The Benefice of the Orwell


It has long been recognised that we and the environment are all interconnected. We cannot understand environmental or ecological issues as being outside of ourselves - we are an integral part of that environment and an environment that was seen as being good. If we harm that environment then we harm ourselves.

The Hebrew texts in Genesis (e.g. Genesis 1 v31) have always recognised this goodness of creation and much later in 1225 St Francis who wrote the Canticle of the Creatures saw the various elements around us as also being connected to us (as brother fire, sun, wind, and sister death etc.).

The various parishes within the group have been for some time, moving towards a more environmentally sensitive awareness.

Three of our churches now monitor their energy usage with one having signed up to the energy audit as part of the CofE campaign Shrinking the Footprint. This church has already identified and made substantial savings both financially and in its carbon usage.

The Church of England has some 15,799 churches in its estate along with 4677 schools, 42 Cathedrals and numerous clergy houses yet since 2007 it appears to have reduced its carbon use by 7%. Our target though is 80% reduction by 2050.

We are going to experiment with a Blog type of format to show what happens in the day of a life of a professional conservationist even if this sites architecture does not easily accommodate the format. I wonder will he ever get his bike fixed before it eventually gets condemned as unroadworthy!?

DoNation BLOG

What happens when your work commitment says go to an environmental conference? Simple, you end up pledging to do something simple and easy that will make a grown person feel virtuous and sustainable and generally good about themselves.

Something good for the environment
Being a little long in the tooth, I thought I’d be smart and find something that was easy to commit to and achieve. I set myself two targets, to only boil the kettle with the right amount of water in and to fix my bike and more importantly, get on with it!

I started by pining my two pledge badges in a prominent part of the kitchen. This meant that visitors would ask stupid questions, make fun of me and start wondering aloud if I would actually stick to my pledges
Once word of my pledges spread, this conversation soon extended to the pub, going out for dinner or even bumping into people at the shops. Eventually my partner got in on the conversation, which resulted in two immediate changes to our regular caffeine routine:
A new coffee machine so we only make as much coffee as we want with fresh ground beans. A great step forward in only heating the water I need, until we then start trying to decide which coffee to put in it. Why is it the best tasting coffee seems to have no ethical markers on it? That is even before I start thinking about tea and where, who and what is responsible for getting it from field to kitchen.

All of a sudden cleaning out the tea pot and using leaf tea is not a relaxing option. The aim is now to clean cup and pot within the shortest water input possible. The aim was to just do something simple. I’m now obsessing about whether I should 'bag' or 'leaf', what is the optimal water regime for a complete life cycle analysis of making a cuppa?

These actions were supposed to be simple, simple, I’m now on a mission to make the tea with least energy and least water possible. That is before I stare at the cup – should I, do I need to, is it really necessary, what is the correct number of brews before you clean the mug? Every time?

There is now an obstacle course of thought I have to go through every time I make a cuppa – demonstrating that simple changes can lead to bigger thinking!
Not content with the obstacle course in my mind, I also have a physical one in the garage. One month into the challenge and my bike is still in there. Admittedly, its under couple of years of useful stuff (well, the bits I know I should keep in case they become useful). My partner insists the obviously useful stff should be sent to a better home, any home, as long as it is not ours.

I know it will not take long to fix, but somehow with all the rain recently any dry periods have been spent in the garden growing my heritage seed veg (surely worth some extra brownie points). I know the bike can be easily fixed - but somehow there has always been something better to do rather than the effort of moving boxes and bits of wood. This is where the little badge is helping.

I swear it blinks at me. It looks disappointed and sometimes downright evil when I fail to get the spanners out and just do the job. Whenever I decide to leave it to another day, that little winking badge of condemnation looks at me. Compare this to the nice badge of greenness and warmth. The one that says by and large you are getting the kettle boiling right. I like that badge because I’m getting it right about 80% of the time. Despite all the condemnation from the spanner badge of doom I’m still persevering. I know that my simple pledges can make a difference and while Its frustrating that fixing the bike has eluded me thus far, I know I’ll get there in the end.

My employer, the EAUC, expects me to help embed sustainability into universities and colleges. These actions, from a group called DoNation, challenged me to do that in my life – so I am trying to walk the talk with a cuppa and my bike repair kit. The best part of making these pledges? I get satisfaction out of achieving this stuff and I like that it has made me think.

St Andrew Orwell

image; � 2007 Neil Brice
"St Andrew, Orwell in summer 2007"


this page updated 07.8.16

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