clearout - some of which proved surprisingly strong incentives). Behind the stall we had a collection of information boards including encouragement to act for the planet - unfortunately nature wasn't entirely on our side in this as high winds through the afternoon meant we eventually had to take a couple of these down.

Now that summer is here we have been holding outdoor services again for the first Sunday of the month. Admittedly the threat of rain sent us back indoors in June, but last month we followed this up with a picnic (and had the additional entertainment of Scouts dragon-boat racing on the Thames). Next Sunday there will be another picnic, hopefully a little more peacefully.

Last Sunday I spent a couple of hours (divided either side of the service) attempting to deal with the weeds that have been sprouting up in our courtyard while no one was looking. I'm sorry to say I realised then that we had also made the classic error of everyone assuming someone else was taking responsibility for the watering over this heatwave, with the inevitable disappointing consequence. Luckily most of the plants had been chosen for their resilience, but a watering rota is now top of our next agenda!