Step 1: Learn to use a Carbon Calculator
These online tools help you see where your lifestyle emits the most carbon and what actions might affect your carbon footprint. Here are two; try several!
Some carbon-saving initiatives don’t take time; they give you the gift of time. What if you called your church to diligently keep the Sabbath for a month–or a lifetime? In Orthodox Judaism, that means limiting travel and use of electricity. Today, people of all stripes are recognizing the importance of putting boundaries around their mobility and screen time. Encourage people to spell out how they will keep their Sabbath on paper. For some, it would need to be a different day; for others, two hours at home without screen time would be a big step.
Discuss the barriers to biking and walking in your community. One way to reduce barriers is to practice biking, build good safety habits, and learn how to maintain a bike. How many miles could be shaved off of your carbon footprint by biking? A local nonprofit with this focus may also have ways to get involved. Example
Power company research
Check your power company website for green initiatives and bring them to the attention of your congregation. Many of us miss these opportunities because we don’t read bulk emails. For example, NIPSCO, a Northern Indiana power company, offers customers income-qualified weatherization, an array of rebates for energy-saving equipment and the chance to switch to renewable gas (from decomposition rather than mining). You may need to call, email or try multiple search terms. Young people may not make utility decisions, but they can do the research and alert the congregation to their findings.
Saving Energy: Habit Fixes
We live in a time when “How much carbon does this emit?” should be a factor in many of our decisions. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Have your group bring devices and play around with one or more carbon calculators. Try changing the numbers you input to see what makes a difference. Food choices are one area that makes a difference. If you already have good habits, how can you spread them to more people?
15 Habits to Improve Energy Efficiency
Saving Energy: Tech Fixes
- Have you ever read a gas meter? Weatherstripped a window? Studied an energy bill? Used a Kill-a-watt meter? Changed a furnace filter? Work with an experienced adult to learn basic weatherization and furnace maintenance. Apply these skills at your church or in homes that can benefit.
- Another approach would be to research innovative efficiency measures that are not on your church’s radar. Tankless water heaters,
Use MCCN’s Solar Guide for Churches to research the feasibility of putting solar panels on your church. Present a proposal to your congregation.
Voluntary Carbon Taxes
Carbon taxes would be very effective, but are not a politically popular idea. U.S. gas taxes are low compared to taxes in most of the world and do not reflect the environmental costs of drilling or defense costs related to fossil fuels. Starting a climate justice tax fund where people impose their own tax rate, pool taxes and use them for environmental justice projects is one response. Just doing some math and discussing how we might change our habits if fossil fuels cost more can be helpful.
Hand-written notes are still the most powerful way to communicate with our political representatives. Find a climate-related issue you care about and let your leaders know. A local issue that affects youth, like implementing no idling zones around schools or a college policy that concerns young adults are ideal. Or see Mennonite Central Committee’s Climate Action for Peace page.
- Tips for writing effective letters to Congress
- Example from MCCN network: First Mennonite Church, San Francisco
Examples from the MCCN website:
Biodiversity and Land Management
Healthy ecosystems sequester carbon and are more resilient in the face of climate change.
One caution: Even native plantings require long-term care to look their best. Don’t undertake one if you don’t have long-term support. Mobile young people may can avoid this by plugging into projects already underway.
Connect the dots
What is your church already doing? How is climate change related to that, or what effect might it have in the future and how can you prepare?
For example, if your church has a homeless ministry, how do more frequent heat waves affect homeless people, and are new services such as cooling stations needed?
Natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and fires are more frequent thanks to climate change. Mennonite Disaster Service welcomes young volunteers willing to help repair homes affected by disaster. Often, this includes making the homes more energy-efficient and applying mitigation strategies to help them withstand future storms.
Example: Wildfire repair
How we eat has an impact on climate change. Food-related projects could include:
- Starting a cookbook club and learn to cook fresh, healthy food. The Sustainable Kitchen is one cookbook you might use.
- Getting involved in a church or community garden project such as these:
- The Anabaptist Climate Directory is one place to find projects you’d like to support.
- Here’s a creative example from an MCCN congregation: Tree Bouquet Fundraiser
- Can’t do solar panels at your church? This article describes how solar energy improves lives in the Global South. Also see Five NGOs that Bring Power to Africa.
- Do low income people in your community have access to LED light bulbs? Providing these both reduces carbon and helps with expenses.
Land or river clean-up
If you have access to canoes, a river clean-up can be fun. Or have youth spy out your community for places where trash clean-ups are needed and get permission to help. In either case, work with someone who understands appropriate safety protocols.
- How plastic waste connects to climate change
- Tips for doing a river clean up and an example from a congregation.
Identify some nonprofits or government agencies in your area that work on environmental issues. Learn about what they do and ask them how you can help. They may have ideas for you. The Every Creature Singing Curriculum included questions that encouraged people to get to know their places.