Eco Church

St Mark's is working towards an Eco Church award. Here are ways in which Kathy, our Eco Champion, lets us know how you too can help to save our environment.

May 2023

Hydrogen – fossil-free fuel?

Back in February we noted the complications around deciding on a non-fossil fuel, financially affordable heating and hot water system to replace the gas boiler at St Mark’s Church, now officially on its last legs. The latest suggestion was a “hydrogen-ready” gas boiler, which could be converted from gas to hydrogen when it comes on stream in the future. Our attendance at a recent Diocesan Webinar on the subject seems to have at least confirmed that we’re thinking along the right lines. The next instalment of the discussion is at the end of June, so perhaps that will reveal more. But in the meantime I’ve been trying to find out more about hydrogen-ready boilers.

It seems that hydrogen, the most abundant molecule in the universe, comes in various guises when used as a fuel. It’s energy-intensive to extract from the atmosphere, so the source of that energy matters. “Grey” hydrogen is extracted from fossil gas, and “brown” hydrogen from coal, and production of both of these releases CO2 and methane into the atmosphere, so neither of them is a good way forward. “Blue” hydrogen still comes from gas but the CO2 released is supposedly captured and stored, although this technology is still in development. A greater amount of methane is released in the process, and the greenhouse gas footprint of blue hydrogen has been found to be greater than that for burning gas, coal or diesel oil for heating. So this too is problematic. “Green” hydrogen is extracted from water using electricity from renewable sources, which sounds better until you realise that at present truly renewably sourced electricity is a scarce resource. Before green hydrogen can be considered as a mass solution, large-scale new sources of renewable power will need to be available, and so far there’s little sign of that happening. The big fossil fuel companies are keen to advertise the benefits of hydrogen as the fuel of the future, but others suggest this is a marketing ploy to justify selling more boilers and building more pipelines and other infrastructure; in other words, a delaying tactic to deter investment and political support for the already-existing forms of truly renewable energy such as wind and solar power. For most forms of transport and heating there are already safer, cheaper and cleaner technologies, so there are still a lot of question marks over hydrogen. For a non-scientist like me it’s a bit of a maze, but the above was sourced from mainstream media reports with references, so I hope it can be trusted.

We will all need to get to grips with moving away from gas, but it’s not at all clear how that can happen. So St Marks will continue to ponder, consult the experts at the next Diocese webinar, and hope that a good solution can be found before our aged boiler finally gives up the ghost. Watch this space!

April 2023

Can we eat less meat?

Reducing our meat and dairy consumption is one way we can all help cut greenhouse gas emissions and slow global heating. So I thought this month it might be good to pass on some recipes that use those store-cupboard staples, beans and pulses. These are great sources of protein, as well as being relatively easy on the pocket. Dried peas and beans need soaking and long cooking, but if you have a pressure cooker, you can do it more quickly following your cooker’s instruction booklet. Dried split red lentils are the exception, they cook fairly quickly. And tins of pre-cooked kidney and other beans, lentils and chickpeas are readily available in supermarkets. 

3tbsp butter; 1large onion finely chopped; 2tbsp tomato puree; 1tsp paprika; pinch cayenne pepper; 150g split red lentils; 75g bulgur wheat; one and a half litres vegetable stock; 1tbsp dried mint; 1tbsp lemon juice; salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large pan and cook the onion gently until soft. Stir in the tomato puree, paprika and cayenne and cook for another minute. Then mix in the lentils and bulgur wheat, and add the stock. Bring to the boil and then simmer gently for 30mins, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the mint and lemon juice, then season to taste if needed. This soup will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days if needed – heat thoroughly to serve and garnish with a swirl of plain yoghurt if you like.

