So what is an "Eco-Congregation"?
It is an ecumenical programme helping churches make the link between environmental issues and Christian faith, and respond in practical action in the church, in the lives of individuals, and in the local and global community. More information here.
We achieved this award in September 2014. Leading up to the award we held regular meetings of the Eco Group whose members had a variety of expertise. We fulfilled the three sections in the following ways:
1. Made the link between the Christian faith and our environmental concerns (growing in faith and understanding, modules 2 – 6)
The Eco theme was included in a number of services including the Harvest Festival and Parade services. The Junior Church addressed Eco themes and two Summer Holiday Clubs had Eco as their main theme: Slime Busters in 2008 and Waste Watchers in 2014.
2. Taken practical action in the church and/or church grounds (putting God's house in green order, modules 7 – 9)
Many changes were made to the building in order to reduce our carbon footprint. These included fitting solar panels which produced over 20 MW in two and a half years, fitting low energy light bulbs and auto sensing light switches and purchasing an industrial dishwasher with a 2 minute cycle and a water softener. The gardening team installed bird boxes and a water butt. They also produced food on their allotment which was used in social events.
3. Had a positive impact on and/or worked with their local or the global community (changing lives: changing communities modules 10 – 12)
Our church participates actively in the Wokingham Food Bank. We recycle cardboard, plastic and cans. Printer cartridges are recycled and the money is passed on to Traidcraft. The gardeners are working with Wokingham Horticultural Association replanting in waste areas in the town to create wildlife areas. They also wrote an article on Green Gardening for the Church magazine which is also being used in Wokingham Borough Council towards Wokingham in Bloom.
Overall it was the variety of our work that helped us achieve this award. We have a wooden plaque which we can put up near the solar panel monitor in The Meeting Place.
Update March 2017:
The Eco Congregation Award is for three years, so we are currently looking at what is needed to renew this award in September 2017. The Eco group met in late 2016 and a number of the activities are still ongoing. There are also extra concerns as the Peach Place redevelopment clears some of the flower beds around the church perimeter. The gardening group have been busy moving bushes and plants so that they are not lost.
The Indicator Panel
The Indicator Panel (mounted on the Church side wall in The Meeting Place) has three live displays:-
Top Display: shows the real time output of the solar panels in kW (Kilowatts). So if the sun is shining you could well see levels of 6 or 7 kW, however if a cloud drifts across the sun then the output will quickly fall, perhaps to 0.5 kW.
Middle Display: shows the level of CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions saved by our solar panels, measured in kg (Kilograms). N.B. Burning coal and oil in electricity generation produces CO2.
Bottom Display: shows the total output in kWh (Kilowatt hours) since the panels were turned on at the end of February 2012.
The Eco Task Force