Environmental sustainability

Sustainability is usually associated used with the environment.

However, from a building point of view; there are four sustainable aspects you need to consider:

  • economic
  • organisational
  • social
  • environmental

Funders will expect to see evidence that you have thought about all of these aspects, taken action and set in place appropriate mechanisms for the long term.

The Churches Trust for Cumbria has produced a very useful publication, Sustainability Rosette which covers all the areas you need to consider.

Environmental sustainability

Here we concentrate on Environmental Sustainability. We are all aware of the need to cut carbon emissions to restore the world's balance. The majority of faith groups have signed up to commitments to reduce their carbon emissions.

So, whether it is your day-to-day building management, or with regard to specific projects or repairs you should always consider if there is a more environmentally sustainable way to achieve your objective.

There are a number of projects across the country, helping churches to ‘go green’, and all denominations have general advice about the areas you need to consider.

Quakers in Britain are often at the forefront of sustainability and the role faith groups can play, find out more here.

The Church of England has set a target of producing net zero carbon emissions by 2030. The Church of England’s environment campaign contains information on their national campaign to encourage churches to reduce their carbon footprint. Its advice and guidance is equally relevant to all churches, chapels and meeting houses.

Their website has lots of information about steps towards creating a sustainable building including increasing the energy efficiency of your church, renewable technology and other environmental issues. There are toolkits (including the Energy Footprint Tool to determine the 'carbon footprint' of your church) and best practice case studies covering issues from heating, to boilers, from lighting to waste and recycling, and transport to renewable technology. They have an extensive range of online net-zero church webinars.

They have also set up the Parish Buying website which details national negotiated deals on everything from paperclips to photocopiers. It also includes a negotiated deal for 100% renewable energy tariffs. Your denomination may have done the same thing, it’s always worth asking.

The Methodist Church has a lot of information on their website about the environment and climate change and some handy carbon reduction tips.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales has an environmental resources page including references to the Guardians of Creation project helping the UK's Catholic community make transformational change towards a carbon neutral and more sustainable future. The project has produced Guidance on developing strategy for decarbonising Catholic diocesan building stocks which you can read here.

Eco Church is the successor to Eco-Congregation and offers an award scheme for churches in England and Wales that want to demonstrate that the gospel is good news for God’s earth. They also offer resources for congregations on how to live sustainably and address environmental issues through their life and mission.

Their online tool will help you do an assessment on your church to find out what is already happening and draw up an action plan which can be discussed by your management committee. Once everyone is on board there is a registration fee to go further with the tool, but once registered you will have access to a huge number of resources to help you achieve your environmental goals, and keep pushing them further.

Eco Church England and Wales

Eco-Congregation Scotland

Eco-Congregation Ireland

Operation Noah is an ecumenical charity providing leadership, focus and inspiration in response to the growing threat of catastrophic climate change. The website has a variety of free resources to use.

The SPAB has produced guidance on improving energy efficiency in older buildings.

Historic England has similar advice on how to improve energy efficiency.

Historic Environment Scotland also has specific information on their website for anyone looking after a building in Scotland. 

Caring for God's Acre can help you protect and appreciate your churchyard and its habitats. They have lots of advice on their website.

HOW TO 5 Actions Towards Sustainability : Cadw funded short film 2023

We are very grateful to Hamish Leese from Action for Hope at the Methodist Church for sharing five brilliant actions you ca take today to help your church towards sustainability. Action for Hope is the name that the Methodist Church has given to the work required to fulfil its commitment to being net zero on carbon by 2030.