Oil to fry; 1large onion, chopped; 1 pepper, chopped; 1 clove garlic, crushed; 400g tin chopped tomatoes; 400g tin red kidney beans; 2tsp chilli powder, or to taste; half a tsp cumin; 1 veg stock cube; 1tbsp tomato puree; salt and pepper to taste; rice and tortilla chips, to serve

Fry the onion, pepper and garlic in the oil until soft. Add in the tomatoes, beans, spices and flavourings, and cook gently for about 20mins, stirring occasionally. Cook the rice, then when all is tender, check the seasoning and serve with tortilla chips.

400g tin chickpeas, drained; zest of a lemon, and half of its juice; 1tsp ground cumin; small bunch coriander; 1 egg; 1 small onion; 100g fresh breadcrumbs; oil for frying. 4 burger buns and salad garnish to serve

Chop the coriander up finely. Put half of it into a food processor with the chickpeas, lemon zest and juice, cumin, egg, and seasoning to taste, and whizz until well mixed. Dice the onion and add to the mixture with 80g of the breadcrumbs. Mix well and then shape with your hands into 4 burgers. Coat them in the rest of the breadcrumbs and chill for 10mins or longer. Then fry in the oil for about 4mins on each side, and serve in the buns, topped with the rest of the coriander and your favourite salad garnish.

You can easily substitute dried pulses for the tinned ones, as long as you prepare and cook them thoroughly first. I hope you enjoy trying these, and perhaps are encouraged to explore more non-meat options to help the planet as well as our health.

February 2023

Finding a path to “Net Zero"

At St Mark’s we’re trying to focus on the Church of England’s target of us all being at “net zero” by 2030 – only 7 years away now! Of course it’s the right thing to do. Scientists are united in saying that carbon emissions need to be cut by 45% over the next few years if global heating is to be limited to 1.5 degrees C; but instead they are rising by 10%, so the situation is truly serious. Governments need to act in this emergency; but so far, despite announcing ambitious targets, little serious action seems to have been taken. Similarly, the Church has set an ambitious target; so how can we get there? Difficult decisions are needed; here is how we are trying to address some of them at St Mark’s, and perhaps it will give some pointers for what we will all need to think about at home too.

Just like all of us, St Mark’s needs warmth and light and hot water. We are replacing our halogen light bulbs as they fail with much more efficient LED’s: this is relatively easy. But our gas boiler is officially “on its last legs” despite careful maintenance, and as a fossil fuel gas is one of the main sources of carbon emissions. An electric heat pump is one option which we have looked at; we are on a “green” electricity tariff, so this would fit the clean energy requirement. But to effectively warm a building of this size with a heat  pump is seemingly not possible, so we need to think again. What about an electric boiler? These are a fairly new technology so at present the installation cost is high, though it could be manageable. But we understand that running costs would be very much higher than our gas system, so the PCC would need to consider carefully whether this is this really what God has called us to use the congregation’s generous giving for, when there are pastoral and ministry needs to be met.

We recently heard about the possibility of installing a “hydrogen-ready” gas boiler, in other words a highly-efficient modern boiler which can easily be converted to run on hydrogen when this clean fuel becomes available. We have yet to look into this carefully to ascertain the costs and benefits, but  could this be a practical solution? The Diocese of Sheffield has various teams of advisers with whom we are consulting, and checklists to help us on the way. And we approach all this with prayer, trusting God will help us find the best way forward.

I hope that by the time you read this we may be a little closer to finding a solution which will heat our building effectively and be both financially viable and compatible with our Net Zero ambitions. It’s not just church, we will all need to get to grips with these issues at home too, if we are to safeguard the air, water and agriculture on which we all depend for the necessities of life. 

January 2023

Holiday time?

Happy New Year! Now that Christmas is over, our screens will be full of travel ads – it’s time to think about booking holidays. Covid regulations have been relaxed and many of us are keen to make up for lost time and have a change of scenery, maybe even venture abroad. So this month we’re thinking about how we can make our trips, whether long or short, kinder to God’s beautiful creation on which we all ultimately depend.

