Environmental action

The Gaia art installation at the University Church, Oxford. A giant glowing globe is suspended within the church building

Responding to the environmental crises facing our planet

Since Diocesan Synod declared a climate emergency in March 2020, our Environment Task Group (ETG) is overseeing an ambitious programme of change.

As Christians, we're called to care for God's creation, and the climate issues facing our planet are hugely important to us. You can watch a series from Bishop Olivia on why we should care for creation at all levels in the Church, and read about our commitments to becoming an Eco Diocese.

You can also read about the recent announcement (June 2022) to invest £10m in our clergy housing as part of net zero plans, and Bishop Steven's new question within confirmation services: 

Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth?

With the help of God I will.

Quick links

Read our environmental policy | Book an energy audit | Find net zero resources | Contact the team | Churchyard nature hunt


 

Stories from our Parishes

Campaigning for Environmental Justice in our Local Communities

A blog by Joanna Laynesmith, St John and St Stephen's Church

I’ve been passionate about the environment since I was  young. I was nine when we left the suburbs of Birmingham for the Worcestershire countryside and it felt like being on permanent holiday. I’ve belonged to wildlife conservation organisations ever since. Not long after moving to Reading in 2005, I became involved with the Churches Together in Reading Environment Group, pushing for change within  our local community. These days, that group has become Reading Area Green Christians which I co-ordinate.  I have also  worked with a team to help my church, St John and Stephen’s, in Newtown, Reading, to become an Eco Church achieving bronze then the silver award.

“Find some like-minded people... so you don’t feel like you're doing it on your own”

Feeling part of a wider community is so important as it helps you keep going and feel inspired by what others are doing. It is vital to work with those who share your ambitions, and to set actionable goals towards this. Working towards reducing our environmental footprint is not something we need to do solely as individuals - it is a collective effort, and by watching and learning from those around us, we can all make changes to improve our footprint.

“You can’t stand up to tell politicians ‘make things better’ if you’re not doing things yourself”

As a family we gave up our car about 12 years ago, which has had a big impact on the way we live. We have also switched to a green electricity and gas provider, follow a largely meat-free diet, and shop second-hand where possible. My children just consider taking these actions to be a normal part of life now. Taking things one step a time makes the process far less daunting that it may initially appear to be.

“Being part of something with other people… and feeling yes, there’s lots of people here, there’s an energy, we’re moving forward”

The coronavirus pandemic made life more challenging for everyone. We struggled a bit with buying food because using public transport was discouraged, and online deliveries were difficult to come by. However, there were some positive developments:  when we moved the Reading Area Green Christians meetings online, more people turned up, and of course avoided unnecessary travel.

Towards the end of 2020 our church took part in an energy audit recommended by Oxford diocese. We received a number of recommendations on how we could improve energy efficiency, and it was a much more comprehensive and informative process than we had expected. I’m excited to work with our church on the journey towards net zero, but it’s going to complicated. The church switched to a green tariff a long while ago but now we’re looking at a solar panel scheme with the school that shares our building and they have a different tariff.

I passionately believe that climate change and loss of biodiversity is something that should be discussed in all churches and all communities, and the more people talk, and campaign for change, the brighter our futures will be.

If you would like to hear more about the amazing work Joanna is doing, check out her blog

Interview with Joanna Laynesmith by Olivia Atkins and Laura Watson during their Oxford University Micro-Internships

 


 

Upcoming events and activities for churches

 

Beating the Rising Costs

Join our final webinar on how your church can save energy and money: this will take place on the evening of 10th October, contact us for the registration link.

The Environment team ran an 'Energy Saving in the Home' webinar on 26th September, with speakers from Low Carbon North Oxford and Low Carbon West Oxford. Watch the webinar back here.

Energy Footprint Tool: thank you and next steps

Thank you to all those that completed this year’s Parish Returns Energy Footprint Tool. The data gathered is used nationally to establish the Church’s carbon baseline and monitor progress, locally so that you can track the impact of the steps you are taking to reduce your emissions, and at a Diocesan level it also helps us to:

  • Spot churches which have issues with their heating systems.
  • Identify which churches would particularly benefit from an energy audit.
  • Discover examples of good practice to share.

On the national website you can find out more about why we need EFT, how adjustments for Covid disruption have been made, and what you can do with the data. (Scroll down for FAQs: Energy Footprint Tool)

Collection of 2022 data will begin in January 2023, so will be available as soon as you have a complete set of 2022 bills to hand. Thank you in advance for your invaluable contribution. In the meantime, do get in touch with the Environment team if you have concerns about your current energy bills or contracts.

