New York Church Works for Holistic Environmental Stewardship
Members of the Environmental Ministries Action network from Huguenot Memorial Church in Pelham, NY sent the following update on environmental stewardship in their congregation. The information is excerpted from a church newsletter article from winter 2011 written by Elders Elysa Peters and Eric Smith.
At Huguenot Church, we recognize that environmental degradation and climate change are not just ecological and economic problems, but spiritual and social issues as well.
Here we share some examples of the progress we’ve made to date, divided according to four broad goals:
- Support Fair Trade
- Promote Environmental Health
- Move toward Zero Waste
- Take Action on Climate
A Decade of Fair Trade
Did you know that last November Huguenot church celebrated a decade of support for Fair Trade coffee? The church began purchasing Fair Trade coffee for fellowship hour in 2000 through the Interfaith program at Equal Exchange. To date, Huguenot has purchased nearly 1500 lbs ($10,000+) of coffee, tea and chocolate, educating our congregation while making a tangible contribution to a more healthy, just and sustainable food system for some of the poorest farmers in the world. Learn more on the Equal Exchange website and the Presbyterian Hunger Program Enough for Everyone website.
Promoting a Healthy Indoor Environment
Did you know that of the 80,000 chemicals in use today, only 200 have been tested for safety? In 2010 the President’s Cancer Panel released a report that identified a strong link between environmental pollutants and cancer. One way to decrease people’s exposure to chemical pollution is by improving indoor air quality. That’s what we’ve done at Huguenot by installing low or no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) carpets, classroom floor tiles, furniture, and by painting with low VOC paint. We’ve adopted more eco-friendly lawn care practices, reducing the use of pesticides and fertilizers, and purchased an electric lawn mower.
Reducing, Reusing and Recycling Waste
Did you know there’s a trash vortex in the ocean the size of Texas where plastic outweighs plankton 6 to 1? Did you know that worldwide about 1 million plastic bags are used every minute and that a single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade?
What are we doing at Huguenot to reduce waste?
- We recycle paper, aluminum, glass and plastic containers
- We’ve increased the number of recycling containers in the building
- We purchase recycled paper for the office and are working to reduce paper use overall
- We’re reducing the use of disposable dishware at social events
- The nursery school is recycling too!
In the long term we need to think about moving toward Zero Waste. What’s that? Zero waste is just what it sounds like––producing, consuming, and recycling products without throwing anything away, getting systems in place where nothing is wasted and everything is recycled.
Huguenot has been a member of Interfaith Power and Light since 2006. Through IFPL, we’ve conducted an energy audit and made numerous improvements including upgrades in lighting, LED exit lights, installing boiler controls and an outdoor sensor. Most importantly, we’ve been exploring renewable options for heating and cooling our buildings including a Geothermal Heat Pump system that could significantly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
Learn more about Interfaith Power and Light.
The Presbyterian Church website on climate change states: “In the face of deepening ecological crises caused by the earth’s warming, our call to act as earth’s caretakers takes on more meaning. Our efforts will curtail the shrinking of sacred waters, the endangerment of living creatures of every kind, and the vulnerability of our brothers and sisters in developing countries.”
Lots of good work done – much more to do. Many, many thanks to all the volunteers who have helped move us along thus far with special thanks to the Buildings and Grounds committee, the Christian Education committee and to Presbyterian Women.