For many journeys the car may be the practical choice; but the environmental costs of car use are well known, with petrol and diesel fumes contributing massively to greenhouse gas emissions. And any car, even an electric one, represents a very significant carbon cost in its manufacturing and materials; so let’s think twice before we jump into the car! Here in Sheffield we’re fortunate in our public transport links. Train travel is one of the most sustainable forms of transport; I’m trusting that by the time you read this, the current rail strikes will have been resolved, hopefully with a fair settlement. I read Simon Reeve recently extolling the pleasures of rail travel: on the train you can relax, read, have a snack, and enjoy the scenery in a way that’s impossible in a car, as well as meeting your fellow-passengers. And a single train can replace 500 car journeys. Railcards make fares more affordable, at £30 for a year or £70 for three years, giving you up to a third off ticket prices – and they’re not just for “Seniors”, there are Family and Friends railcards which cover up to 4 adults and 4 children, as well as 16-25 cards and 26-30 cards. There are great European rail links too, with long-distance super-fast trains crossing the continent. Several years ago we travelled to Seville by train, and the journey was a real highlight of the holiday; watching the speed gauge creep up to 300kph was very exciting! Of course the journey takes longer than flying, but you get to see so much more of the countries you pass through, and it certainly beats standing in the airport security queue, as well as taking you straight to the heart of your destination. For a wealth of information about UK and global rail travel, see the website

Another option, though perhaps not a particularly trendy one, is good old-fashioned coach travel. In the government’s breakdown of carbon emissions for different modes of transport over a range of specific journeys, coach travel was by some way the least polluting, with 22 kg of greenhouse gases emitted per passenger, as against 26 for an electric car, 28 for a train, 88 for a diesel car, 93 for a motorbike, and a massive 157kg for a plane journey from London to Glasgow.  See for lots more detail about all this: . And coach travel is reassuringly good value, despite the longer journey time – plus pick-up may be more local than for a train journey.

When it comes to international travel, some people have completely renounced flying, and we can only admire the determination of Greta Thunberg and others, making long-haul journeys by rail and solar-powered boat. Sadly, air travel has a massive carbon cost; the fact is that an economy class flight to Hong Kong and back, for example, will use up about a quarter of the average UK person’s annual carbon footprint. Air travel definitely needs to be reserved for very occasional use, maybe once a year if at all! So if we do fly anywhere, it’s essential that we have a really brilliant time and do something very special. If like me you have family on the other side of the world, time together is very precious, and I try hard to be as frugal as possible with my carbon footprint in other ways to make up for it. You might decide to fly to share in a special expedition or project, or for a one-off celebration event – but let’s always take the environmental costs of flying (or any other form of travel) very seriously, and do the best we can in realistic carbon offsetting. See for example  for lots of information about this. 

December 2022

After COP27: “We don’t inherit the earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children”

World leaders recently met in Egypt to try to agree measures to avert the worst effects of the climate crisis, aiming to “Keep 1.5 Alive”, in other words to take the steps needed to keep global heating below 1.5degrees Centigrade. Predictably the results have been largely disappointing, with some nations even insisting on watering down the already weak commitment to ending the use of fossil fuels. The one achievement seems to have been the agreement reached on “Loss and Damage” for the less-developed nations, who are most affected by climate chaos despite contributing only minimal carbon emissions. We can hope that this will make a significant difference to our brothers and sisters across the world as they struggle with the effects of floods and drought on their harvests and daily lives.

But the concrete steps needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions still haven’t been taken, despite bold pledges. So until governments accept that the cost of inaction is far greater than the cost of action, it’s down to us individually and as communities to take as much responsibility as we can for this. What can we do? First of all, we can make our voices heard, by writing to our MP’s, joining pressure groups, demonstrating, and supporting every initiative we can; you will know what is right for you, whether it’s radical action with Just Stop Oil, or signing a Greenpeace petition, to show this matters to you. Businesses, and local and national government, do take notice of public opinion.

