Going green needn't cost the earth - the Diocese of Worcester says that the running costs of its first ‘eco vicarage’ will amount to as little as £100 per year.
Worcester diocese are pioneering eco-housing for clergy
The specially designed ‘carbon neutral’ parsonage has four bedrooms and the usual Vicar’s study along with large reception rooms and a spacious garden.
But there the similarity with normal vicarages ends, because the house has been designed by specialists in eco-friendly building technology.
As well as using a heat exchanger to bring heat from below the ground up into the house, which eliminates the need for conventional central heating, the house also features state of the art insulation technology, rainwater capture, grey water recycling, and solar cells to power electrical appliances.
Hot water is taken from roof mounted solar panels, and the materials used to build the house were either recycled, taken from sustainable sources, or used because of their low ‘embedded carbon’.
All the built in appliances are ‘low energy’ – so they use as little electricity as possible, and the house has been designed to ensure it provides homes not just for humans, but for wildlife too – the garden has a hedgehog house, as well as homes for bats, birds and insects.
The energy generation technology and other eco-innovations in the house mean that not only will the residents have a small carbon-footprint, but the running costs of the house will be reduced from around £2000.00 (the average for a standard vicarage) to a mere £100.00
The Church of England has made a commitment to using more eco-friendly designs in its new build programme, and this fits in with the emerging ‘green’ philosophy that is taking hold within the church.
During the Church’s ‘Shrinking the Footprint’ campaign, Archbishop Rowan Williams said: “For the Church of the 21st century, good ecology is not an optional extra but a matter of justice. It is therefore central to what it means to be a Christian.”
And it’s not just Anglicans who are pushing the environmentalist agenda, recent survey data from the Evangelical Alliance shows that 94% of British Evangelicals believe ‘it’s a Christian’s duty to care for the environment.’
We're heating our earth up, how can we help the environment?
In 2009 The Church of Scotland General Assembly stated: "The Church of Scotland is concerned that climate change poses a serious and immediate threat to people everywhere, particularly to the poor of the earth; and that climate change represents a failure in our stewardship of God's creation. We accept the need to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases urgently to avoid dangerous and irreversible climate change; and to promote a more equitable and sustainable use of energy.”
And as recently as February 2012, Church leaders from a wide variety of denominations got together to sign up to the Operation Noah ‘Ash Wednesday’ declaration.
Part of the declaration reads: “Continuing to pollute the atmosphere when we know the dangers, goes against what we know of God’s ways and God’s will. We are failing to love not only the earth, but our neighbours and ourselves, who are made in God's image. God grieves over the destruction of creation and so should we. Repentance means finding creative, constructive and immediate ways of addressing the danger.”
How can we play our part in addressing the problem of climate change?
We can't all live in specially designed 'eco-houses', so what practical steps can we take today, to address our environmental responsibilities?
Install low voltage or ‘A’ rated appliances. When you need a new washing machine or cooker, make it as green as possible, put in low energy light bulbs, and make sure you turn off appliances when you aren’t using them.
Turn your thermostat down. Wear a jumper or two instead, one extra layer of clothing is equivalent to one degree on the thermostat.
Share housing. Single people living alone use more energy because they are heating a whole house for one person, cooking for one, and so on. Sharing a house can cut your energy output, as well as save you money.
Get rid of your car. Transport is one of the biggest impacts we have, so try using the bus instead, or walk or bike to work. Why not organise a lift share scheme for people in your church?
Ask the experts:
"Take one day a week when you eat no meat, one meal a week when all the main ingredients are local, and look into why this is a good thing to do. It'll start you off on a whole journey of discovery about our food. " Ruth Valerio runs A Rocha UK's, 'Living Lightly' project and is part of the leadership of Spring Harvest. She has written, 'L is for Lifestyle: Christian living that doesn't cost the earth'.
"Perhaps the most significant thing you can do personally is to stop flying so often! On the ground, the most important impacts on the world around us come from what we choose to eat, and how we keep our homes and churches warm - whether by heating or by insulation." Jo Abbess is the Information Officer for Christian Ecology Link.
What are your top tips for a greener church? Have your say in the comments...
May 9th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Simon Cross