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How faith-based organizations can protect the planet

The Alliance of Religions and Conservation identifies seven areas on which to focus when creating a plan for your organization.

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January 4, 2011

The Alliance of Religions and Conservation, or ARC, argues that compassion for the earth is a direct extension of all the world’s religions and that each faith can positively affect the environment simply by following its own core teachings and beliefs.

The organization, which is based in the United Kingdom, has more information and resources on its website.

When developing an environmental stewardship plan, ARC suggests asking the following questions:

Faith-consistent use of assets. What is the environmental impact of your facility or any construction programs? Is it possible to use solar panels or other “green” materials? Can you engage in recycling, tree planting or land preservation? Are you promoting environmentally responsible use of water and making ethical food choices?

Education and young people. Half of the world’s educational institutions are associated with faith organizations. Does your curriculum offer an opportunity to teach kids about the environment, green living, recycling or gardening? Does your school encourage kids to walk or use public transportation?

Wisdom. Do you foster an atmosphere of compassion for the natural world? How do you train your religious leaders on environmental issues, and can training in general be “greened”? Have you created a plan for caring for those affected by climate change or environmental catastrophe? Can your services and study of scriptures be developed to emphasize treading lightly on the earth and consuming less? Are there stories or traditions that highlight how your faith has always cared for nature?

Lifestyle. Have you carried out an environmental audit of your assets and have you encouraged your congregation to do the same? Can you encourage and assist your congregation in living more simply? Have you looked at your faith’s role in tourism or pilgrimages and thought about environmentally friendly ways for visitors to travel? Can you and your faithful use your joint purchasing power to help the environment, such as by creating a food co-op?

Media and advocacy. How do you influence your government’s environmental policies? Do your websites, newsletters, TV and radio stations promote ecology? Based on your experiences, can you create a guide to help others live more simply? Do you examine what kinds of materials your Bibles, tracts, etc., are printed on?

Partnerships, funding and staff. Can you set aside staff and funds dedicated to environmental work? Have you tapped the experts within your own faith or congregation, perhaps those in the environmental field, for advice? Can you partner with other churches or secular groups to address climate change issues?

Celebration. Have you set aside a specific festival to focus on the natural environment? Or could you take an existing custom and adapt its practices so there’s a deeper environmental message?