Eco congregation

Kirkwall East Church became one of only a handful of churches in Scotland to gain a third Eco congregation award in April 2013.


Many Christians are concerned about the environment but don't know what they can do. Eco-congregation is an ecumenical programme to help congregations understand environmental issues and make appropriate practical and spiritual responses. The programme is free of charge and very flexible, as each congregation has different opportunities for change.www.ecocongregation.org/scotland

Kirkwall East were successfully assessed and gained a second Eco-Congregation award in 2007, only the fourth church in Scotland to do so. 

The assessment team were encouraged by the diversity of the work ongoing by members of the congregation which promotes an ecologically sustainable environment and appreciation of God’s creation. Some examples of work particularly commended by the assessment team include:
  • Work in promoting Fair Trade, particularly amongst young people by involving the Brownies, the Boys Brigade and schools.
  • The efforts made to minimise waste by using recycled paper and through the purchase of large containers of soap and cleaning materials and dispensing them into smaller ones.
  • The care taken to source local produce for example jams’, bakery products and soap.
  • Incorporate an eco message in the Hall booking form and encourage people to save energy when using the facility. Promote caring for creation ethos.
  • The setting up of a local Network with Westray Parish church to share our experience and encourage other congregations in Orkney to become involved.
The above are examples of how many people within the congregation have contributed to the second award and the continuing work of the Eco-Congregation.
The full award application with posters and pictures can be found in the Eco-congregation folder on the church library trolley.
Why Bother?
Care for creation is at the heart of the Eco-Congregation movement. ‘The earth is the Lord’s’, declares the psalmist (psalm24:1). It is God’s creation, not ours to do with as we please. In caring for what God has created, we care for ourselves, because in God’s providence and wisdom our flourishing is dependant on the flourishing of creation. To care for what God has created is therefore also to care for each other, and especially for the poor and vulnerable.
As we have come to understand, that through our deeds we are changing the climate, so we have come to realise that our care for creation is deeply flawed.
In a report to the General Assembly the Church of Scotland has recognised this deep failing. Climate change represents a failure in our stewardship of the earth and its implications for people and for other life on earth are profound.
The Church of Scotland is concerned that climate change poses a serious and immediate threat to people everywhere, particularly to the poor of the earth; and that climate change represents a failure in our stewardship of God’s creation. We accept the need to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases urgently to avoid dangerous and irreversibly climate change; and to promote a more equitable and sustainable use of energy. For Christians responding to climate change is no longer an option but a spiritual and moral necessity.
What are the causes of climate change?
Climate change has occurred many times in geological history, including ice ages and extremes of heat. The changes we are witnessing now are different because they can be linked unequivocally to human activities and in particular to the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. All such hydrocarbon fuels emit carbon dioxide (CO2) when burnt and over the past century this has resulted in billions of tonnes of CO2 being released into the atmosphere. Every time we use electricity, oil or gas in the home or travelling we are indirectly emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
In 2009 Kirkwall East Church, in line with other Eco-Congregations, pledged to match the commitment of the Iona Community to reduce the carbon footprint for the church and manse by 5% each year.
For Kirkwall East this meant a target to reduce our CO2 emissions by 1.8 Tonnes, from July 2009-10, to 34.2 Tonnes CO2.  After calculating yhe energy used over 12 months for the church and manse a carbon footprint of 32.4.tonnes was recorded. A reduction of over 10% from 2008-09 and a saving to the environment of 3.6 Tonnes. Well done to all at Kirkwall East.
The next step is to take the message and good work from the church out into our homes. If 100 members of the congregation were to make a pledge to reduce their own footprint by 5% a year then this would over a year give a reduction of 25 times that achieved at the church.  
Make a commitment to reduce your own carbon footprint
I ……………………………………….. (name) seek to pledge to measure and reduce my own carbon footprint by 5% each year in line with pledges carried out by Kirkwall East Church and the Iona Community. From small beginnings great changes can be realized.
Let us know your pledge, at Kirkwall East, and things you are doing to reduce your carbon footprint by filling in the slip and dropping it in the box in the upper vestibule. This will greatly assist the Mission Group in their submission for a third Eco-Congregation award.
Getting Started    
The first step is to calculate your current Carbon Footprint in kilograms and tonnes. This will give you a baseline to measure your future reductions against. You need to dig out your electricity bills for the last 12 months (4 quarterly bills) and also any heating oil bills for the year (if you have an oil boiler). Many people in Orkney also still use coal and firewood and so an estimate of the total coal and firewood used over the 12 months is required.
Enter energy used
Multiplie by
to give kgs of CO2
Heating Oil (litres)
Electricity (kWh)
Coal (kg)
Firewood (kg)
Total CO2 emissions from house (kgs)
Total CO2 emissions in Tonnes (Tn)
Based on my calculated carbon footprint total of ……… tonnes, I pledge to seek to reduce this by 5% over the next 12 months to …….. tonnes (total x 0.95). This represents a saving to the environment of …….. tonnes CO2
What can I do today?
Even if you are unable to calculate your footprint for the last 12 months it should not put you off taking action and starting to measure your footprint over the coming months. Here are some simple measures you can take:
  • Turning your thermostat down by 1 degree could cut your heating bills by up to 10 per cent and save you about £30 per year.
  • Is your water too hot? Your cylinder thermostat shouldn’t need to be set higher than 60 degrees C/140 degrees F. Fitting a jacket on your hot tank can reduce heat loss by 75%.
  • Close your curtains at dusk to stop heat escaping through the windows. If your windows and doors are drafty then have them draft proofed. Contact the Orkney Energy Centre for details of grant’s available.
  • Always turn off the lights when you leave a room. When you change a bulb consider making it an energy efficient one. They last up to 12 times longer and use a fraction of the electricity guzzled by ordinary bulbs.
  • Don’t leave appliances like TV’s, videos and computers on standby and remember not to leave appliances on charge unnecessarily.
  • If your not filling up the washing machine, tumble dryer or dish washer, use the half-load or economy programme.
  • Only boil the water you need. You don’t need a full kettle for one cup of tea. It will save on energy, help the environment and boil much faster.
  • In just one day a dripping hot water tap wastes enough water to fill a bath. Make sure they’re turned off.
  • Do a home energy check. Contact the Energy Saving Trust.
To take action in the home to reduce CO2 emissions would be a great first step. For those that are interested in including car travel to their footprint a simple calculator is given below.
Enter fuel used in litres
Multiplie by
to give kgs of CO2
Petrol (litres)
Diesel (litres)
Total CO2 emissions from vehicles (kgs)
Total CO2 emissions in Tonnes (Tn)
Where can I get help and Information from?
For Insulation and grants it is advisable, in the first instance, to contact the Energy Saving Trust on 0800 512012. Their local officers have done a door to door knock throughout Kirkwall in 2010 to assess homes for free or grant assisted insulation as part of the Energy Assistance Package Home Insulation Scheme. If you missed them or did not repond at the time then give them a call on the number above.
 Energy Saving Trust: For all energy saving information.
Actonco2: for footprint calculator and details of how to reduce your personal carbon footprint: http://actonco2.direct.gov.uk/home.html
For an in depth total lifestyle calculator: http://www.resurgence.org/


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