Churches learn to count the carbon with new calculator

Churches across the diocese are being trained in ‘counting the carbon’ – measuring the environmental impact of church activities using the first ever Church Carbon Calculator.

A two-part training programme has been held taking place with four groups from across the diocese.  Parish environment reps and churchwardens have been looking, firstly, at why caring for creation is a gospel issue and then learning how to use the church carbon calculator tool to start to measure their churches’ carbon footprint.

The Church Carbon Calculator is a new tool that Diocese of Leeds Environmental Group have had developed by leading experts Small World Consulting, part of Lancaster University.

Andy Ive, Area Environment Champion for Ripon West, is one of the  course leaders.

“If we are going to reduce the carbon emissions of the church and meet the national and Diocesan targets we need to know what our carbon footprint starting point is and where our greenhouse gas emission comes from,” explained Andy. “Its’ all part of caring for all of God’s creation.”

In order to use the carbon calculator participants have been collecting data about different aspects of church life which all generate greenhouse gases: energy use; congregational and staff travel; food served at church; other church expenditure; and waste.

“The course has been challenging, thought provoking and fascinating,” said one Bradford Area participant.  In the Ripon group came one comment,  “I liked the practical examples of carbon emissions from foods, church processes and actions. As well as the chance for questions and comments from us all.”

“I was quite daunted at fist by the spreadsheets that make up the calculator, but once I started it was easy to input the information,” commented another Ripon Area participant.

What surprised someone in the Wakefield group was “the number of conversations gathering the data started at my church. Explaining what I was doing and why helped us talk about what we can all do about climate change.”

 “Part of the process is helping Parish Environment Reps and others on the course to develop their carbon literacy,” says Jemima Parker, Diocesan Environment Officer.

“As we move to a low carbon economy we need to understand the carbon value of our choices, in the same way that we might weigh the financial cost when we make decisions. With a little bit of knowledge about greenhouse gases, ‘should we serve a chickpea or lamb stew at the church lunch?’ becomes an easy choice and one way we can witness to and show God’s love, for our neighbours.”

Now the participating churches will be finishing off their data gathering and initial results are expected in January 2019. These will be the first comprehensive church carbon emissions figures in the country.

“We are currently working with the national C of E Environmental Campaign to see how the Diocese of Leeds Church Carbon Calculator could be deployed nationally, “ says Jemima Parker. 

For those who missed the course Andy and Jemima will be running it again in 2019. A follow on “Carbon conversations” course is also planned for next year.

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