| Eco-Justice Ministries
Eco-Justice: "the well-being of all humankind on a thriving Earth"
Quick Tips for Including Eco-Justice
A congregation that is theologically committed to eco-justice -- or is striving for that commitment -- will reveal their commitments in their management of the resources of the church.
Church administration is a large and complex area, ranging from matters of staffing and church finances to upkeep of the building and grounds. Eco-justice -- which holds together ecological sustainability and social/economic justice -- has applications beyond the directly "environmental" issues.
These quick tips provide a starting point for looking at some of the eco-justice implications of church administration.
Some congregations have significant investments and savings. Traditional notions of fiscal responsibility focus on finding a balance between protecting the principal and obtaining a high rate of return. An eco-justice perspective also asks about the way in which the return is generated.
Is the bank involved in supporting the entire local community? Does it stand out as a leader in addressing the needs of all in the community, and especially the poor or marginalized parts of the community?
Are the church's financial investments in made companies or funds that are socially and environmentally responsible?
A congregation committed to justice should provide fair pay and reasonable benefits to all members of the church staff. This includes the ministers, secretaries, custodians, and child care employees.
Are members of the staff given options for working flexible hours and telecommuting? Not only does this help workers balance their responsibilities for the church with family obligations and other commitments, it can be significant in reducing the environmental impacts of transportation and commuting.
In most congregations, the church offices are the part of the facility with the most day-in and day-out activity. This concentration makes the office an important place to focus eco-justice efforts.
Photocopiers, computers and printers should have power saving features activated. Turn off all equipment over night. Look for energy efficiency when purchasing new equipment.
If you are replacing or upgrading copiers, mid-sized to large churches should consider using equipment that prints with ink (such as Risograph®). This can have significant energy savings, and is substantially cheaper per copy.
Try to buy from small businesses and minority contractors. This supports the diversity and economic life of your local community.
Recycle office paper and toner cartridges. Treat outdated office equipment (especially computers and monitors) as hazardous waste that should be properly recycled or processed.
Use recycled paper.
Some churches have decided to use long distance carriers (such as Working Assets®) that donate a portion of their income to progressive or environmental groups.
The church building can be important to the wider community. Look at the policies and fees that apply to outside groups that use the building. Are the groups that your church wants to encourage in the community able to use your building?
If it is available in your region, consider buying "green power" from renewable sources such as wind and geothermal.
Check on the cleaning chemicals that are used around the building. Are they safe for the people using them, and for the envirnment? Are they stored safely?
Do you buy supplies from small and local businesses? Do you work with minority contractors? (On the flip side, are contracted service workers the only minorities working for the church?)
Pay attention to the "4 Rs" (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) for all the products and packaging that might be purchased and produced by the church. Note especially recycling possibilities for paper, glass, plastic, cans and cardboard. Many churches serve as recycling drop-off locations for their members and communities.
Because of their large spaces and irregular use, church buildings have special issues around heating and cooling. The strategies and priorities here might be quite different than in a home or an office building. Improvements and changes in this area can have a rapid financial pay-back.
Look at the refrigerators and freezers in the church (and parsonage). Refrigerators are energy hogs! If these are older units, the church might save money (and will save energy) by getting newer, more efficient equipment. If there are several refrigerators, consider turning some off except for big events. Keep the temperature settings in the recommended ranges. Clean the coils frequently.
The odd usage patterns of churches make water heating for churches a special case. Lots of water is kept hot for very occasional use. (It has been said that keeping 40 gallons of water hot all the time for whenever it might be needed is like keeping your car running all the time in the garage in case you want to go to the store.)
Lighting is another area of significant energy use. Pay the most attention to the lights that get the most use -- a fixture used two hours a week isn't wasting as much energy as one that is on all night, every night.
The eco-justice considerations of the church grounds depend greatly on the church setting. A downtown church is very different from a spacious suburban setting or a rural location. Be sensitive to your own location!