Growing in Grace - Rural Churches and Environmental Wellbeing

Are you a rural church that is interested in creation care or would like support to embed environmental wellbeing within your wider mission? With support from the National Church, we are producing a suite of resources to enable a DIY lighting audit, a churchyard scavenger hunt, a transport audit, procurement and catering points to consider guides. We have also run a webinar on how to beat the rising energy costs, with some no-cost and low-cost top-tips. You can view the checklist of actions here and find out about the wider work the Diocese is doing to support rural mission. 

Starting your Creation Care Journey 

Eco Church: Over 20% of all our churches have registered with A Rocha UK’s Eco Church scheme. It's a great way to engage your whole congregation in care for creation. This map shows registered churches in our diocese - Let us know when your church has registered or gains an Eco Church award and we can add it to the map.

Reducing energy use: the Diocese can offer tailored green advice on how to help your church reduce their environmental footprint and save money on energy bills through an 'energy audit'. This is particularly helpful during the current energy crisis. Plus you receive a grant to fund improvements once the audit has been completed. It's the perfect way to get started.


 

Resources, guidance and information

EcoHub

The EcoHub is your one-stop shop for information, practical advice and theological reflection on how we can best care for God’s creation. Each zone walks you through a different stage of climate action - or you can browse all of the resources to find exactly what you're looking for.

Visit the EcoHub now.

Greenshoots Network - learn from like-minded Christians

Greenshoots Network: Are you helping your church take environmental action? Would you like to connect with others doing the same, for mutual support and information sharing? Join our Greenshoots Network email group if so. Let us know you'd like to join by emailing usWe have monthly online get togethers and occasional in person gatherings.

Highlights from our autumn Greenshoots Gatherings

At our latest gathering we focused on advocacy. We heard from Col. George Curtis on his advocacy work individually and with the Churn Churches Climate Action Group, Need Not Greed and Bioabundance. George recommended the Tortoise Media news service and their Net Zero Sensemaker emails. The Churn Churches Climate Action Group received helpful lobbying advice from Hope for the Future and George is in frequent contact with his MP.

George has assembled his ideas on how we might address the challenges of climate change and runs a page on the Bioabundance website focussing on three effective areas of personal action.

We then heard from Phil Evans from Christian Aid about the work of Christian Aid and their current Rise Up Pay Up campaign on loss and damage and the Talking Climate Justice Tour. 

Phil pointed out that many MPs seats are now not as secure as they were, so they are listening to their constituents more, and now is a good time to invite MPs to activities and involve them in a conversation on environmental issues.

Other updates included one from St John's and St Stephen's in Reading: through Creationtide, they have been looking at the six shifts suggested by Take the Jump to protect the earth. They have also been promoting the Eco Church award scheme in an ecumenical group of local churches as many want to take action on climate but don’t know where to start and so find Eco Church a helpful framework. 

Care for Creation newsletter

Our monthly newsletter contains resources, stories, information, updates, news and events on everything related to caring for creation in the Diocese of Oxford and beyond.

Subscribe to our Care for Creation newsletter

We join in on the @oxforddiocese Twitter feed with #GreenMonday tweets, and there's also a Care for Creation Facebook group. If you need advice or have questions, get in touch with our team.


 

How the diocese is taking action
 

Our goals

The diocese is aiming to reach 'net zero' - the point at which we are no longer contributing to climate change. We've got two goals: the national Church of England 2030 net-zero carbon goals, which cover buildings and transport, and our wider diocesan goal of reaching net zero in full by 2035.

We also have a goal to become a Silver Eco Diocese by 2026, which will mean embedding holistic creation care across all our activities. 

How you can help

The first step is to stand up and be counted! We need your church to help by completing the Energy Footprint Tool on the C of E Parish Returns website. If you can't answer all the questions, don't worry just do those you can. The most helpful for us are the energy bill details, the hours of use for the building/s and the travel expenses claims. If you can't access this, please use our very short Word form instead. Thank you! 

What we're doing at Church House

The diocese has taken a lead on calling for divestment and disinvesting from fossil fuels.

Church House Oxford is powered by renewable electricity, and we have a Staff Green Group always looking at ways of minimising our office environmental footprint, minimising waste, providing more recycling opportunities, increasing veggie or vegan menu options in the café, inviting colleagues to join in with climate campaigns such as as Great Big Green Week. We encourage more sustainable transport options, and all of our bishops drive electric or hybrid vehicles.

 


 

Other resources in this section...

Helping churches reduce energy use

Arrange a subsidised energy audit to inform efforts to reduce your church carbon footprint.


Renewable energy guidance for churches

Switching a church to green electricity, including the Big Green Switch, woodfuel, solar panels and heat pumps.


Resources for schools and young people

Resources to raise awareness and promote classroom activity around climate and our environment.


Land and nature

Information on supporting biodiversity in a churchyard or church garden and programmes to get involved in.


Energy Bill relief for churches

Information on the government energy bill relief scheme for churches.


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