Thinking about green everything today, thanks to Saint Patrick’s Day, and decided to write about how even new churches can be more environmentally friendly.
Here are a few suggestions that may be practical for you. Please feel free to comment, add stories about what your church is doing, or make other suggestions.
- Go virtually paperless- no worship programs or flyers stuffed inside, no offering envelopes, no paper name tags- do everything digitally and make it retrievable for people who want to keep copies. At refreshment tables and in homes, bring-your-own-coffee mug, provide loaners, or free cups for guests, sugar containers- not paper mini packets. Wash table cloths- don’t throw them in the trash. Where you can’t go paperless, at least think recyclable. Convenience is not always the greatest value.
- Recognize missionaries to the environment- those who intentionally engage in earth-saving missions. It has been 30 years since author Howard Snyder noted that “humans are the center, but not the circumference” of what God wants to save. He has a plan for someday healing everything that is broken as a result of the Fall. Jesus saves- period. Some people may lean in towards a Christ who they know has a plan for the whole world.
- Be humble. Learn from the larger society around you, get involved in public initiatives that focus on earth stewardship, even when that’s not what anyone else is calling it. Serve as the clean up crew for city events, and do it without calling attention to your own selves.
- If you own a building, invest in sensors that turn off lights that are not in use, if you rent a building, help that facility to pay for them.
- Teach church members how to recycle and reuse in more radical ways. Encourage a community of sharing and giving among church. For example, start a lending library where members share tools and devices that are only needed a few times a year.
- Have a bicycle rack at the church building. Encourage people who are able to walk or bike to church services, home groups, and other events, as long as they are also safe.
- When choosing a place to meet, consider a location where public transportation is a better option than a large parking lot, if this is possible.
- Teach from passages of scripture that teach about caring for the earth. Help people seek forgiveness from God and practice restitution where they (we) have sinned against creation.
- Use means to advertise other than direct mail, and if you must use direct mail, use recyclable paper and less harmful inks, such as those that are soy based. (Again, think paperless).
- As we learn to live more sustainably, we need to walk humbly and practice forgiveness towards one another when our steps are a little foolish or self-conscious. Make this an act of corporate prayer and affiliation with God, humanity and one another, rather than a political act.