Then we must do all we can to limit our own use of fossil fuels. This is in our own interest anyway, in these days of soaring gas and electricity bills. Could you switch to a renewable energy supplier such as Octopus or Good Energy? Or maybe move to a “green” tariff with your existing supplier? On a smaller scale, we hear a lot about the need for home insulation, with Britain’s housing stock among the leakiest in Europe. Simple measures like draught-proofing windows can make a huge difference to room temperature and energy efficiency. There are grants for loft insulation (see, and you can add extra layers to your existing insulation to bring it up to today’s standards. As we’ve noted before, reducing your thermostat by a degree or two significantly lowers your fuel use. We turned ours from 20 to 18 degrees, and it’s had a surprisingly big impact on our gas use. Setting your washing machine to a lower temperature is also effective. LED light bulbs use much less power than halogen bulbs – apparently if we all switched to LED’s it would reduce domestic energy bills in the UK by £2 billion! (See  for more information). You can make significant savings In the kitchen by using the oven for baking several things at once rather than just one, and using the microwave rather than the oven whenever practical.

You’ll have your own ideas about what could work for you, but let’s all try to make sure we play our part, so that our children’s and grandchildren’s future isn’t blighted by problems we could have done something about. Thank you!

November 2022

Thinking about energy! 

We’ve heard a lot about soaring energy prices lately, so let’s see if there’s anything we can do to reduce both our bills and our carbon footprint. The most powerful change we can make is to switch to a renewable energy supplier; at St Mark’s we’ve been able to do this through a scheme run by the Diocese of Sheffield. Switching is a big decision, and now may not be the time for you to make that change, given current market conditions. And some long-term investments like loft insulation and double glazing might be impractical for now, though let’s look out for any government help that might possibly become available in the future for things like this. But here are some simple small things that might help:

I expect most of us are already doing all we can, but every little helps, both with the bills and the carbon footprint. Of course there’s lots more information about energy saving online or from your energy supplier, but I hope you will find some of this useful!

October 2022

“Where can I recycle that?”

“Reduce, re-use, recycle” is the motto for cutting down on waste, so this month we’ll look at our local recycling options as we think about caring for God’s world. Our charity shops gladly accept donations of good quality items, and some, such as the British Heart Foundation, will collect larger items free of charge. We all have our blue and brown bins so we can easily send paper and card (blue bin) and tins and glass and plastic bottles (brown bin) for recycling. Do remember, it’s only plastic bottles, not food tubs or trays, that can go in the brown bin. But not everything falls so neatly into those categories! So here are some more ideas:

Here are some more recycling options:

The website is very helpful for details about other possibilities. And if you need to get rid of something which isn’t good enough for a charity shop, the good folks at Aspire can recycle and refurbish a vast range of household items and scrap metal, including bikes, computers, flatscreen TV’s, and small and large electrical items ( not fridges or freezers). Aspire is a charity & community enterprise giving employment to those who might struggle to find work; they are open to the public Monday to Friday 9 to 5 and you can just drop in (avoiding lunchtime 12-1), they are in Parson Cross, at SOAR works, Knutton Road, S5 9NU. Their email address for queries is, tel 0114 285 3788, if you want to check that they can take your items.

I hope this is helpful - happy recycling! 

September 2022

Plastic – again!

A few months ago I wrote about a survey into plastic recycling, so here’s a look at some of the results. It’s rather a depressing picture, but there are things we can learn, and some pointers for future action.

