Nine things a parish can do to help stop global climate change (with no budget and no special expertise) 

September 29, 2015


One of the most common things we hear at GCCM is that people in the pews are interested and want to do something, but they do not know where to start, who to work with, or what they can do.  They don’t have an obvious place to plug in and begin moving on Pope Francis’ call to action, and for us to mobilize. We recall that all are baptized in Christ and called to move forward in good works.

On a parish level, the first step is often to identify parishioners who would like to volunteer their efforts for activities relating to climate change (the “green team”).  “For where two or three meet in My name, I am there among them.” [Matthew 18:20]

The support of the parish leadership, pastor, or council is invaluable.   The green team will probably find so many ideas and resources that it can be hard to decide what is most important, and what to do first. To launch this thinking and prioritization discussion, here are nine simple activities that can be done at little or no extra cost by volunteers with no special expertise.

To help reduce parish emissions through energy savings:

  1. From the parish energy bills, add up the annual energy use (electricity, gas and other fuels) for the preceding year, and this year to date.  How does this year compare to last year? Always be sure to compare this year to the same month or season last ear.  Even without calculating the emissions, this provides a solid basis for saving energy.
  2. Identify one or two low cost energy saving measures.  Change the light bulbs or adjust the thermostat, consolidate to eliminate duplicate appliances (e.g. refrigerators) or be more conscientious about turning things off.  If something is worn out, make sure the replacement is energy efficient.  This is particularly true of automobiles.
  3. It may take a year of using the more efficient and conservative approach to show real energy savings.  Do not give up if the savings are not obvious: remember ha for heating and air conditioning, variations in the weather account for some part of the variation in energy use.  When you have made measurable progress in saving energy, let the congregation know about it.

To help inspire the congregation to join the fight against climate change

  1. For the adult faith formation, schedule a class on the Encyclical, Laudato Si, using teaching resources such as the online course on Laudato Se Encyclical from the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) or the Care for Creation resources from Catholic Relief Services.   Allow time for discussion.
  2. Next Lenten season, let parishioners know about the Lenten Fast for Climate Justice, from GCCM, or the Lenten Carbon Fast via Interfaith Power and Light (including uggested actions posted daily on Facebook).
  3. Next Earth Day (22 April), and or World Environment Day (5 June), speak with the pastor about incorporating the theme of caring for creation into the liturgy celebration through prayers of the faithful, choice of songs, homily, bulletin article and/or climate-friendly refreshments prepared and served in ways that are entirely compostable / recyclable.

To stand in solidarity with those hardest hit by climate change today

  1. Join efforts to provide needed assistance locally.  Even in wealthy areas, the local poor suffer from storms, droughts, heat waves and other weather events made worse by climate change.
  2. Let parishioners know about national and international faith based initiatives on climate change, which they can, if they choose, support at no cost, such as the
    1. Online petition (endorsed by Pope Francis) by GCCM
    2. Prayer for COP 21 or the #Pray4COP21 prayer chain by GCCM
    3. St. Francis pledge by the US Catholic Climate Covenant.
  3. When fundraising for groups that serve the poor in developing countries, such as Catholic Relief Services, Peter’s Pence, and international missions, let parishioners know that these are often “front line” responders to environmental and other crises, among those who bear the brunt of the impacts of climate change.

“We must not think that these efforts are not going to change the world.” (Encyclical Laudato Si, ¶212)

GCCM is committed to continuing to provide and develop resources for parishes, communities, individuals, and dioceses, and to promote dialogue, collaboration, and cooperation across every boundary.