Religious communities across the country are celebrating Earth Day every day this year by taking long-term, sustainable steps to help reduce global warming. Faith communities are greening their houses of worship and advocating for policies and lifestyles that protect the planet and its most vulnerable inhabitants, joining scientists, policymakers and environmental advocates as good stewards of God’s creation. Here are 21 things these communities are doing to combat global warming.
Providing a moral voice to the climate change crisis. Virtually every holy text has a mandate to protect creation and help those in need. These moral imperatives call for strong action to address the climate change crisis as the globe continues to warm and more than 1 billion impoverished people in the United States and around the world become increasingly vulnerable to harsher climates.
Pointing to religious teachers and spiritual figures for guidance. Guidelines for conscientious lifestyles come from spiritual thinkers as diverse as St. Augustine, Saint Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther, C. S. Lewis, the Prophet Muhammad, and the Dalai Lama; as well as spiritual concepts such as Judaic Kosher practices, Native American shamanism, and Buddhist reincarnation.
Worship day practices
Building sustainable sanctuaries. Congregations are saving thousands of dollars and preventing tons of CO2 emissions from entering into the atmosphere by developing energy-efficient church buildings. Regional Interfaith Power and Light offices provide audit evaluations and recommendations to churches to green their buildings, from changing their light bulbs to installing solar photovoltaic generators.
Making pulpit pledges. On Sunday, tens of thousands of American clergy linked their worship texts to creation care, many using the materials provided by the National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Working Group, “Celebrating and Caring for God’s Creation.” Thousands committed to the year-round Earth Day Network “Global Warming in the Pulpit Pledge” to preach and teach on global climate change as a moral issue.
Gathering for eco-friendly holy dinners. Muslims from Washington, D.C. to Chicago gather for potlucks that encourage eco-conscious ways of living as an integral part of faith and a holistic world-view. They’ve created eco-halal and hosted green Iftar meals during Ramadan.
Observing lo-watt Shabbat. Jewish families and communities find ways to conserve energy during the weekly Shabbat—a time to slow down and remember that everyone is part of God’s creation.
Going green for Lent. Some Christians committed to helping reduce global warming by taking on a “carbon fast” and making other sacrifices to live more environmentally friendly as part of this year’s Lent observation.
Casting SUVs aside. Church goers are biking to church, building more bike trails, and replacing the “baddest” SUVs with the “greenest” hybrids in annual car shows.
Using e-bulletins and eco-cups. Faith communities are conserving resources and reducing garbage when gathering for worship and fellowship – from putting out e-bulletins in place of paper ones to bringing ceramic coffee cups to church, using recycled and recyclable kitchenware, collecting for recycling materials, and composting as a community.
Local community services
Greening low-income housing in Harlem. The Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement – a coalition of over 90 congregations – is constructing an 85-unit development that features a Green Grid Roofing system.
Using green thumbs to grow greener foods. Congregations around the country are planting community gardens and gardens for correctional facilities, developing community-supported agriculture programs, and supporting local urban farming organizations for healthy, fresh, sustainable food sources.
Making a home for all God’s creatures. Churches from California to Idaho to North Carolina are restoring prairie lands and other wilderness areas, reintroducing a home for native wildlife on the church and community grounds. Earth Keepers, a coalition of 10 faiths and over 150 congregations across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, have joined together to protect the regional environment there.
National partnerships and advocacy
Joining together across faith traditions. Religious leaders have joined together to create national, interfaith partnerships to advance creation care (care for the earth and conscientious energy practices) and climate justice (assistance to communities move vulnerable to the effects of climate change).
Joining with scientists to devise concrete actions. Faith groups attended the National Conference on Science, Policy, and the Environment as key partners in educating the public on the facts of climate change.
Creating a youth movement. The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities Renewal Network mobilizes youth leaders to develop greener lifestyles and campaign for sustainable agriculture, environmental justice, and smart solutions to the climate change crisis.
Demanding comprehensive and conscientious climate care legislation. United Church of Christ Director of Economic Justice and Environmental Justice John Hill testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Subcommittee last month that, “the faith community supports strong and quick action to address the dangers of climate change while ensuring that solutions mitigate rather than compound economic injustices.”
Petitioning the president and Congress for bold federal action. The national Interfaith Power and Light Action Center has generated thousands of letters petitioning for energy efficiency standards, fuel economy standards, green stimulus funding, and clean energy tax incentives.
Committing to tread lightly and act boldly. Catholics are committing to the Catholic Climate Covenant, reducing their carbon emissions and aiding the poor who will feel the impact of climate change the most.
Working to build the green collar economy. Faith-based advocacy partners in Michigan have joined with business, labor, and environmental organizations for the Green Today, Jobs Tomorrow conference put on by the Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth.
Advocating for the world’s marginalized groups – the forests, animals, and ecosystems. Restoring Eden is a grassroots church and campus ministry that advocates for “the least of these” in the modern political arena and facilitates practical service projects that benefit creation and the indigenous peoples that rely on health natural resources.
Planting trees with purpose. Floresta is an international NGO that helps people in desperate environments find development opportunities that protect the land, sustain local economies, and build faith. They have planted over 4 million trees and made over 6,000 small business loans worldwide, helping more than 100,000 people in 234 villages lift themselves out of poverty.