250,000 people took part in Greenpeace’s “Big Plastic Count”, and you can see the full results at
Most plastic waste is food and drink packaging, and only 12% of it is recycled in the UK, the rest is burned, buried or dumped. 17% is exported overseas for other countries to deal with, 25% goes to landfill, and 46% is burned in incinerators. It might sound like a sensible idea to generate electricity from waste – but because plastic is made from fossil fuels, large amounts of greenhouse gases are released when it’s burned; apparently electricity generated from burning plastic is even “dirtier” than from burning coal! Other harmful pollutants such as dioxins are also released, so communities often resist the construction of incinerators nearby, if they have the resources to do so. More than half of waste plastic is soft film, which is difficult to recycle and few local authorities collect it. Some supermarkets have collection bins for soft plastic, but not all of it may reach recycling, as an investigation found that some was actually exported for incineration or landfill. You can see something of the impact of our exported waste on poorer communities at:

The bottom line is that we can’t recycle our way out of our addiction to single-use plastic! It’s great in its place, but our seas, rivers and wildlife are at increasing risk from plastic waste and microplastic pollution. So what’s the way forward? Of course we all individually do our best to avoid single-use plastic: supermarkets do take notice of customer preferences, and many have significantly reduced their use of plastic. But bigger solutions are in the hands of governments, businesses, and wider organisations, so we can use our voice to lobby, protest, write to MP’s, march and whatever else we can, to show that we care about this issue of justice, good stewardship, and care for the poor in God’s world. Here are some suggestions for possible actions:

I hope this hasn’t been too depressing a read, but at least we can see the scale of the problem, and we know that whatever we can do will be a help. 

August 2022

“Phew, what a scorcher....”

I’m writing this in the aftermath of record-breaking temperatures here in Sheffield. We’ve all been shocked to find ourselves experiencing hotter weather than Dubai, and the government and media gave their warnings top priority to ensure we took it seriously. Even so, people have lost their homes to wildfires in South Yorkshire and elsewhere, and there have been tragic deaths as youngsters tried to cool off with a swim. Suddenly it’s not just “them on the other side of the world”, but all of us who are affected, here and now by the climate crisis. It’s a real emergency, and we need serious action by politicians to achieve the targets they boldly committed to at COP26 only a few months ago.

As our garden scorched in the intense heat, we started a watering system, saving our kitchen washing-up water and any other “grey” water to tip into a bucket outside the back door. I’ve been amazed at just how much water results, and it’s made a big difference to the flower pots and tubs. But it got me thinking about all the rest of the water we use – baths and showers, loo flushing, washing machine, dishwasher..... How fortunate we are to have fresh clean water on tap in our homes; perhaps like me you’ve seen the Water Aid ad on TV which gives a very gentle portrayal of a family’s search for water in a drought-stricken community, and their joy when a single tap is installed in their village. How would we manage if we had to carry all the water we use from a communal tap – and to care for crops and livestock too, not just a garden! 

As we discussed last week at Messy Church, all the fresh water in the world has existed since the dawn of time, marvellously circulating through the clouds, rivers and seas, and there will never be a drop more; God has provided, and He cares for all the communities of the world and the whole realm of nature. As Christians we must be good stewards of God’s creation; that might mean thinking about supporting Water Aid, or “twinning” your toilet, maybe as a group or family project, with one in a deprived community to help with health and hygiene provision, see 

In a wider sense we need to be much more careful and reflective about everything we spend our money or our time on; Professor Sir Ian Boyd (a former chief scientific adviser at DEFRA), was quoted today as saying, “Unless we curb our propensity to buy and dispose of stuff, we will not deal with climate change effectively...That can happen by thinking before you buy or do things”. That shouldn’t be too challenging, should it! Let’s focus on consuming less, and appreciating and enjoying more: make our “stuff” last longer, lend, borrow and share things, and try to keep a global perspective because in our interlinked world, what we do today will affect the lives of people on the other side of the world whom we will never meet. The technologies that will help combat and mitigate climate change are available or being developed, so we can be hopeful. And we can reflect the loving care of our creator God by praying, giving and acting to support churches and communities already suffering from the effects of climate change. Find out more about how you can help: signing petitions, marching in the streets, writing to politicians, making a regular donation, and making manageable lifestyle changes. Look at charities’ websites and see which seems closest to your priorities: Tear Fund, Christian Aid, A Rocha, Greenpeace, and Friends of the Earth (among others) all have lots of information and ideas.... and act on what you find. Be inspired by the many Biblical pointers to God’s care for creation, such as Psalm 50 v 10-11, and Romans 8 v 19-22. And remember – prayer changes things! 

July 2022

Whose world? God’s world!

We live in a beautiful world, made by God. Genesis 1v31 tells us, God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. John 3v16 tells us that God so loved the world (the Greek word here is COSMOS, the whole of creation) that he gave his only son... St Paul tells us that creation was made through Jesus and for Jesus – Colossians 1v16 says “in him all things were created, through him and for him”. These and many other Bible passages are a stunning declaration of our planet’s eternal worth in God’s eyes. Jesus, the Son of God, loves this beautiful world, and it has a place in God’s plan for eternity: Romans 8v19 says, “The whole creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God... because the creation itself will be set free from decay”.

We are called to care for God’s world – but the climate crisis is wreaking havoc, intensifying threats such as extreme weather events, sea-level rise, melting glaciers and biodiversity loss. Latest reports from the Arctic show extraordinary rates of heating, up to seven times faster than the global average, which will have profound effects worldwide on ecosystems and the jet stream, and we all ultimately depend on these natural systems for our food, water and the air we breathe. Scientists are clear that this is a human-made problem, driven by the burning of fossil fuels. As those made in the image of God, we can’t stand by while our common home is being destroyed.

This is an issue of justice, as well as self-preservation. We see in the news the devastating impact of climate breakdown on people in poverty. As global temperatures rise, rains are less reliable and droughts, floods and storms become more frequent and extreme. That affects food production and puts millions at risk of hunger. All this is being made worse by conflict, and especially by the war in Ukraine, where quite apart from the horrific cost in lost lives, homes and livelihoods, supplies of grain are trapped in blockaded ports. This pushes  vulnerable people across the world further into poverty, and it’s those least responsible for the climate crisis who are the most affected for now – though none of us will be untouched by it. God calls us to meet their needs, and in so doing, to help build for his kingdom on earth.

So what can we do? As followers of Jesus, we must work out our faith today and tackle the crisis. We need to pray for those already directly affected, and for world leaders to recognise the need and have the courage to take immediate action – which means long-term thinking and electoral unpopularity. Prayer is vital if we are to see a breakthrough, because God is powerful beyond our imagination.

We must speak up, calling on UK leaders to act urgently to get us on track to limit warming to 1.5degrees C above pre-industrial levels. According to the latest IPCC report this is still possible, but only if widespread cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are made as quickly as possible. Targets have been set, but strategies to achieve them seem to be vague or non-existent. Write to your MP so that he or she can be in no doubt that their constituents care about this – and let’s make sure that our local government, business and community leaders hear that message too. The technologies that will enable low-carbon living are being developed, and some are here already, but political will is needed to support their fullest effectiveness. For example, the COP26 resolution said that there should be no new oil or gas drilling and instead a focus on rolling out solar and wind power, but the British government has yet to act upon this, and in fact has recently granted new permissions for North Sea drilling. In a democracy we need to hold politicians to account whenever the opportunity arises.

We can all make changes in our own lives, such as reducing our energy consumption and waste. Let’s think more carefully about what we buy, for example avoiding “fast fashion” (I have to admit, that’s not really an issue for me, I love buying clothes etc from charity shops!) Every purchase, whether online or in a store, represents a choice, so let’s choose for a sustainable future. We can think carefully about where we put our money, if we are in a position to consider that – there’s a lot of information about ethical, fossil-fuel-free investments and pension funds now, and they are increasingly successful financially. Pressure from investors and shareholders is the bottom line for both small and large businesses, so let’s use our spending and investment power as positively as we can for the common good. This applies to our church too, and St Mark’s is working towards “net zero carbon” by 2030 through the diocese’s Eco Church framework.

When we show by our actions that we want to live in a fairer, more sustainable world, we are caring for our global neighbours, working for a secure future for our children and grandchildren, and showing that we value what God has given us, as a practical expression of our Christian faith.

June 2022

More about plastic!

I’ve just finished doing the Big Plastic Count, part of a nationwide survey of plastic use to try to establish how much plastic waste is generated in the UK. If you’ve taken part too, you’ll perhaps be as shocked as I was to realise just how much plastic we get through – and I thought I was avoiding it as much as possible! So here are a few thoughts about how to reduce our plastic footprint; some are obvious and very easy, things we already do, others maybe won’t quite suit us, but I hope you’ll find some useful ideas.

First though, let’s accept that for some uses plastic is vital and unavoidable – let’s not have a guilt trip about those things we really need, there’s no doubt it’s a wonderful material especially for anyone with particular needs.

First, some thoughts about shopping:

And general ideas:

I’m sure you’ll have lots of ideas of your own but I hope this is a start!

May 2022

Climate crisis help for Zimbabwean farmers; and a project to quantify plastic waste in the UK

As always at this time of year, Julie and her team are preparing for Christian Aid week, which this year is 15th -21st May. The climate crisis is affecting the poorest in our world most, even though they are probably least responsible for it. Christian Aid is one among many organisations working to bring solutions, so this is a great opportunity to see what we can do to help. Here’s a story from their website; you can find much more, and lots of ideas of how to help, at When the envelope pops through your door, please be generous – Thank you!

Jessica is a farmer in Zimbabwe who is keen to earn a decent living and provide a more hopeful future for her family. But drought caused by the climate crisis, and rising global food prices caused by the war in Ukraine mean that she is struggling to do this. 7 out of 10 women in rural Zimbabwe rely on farming for income and food, but the land is dry and nothing can grow no matter how hard they work, driving families into hunger. Jessica’s husband is sick so she is the only breadwinner. With our help Christian Aid could enable Jessica to grow drought-resistant crops and set up water taps on her farm, so that she can provide for her family in this harsh climate. Let’s be as generous as we can!

Another event coming up in May that you might not have heard about is Greenpeace’s Big Plastic Count, which will run from 16th to 22nd May. We all know how useful plastic is, it’s vital in many applications – but the problem is the sheer amount of waste that’s generated. The government is currently deciding on targets for reducing plastic waste, but at the moment there’s little hard evidence of just how much of it is produced in the UK. So this is a way of gathering the facts about how much waste there is, and where it goes. The idea is that for that week, we count all our plastic packaging – crisp packets, drinks bottles, wrappers, everything! – and record it, submitting the results at the end of the week. Greenpeace can then calculate how much of it is likely to be recycled, and what’s likely to happen to the rest. This will create a real picture of plastic waste in the UK, as well as for us individually, and will enable the government to make sure the right recycling systems are in place so that plastic waste is no longer dumped where it can cause harm to people and wildlife, either here or overseas. You can see much more about this, and sign up to join the count, at – they will send you all you need to classify your waste and submit your results. They hope as many households as possible, of all sizes, will join in, to give the widest possible spread of evidence. 

April 2022

This month we’re taking a step back from the local and looking at a global issue that affects us all, fuel and energy. We hear a lot at the moment about rising energy prices, both for oil and gas and for petrol and diesel. So it makes sense to try to cut our reliance on these, despite the fact that we all need and use them constantly. The current horrific situation in Ukraine, and the world’s consequent efforts to reduce imports of Russian fuel, give extra impetus to this.

So – why do we need to leave oil, gas and coal in the ground? Surely we depend on them, and have derived huge benefits from them? It’s now well attested that emissions from fossil fuels are the single biggest cause of human-induced climate change. This is potentially very dangerous indeed for the whole of humanity this century, and slowing it down will take decades. But the rate of global temperature increase is still accelerating, despite all the conferences, agreements and targets, so serious action is vital now.

Renewable energy, primarily solar and wind power, has become much more affordable in recent years as the technology has developed. But overall demand for energy is rising steadily despite increases in the efficiency of our gadgets and systems. So renewables must be allowed to reach their fullest potential; I read that if solar panels covered just 0.1% of the earth’s surface, an area of 228 square miles, all of today’s energy needs could be met worldwide – amazing!

So – what can we do to protect God’s world, and to ensure that everyone, not just the best-placed, can flourish? Here are some thoughts:

The technology for most of the changes needed already exists, what is required is investment and, most of all, the political will to enable them to be fully developed. As we watch the situation in Ukraine, we want to detach our country from reliance on a regime whose values we cannot agree with; how much better it would be to fully commit to building a resilient renewable energy industry, and supporting every effort to achieve global agreement so that everyone can have a safer future.  

For much more detail about all of this, can I recommend “There is no Planet B” by Mike Berners-Lee, you can find it at Ecclesfield Library. Mike teaches at Lancaster University and sometimes appears on TV as an expert on calculating carbon footprints and much else.

March 2022

We are thinking about caring for the environment through the “Eco Church” framework, and this month we look at food. It’s great that many supermarkets are now ensuring that their nearly-outdated produce can be sent to food banks. The S6 food bank based at Hillsborough supplies our local food bank at St Paul’s, Wordsworth Ave, which just now is very busy as the cost of living rises. The generosity of individuals and businesses is very much appreciated there. 

I’m sure we all know the wisdom of having a list when we go grocery shopping – and doing our best not to waste the food we buy. It’s so easy to fall for those special offers, but can we really use them? Look out for the “Wonky” vegetables and fruit in your supermarket, they are usually good value because while not the ideal size or shape they are perfectly fresh. And try to avoid exotic produce which has been air-freighted to the UK – flying in out-of-season strawberries or roses is not good news for God’s world! 

One powerful way to reduce our carbon footprint is to cut down on the amount of meat and dairy produce we eat; it doesn’t mean we all need to turn vegetarian or vegan, just eat a bit less meat! There’s lots of background information about why this is really important, so check out this section of Greenpeace’s website:  

We’ve moved to eating much less meat, and we certainly don’t feel we’re missing out. It’s easy to find recipes, but here are a couple of suggestions if you want an easy way in. The first is Frittata, with stir-fried veg, I find courgette, pepper and carrot make a nice combination. Fry gently in oil with a lid on for about 20mins till they are tender, with whatever spices or flavourings you like, then beat up 2 eggs per person in a bowl and tip the veg into it. Stir it up well, so that the egg begins to cook, then tip it all back into the pan and cook gently for 5mins or so till set. Then sprinkle some grated cheese over the top, brown it under the grill for a couple of minutes, and serve with crusty bread. 

My other easy favourite is Lentil Shepherd’s Pie. Make your mashed potato as usual, and while it’s cooking fry a chopped onion, add a crushed garlic clove, and then a tin of green lentils (drained) and half a tin of tomatoes (for 2 people). Stir it all together, and add a stock cube and more liquid if it seems a bit dry, Henderson’s relish, tomato puree or whatever flavouring you like. When it’s well mixed and bubbling, pour the lentil mixture into a casserole dish and top with the mashed potato, then sliced tomatoes, and bake in a hot oven for 15-20mins. Enjoy!

February 2022

The days are starting to get longer, and snowdrops are showing at last - spring will soon be here! As we think about caring for God's world, many of us enjoy nurturing our own little slice of it, even if it's only a window box or some pot plants. And we can all help the natural world, whether it's planting flowers that will encourage insect life or feeding the birds. I saw an item on TV recently about the vital role peat bogs play in the environment, they hold vast amounts of carbon, as well as providing a home for a huge variety of wildlife. We can all help preserve these special places by using peat-free compost in our gardens; this Royal Horticultural Society video explains how important this is, and also that the peat-free composts developed recently are now much improved. Let's see what we can do to help.